Select-an-Effort: The Pantry

Select-an-Effort: The Pantry. Seana inside a giant pretzel.

January is the month when many people are feeling motivated to get healthy. Are you one of them? If so, today’s organizing options may help you achieve your goal as we are turning our attention to the pantry. Of course, not everyone has a free-standing pantry, so the objective is to refresh whatever cabinets, shelves, bins, closets, or other locations that hold shelf-stable food items.

Here are your choices:

Low Effort

If all you have is a bit of time (or energy), select either one location (such as a shelf) or one type of food item (such as canned goods). Remove the contents to a sorting area and throw away anything that is no longer edible. [Note: we will be working on spices another day, so you can ignore this grouping today if you wish.]

If you have some items that you won’t eat but are still in their original packaging and not expired, put them in a bag and drop them at a local food pantry.

If you freed up a shelf or emptied a drawer, go ahead and wipe it down.

One thing to remember when it comes to decluttering food: no one makes perfect decisions. It is common to buy a new product, open the package, try it, and then discover we don’t like it after all. This is how we learn! Avoid the temptation to keep food just because you “hate to waste it.” Just move on.

Medium Effort

Want to accomplish a bit more? Expand your efforts by tackling two or three locations or food categories.

High Effort

Ready to start completely fresh? If so, you will need a large, clear surface for staging and sorting food. The kitchen island and/or table can work well. If these locations are already covered with other stuff (paper, clothing, whatever…), you might want to move these items elsewhere until you are finished with the project.

The next step is to carry all of the items from your cabinets, shelves, and drawers to your sorting location. Place foodstuffs in groupings, such as canned food, pasta, rice, sauces, condiments, baking ingredients, fruit cups, chips, etc. This is helpful in any decluttering project because seeing how much you have of an item you have makes it easier to decide what to keep. For example, if you discover you have 12 cans of black beans, but you rarely use black beans, perhaps you can keep four and donate the rest.

Once your spaces have been emptied, wipe everything down. Next, look at each category you have made and remove anything you don’t want (for any reason). Food that is still in its original packaging and not expired can be donated.

If you have large bags of chips that are only partially filled, you might want to use this tip.

Ready to reload? There are a number of products that are helpful for organizing your food storage areas, such as bins for loose items, baskets, turntables for bottles, and risers that make the most of tall shelves, among others.

At the same time, remember that you don’t have to put everything inside a container. Often, a great option for multiples (such as boxes of pasta or jars of sauce) is to line them up one in front of the other, much like they do in a grocery store. This approach gives one “facing” per item, making it easy to both access what you want and see when you may need to buy.

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Do you think reorganizing your pantry will make your kitchen more appealing? Will you work on this today?

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Select-an-Effort: Organizing Tasks for 2023

17 thoughts on “Select-an-Effort: The Pantry”

    1. Sometimes I work through my pantry one shelf at a time. That feels so easy. If I stick with it for a couple of weeks, the whole pantry gets done with what felt like little effort. It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing!”

  1. I love how you offer options depending on your available time and energy. Especially if you are time-poor, selecting the low effort is a doable way to make progress. Movement forward will still occur, but the overall time to complete a pantry edit might take longer. That doesn’t matter. Progress is still progress. Besides, getting healthy isn’t a one-and-done endeavor. It takes time and attention to various areas to make that change.

  2. The pantry is always a work in progress in our home. As the kids get older, food intolerances happen, and other things change, we are modifying the area often. I love lining food up as a grocery store does it. I do this often, and my husband likes to push the older things in front to ensure they get used before the newer ones. He used to work at a small corner store when he was a kid. =) Thanks for sharing!
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…How to Combat ‘What If’ Excuses That Stop You From DeclutteringMy Profile

    1. That’s a good idea! Otherwise you end up with old things that expire, mostly because they got overlooked.

      Good point about food intolerances. Having “zones” of food storage is a must in this situation, right?

  3. Great series! I’m loving this multiple-option approach with different levels. I barely cook, so my pantry is really just one cabinet next to my fridge and another on the opposite side of the kitchen (for dry goods like pasta or chips); keeping it tidy is easy because I rarely ever buy anything that I’m not going to eat within the next week or two. (Oooh, how European of me!) But for my clients, the pantry can be “the land that time forgot,” and having different effort level options is key to breaking through the inertia!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll Helps You Find Your Ideal Analog Habit TrackerMy Profile

    1. Some people have BEAUTIFUL pantries out there. I see them on Instagram. They are full rooms, what a luxury, and how helpful if you have a large family/ busy household.

    1. I’ve had some interest lately in “small things” people can do to get organized. I do think it is a win, regardless of how much you get done. Something is always something!

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