8 Tips for Organizing Your Pantry According to a Professional

Martinez

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Be honest: When was the last time you searched for food that you knew you had, but couldn’t find? Or a time you found the item you were looking for, only to discover it was long expired? 

If you’ve been hoping to cook more, the first step isn’t heading toward the stove — it’s looking at how you store and sort ingredients. As you embark on spring cleaning, considering creating a pantry organization system that works for you. 

Nicole Abramovici, co-founder of Genius Organizing, a professional organizing firm in New York City, says a well-organized pantry can transform your kitchen. “A disorganized pantry leads to multiple problems,” Abramovici said. 

She cites a few of those problems: Ingredients expire; loose packages can spill and attract pests; or you may buy items you forgot you had, which leads to an overstuffed pantry. 

Through her work, Nicole Abramovici has developed a system for streamlining pantry organization — and therefore streamline day-to-day cooking, as a result. 

“Once you are organized — know what you have and where it is — you are ready to use all those ingredients you forgot about and cook up some fabulous meals. You save time and money, and probably try some new dishes as well,” she says.

Read on for Abramovici’s best tips and product ideas for organizing your pantry.

1. To create a system, first consider the dimensions of your pantry

Before beginning the organization process, take a look at what you’re working with. What are the specific dimensions of your pantry? How many shelves do you have? What are the height of the shelves? Do you have a small pantry, or a walk-in pantry?

After surveying your space, you can sketch out where each type of item will live, based on the item size and frequency of use. “It is essential to follow conditions of use or conditions of size when planning a pantry or cabinet space,” said Abramovici. 

She provides a few tips.

  • Items you use less frequently, such as holiday baking supplies or specialty appliances, can go on higher shelves that are trickier to access.
  • Everyday items like salt, olive oil and coffee beans should be at your shoulder height (or slightly above or below) for easy access.
  • Heavy and bulky items can remain at the bottom, so they don’t slip out of your hands and land on your foot.
  • Snacks can go on lower rungs, too where kids can reach them — “assuming they can self-regulate enough not to eat them all at once,” Abramovici added.

Further, consider how much space is between your shelves. In larger spaces, you can fit bigger items, such as cereal boxes. If your pantry shelves are adjustable, set them up to match the containers you tend to buy.

2. Group similar items together 

Don’t get lost in the shelves. To make it easy to find things, take a cue from your local grocery store and put similar items together. That way, when your eye lands on one item, you’ll know immediately what else is nearby. 

“You might have the pasta and sauce section, the multiple types of peanut butter and other spreads section, the international tea section,” Abramovici said. Or, items can be placed into general categories, like canned food, snacks, carbohydrates, and breakfast items.

3. Resist the temptation to overstuff the shelves

When your pantry is too full, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. “I’ve seen situations where there are so many things that some need to be removed to pull others out, or even search for something,” Abramovici said.

Empty shelf space allows you to shuffle items around. If you prefer to buy items in bulk, set up a space in another area of your home to hold any extras. Then, move items to the pantry when necessary.

4. Seal up open packages

Whether you are keeping food items in their original package or decanting them into canisters, make sure the container is well-sealed. “Containers that aren’t properly sealed can easily spill contents or attract household pests,” said Abramovici. 

Bag clips can be helpful for sealing things like chips and the inner bag of cereal boxes. Abramovici also likes canisters with pop-up lids such as the OXO Good Grips POP Storage Containers. “They create an airtight seal each time you close them,” she says.

5. Get those bins and containers ready

Abramovici relies on bins and containers when organizing pantries. “Anything within walls is immediately more organized,” she said.

She recommends containers with handles, like these Bino Clear Plastic Storage Bins. “Storage bins with handles are the absolute easiest to pull out — just a few inches of a protruding handle can make a big difference in your ability to grab something and remove it from a shelf,” said Abramovici.

If you prefer an incorporated handle to save room, Abramovici is a fan of the iDesign Plastic Kitchen Storage Bins.

She also loves a Lazy Susan (also called a turntable) like this one from Copco. “It’s a genius way to never have an item behind another. Just a simple twirl, and everything can come to the front to be removed,” she says.

Abramovici suggests purchasing specific tools if they suit your situation. “The idea is install once and keep forever,” she says. That said, be mindful of only buying what you really need. Abramovici often encounters clients who overbuy organizing tools, which can’t fit into their space.

6. Put your doors to work

Mounting racks on the insides of cabinet doors can “effectively quadruple your storage space,” Abramovici said.

She suggests using cabinet doors, which she calls “valuable real estate,” to store additional food items, like spices; food wraps, like Saran or aluminum foil; or pot lids.

She prefers racks that mount directly onto the cabinet door, such as these Joseph Joseph pan lid organizers, this mDesign Metal Hanging Shelf, or this full-length Jumbl Adjustable Shelf. Over-the-door styles can cause your pantry door to remain open.

7. Make a plan for deep shelves

Pantries with deep shelves can be tricky. It’s easy to lose track of what’s in the back, and you may end up buying duplicates of products you already have, or spend extra time trying to locate things.

“With deep shelves, you don’t know what’s back there unless you create a system,” Abramovici said.

To manage, Abramovici suggests installing a sliding rack like the G-Ting Cabinet Organizer, or a stacker such as the YouCopia ShelfSteps Organizer, which raises items so they’re visible. She also likes clear bins mentioned above to help organize an especially deep space. 

If you aren’t using bins or containers, Abramovici recommends putting identical items in a line. “Even if you can’t see further back than the first two cans of jars, you’re aware of what’s in that row,” Abramovici says.

Depending on your space, you can sort taller items towards the back, so they don’t tower over smaller things.

8. Remember that an Insta-worthy pantry is totally optional

If you’ve spent any time on TikTok or Instagram, you might be feeling pressure to load up on clear containers, take all of your dry food out of its original packaging and add adorable labels.

Abramovici stresses that it’s more important for a pantry to function than for it to be beautiful.

“If the endless thrill of seeing things in clear containers, or of not seeing visually noisy packaging is worth the time it takes to add the extra step of decanting, plus the cost of all the necessary containers, I say go forth and live that Instagram pantry life. If you would rather spend your time doing something else, life will go on just great if you decant nothing,” she said.

One last pro tip: If you going to add labels to containers, make sure the labels are resilient enough to hold up to being washed.

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