How to Organize a Kitchen Pantry

Margie Potts has the DIY Basics for organizing and stocking a kitchen pantry with items that will make dinner decisions much easier.


Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the pantry just staring? There's a lot of food in front of you, but you still don't know what to fix for dinner! Margie Potts has the DIY Basics so you can organize and stock your pantry with items that will help make your dinner decisions much easier. Remember: a well-stocked and better-organized pantry will enable you to cook more spontaneously.

First, figure out how to organize the pantry staples.

The most frequently used items – the basics – should be at eye level.

Nearby should be the items that work with the basics to make fabulous dishes.

Organize items according to function; for example, store baking products all together with some sweet spices, and keep the savory spices and herbs with similar marinades and sauces.

Specialty items that add that special touch can be grouped together, or place them with items they're used with.

Pantry items such as garlic and onions, which have a much shorter shelf life, should also be together.

High shelves and out-of-the-way nooks can contain those items that are rarely used. To see everything at a glance, use risers on pantry shelves, or stack cans of the same items on top of each other to avoid moving cans to see what's underneath.

Clear everything out of the pantry. Organize the pantry in a way that works for cooking. Look for the basics: the canned broth, tomatoes, beans, dried pasta and rice used for dinner. Put them at eye level, and stack them so everything is visible at a glance.

On a nearby shelf, place items used to cook those basics: extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil are a couple of good examples. Keep a variety of vinegars, soy sauce and flavor ingredients like mustards, ketchup, sauces and mayonnaise. Try keeping a four-pack of wine in the pantry; it adds better flavor to foods than cooking wines, which can be bitter.

Keep kosher salt, pepper and savory spices together. Dried herbs lose their potency after about six months on the shelf. To test them, open the jar and sniff: if there's no smell, there's no taste to them. To get the most taste out the dried herbs, crush them in your hand before adding them to a dish.

Designate a section that's filled with items that are inspirational and add zing to recipes. Nuts (they're great toasted and tossed on salads or ground into coatings for poultry or fish), pesto (can be used to top pasta or to dress up a traditional sauce) and cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (inexpensive, and they add a fabulous heat to any dish) are all good examples.

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