I wish I had a beautiful walk-in pantry lined with open shelves, filled with matching jars full of nourishing wholefoods like the ones I find on Pinterest. Alas, I have a boxy corner pantry, which must have been designed by a seven foot man-giant. The shelves are so deep I can’t even reach the back where the corner meets. The shelves are so tall that I require a stool and tip-toes to reach the top one. Forget about anything that finds its way to the back of the top shelf, it’s in pantry purgatory now. It doesn’t help that I’m all of 155cm tall, the fact remains my pantry was not designed with me in mind. The likelihood of a new pantry situation is zero to none, instead I make use of what I have and make sure that it is organised within an inch of its life. Otherwise I would spend even more time standing in front of it, holding the door open looking for some kind of inspiration from the food gods as to what to cook for dinner.
If your pantry is more food jungle than organised food bliss my simple steps can help you out. I do recommend finding a couple of hours, as this level of organisation requires a bit of effort, however the results are well worth it.
Step 1. Clear everything out
Take everything out and place it on your kitchen bench. Get rid of anything that is full of junk, overly processed and doesn’t nourish your body, or is out of date. If it’s not there you cannot to eat it. I know if I have chocolate in my pantry I will find it and eat all of it, in one go. Lastly give the shelves a good old wipe down to make everything clean and sparkly.
Step 2. Organise everything into sections
Once you have gone through all the food that was in your pantry and chucked anything you don’t want anymore, divide what is left into usable sections. Think about who needs to access the foods in each section and make sure they can be easily reached. I have my breakfast section down low so that the kids can easily make their own breakfast of a morning.
I have my pantry divided up into:
+ cereals – rice, pasta, noodles, etc
+ flours – I only keep the ones I use very often in the pantry, otherwise I pop them in the fridge to stop them going rancid.
+ baking, including sweeteners – maple syrup, vanilla, baking powder, etc.
+ seeds, nuts and dried fruit
+ whole grains and legumes – quinoa, brown rice
+ condiments – tamari, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, etc
+ breakfast – oats, granola, rolled spelt, muesli, etc
+ tins – chickpeas, tuna, coconut milk
+ teas and coffee
Step 3. Jar and label
Buy some jars or reuse what you have already. I tend to grab my jars from Ikea or Kmart as I like to put the foods I use often, like spelt flour, into bigger jars. I reuse all my smaller jars for food I keep smaller amounts of, like dried beans. Label every jar so that there is no forgetting what is inside it and so you can easily locate what you are looking for. Think about investing in a label machine or source some gorgeous labels like these ones here and here.
Step 4. Use your space
Pantry shelves can be deep and tall, I know mine are. They can also become quite tardis-like when left to their own devices. Packet of 2 year old masa harina anyone? To avoid the old chuck-it-in-and-hope-I-can-find-it-when-I-need-it routine, I use removable shelves to double the space and keep things more visible. I picked mine up from Ikea.
Step 5. Fill it with the good stuff
I love this step. It makes sense that if you have put in all the hard work clearly out all the junk that you only put back the food that will nourish your body. You know, real ingredients with which to make delicious and nutritious meals for yourself and your loved ones. Us mummas are a busy bunch and by stocking our pantries with real food basics saves us time in the long. If you know you have the basics in your pantry then a trip to the market for fruit, veg dairy and meat is all we will have to do.
If you are starting your real food journey and are a bit unsure of what you should have in your pantry keep an eye out for upcoming ‘my kitchen essentials’ to check out what I keep in my pantry, as well as my fridge and freezer.
If in doubt, ask for help.
If you like the idea of an organised pantry full of the good stuff but feel completely overwhelmed by it all, don’t stress. Sometimes the idea of clearing out food is just way too hard, even when we know that that type of food is just not nourishing. Or you are in the first steps of moving away from highly processed foods to a more real way of approaching food and just don’t know what you should be keeping in your pantry and how to use it. All of that stuff can be totally overwhelming. We all know that when things start to overwhelm us its then that we need to ask for help. Enlist the help of a kind soul who has the goods on eating real, nourishing foods who can guide you gently through it all. There are plenty of folks out there that offer a pantry overhaul.
If you are in the Geelong region (that includes you Surf Coast and the Bellarine) I offer a Fridge and Pantry Makeover, where I spend two hours with you, helping you ditch the junk and reintroduce delicious and nutritious whole foods to your everyday eating. As well as clearing out your pantry and fridge you will receive tips on restocking, a list of real food pantry staples, shopping tips, advice on storage and meal planning. Plus everyone who signs up will receive a recipe booklet filled with ‘better basics’, list of seasonal produce and a shopping list template. If you need a sparkly and organised pantry shoot me an email to book in a time.