The Great Pantry Revamp: 10 Tips for Rebooting Your Space

Lentine Alexis
by Lentine Alexis
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The Great Pantry Revamp: 10 Tips for Rebooting Your Space

If you’re considering a reboot of your eating habits, you’re going to need a few tools. More important, you’ll need a pantry and kitchen space that is well-stocked, easy-to-navigate and ready to help make all of your healthy meal plans a reality.

In this two-part series, we’ll introduce some clutch ideas for how to reorganize, clean out and spruce up your space — as well as how to fill it with ingredients to empower delicious, healthy meals.

Rebooting your pantry to create an inspiring space that works for you is surprisingly simple and a bit like reorganizing a desk or any other work space. Don’t groan! Other work spaces don’t churn out delicious, healthy, vibrant meals when you’re done revamping them — but your pantry will.

Here are our 10 best tips to get you started:

START WITH THE WHOLE PICTURE…

1. CLEAN OFF COUNTERS

Does your kitchen counter act as a nerve-center, catch-all for your entire house? Keys, bags, books, children’s clothing, the list goes on. If so, it’s no wonder you’re overwhelmed when it’s time to make a healthy meal. If you’re going to start your healthy eating habits with a clean slate, make a vow to keep kitchen counters and work spaces clean, free of clutter and clear of appliances or tools. Keep some all-purpose cleanser and rags on hand under the counter or nearby so you can clean your workspace immediately after using it. This way, you’ll literally have a clean slate when go to plot a meal.

2. IF YOU DON’T USE IT, LOSE IT

Similar to cleaning out a closet, if you don’t use it, lose it! Mismatched Tupperware containers, unused appliances, random pots or pans that you don’t use often, broken or malfunctioning kitchen gadgets — be gone! You’ll breathe a sigh of relief when you fill your kitchen drawers (your kitchen toolbox, if you will) with just the things you need to get the job done right.

3. SPRUCE UP THE SPACE

Like any room in your home, you want your kitchen to be a joyful space. This starts by filling it with objects, appliances and cooking items that are aesthetically pleasing — and finding ways to make the space feel inspiring and soothing while you’re in it. Displaying pretty bowls of fruit and ingredients is a nice way to do this or keeping a vase with flowers in view.

THEN, DIVE INTO CABINETS, CUPBOARDS AND DRAWERS

4. BANISH BAGS AND BOXES

Open your cabinets. Do a piles of bags, stock-piled boxes or other random containers of ingredients fall out? It’s difficult to find healthy ingredients in a haystack. Pull out all of those rubber-banded, taped or labeled, inconsistent containers and plop them on the countertop. Then pick uniform containers to store them in. This strategy helps you to not only see what you have, but also to keep your pantry under control. When it comes to choosing containers, we suggest to …

5. … GO FOR GLASS

Or another see-through option that will store your dry pantry items air-tight, so you can see what’s in each. (Read: No guessing what that random, unlabeled plastic bag is.) Before you buy, measure your cabinets and shelves to be sure the containers fit, then buy enough containers to fill the space, so bags and boxes don’t sneak in. Make sure it’s easy to reach the containers (a sliding drawer or organizing box may help with this). Some find it’s helpful to designate separate containers for “grains,” “beans,” “cereal,” then swap out versions of those ingredients when you do your pantry restock.

6. PRACTICE SHELF-CONSCIOUSNESS

You won’t use what you can’t see. Similar to your cabinet space, keep healthy ingredients in plain sight. Make a promise not to allow ingredient clutter to stack up. It may be helpful to place pieces of tape on shelves to help you identify and quickly see what ingredients you have. For example, leave cereal, coffee, dried fruits and daily vitamins on the “breakfast shelf.” On the “quick dinner shelf,” keep pastas, quick-cooking grains and cans of beans or pre-made broth on hand.

7. STOCK UP SUPPLIES

As you’re cleaning and organizing, make a list of supplies you’ll need to keep your space clean and well organized. Add paper towels, kitchen towels and rags, natural cleaning solution for countertops, containers and plastic bags to organize ingredients, a Sharpie for labeling, and some washi or masking tape for writing removable labels. Keep the supplies under the counter or close at hand.

TAKE IT TO THE FRIDGE

8. FREE YOUR FRIDGE (AND FREEZER!)

Bring your fridge up to speed with your cabinets and shelves. Start by pulling out everything and wiping the shelves and drawers. Then, take a look at what you’ve got. Toss out any half-eaten items or condiment jars you haven’t touched in the past week. This includes any condiments you don’t have plans for in the next week. Then, put remaining ingredients back one by one. Designate spaces for cheeses and meats, condiments, dairy products and leave the most space for fresh vegetables. Make sure any homemade items are in containers with labels and dates (so you know when it’s time to throw them out). This is particularly important in the freezer.


READ MORE > 5 PANTRY STAPLES TO MAXIMIZE YOUR SPRING PRODUCE 


9. LABEL, LABEL, LABEL!

If you weren’t already inspired by the designated spaces and unidentified ingredients falling out of your cupboards, we’ll remind you now: This is your year to label, label, label! Use labels to make reminders about how to use the space, what ingredients you have on hand and how long you’ve had them. This will help you to know what you have, how to use it, where to find it and when to toss it out.

LASTLY, MAKE IT YOURS

10. ORGANIZE AN ALTER

Find a small space in the kitchen for you to keep something inspiring and special for you, something that reminds you that cooking for yourself is a nourishing practice, and that you’re fueling an active, vibrant lifestyle when you take time to make delicious meals for yourself and your family. It can be something simple like a photograph, a little bud vase or pretty ceramics that make you feel happy. When you’re happy in your space, you’ll make happy food!

About the Author

Lentine Alexis
Lentine Alexis
Lentine is a curious, classically trained chef and former pro athlete. She uses her bicycle, raw life and travel experiences and organic ingredients to inspire athletes and everyone to explore, connect and expand their human experiences through food. She previously worked as a Chef/Recipe Developer/Content Creator and Culinary Director at Skratch Labs – a sports nutrition company dedicated to making real food alternatives to modern “energy foods.” Today, she writes, cooks, speaks and shares ideas for nourishing sport and life with whole, simple, delicious foods.

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6 responses to “The Great Pantry Revamp: 10 Tips for Rebooting Your Space”

  1. Avatar Diana says:

    Alter= verb – to change or cause to change in character or composition, typically in a comparatively small but significant way. E.g. to Tailor clothing.
    Altar = the table in a Christian church at which the bread and wine are consecrated in communion services.
    a table or flat-topped block used as the focus for a religious ritual, especially for making sacrifices or offerings to a deity.
    I think you mean the second since you are trying to set up space. Copy Editing Matters.

    • Avatar MagB says:

      Yes, copy editing DOES matter—unfortunately our society has totally lost its grip on that idea in the 21st century. But thank you Diana for at least saving me the effort of posting a similar comment. The “alter” error is so excruciating I couldn’t even share this otherwise good piece on social sites without apologizing for it, which is way more trouble than it’s worth.

    • Avatar Susan Martino says:

      Thank you!
      At first I thought the author was asking me to organize a “change” (as in alter-ego). But that didn’t make sense.
      Yes, editing matters a lot.
      When I see this type of error, it makes me doubt the integrity of the entire article.

  2. Avatar RightPaddock says:

    A few months ago I purchased a few dozen clear plastic stackable cubic containers to replace my assortment of circular jars. They have hinged, but also removable, lids, and come in three sizes – roughly 250g, 500g and 1kg). I also bought a labelling machine, which cost as much or more than the containers.

    As a result I freed up a one of my overhead cupboards and a deep drawer. The advantage of cubic containers is that there’s no wasted interstitial space. like one gets between circular jars.

    Interestingly, the containers were made in Japan, at Made in China prices. Made be wonder if they were left over stock from the 1970s.

  3. Avatar Eileen M. Rowley says:

    Two things: reuse Classico spaghetti sauce jars for a consistent, glass look to store legumes/baking supplies, etc. Then, buy a labeler and label all your glass jars from the top so that when you roll out each shelf the labels are clear to see. Baking shelf. Legume/grain shelf. Canned goods shelf.

  4. Avatar LS says:

    In general, I appreciated the article, but was surprised at the throw-away vs. use-it mentality. Might I suggest these solutions, rather than tossing them.
    – “random pots or pans that you don’t use often” No need to get rid of them, just put them in the back of the base cabinet or that awkwardly high space above the fridge. Just because I only make a huge stock pot of soup twice a year, doesn’t mean I should get rid of the pot.
    – “toss…condiment jars you haven’t touched in the past week” Why on earth would you do that? Condiments last for a year! Mustard, ketchup, mayo, pickles, olives, relish. Most condiments are vinegar-based and last for months.
    – “Make sure any homemade items are in containers with labels and dates (so you know when it’s time to throw them out).” How about, so you know when it’s time to eat them before they get freezer burned. Make the emphasis on EATING the food, not tossing it out.
    – “This is particularly important in the freezer.” Isn’t it more important in the fridge, where leftovers last 3 days? There’s a lot more leeway in the freezer, where things can be stored for months.
    – “Use labels to make reminders about…what ingredients you have on hand and how long you’ve had them. This will help you to know what you have, how to use it, where to find it and when to toss it out.” Again, instead of the toss-out mindset, let the dates be a reminder that it’s time to prioritize using them up.

    I periodically review my pantry, fridge, and freezer contents, but if I encounter an infrequently used ingredient, I do a google search to see what I can make with it. Today I looked at a can of uninspiring garbanzo beans & was delighted to find a roasted, spicy, crunchy, Mediterranean snack recipe.

    When I was dismayed at the 62 bottles of herbs & spices, I started experimenting with them, reacquainting myself with the flavors by trying a new spice every morning on my breakfast grits. Now I use them on all sorts of foods.

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