How much time do you spend looking for lost ingredients when you make dinner? Getting organized can help you shave minutes off your prep time. It all starts with giving your cupboards some love and organizing your pantry. 

It only takes a few steps and it can be done in an hour!

Step One: Remove Everything

Step one in pantry organization is to empty the pantry. It is easier to put back in what belongs than remove what does not. Taking everything out gives you an opportunity to wipe down the shelves and prevents you from leaving in things that would better be housed elsewhere.

Step Two: Put Loose or Open Items in Containers

Clear containers are the best option for open packages and bags. Big containers work well for bulk staples like flour and sugar. Glass jars are pretty and can be salvaged from the recycling bin. Cleaned and labeled ex-peanut butter jars serve well for smaller items like chocolate chips and coconut flake. For space efficiany, however, square containers have no rival in pantry organization .

*Tip: If you are hesitant to throw away an already opened bag because of cooking instructions printed on it, you can just put the whole thing in a jar or container. That way, you still have your recipe and you are protected against rotting and spilling.

Step Three: Decide on a System

Decide on a system. Keeping likes together is the traditional way, and it does help you to see when you are running low on a certain ingredient but another way is to keep foods together by meals or zones.

You can have a zone for each of your weeknight dinners. Gather all pantry items for a certain meal in one place and put them in a bag, basket, or clear tote. Now when it’s time to cook, you can just reach in and grab them all at once with no digging and searching.

Example: One of my family’s go-to weeknight meals is black bean burritos. We use 2 cans of black beans, a can of pineapple tidbits, sliced olives, and corn. If it’s a weekend or we have extra guests we may add chips and salsa as a side. They’d go in the tote too on shopping day. That way I can just pull out my tote at cooking time. Make a label for your container including its contents. This is especially helpful if you aren’t the only cook in the kitchen. Now everyone knows what goes where.

Zones can also be made for other things. My pantry might include a school lunch zone, an impromptu entertaining zone, a baking zone and an “I had a coupon so I have a fifty of this thing” aka emergency back-up zone. Organize you stuff into zones while it is still out of the pantry.

* Tip Have a miscellaneous zone too so you don’t drive yourself crazy trying to fit the oddballs in somewhere they don’t fit. Again, this can’t just be me. Tell me it’s not just me. 

Step Four: Restock

Start packing things back in. Toss anything that is out of date, and put the oldest remaining stuff toward the front so that it will be used first. The fit is really a custom thing to the space and layout available to you. Crank up some tunes and try a few things out. You can always tweak it over time.

Appreciate the work you’ve done in all of its neatness now AND each time you open your pantry to grab a snack. Take a picture and share it with us in the comments below or on our Facebook or Twitter page.