How do I clean my pantry? Let me count the ways.
1. Take everything out and wipe the shelves. Be gone, spilled flour and cereal! Be gone, chocolate bits from when I furtively cupboard-eat and return to the living room with cheeks stuffed and gaze averted. That Flake chocolate is the worst. And the best. So delicious, so crumbly.
2. Throw away or rehome anything which is no longer useful. Pantry space is valuable real estate. If you don’t want to put decent food in the bin, try your neighbourhood Good Karma network or similar. I know mine in Heidelberg is a veritable feast of unused dry goods and fresh items soon to expire. I have seen dumpster-dived treats and barely-eaten birthday cakes.
3. Consider discarding niche products you rarely use. Do you really need anchovy-infused tomato sauce? Yes! I hear you cry. Well okay then. (Actually it is delicious)
4. Or maybe you could just commit to using it up next time you make spaghetti bol or pizzas. I like to set aside rogue items I want to use but not waste. For example, the red food dye made from beetroot which I purchased when I thought the nasty stuff was sending my kids wild. When in fact my kids were just being, well… kids.
5. Group items according to category. BUT don’t be afraid to break the code and put high-volume mismatching items together in an accessible spot. If you use plain flour every day to feed your ravenous sourdough starter, then don’t feel compelled to put it right next to the coconut flour. Especially if you use coconut flour once a year when your coeliac friend comes over. Cleaning your pantry should make your life easier, not harder.
6. Plastic baskets or little tubs can hold fiddly things like condiments. You just pull out the corresponding basket rather than fiddle around the nether-regions of your deep shelves. Think of them as untethered drawers. A lazy Susan can also put condiments and other like-minded items in easy reach, and are especially handy in corners.
7. Use your easy-reach shelves for oft-used items. I mean the area between eyes and hips. Very top and bottom shelves require step ladders and bending those weary knees, which spells danger for the over-20s. Therefore they should be reserved for seasonal items and occasional appliances. Items that are very very rarely used, may be best rehoused completely.
8. Some people go bonkers for matchy matchy storage containers which house all the staples like flour, sugar and pasta. Think cool labels, on trend lid colours and a coordinated vibe. It’s a great look, very Instaworthy and definitely wows your friends and keeps pantry moths away. But it takes additional time in setup and maintenance. That’s a story for another post.
9. Assess your plastics situation. I store all my plastics with lids on, to save thousands of hours looking for tops and tails. It’s a sacrifice of space for sheer time and sanity but there are also options to store lids and containers separately if that’s your thing. Either way, attempt a mini declutter. If your kids’ toddler years are behind them, storing teeny containers for pureed apple is no longer necessary. And the sippy cups can go. Also anyway maybe you don’t need 20 empty ice cream containers.
10. Put your rogue items (see points 3 and 4) in an accessible area (um, maybe in one of those ice cream containers?) and aim to use them up or else discard them in a week or so.
I wrote a blog for Howard’s Storage World on a similar topic.