Pantry and fridge organization ideas

August 10, 2015

I feel like the worst person on EARTH when I clean out our fridge or pantry. Does anyone else feel like this? If you are super on top of things you may not get it, but if I let it go too long and have to throw out food I hate how that feels. 

It makes me feel all sorts of horrible. I've actually taken on a on a different approach to our food in the past few years and it helps -- I started planning out our meals (more than usual at least) and then buying specifically for those so the pantry is never overflowing. I got away from that and now it's time to get back. 

Here's the reorganized pantry:
tips for organizing pantry

Last time I shared our pantry I got a lot of comments from people wondering where the food is. ;) One, the pantry goes back behind a bit on both sides, I'll show you that in a minute. Two, we go out to eat often. With our schedules it's easiest many nights. Third, there's only three of us and I've determined over the years that we don't need a ridiculous amount of food piled up. It's actually something I struggled with, for real. I think because of how I grew up I always felt like I needed to have food stockpiled "just in case" -- in case of what I'm not sure. (Being prepared for emergencies is a whole other topic.) 

So I used to fill our pantry, we would waste food, I would feel like an awful person, repeat. I stopped doing that a few years ago and it works so much better for us. (Like I said, I did let it get out of control this summer.) 

I know the trend in pantry organization is to put everything in containers, and a few years ago I got a little carried away with that. I found we were wasting food because I wasn't keeping track of when things expired. So I've gone back to keeping most things in their original packaging. I do keep a few (baking items and snacks especially) in containers (these are my favorite -- I got mine at Walmart). 

I found the simplest little stickers to help with that at IKEA last weekend: 
expiration labels for food

Brilliant!! I labeled the containers we do have with one: 
food expiration labels IKEA

It would be easy enough to just put a homemade label on the containers -- I just didn't do it till now. It helps that these are cute. ;) 

Because I'm pulling down a few kitchen cabinets soon, I've been finding new spots for things that were in them. I think it's going to work out perfectly, and I was able to put the spices from a cabinet in the pantry too: 
pantry shelves for cans

stacking shelves for pantry

You can see there how the pantry goes back to the sides quite a bit. We have about a foot both ways. But it's still a fairly small pantry compared to the huge ones in homes today so I have to get creative. I use a few of those tiered stacking things for cans and they help tremendously. Another reason I don't keep as much in the pantry is that I'm trying to feed us fresher foods. We eat more fresh or frozen foods now than we used to (compared to canned). But I always have canned on hand for convenience. 

I also use a few baskets -- a big one on the bottom for chips and crackers, one for tea and hot chocolate and this one holds random small stuff: 
pantry organization tips
Those tall containers hold food for lunches -- they are helpful when packing them every morning. :) I have a few of those little shelves you see as well -- I think I got those at the Container Store? They make it so I can access things easier than if I had just stacked them up. 

Last time I reorganized I started using a shelf for serving bowls, but I found a new spot for those. I was able to take advantage of that extra space and move some small appliances from a cabinet. We don't use these super often so it's going to be great to use the cabinet for things we use every day. 

My husband cleaned out the fridge while I worked on the pantry and when he was done I put a basket in there with items for the Bub's lunches: 
lunch basket in fridge

I used to use this basket idea for my own healthy snacks and I need to get back to that. This is to help make lunch making more efficient for me in the mornings -- hopefully it will help. This way I can just grab items and put them in lunch box throughout the week. I'll let you know if it helps!

I've made our pantry it's own little statement in our kitchen -- I love function but love to make things look good too. Years ago I replaced the solid door with a glass door from Home Depot, then I put a super cheap privacy film on the panes and we added rope lights around the door frame inside:
rope lights in pantry

I also replaced the wire shelving a few years ago with regular shelves and I LOVE them. 

What looks like a tiny pantry actually packs a big punch and holds quite a bit! We do keep some foods elsewhere -- the appliance garage usually has bread in it as well (next to the toaster) and baking items like sugar and flour are in containers on the counter for easy access. 

Of course now I'm determined to keep it up. Usually around December things go a little crazy again, and then in the new year I get organized…again. Wouldn't it be something to keep it up ALL YEAR? One can dream. 

At least it looks pretty from the outside no matter what the inside holds: 
glass door on pantry

Ha! I'll always have that. ;) (To see more about those hanging utensils, go here.)

Do you have any pantry organization tricks that you've found to be helpful? Do you use lots of containers? Do you feel like a horrible person when you clean out your pantry?

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  1. I am in the process of trying to get our pantry organized. I got rid of expired food over the weekend.....which included a hidden bag of chips that expired in September 2014 :hide:. Your Pantry is my go to inspiration

  2. We updated our wire shelving to the solid shelves using the same method you did and it makes a huge difference!! Now I just need to get some of the tiered can shelves, rotating spice rack, ect. and hopefully that will get us even more organized!

  3. You just inspired me to reorganize my pantry! I, too, try to keep up on it but it never fails that I need to do an overhaul about 3-4 times a year :)

  4. Love that you use original containers. As much as the others look pretty, it's just not practical IMHO, but if somebody wants to keep up with that, go for it! It's just two of us and my hubby could care less anyway and I rather spend my time on other things. I would like to get some better organization for some lose items but I'm not going to bother until I see if we keep the pantry as is or move elsewhere during our upcoming kitchen reno. Can't wait!!!

  5. I've stopped using storage containers for the most part for the same reason...I can't tell how long I've had it and they actually take up more room than the original container. Going through the pantry is on my to do list this week and I fully expect to feel like a pretty rotten human being for wasting so much food. All we can do is keep trying, right?

  6. Those stickers are genius! I also feel like a horrible person when I have to throw away food - I think it's guilt my grandmother drilled into me. I've been putting off going through our pantry until after we paint our cabinets this fall - essentially I'm avoiding it.

  7. Can I say I am glad you don't transfer all your food into other containers? I know it looks good but is it really practical? Who has time to move food from one container to another? Plus, I don't eat exactly the same food week after week so I would need to have lots of different containers.

    I just organized my laundry room a bit and didn't put the detergent/ etc. in the cute containers I keep seeing on Pinterest. Looks great but seems messy. I'm just keeping it real.

    My Bright Blue House

  8. Food containers are definitely practical in 3 situations. 1) you buy bulk food from costco and need to divide up that 20lb bag of rice. 2) you buy from bulk bins. 3) stupid thin bags that would just fall over & spill since they're opened and secured with a clothes pin (I transfer the food once I open the bag). I live by myself but I only eat at home, and I honestly don't want a pantry because I'd feel like I need to fill the space and I'd waste food. I reuse glass jars that I've cleaned out for all my dry goods, plus a few large ikea glass containers. I'm getting very good at not wasting food, though produce occasionally goes before I can use it or freeze it. I definitely feel guilty for wasting food - it's wasting a resource and it makes my wallet sad.

    I actually just got new appliances and the fridge was broken on delivery, so I lost all the food I hadn't already eaten (lots and lots of condiments mostly). Must have thrown out at least $40.

    Meal planning and keeping a smaller selection of staples are great ways to reduce waste. I try to only keep 4 different grains on hand at one time to ensure it gets eaten up (pasta, rice, quinoa & other grain). However a non-negotiable is always having a box of mac n cheese on hand.

  9. Did you have an outlet in your pantry for the light? I have 2 closets without lights and I'm constantly looking for solutions.

  10. I have been on an organizing rampage myself! I am the same way every year right before school starts. I let so much go during the lazy days of summer! It just has to be done!

  11. Seriously lovee your pantry & grr you beat me to punch to post about those cute IKEA tags hahahah! Aren't they the cutest & soo needed in our house too! Happy week friend!!


  12. I keep most things in their original boxes and containers. I actually find it faster and easier to recognize the items in their packaging. Blame it on the advertisers.

  13. I think containers are so over-rated. There, I said it.

    The boxes are easy to line up on a shelf, they have date info, and they have yummy recipes on them. I have some containers for flour, sugar, and things like that. They are basics and we do use them up baking.

    Your pantry is adorable! When it looks cute it's so much more inspiring. :)

  14. Sorry this question doesn't have to do with pantry organization, but I wanted to ask how you hung the extra large spoon and fork horizontily above your pantry door. I have the same ones and they are heavy and solid, so I wasn't sure how you did it. Thanks!

  15. The guys working on the Bonus space reno had to run the wiring up through the wall of my pantry cabinet so she got cleared out for them to work... since work has come to a screeching halt since we paid them [loooong story] I decided to put it back together... but first I wallpapered her.
    Then we added shallower shelves between the shelves we already had... and of course purged what was expired [way too much stuff!] and I got new containers for storing the bulkier things I use.
    It came out GREAT!

  16. I love the glass door -- it adds so much instead of a solid door. Our doors are those cheap hollow core doors. I already decided to make more use out of our closets by handing something on the doors. Thank you for a tour of your pantry. I like the black door.

  17. I hear you on the food waste guilt thing. I don't feel so bad when some produce goes bad, as we compost it for our garden, but the expensive stuff like cheese, sour cream, yogurt gets me.

  18. First off, I am so envious of your pantry! It is ridiculously adorable! You're house is adorable! xoxo

  19. I love those stickers - what a great idea for ingredients in containers!

  20. I am in the process of "resetting" my kitchen...popping up cabinets, building open shelving, adding MORE under counter lighting, moving things around. I have a flea booth and we go to auctions almost every weekend. I bought a set of "utensils" identical to those (they were cast iron!)...painted them and promptly sold them. NOW I desperately want them for my kitchen....grrrrr! I have several things on my "list" I wish I had now! I have shopped my booth, as well as a few others, for things that will be useful but pretty. A silver tureen for coffee filters, an antique fan for, well, a fan! I like pretty but I like useful. As far as my pantry, I now have a dedicated "baking" center and my pantry is now for pantry stuff! But again, back to those utensils...grrrrrr!

  21. Great idea to have a container of healthy to-go-ready snacks. I'll try this.

  22. I have a food hack for the brown sugar that keeps it from getting hard! Add a bunch of mini marshmallows to the container. I've done that and my brown sugar has stayed fresh and soft!

  23. I keep a fair amount of items in their original boxes, but recently the pantry was invaded by tiny bugs. ? YUCK. So I was forced to clean out the whole pantry (that was a big job, as well as costly.)
    I now use jars to store pasta and granola and such. Not everything, but the whole aforementioned issue is just too recent. [I wish I knew how it happened in hopes of avoiding that in the future.]
    Anyway, I too am trying to buy less now that it is fresh and neat. I seem to stockpile too. We don't live far from a store, and there are just 3 in our house right now too, so I'm trying this new approach.
    I am becoming a fan of empty space in drawers, the pantry, etc.

  24. My husband calls the pantry the "Mormon cupboard ". Every once in a while I pull all the items that won't last much longer and make a couple of bizarre use-it-up meals. If you ever hit a financial bump, a cupboard full of yummies really helps.

  25. We have a crazy small pantry in our house, even smaller than yours!, and I've been looking for ways to get creative with organizing it. This helped me a lot, so thank you!

    xoxo, SS

    The Southern Stylista


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