How to plan and organise your pantry
A well-planned pantry is a cook’s best friend – and might even slash your grocery bills.
We’re all fixated on organisation at the moment, but turning this lust for order towards the kitchen can help with another worthy obsession: food waste. “A dream pantry has shallow shelves - no dark mysterious depths into which things disappear forever," says home organisation consultant Liz Bradley.
The size of it
If you’re planning a kitchen from scratch, this is the optimal time to dedicate thought to your ideal pantry, whether that’s as big as a walk-in ‘second kitchen’ or as modest as a tall cabinet. Jessica Haslem of Flexi Storage suggests, “The more you can fit in the pantry, the less you’ll have cluttering your bench or cooking space. Think about your household: how many people is your pantry feeding? Are there kids with school lunches? Or is it just you?”
Keen cooks can make the most of the extra space for kitchen tools as well as ingredients. Storing small appliances on the lower shelves works well, so you can see exactly what you have and utilise your appliances, rather than storing them at the back of a cupboard and forgetting all about them. When planning your space, measure the ceiling height as well. “If you have high ceilings, make the most of them,” says Jessica. There are always seldom-used platters and servingware that can be stored above head height.
Tip: “Think about which items you use on a daily basis and keep these up front - it's all about planning where everything will live in your kitchen and how you can use internal storage options to better store goods" Lisa Mayski from Kaboodle Kitchen.
Pick your storage solutions
Once you’ve mapped out your pantry’s size and location, choose your storage options. Narrow open shelving – about 300mm deep – is ideal, so you can see everything on the shelves. Drawers or basket storage store huge amounts and allow you to see the entire contents at a glance. "You can create easy access storage to maximise accessibility with pantry pull-out baskets. By replacing shelves with adjustable pull-out wireware, it compartmentalises the space, putting everything within easy reach," says Kaboodle Kitchen marketing manager Lisa Mayski. Mesh baskets let air circulate, so food doesn’t sweat the way it would in sealed storage.
Customisable storage works wonders. Look for adjustable shelves or deck out the pantry with a Flexi Storage strip and bracket system, and alternate between shelves and wire baskets in varying sizes based on your storage needs.
Display your pantry’s contents in clear containers to make supermarket shopping a breeze – and help to reduce food waste.
Consider your lighting
Pantries can be dim nooks, but the space is far more likely to be used if you can see clearly. Natural lighting is ideal, if you can manage it, but pantries rarely enjoy the luxury of a window. Instead, look at outside-the-square solutions such as a skylight or sun tunnel. Task lighting is an obvious essential if the pantry is housing appliances and operating as a working space, but will also help you keep track of your provisions. Strip lighting is perfect for this and some can be installed yourself; try Philips light strips, which simply adhere to the underside of shelves (or wherever you need them).
What goes where
The experts’ top tip for shelf stocking is to categorise. "Assigning spaces for everything is life changing," says Liz Bradley. "You may want to store snacks, hot drink fixings and spreads in a separate area or cupboard - near the toaster or the kettle, if possible. The less often frequent snackers are delving about in the pantry the better."
To avoid the pantry descending into chaos, give everything a home, embrace containers, and label! "The simplest thing to do is - after a really good weed out of expired packets - just get a container that fiddly little packets and jars can all fit inside," advises Liz. "This also works for floppy packets of soup mix and sauces that never stand up by themselves!"
Versatile systems such as the Flexi Storage range allow you to tailor even awkward corners to your needs.
Buyer’s guide to storage
The right storage can save thousands of dollars on your shopping bill each year, not to mention the time and levels of frustration when trying to prepare meals for your family. These are our top tips:
In plain sight: Clear storage is the best for finding what you need. Remove items from plastic or cardboard wrappers so you can see the food itself.
Perfect seal: Choose airtight storage containers, especially for infrequently used items like flours, nuts, seeds and spices. You can seriously extend the shelf life with high-quality sealed containers.
Stack it: Where space is limited, choose storage based on the height of your shelving. Most of the wasted space in pantries is in the gaps between the shelves.
Set up your pantry to suit your needs
Once you’ve decided on your pantry plan, head into your local Bunnings store to pick up everything you need to get the job done.
Photo credit: Brigid Arnott, Flexi Storage, TI Media (Paul Massey).