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One of the best things about building our new house was having a real pantry for the very first time. In our last house, the “pantry” was a 2’ wide kitchen cabinet, which let’s just say wasn’t quite working for our family of 5.
While 10x-ing our pantry was incredible, I knew it was critical to set up a pantry system that would keep things organized and streamlined. This helps with meal planning, kid independence, meal prep, and my overall level of sanity.
Here’s how we created a liveable dream pantry! I’ve included links to all of the products below. Many of them we’ve had for YEARS and have worked with us from house to house.
The pantry itself sits under our stairwell, so has a sloping ceiling. I was fortunate enough to get to dictate the shelf spacing, which isn't always the case with a production builder. This is our rule-of-thumb spacing for all of our kitchen design projects.
From the bottom:
24” for bulk items + stepstool
16” for tall cereal boxes and small appliances
14” for snacks, canned goods, and baking
All upper shelves 13” for bottles, spices, oils, lunchboxes, etc.
At the highest point we have an 8’ ceiling, and the shelves taper off as the ceiling gets lower under the stairs.
Now for the fun part – ORGANIZING. Efficiency is my love language. A pretty pantry means nothing if it isn’t maintainable or doesn’t actually work for us. Here are my rules.
1. It needs to be easy. Real talk – in some ways I’m pretty lazy. I simply am not going to decant every single thing that comes home from the grocery store into a pretty container. Aspirational and gorgeous as it may be, it’s not my real life. I’ll decant baking things because it’s easier than scooping out a mess of flour from a bag each time (and once you’ve found critters in your flour, you can’t unsee that). Same with cereal – mostly because my kids will leave 3 individual cheerios in the box and put the empty box back in and then I won’t realize we are out of cereal. KIDS ARE FUN.
2. It needs to be kid-friendly. Our kids make their own breakfasts and lunches (more on that in a future post) so whatever system we have has to work for small people. Nothing can be so precious or breakable that kids can’t handle it. We also keep a stepstool in the pantry so the kids can grab anything they need. Sidebar – I know y’all are going to ask where our stool is from; it’s vintage IKEA and we love it, but unfortunately they no longer make it.
3. It needs to be flexible. I am not the person who is going to buy ROYGBIV individually packaged snacks because they look pretty in a clear bin. We will have half-eaten bags of pretzels, rotating varieties of snacks, and copious amounts of cooking oils and vinegars at any given time. The system can’t be too specific; it has to allow for things changing on the fly.
4. It needs to be pretty. We are in and out of our pantry all day long. The pantry also houses Ruby the cat’s food and water, so the door is never closed. It needs to be pretty enough for our family and guests to look at.
THE SYSTEM – ZONES
Essentially organizing the pantry came down to one thing – ZONES. I group things together based on how I will use them, and not necessarily just what they are. Think outside of “bottles together” and “boxes together.” Here are a few examples from my pantry to get you started.
Breakfast zone - cereal, granola bars, and oatmeal, all in kid reach range.
Lunch zone - peanut butter, chips, pretzels, bread, and lunchboxes.
Baking zone – flour, sugar, powders, chocolate chips
Asian sauces zone – we cook enough Asian food that I put all of our sauces in one handy grab-and-go handled bin that I can bring right to the kitchen counter
Essential oils zone – all of my oils along with a printout of this season’s diffuser blend recipes and a small pitcher of water
Backstock zone – this is one that everyone should have if you can carve out the space. These are boxes or bins that hold bulk product that is in addition to what is already on the shelves. Great for buying in larger quantities when things are on sale, or keeping those high-use items handy at all times. We refill the upper shelves as they run empty with what is in backstock
Your zones will probably look totally different than mine, which is great! It just needs to work for you.
GET THE GOODS
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