1. Create uniformity in your pantry, prevent spills, and help food last longer by transferring food from grocery store packages to sturdy glass and plastic containers. Keep flour and sugar in large glass containers that keep air, moisture, and bugs out. For ease of use, choose a set with a wide mouth that will let you scoop easily. I love this elegant and classic style by Anchor Hocking which looks lovely left on the counter (this is also the same kind that Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) uses in her kitchen, so you KNOW it's good!)
2. Have deep cabinets? Prevent items from getting lost back there, by using narrow containers as drawers. (I like the plastic "shoe box" kind you can find at stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond.) Label the front with the contents (such as "cookie cutters" or "foil and plastic wrap") and fill them up with items. When you need something, just pull the container you need, take what you want, and then push it back into its space. No more rooting around on your hands and knees!
3. Divide and conquer! You can double or even triple the space in your pantry and cabinet shelves, simply by using stackable shelf dividers and undershelf baskets (like those pictured in the photos of my own cabinets above and below). These make it possible to organize several layers of canned goods, plates, bottles, or small packages in a large shelf. A wine rack in the cabinet is also great for holding large bottles of olive oil, wine or booze used primarily for cooking, or even tubes of plastic wrap or foil.
This is the set I use in my own pantry. A package of rewritable labels, like these from the Container Store, will help you keep track of what's what in each container.
5. One of my favorite tricks is to re-purpose traditional office supplies for use in the kitchen. For example, you can use an open-sided magazine rack or a large wicker basket to store cookie sheets, cutting boards, and trays. Keeping them upright in the rack means that you can easily slide one out when you need it; no need to lift a big heavy pile of trays to find the one you want. Choose an inexpensive wire version, or go for a more elegant wood or acrylic version that matches your kitchen decor.
6. Plastic or metal "inbox" or letter trays work really well in the refrigerator to group and organize small items like cheese, yogurt containers, and cans of soda. Get ones that are open on one end and longer than they are wide to maximize space. Choose a clear, acrylic version that can be easily wiped down periodically.
7. If you have the room, why not set up a small file cabinet somewhere in your kitchen or pantry? It's great for storing and organizing recipes, take-out menus, coupons, grocery lists, and appliance manuals. The top of the cabinet can be used for additional prep or storage space.
9. Hang a bulletin board on the wall. I keep a large bulletin board next to my stove where I keep some of my favorite go-to recipes (like for buttermilk blueberry pancakes). You can also use it to pop up a printed recipe for easy following while cooking. Or use it to keep party invitations, children's artwork, inspiring messages, or your weekly grocery list. (I also use the push pins on mine to hang oven mitts, potholders, and aprons.)
10. Store tools by material. Got tons of spoons, spatulas, tongs, and other kitchen implements crowding your drawers? Get yourself 2 large ceramic canisters and place them on the counter. Divide your implements into metal and wood/plastic and pop them into their respective canister. Separating them by material will keep the jumble of instruments looking neat (and within arm's reach!).
In the New York City area and want professional help organizing your kitchen or pantry? Check out our pantry and kitchen makeovers. From organization to set-up to clearing out the processed junk, we can help get your pantry in perfect shape for the new year!