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You’ve seen them: pictures of beautiful pantries, their shelves lined with clearly labeled glass jars and neatly arranged bins. They seem to repel dust and disorganization.
If your pantry doesn’t look like that, you’re not alone. Keeping your pantry in top shape is a challenge – especially if you actually use it. Whether you’re a master chef or newbie in the kitchen, your pantry will be in a constant state of flux. With so much coming in and going out, how do you keep things in order? The answer might be simpler than you think.
Look at those pretty pantry pictures again. What do they all have in common? Baskets. They might be wicker, plastic or fabric. In nearly every instance of a well-organized pantry, the humble basket plays a crucial role. Here are five ways you can use baskets to nail the pantry organization aesthetic of your dreams.
#1: Use them to create defined areas
Do you have a hard time finding things in your pantry? It might be because you don’t know where to look. The most basic way to use baskets for pantry organization is to group like items. All of your canned goods go in one basket. Your pasta and rice go in another. All snack foods go in another.
You might also get more creative with the types of areas you create. Instead of grouping similar products together, you could group things by meal. Try a basket for breakfast foods, a basket for grab-and-go lunch and a basket for the ingredients of each meal you plan to make this week. Play with your system until you find what works best for you.
To expand the reach of your groupings, you can also gather smaller baskets on a large sheet pan. Say you have several baskets for your different baking supplies: e.g., one for measuring cups, one for spices and extracts, one for cupcake liners and cake pop molds. Arrange all of those baskets on a single sheet pan. When it’s time to bake, you can pull out the whole pan. The sheet pan method helps you keep individual components organized without limiting your groupings.
#2: Use them to hide ugly packaging
Some people might have time to unpackage everything they buy at the grocery store and move it into pretty, clearly labeled containers. But some of us don’t have the luxury of that excess time. If you want your pantry to stick to a single style but you don’t want to drive yourself crazy swapping everything into matching jars and bins, baskets are your friend. By loading packaged products into baskets, you hide the mismatched, oftentimes jarringly colorful labels behind a wall that suits your aesthetic.
#3: Use them to be party-ready
There’s nothing worse than having company over and struggling to find things in your pantry, especially if that leaves you with the pantry door open, exposing its disorganization to the world. Baskets can help you take your hosting preparedness to the next level. Create a basket that’s stocked with the essentials. It might hold a bottle of wine, crackers, olives or whatever you find yourself always pulling out when guests come to call. Having a single basket to grab when you’re prepping saves you time, allowing you to be a stress-free host when your guests arrive.
You don’t need to take up valuable mid-shelf real estate with this basket. Because you’ll only be using it on certain occasions, it’s ideal for the top shelf of your pantry or that back corner that’s a little hard to reach.
#4: Use them to corral small appliances
Thanks to the Pampered Chef era, many of us have a wide range of kitchen gadgets in our home. We may or may not use them on a regular basis. Even so, they take up valuable storage space. Like your party basket, a small kitchen appliances basket can go in a harder-to-reach space. This frees up more of your kitchen and pantry for the things you actually use every day – or at least every week.
Keep this basket from looking like a den of snakes by securely wrapping up each appliance’s cord before you add it to the basket. If you want some tips to make that easier, here’s a quick guide to wrapping your cords.
#5: Use them to minimize excess food
How much of your pantry is taken up by long-forgotten – but still perfectly usable – food? It’s good to have staples on hand, but those excess cans of beans are only going to keep accumulating unless you make it a point to use them. Make this easier by keeping older food at the front of your baskets. Simply tip your baskets forward before you put your groceries away. Load those unopened bags of chips in the back, keeping the half-eaten bags front and center so they’ll actually get finished, rather than ending up buried and rediscovered in a few months.
While baskets are a strong place to start with pantry organization, they aren’t the be-all and end-all for your household’s food storage. Here are some other tips for efficiently and beautifully organizing your pantry. Planning to do some shopping to get your pantry dialed in? Check out our top picks for pantry products.