Do you feel like you always need to organize your kitchen pantry or that it’s never big enough or never neat enough? Shortly into my journey to simplify my home, I learned I wasn’t really very good at organization. I then discovered maybe instead of trying to organize it all with cute bins and storage baskets, I could buy less, create more space in the kitchen pantry, and have a purposeful plan for how to use what we had on hand. Living with less is far easier than figuring out how to organize the chaos.
A minimalist kitchen pantry and a little bit of meal planning will help you organize your kitchen pantry and take your money savings to a whole new level. Food waste is huge in America, and I was once a guilty party in contributing to the problem. Part of my simple living journey has included figuring out to fix my kitchen pantry food storage problems. Now, I haven’t been shy in saying, I am not a minimalist. I’m just on a journey to simplify my home and my life.
My pantry looks like a pantry. It is not a work of art. We are foodies. We love to taste a variety of foods, and our pantry reflects as much. However, by buying less each week, you are actually becoming more purposeful in your purchases and consuming what you have ready to eat. Food waste decreases dramatically. Grocery shopping gets easier because you have a plan, and you end up saving money.
Here are 10 tips on how to organize your pantry by embracing minimalist principles:
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1. Take on a kitchen pantry and freezer clean-out challenge as the first step to organize your pantry
After I minimized my kitchen and decluttered my kitchen pantry, I vowed to take on a fridge and pantry clean-out challenge one week out of every month. It is the week when I try to use up all of my leftovers. I can’t tell you how much money this plan has saved me in the past few years on the grocery bill. We also have way less food waste as a result of it.
Before going to the grocery store, first, go through your freezer and kitchen pantry. Are there any meals you can make which use up your ingredients on hand?
If you aren’t the next contestant for the Food Network’s Chopped, then you may want to check out this website that helps you plan meals with the ingredients you already have on hand. After a few months of using this tool regularly, you will feel like a meal planning master.
Usually, after our fridge and kitchen pantry clean-out challenge, the fridge is looking pretty bare. We take this opportunity to clean the fridge drawers and wipe down the shelves once a month.
2. Buy items from the bulk bins
Bulk items (not the Costco super-sized bulk boxes of processed foods, but real food sold out of bulk bins) are cheaper than packaged items. They can also be used in a variety of recipes without a set plan, so they are super helpful to have available as part of your kitchen pantry staples. Plus, bulk items are pretty when they are displayed. Processed, boxed foods and packages can make your pantry look disorganized.
You can buy so many grocery items in bulk nowadays, without visiting Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck). If you have a Sprouts available, that is my favorite bulk purchase store. However, even my local grocery store has limited items in bulk.
3. Invest in mason jars of various sizes to organize your pantry
Mason jars make beautiful and functional storage containers for your kitchen pantry and will help you get organized in a flash. You will want to buy or reuse jars of different sizes. We really like having around at least four half-gallon-sized mason jars. The gallon-sized mason jars are great for containing any bulk dry goods we purchase at Costco, like walnuts and almonds. The trick is to make sure you have a kitchen pantry space tall enough for them!
The quart-sized jars are what you will use for most items to organize your pantry. For example, quart-sized mason jars will hold approximately two pounds of dry beans.
The pint-sized mason jars are perfect for items you buy in bulk but in small quantities. For example, we use the pint-sized mason jars for items like hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
Rather than buying normal canning lids, head on over to Target and purchase the twist on plastic lids. They make them in wide mouth and regular mouth sizes. These are way easier to screw on and off and are washable. If you want to get fancy, you can check out these bamboo lids for mason jars. They are super pretty.
The best thing about having mason jars in your kitchen pantry is how nice they look in your new minimalist kitchen. Even if you don’t have a large kitchen, they can be left on a shelf for display and functionality. We currently don’t have a kitchen pantry, so we use two kitchen cabinets to store our food items. To give ourselves more space, we set up an old bookshelf and store our bulk items in mason jars on it. (This shelf is UGLY! However, it is functional, and it gives me time to find that perfect piece of furniture. One day…)
4. Meal plan every week
Meal planning saves you so much money and helps you create a minimalist kitchen pantry. It will also help you organize your pantry quickly, as you will no longer fall victim to buying in excess. First, use the items you already have available. (See #1.) Then, plan out your meals for the rest of the week. Going to the grocery store without a plan or too often can waste money and waste food. I recommend planning for five meals a week cooked at home, one leftovers night and one night out (if that’s your thing). Meal planning is one of the steps to save time grocery shopping too.
5. Embrace the idea of substitutions in your cooking
You can tweak about anything when cooking. One of my favorite quotes is from a vegan cookbook called “Thug Kitchen”. It says cooking isn’t “&*^% rocket science”. I think of this quote so often when I’m cooking and run out of something. I’m not a talented cook, not by a long shot. My husband is the cook in our family. My dream was to run a food blog one day. Y’all, that’s never going to happen. As they say in the South, “Bless her heart!”
My favorite pantry substitutions:
Sugar: honey, agave, maple syrup
Butter: applesauce (when baking)
Vegetable oil: olive oil, coconut oil (awesome in baking), avocado oil
Vinegar: I’ve been known to interchange most vinegar types in a pinch, especially when making a salad dressing. I’m sure there are some vinegar experts having a fit right now, but hey, that’s what I do! Red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, Champagne vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and white balsamic vinegar
Nuts: Mix them up! If your recipe calls for walnuts and you don’t have any, no worries. Use any nut on hand. Unsweetened coconut flakes work well too.
My favorite substitution secret…flax seed egg substitutions. If you have flax seeds on hand, you always have eggs on hand, at least for your baking needs. You can grind one tablespoon of flax seeds into a fine powder, mix it with 3 T of water, and then wait a couple of minutes. It will become gelatinous and ready to use! How cool.
6. Experiment with whole food cooking and clean eating
Clean eating does more than help you develop a minimalist kitchen pantry and get organized. It can change how you feel, for the better!
Stop buying processed foods that take up space in your pantry and can only be used in one way. Instead, embrace whole foods that can be diversified and enjoyed in a number of ways.
Oatmeal: You can add berries, nuts, yogurt, and seeds.
Homemade granola: The recipes are endless! Have a different cereal every week using the ingredients you have on hand.
Canned tomatoes: Use them to make instant pot spaghetti sauce, tomato soup or add them to a dried bean soup.
Wild rice and brown rice: Spruce up any meal with a beautiful side of rice rather than the prepackaged, artificially flavored choices.
7. Clean out your kitchen pantry and fridge monthly
If you use up your ingredients regularly and meal plan before shopping, you likely won’t have much cleaning to do. However, it seems the condiments and pre-packaged foods are what usually get me. Either make a plan for obscure items in your fridge or kitchen pantry or throw them out if they are expired or turning into a science experiment. We once had four jars of sun-dried tomatoes. I’m not even sure how that happened. Now that we do a regular fridge and kitchen pantry clean out, that kind of condiment hoarding doesn’t happen. Regular maintenance and decluttering will definitely help you organize your pantry and keep it clean on a regular basis.
8. Embrace the rule of one
Embracing the rule of one is one of the most essential rules in minimalism. Multiples of anything leads to clutter. You don’t need multiple flavors of jelly or ten different varieties of salad dressing. Keep no more than two different varieties on hand. If you are sick of them, make your own. Homemade dressings are fun to experiment with and delicious.
9. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale
Now, I will stock up on pantry items if they are on sale. However, when it comes to random food items or processed foods, I usually don’t buy them just because they’re a good deal. That’s how my kitchen pantry used to get out of control! Beware the power of marketing. If you want to organize your pantry, you are going to need to practice some willpower!
One way I avoided this pitfall was I became more purposeful with my coupon usage. I stopped clipping coupons for items we didn’t have a plan for only because they were a good deal. I’ve done extreme couponing. I was good at it. However, I realized I was ending up with a bunch of crappy food we didn’t need or want. So I stopped. Once we started eating clean foods, coupons weren’t much use anymore. Why can’t they give you a coupon for a bag of apples?!
10. Embrace the idea of leftovers
One of my favorite bloggers, Tiffany, over at Don’t Waste the Crumbs once said something about leftovers that stuck with me. She said something to the effect of, put on your big girl panties and eat your leftovers. (I’m not sure if she actually used the reference big girl panties, but that’s how I saved it in my head.) If you made too much, then learn from your mistake but don’t waste it. Eat it or freeze it, and then move on.
Organize your pantry for the last time!
A simple kitchen pantry is fairly easy to attain. However, I’m not like those reality shows where they come in and completely empty your pantry. I’m a little more practical and frugal. Get rid of the crap you know you will never eat or should never eat. Clear out the excess slowly. Then, just like with other purchases you make for your home, be more purposeful with what you spend your money on and what you allow to enter your home.
When you start to simplify your kitchen pantry, meal planning becomes easier. That overwhelming feeling you get when you open your kitchen pantry doors goes away, and food waste diminishes greatly. If you don’t enjoy cooking now, you may develop a love for it. It feels incredible when you are trying to save money one week, have what appears to be no food, and then create amazing meals from odd and end ingredients. It also feels amazing to stop the excess from ever entering your kitchen so you can have that amazing organized pantry!
Related posts: Declutter Your Kitchen: Simple, Actionable Steps
What obstacles do you face when trying to organize your pantry? What have you tried that has worked? Let us know in the comments!