The Complete Guide to Kitchen Organization and Storage

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Having a clean and organized kitchen is an important step for healthy living. We have some amazing kitchen organizing tips for you that will change your kitchen life!

The Importance of a Clean Organized Kitchen

The kitchen is the room that we spend the majority of our time in. Having a clean and organized kitchen is important for healthy kids.   There is peace, calm, happiness and joy with a clean and organized house, and your kids will feel it too. When you have a clutter free kitchen that is organized.

Save Time  

  • When you bring groceries home from the store, putting them away is much faster when you know where things should go.  Other family members can help because they will know where they go also. 
  • When you are making your meals, you won’t be searching for ingredients and not knowing where to find them.  You will be able to directly get out what you need because it will always be in the same spot.      

Save Money

  • You will better know which foods are close to expiring so you can use them before they go bad.  How many times have you bought a second bag of something, only to find a half open bag in the bottom of your freezer? 
  • You will also know exactly which ingredients you have so you won’t be making last minute trips to the store for just one or two items which always turn into 10 items and cost you a lot more than you would normally spend.
  • You will know what items you are running low on and can stock up when they are on sale!

I have been able to learn some of the best organizing tips from the one and only Tracy Bowers of Organize Simply. She is a professional organizer and literally changes people’s lives with her organizing talents. She and her team can come to your home to organize, but she also offers virtual organization services! Check them out here. One of the best tips that I have learned from her is ‘Have a Home For Everything’. A lot of the tips and photos I include in the post come from her!

The Pantry

Step 1: Take everything out of your pantry to determine what you have.

  • Throw away anything expired and old.  These are items you aren’t going to use and so they are just taking up valuable space.   Plus when you look in your pantry, you think you have a certain item and then when it comes time to cook with it, the item you need is expired or not good anymore.  That can be so frustrating – and then you are stuck with substituting something or making a quick trip to the store! 
  • Donate things you don’t plan on using. Sometimes we hold onto things because we think we might use it someday, but the reality is we don’t use it and it just sits there taking up space where something we actually do use could be.  This is super important in keeping your pantry efficient. 

Step 2: Remove Extra Packaging

Take food out of boxes and remove extra packaging. Almost every item in your pantry should go into a container. Here are some reasons why:

  • When you put food in airtight containers it keeps them fresh longer.   
  • Removing extra packaging gives you more space.
  • You are able to see what is in your pantry much easier
  • You can label containers and things stay organized longer
  • Containers, baskets, and bins give everything a home in your pantry.

You may not be able to afford to buy a container for everything in your pantry all at once, but start where you can and go from there.  You can look for containers that are on sale and stock up.   Also, don’t forget to take small appliances out of boxes and just have them on your shelves. They look so much nicer and take up a lot less space.

Other Organizing Accessories 

  • Tiered shelving to stack items so you can see them better.  Nothing will get lost in the back of the pantry.  This is really good for cans, spices and smaller items that you aren’t putting in a different container. 
  • Lazy Susan’s are really great space savers for corners

Step 3: Group Similar Items Together

Put everything back in your pantry by grouping items that are used for a similiar purpose together. We like to call them Zones. The zones in your pantry should be what makes the most sense to you. 

The zones we find are most effective are:

  • Baking – flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, vanilla
  • Cooking – spices, herbs, sauces, vinegars, condiments
  • Breakfast Items – cereals, oatmeal, granola, pancake mix
  • Snacks – fruit leather, trail mix, crackers, granola bars
  • Pasta, Beans, Rice
  • Canned Items                                                
  • Meal Prep — This zone should have a basket or container to put items in.  For dinners, the night before print out your recipe and put the recipe card in the dinner prep basket.  Then quickly gather all of the pantry items needed for the next evening’s dinner so that when you are actually cooking, everything will already be ready to go!

Step 4: Label

Label all of your containers, baskets, and bins.

If you want to keep things organized, then label everything.  Even if you think it is silly, everyone will know where things are supposed to go, what container is for specific food items, and where to find things in your pantry. This really important for keeping things organized.  It helps everyone remember what items are supposed to go where.  The more things you label, the more organized your pantry will stay. 

Extra Tips

When you want things to look nice in your pantry, pull everything forward so it creates a nice line. You don’t need a huge pantry for things to look nice and function well! Work with whatever space you have, and it can be great big or small.

Favorite Containers

Drawers

Drawer in the kitchen seem to get messy because there are a lot of different things that go in one drawer. The best way to keep kitchen drawers organized, is to use inserts to keep like items together.

Spices

We recommend using a tiered insert for spices so that you can easily see them all. mDesign available on Amazon has some great options.

If you don’t keep your spices in a drawer, mDesign has a lot of options for storing your spices. They are all available on Amazon.

Utencils/Kitchen Gadgets

Keeping different utensils, measuring cups, and measuring spoons in their own containers is the key to keeping your kitchen drawers organized. These

The Fridge

Who can relate to finding jam or another condiment from the back of your fridge that has been expired for months??  Or throwing away moldy produce because you forgot it was at the bottom of the produce drawer? How many of you wish you had more fridge space?  If you follow these tips, you can have a clean and organized fridge that fits everything you need.

Cleaning out your fridge weekly makes it easy for your kids to see what there is to eat- and hopefully that means fruits and vegetables and lots of water! When your fridge gets stuffed with moldy leftovers or old containers of sour cream, it no longer invites healthy snacking.

Step 1: Take Everything Out To Assess What You Have

Take everything out of your fridge.  Throw away anything that is expired or old.  If you haven’t used an item in the last 2 months, throw it out!  Things get lost in the back of your fridge that you may not even remember.  It is a really good idea to take everything out of your fridge once a month or so. 

Step 2: Wipe Down Shelves and Drawers

The fridge can get sticky and messy really quickly.  Also spills can cause cross contamination and spreading of bacteria, so use an antibacterial solution when wiping down your fridge. 

Step 3: Sort Items Into Zones

Fridge zones are different than pantry zones.  Items should be grouped together according to type, but in the fridge they should also be stored according to temperature. 

  • Upper Shelves – These shelves maintain the most consistent temperature in the fridge. Foods that don’t need to be cooked.  Drinks, herbs, ready-to-eat foods, leftovers.
  • Lower Shelves –  These shelves maintain the coldest temperature in the fridge. Raw meat, Dairy, Eggs. 
  • Doors  – These are the warmest part of the fridge and should be kept for foods that are most resistant to spoiling.  Condiments, water, juices.
  • Crisper – The purpose of these drawers is to maintain moisture needed for fruits and veggies.  Your fruits and veggies should be kept separately because fruit can produce gases that help with ripening, but they also cause veggies to go yellow, or limp.  Have you wondered which side your fruits and veggies should go in?  Should you have the crisper sliders to high humidity,or low?? Here is an explanation. 
  • The general rule of thumb is to put things that tend to rot in a drawer with a low-humidity setting. This means the little slider window is completely open.  A lot of fruits and some veggies emit an ethylene gas which makes foods rot faster.   If you have them in a drawer with the low humidity setting, it gives those gases a chance to escape. When the gases are released, it helps keep the fruits and vegetables from rotting prematurely.
  • The high humidity setting means the little window is completely closed. Things that will go in the high-humidity drawer will be all your leafy greens, like lettuce, arugula, spinach, and herbs. By having the window closed, water vapor is held in the drawer and the moisture keeps the greens crisper and fresher longer. Keeping fruits and vegetables that are sensitive to ethylene gas, like strawberries, in this drawer will also keep them away from ethylene producers.
  • For a complete list of which fruits and veggies should be kept in each drawer, click on the link below that says ‘Fruit and Veggie Storage Guide’. 

Step 4: Put Items Into Containers 

Put foods in containers, baskets, and fridge shelving to keep organized.  There are containers that are specifically made to store things in the fridge.   These containers should be clear, and it is nice if they can easily be pulled in and out of the fridge.  

Step 5: Label

Label, label, label!  The same principle applies to the fridge as it did with the pantry.  The more you label, the longer it will stay organized.

What Foods Should Go in The Fridge and What Shouldn’t?

There are actually some foods that shouldn’t go into the fridge because their flavor and texture are better left out of the fridge.  So what foods should go in the fridge and which ones shouldn’t? 

The only foods that shouldn’t go in the fridge: tomatoes, onions, squash, potatoes

These foods can go either way: Nuts, nut flours, nut butters, whole grain flours.  If you want them to last longer, then you can refrigerate or freeze them but they are fine outside of the fridge.   

If you want to slow down the ripening process, you can put avocados and bananas in the fridge.  Don’t put them in if they are not ripe, because they will probably never ripen.  If you refrigerate bananas, the skin will turn brown, but the banana will stay good inside the peel for a few days!

Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets not only store dishes, but a lot of times also cleaning supplies, medicine, and lots of other miscellaneous items that you use around the house.

We love using these

For smaller items like medicine – these pull out drawers are a really great way to keep things organized! Put a small label on them so you can quickly find what you are looking for. These drawers are also great to store things like:

  • Batteries
  • Hair elastics
  • Pencils/Pens
  • Paper Clips
  • Small Tools

This can seem super overwhelming. But don’t worry – you can start with just one cupboard or drawer. Over time you will have your entire kitchen organized and clean!

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16 Comments

Great ideas! I have started pouring frozen veggies into ziploc freezer bags. That way I can see into the bags and know what we have. We had way too many half bags of frozen broccoli!!

Organizing my pantry/kitchen this way has been on my to do list for some time…but, the thing that keeps holding me back is the idea of a recall and not being able to identify brand/lot number/exp. date, etc. Any ideas how to address this? Much of my food is thrown out because I tend to buy things w/o preservatives, which means it often expires before we can consume it, making it a valid concern.

Good point Stacy! We eat our food pretty quickly, so usually if there is a recall, it’s too late for us- and nothing expires in my house- I have a teenage boy who literally eats EVERYTHING! You should ask your question to Bea on the zero waste blog though!!

Me and a couple of neighbors and friends started cleaning our house last week. We started with the kitchen and the living room and it took us a long time to organize all our stuff. We decided to rent a cheap storage in Sydney where we put some of my rarely used items and it made the entire process of organizing easier and faster!

Wow, you’re really well organized. My kitchen is a haphazard mess of dishes, containers and food, not well organized at all. You put me to shame!

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thanks for this post. can you tell me where you got those bins for the nuts and dried fruit? I am looking for airtight containers with sections like the ones you have pictured here. thanks!

I do love reading your ideas! I could see how organized you are. Your storage boxes were pretty, especially the ones on the pantry. Labels were nice, did you made it or it came it’s already on the box?