Organize your pantry (at last!)
One simple strategy—creating and, yes, labeling, zones—significantly reduces meal prep time. Follow this guide for an organized pantry that prepares you for any situation, from busy weeknights to unexpected houseguests.
Zone 1: Home Remedies
Avoid rummaging through the entire pantry when a cold or the flu strikes. Prepare one bin with proven comforts: chicken noodle soup, ginger tea, saltine crackers—even meds.
Zone 2: Holiday Fixings
Reserve the hard-to-reach corners of your pantry for seasonal goods like pumpkin puree, gravy mix, and cranberry sauce.
Zone 3: Staples
Store dry goods like pasta, beans, and rice in clear, airtight canisters to easily gauge when you need to restock. Arrange canned goods on graduated step organizers so each label is visible. Every six months, check expiration dates and donate food you may not finish in time.
Zone 4: On-the-Go Eating
Purchase a bin with three compartments to save time when you need to bring breakfast or lunch with you. Stash, say, breakfast bars in the first compartment. Store microwavable soups, individual bags of nuts and dried fruits, and other lunch foods in the second. Keep utensils and napkins in the third.
Zone 5: Weeknight Meals
Plan ahead for stress-free evenings: Sort ingredients for a week’s worth of easy dinners into separate bins, organizing by meal (for instance, store taco fixings in one bin and spaghetti fixings in another).
Zone 6: Baking and Spices
Arrange spices on a two-tier turntable, with cooking spices on one level and baking spices on the other. Use a larger turntable to easily store and find cooking oils. Keep sugar, flour, and other baking goods in stackable canisters or labeled plastic bags.
Zone 7: Kids’ Area
Remove individually wrapped children’s snacks from their boxes (which take up precious space). Store in baskets with fruit, crackers, and other age-appropriate treats on a low shelf, within reach of little hands.
Zone 8: Guest Treats
Place specialty goodies in one basket. Whether they’re your mother-in-law’s favorite biscotti, artisanal chocolates, or fancy crackers for the cheese tray, you’ll be prepared when guests stop by unexpectedly.
Sources: Nancy Heller, president and founder of Goodbye Clutter, Inc., an organizing company in New York City; Melissa Levy, founder of Declutter + Design, an organizing, redesign, and staging company in New York City; bhg.com