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8 Zones Every Organized Pantry Should Have

Turn your pantry from disaster zone to a perfectly zoned space for your food.

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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.

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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 medications.

What you’ll need: Use a clear, plastic bin so you can easily see what supplies you have in stock.

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Zone 2: Holiday fixings

Reserve the hard-to-reach corners of your pantry for seasonal goods like pumpkin puree, gravy mix, and cranberry sauce.

What you’ll need: Since you don’t use seasonal goods year-round, store them in woven baskets to keep the food hidden and your pantry from looking cluttered (even if they’re all the way on the top shelf).

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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.

What you’ll need: Get organized with airtight containers for your dry goods and a step organizer for your canned goods.

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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.

What you’ll need: You can stack the drawer units side by side or on top of each other if your pantry has more room vertically.

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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).

What you’ll need: These plastic pantry bins will help take the stress out of prepping dinner.

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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.

What you’ll need: You can’t go wrong with this twin turntable for your spices, this larger turntable for your oils, and these stackable containers (that come with labels) for your baking goods.

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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.

What you’ll need: When kept on a low shelf, these baskets allow kids to see all of their options for snack time.

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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.

What you’ll need: Use baskets with labels so your family knows these snacks are reserved for guests.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest