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For as useful as it is, and how often we need them, the pantry is one of the hardest things to keep organized.

No matter what your family eats, or what you even use a pantry for, there’s always a ton of stuff in there that could use a home. How do you know where to start, and what are you supposed to do when you need to get your pantry under control? One of our favorite solutions is to establish zones.

Pantry zoning is a method of setting up different areas in your pantry that will always stock and contain the same items, every time. This can help you in a number of ways – not only will it keep your pantry more manageable by ensuring everything has a home, it can also help you remember where everything is when dinner time rolls around.


The first step with zoning is to identify the categories you’ll need most. A lot of people sort by “pasta”, “canned goods”, and the like, and that works great, but in a lot of cases you might actually find yourself better served by sorting your groceries by use rather than type. For instance, you might want to keep the easy-to-make lunch stuff (instant mac and cheese, apple sauce, etc.) in an area that’s easier for the kids to access, and then keep the more involved dinner ingredients higher up in the ‘grown-up’ areas. There’s no hard-and-fast rules to this approach, and it all depends on what works best for you.


From there you’ll want to make sure everything has a home. After figuring out what zones you want to create, you’ll have to decide where they can go. By and large, heavier items or bulk goods (large sacks of flour, that economy-size thing of salad dressing you won’t even have to open for six months) should be kept either at the very top or the very bottom on the less-accessed shelves, keeping the more frequently-used things at arm’s reach. Snacks for the kids could be kept on lower shelves and given their own zone where they can be reached without the risk of knocking over a heavier object and causing a mess or an injury.


Of course, even then you need to make sure everything has its own space. This is where kitchen storage options like pantry organizers can come in handy, by helping you devote part of your pantry over to these specific goods without getting in the way of everything else. Nothing’s worse than watching a pile of canned goods go crashing to the floor, and a little extra organization can come in handy no matter how well-set up your zones may be.


From there, you’ll just want to arrange your zones so that everything is visible. When set up properly, pantry zones allow you to see if you’re running low on something you use often, or if you need to head to the store before finding out the hard way that you’re short on something for dinner.


After that you should be all set to start using zones in your pantry to keep yourself organized – but you might want to remember to label everything. Nobody’s memory is perfect, and some well-placed shelf labels can go a long way towards remembering where everything is.

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