How to plan and organise your pantry

A well-planned pantry is a cook’s best friend – and might even slash your grocery bills.

Bunnings magazine, August 2019

Pantry provisions

We’re all fixated on organisation at the moment, but turning this lust for order towards the kitchen can help with another worthy obsession: food waste. A dream pantry is one that inspires us to use all the ingredients, because we can see everything that we have, says professional organiser Carolyn Verhoef.

The size of it

If you’re planning a kitchen from scratch, this is the optimal time to dedicate thought to your ideal pantry, whether that’s as big as a walk-in ‘second kitchen’ or as modest as a tall cabinet. Jessica Haslem of Flexi Storage suggests, “The more you can fit in the pantry, the less you’ll have cluttering your bench or cooking space. Think about your household: how many people is your pantry feeding? Are there kids with school lunches? Or is it just you?”

Keen cooks can make the most of the extra space for kitchen tools as well as ingredients. “Storing small appliances on the lower shelves works well, so you can see exactly what you have and utilise your appliances rather than storing them at the back of a cupboard and forgetting about them,” says interior designer Chontelle Samios. When planning your space, measure the ceiling height as well. “If you have high ceilings, make the most of them,” says Jessica. There are always seldom-used platters and servingware that can be stored above head height.

Tip: “Carry the cabinetry, splashback and benchtop materials used throughout the kitchen into your walk-in pantry space, so it appears like an extension of the kitchen rather than a mere afterthought” Chontelle Samios interior designer.

Pick your storage solutions

Once you’ve mapped out your pantry’s size and location, choose your storage options. Narrow open shelving – about 300mm deep – is ideal, so you can see everything on the shelves. Drawers or basket storage store huge amounts and allow you to see the entire contents at a glance. “Have a vision of your space and understand what your pantry needs are,” says Jessica. “For containers and jars, shelves are great, but drawers and baskets are real lifesavers for any bags, packet food or boxes, as well as dry veg, like onions and garlic.” Mesh baskets let air circulate, so food doesn’t sweat the way it would in sealed storage.

Customisable storage works wonders. Look for adjustable shelves or deck out the pantry with a Flexi Storage strip and bracket system, and alternate between shelves and wire baskets in varying sizes based on your storage needs.

glass jars

Display your pantry’s contents in clear containers to make supermarket shopping a breeze – and help to reduce food waste.

Consider your lighting

Pantries can be dim nooks, but the space is far more likely to be used if you can see clearly. Natural lighting is ideal, if you can manage it, but pantries rarely enjoy the luxury of a window. Instead, look at outside-the-square solutions such as a skylight or sun tunnel. Task lighting is an obvious essential if the pantry is housing appliances and operating as a working space, but will also help you keep track of your provisions. LED strip lighting is perfect for this and some can be installed yourself; try LIFX smart LED strips, which simply adhere to the underside of shelves (or wherever you need them) and are controlled through an app.

What goes where

The experts’ top tip for shelf stocking is to categorise. “Categorising starts with knowing your cooking style and habits. Then look at how frequently food items are used,” says Carolyn. “For example, you may have young children who you would like to allow free access to certain foods – creating a healthy snack zone in the front of a pantry at their level might help limit constant requests for food.” Store treat foods higher and out of sight for more infrequent access.

To avoid the pantry descending into chaos, give everything a home, embrace containers, and label! “Get rid of as much packaging as you can from the start, as this takes up space,” suggests Jessica.

kitchen storage

Versatile systems such as the Flexi Storage range allow you to tailor even awkward corners to your needs.

Buyer’s guide to storage

“The right storage can save thousands of dollars on your shopping bill each year, not to mention the time and levels of frustration when trying to prepare meals for your family,” says Carolyn. These are her top tips:

In plain sight: “Clear storage is the best for finding what you need. Remove items from plastic or cardboard wrappers so you can see the food itself.

Perfect seal: Choose airtight storage containers, especially for infrequently used items like flours, nuts, seeds and spices. You can seriously extend the shelf life with high-quality sealed containers.

Stack it: Where space is limited, choose storage based on the height of your shelving. Most of the wasted space in pantries is in the gaps between the shelves.”

Set up your pantry to suit your needs

Once you’ve decided on your pantry plan, head into your local Bunnings store to pick up everything you need to get the job done.


Photo credit: Brigid Arnott, Flexi Storage, TI Media (Paul Massey).

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