Pre-Holiday Pantry Prep

October 21, 2023

If baking and cooking play a big role in your seasonal traditions, your kitchen is about to get a whole lot busier–and your food storage is about to be hit by a wave of extra ingredients. For those of us with bursting pantries, it’s an especially stressful time. But it doesn’t have to be! Just a few quick adjustments can save your kitchen from going crazy this season. Here are our best tips for a pre-holiday pantry prep.

Pantry 101

Organization is all about maximizing space. In a pantry, there are several basic tenants that organizers follow to achieve that goal. Here are a few that might come in handy as you try to magic extra inches into existence:

  • Beware of deep shelves.

    These are the biggest offenders when it comes to out-of-control pantries. Remember that out of sight is out of mind. Do your best to keep like or repeat items lined up behind each other so everything is visible at a glance. Check for items that may have snuck into dark corners over the course of the year and relocate them appropriately.

  • Check expiration dates.

    This is a quick, easy way to thin out your current stock. Depending on your family’s grocery shopping style, you may only end up tossing a few half-empty chip bags…but in some pantries, it can free up entire shelves. 

  • Use over-the-door organizers to maximize vertical space.

    These work great for quick-grab items like snacks, drinks and sauces. The Container Store has several options available.

  • Adjust shelf height.

    This is a more involved project, but if you have the time and are able to move the shelves in your pantry, it can be a game-changer. To use your storage like an organizer, follow two rules:

                         (1) Make each shelf just tall enough for the items it will be housing– accounting for easy access and visibility, of course.

                         (2) If there are any gaps, lower your shelves so that the empty space is above the highest shelf. Any shelf you can easily reach is valuable real estate, so don’t waste it on empty space!

Downsize Non-Food Items

If your house is already squeezed for storage space, you may find yourself squirreling random items into the pantry more often than you’d like. Take a minute to evaluate these “I’ll find a spot for it later” offenders before the holiday rush forces you to bury them in seasonal ingredients.

  • Shopping Bags.

    This is a category that gets out of hand in just about every busy home. If you save plastic grocery bags, do yourself a favor and only keep one bag-full of spares–recycle the rest at your local grocery store. Gather and neatly fold your reusable bags so that they take up less space. If you don’t already, set aside a handful that can live in your car.

  • Coolers and Food Storage.

    With summer in the rearview mirror, it’s about time for coolers to head to their overwinter homes in the attic or garage. If you have more daily-use food storage like lunchboxes cluttering the pantry, consider keeping them in your drop zone instead. You can install additional hooks for them to prevent floor and shelf clutter in your drop zone.

  • Utilities.

    Batteries, lightbulbs, cleaning supplies, the list goes on: if you have to grab it quickly but infrequently, it almost always ends up where it doesn’t belong. If these kinds of supplies already have a different designated space in your home, take the time to get them out of your pantry and back where they belong. If you have no choice but to store these kinds of supplies in your pantry, see if you can’t at least relocate overstock to other utility spaces (garage, closet, etc).

  • Appliances.

    Depending on your kitchen’s storage needs, you may be keeping some appliances in your pantry. Now is a good time to give these items a second glance: how often do you use them, if at all? If you use them for specific but rare occasions, a more out-of-the-way storage spot might be more suitable. If you haven’t touched the appliance in over a year, it might be time to let go. Keep your home’s storage limitations in mind and make sure you’re using your space for what you really need.

Make Way for the Season

  • Do a pre-holiday inventory.

    How often have you bought something on a grocery run only to get home and find a forgotten backlog of the same item? This is much more likely to happen to seasonal ingredients–like spices, extracts and canned goods–thanks to the fact that we look for them less during the rest of the year. To save yourself some space and money, gather your holiday recipes early and do an inventory of the ingredients hiding out in your pantry (and freezer) since last year. When shopping later, you can refer to the list and only get exactly what you need.

  • Move overstock food items.

    If you’ve taken the steps from Pantry 101 and still don’t see enough space for the food that will be coming in, you might have to temporarily relocate any overstock. Remember that the pantry, usually being close to the kitchen, is prime real estate for what you’re actively using. Do you tend to keep three boxes of the same cereal in the pantry when only one is ever actually open? Do you have space available in alternate areas (like the garage or a utility room)? Consider temporarily storing your backstock there, only pulling items to the pantry when a new one is needed. If the change works just fine for your family and makes the pantry less chaotic, consider making it permanent!

Pre-holiday prep hits every household a little differently. Are you rushing to prepare your kitchen for battle as the leaves change color? Or is there another area in your house that serves as holiday Ground Zero? Let us know over at the Abundance Declutter Group!