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Setting Up a Pantry

Martha Stewart Living, October/November 1993

Martha loves the pantry in Westport and often feels inspired to cook simply by seeing the abundance of ingredients on the shelves. More than a source of inspiration, however, an organized pantry streamlines cooking preparations, making it easy to find ingredients and keep track of their need for replenishment.

Keep the following points in mind when setting up your own pantry:

A pantry can be as large as a room or as small as a bookcase--just make sure the space has good ventilation and circulation, low light, low humidity, and a relatively cool temperature.

The shelves of the cupboards in Martha's pantry are wide but not so deep that ingredients are difficult to find.

Store items that are used together next to one another. For example, group baking staples such as baking powder, baking soda, sugar, cocoa, salt, and molasses on the same shelf.

Most items keep best in airtight containers; glass, metal, and heavy plastic containers are least likely to become infested with pests. Containers for oils and dried herbs should be opaque as well as airtight. Martha likes to store grains, dried beans, dried chiles, rice, and dried fruit in tightly sealed canning jars.

Make sure that jars of food you've canned at home are properly labeled and dated. It's a good idea to mark the purchase dates of other foods such as flour and spices as well, so you can tell at a glance if something is past its prime.

A cool, dark space in the pantry is an ideal place to store hardy vegetables such as potatoes and onions. Don’t store potatoes and onions right next to each other, however, as they hasten each other's spoilage.

The pantry is also a convenient place to store non-food items such as lightbulbs, candles, matches, baskets, serving trays, and pet treats.


Comments (17)

  • diflan 18 Oct, 2009

    Yikes! I never knew this about onions and potatoes! No wonder I can't keep them for very long! Thanx for this tip!

  • soohoolm 18 Oct, 2009

    I love this idea!

  • MaggieMcGee 20 Mar, 2009

    This winter I labeled all my pantry containers in French with English in a smaller font for my husband. I cann n n n n n t help but smile when I reach for Le Sucre (sugar). Sample in my photo -very small hope you can see it.

  • Barefootgirl 20 Mar, 2009

    I store my herbs and spices alphabetically on a tiered lazy susan along with extracts and larger containers of baking soda, salt, etc.

  • jdowling 19 Mar, 2009

    My husband and I just moved into a new house and I have a pantry for this first time...I just love it. I organized the shelves according to type of food; snacks, beverages, breakfast, canned goods, etc. I use tiered plastic pedestals for my canned goods and can always easily see what I have.

  • SMILETU 4 Nov, 2008

    One rewarding organizing idea I have used for years is placing all canned goods in way of color in your pantry. Heloise in Newspaper is where I read this and has worked greatly. Besides color, reds, greens, yellows

  • laddybuggkrafter 27 Oct, 2008

    I also took those plastic jars you can get pretzels in and I use those for my sugar and my flour. I use those small plastic jars that you get boiling cubes in and wash them out good and put other spices in that I buy that are in bags. I take a eraser marker and mark a date on them and then I can wash it right off.

  • laddybuggkrafter 27 Oct, 2008

    We live in a single wide so I had not much cabinet space so my husband had a guy build me a pantry that If I ever get to move I can take it with me. I took a cerial box and added about 2'' to it for the width of the pantry that way it wasnt to deep and my cerial boxes fit in it. My shelves I can addjust to how I want them . I just love it. It works so good for me.

  • auntlizzie 24 Oct, 2008

    How clever! I never thought of using those inexpensive plastic boxes! And Alabaxter made me LOL commenting on her home safety technique of putting paper goods on the top shelf.

    This is such a valuable site - thanks for sharing your ideas.

  • Pachey 24 Oct, 2008

    I have hooks in my pantry to hang large, awkward things, like big bags of noodles. I also have plastic boxes to store similar items - one for spices, one for sugars, one for cake decorations, one for 'weird stuff from the Chinese supermarket', etc!

  • Alabaxter 24 Oct, 2008

    A pantry is essential where you have ice storms, hurricanes and tornados. We buy cases of veggies when they go 4/$1 at a local market, and arrange everything by food group. The top shelf is saved for paper goods - or anything that if it falls won't kill us. We get food service 5 gal. buckets (formerly used for icing) at Walmart bakery and put our oatmeal, beans, rice and popcorn in them - they're on the floor with canned juices.

  • Freedomacres49 24 Oct, 2008

    I put everything on turntables. Double decker for canned items and large wooden ones for cereal boxes etc. Each turntable is assigned items such as "vegetables", "soups" "condiments" "desserts" "spices/oils". The refrigerator also has turntables for juices, milk, cream chees, jelllies etc. This helps the family know where everything is and not ask mom.

  • Williams40 24 Oct, 2008

    I went looking at a house with my cousine and fell in love with the pantry,I promptly came home and made one in an alcove beside my kitchen!!! I love a pantry for storing things and just for the asthetic value it brings me.

  • renvyle 24 Oct, 2008

    I never put lightbulbs or candles into the food pantry. I store the candles with the table linen in the dining room, pet treats iin the shed and the others in a book case tucked in a cupboard under the stairs but otherwise my pantry is similar to Martha's. Thank you Martha.

  • RED11 24 Oct, 2008

    You might also want to add : place heavy items on lower shelves and lighter things such as bag of chips on the top shelves.

  • pdub2126 24 Oct, 2008

    So wierd I just re-did my pantry last night...I should have waited until the weekend so that I could have put some of these ideas to use. Oh well I think I did a pretty awesome job though. I can always revamp my pantry too. Thanks Martha!!!

  • taliento 24 Oct, 2008

    I just love everything about Martha, she inspires me to want to do more.
    Thank you God for creating such a unique human being and giving her
    the vision and ability to bring it o others. I know for myself, every piece of
    advise or article or receipe i read or do is always always perfect. LIke Martha
    says "AND THAT'S A GOOD THING" i love using the same motto.
    Regards and thank you reading my comments...
    Martha (i'm a Martha too)