Top 6 Tips for Sparking Joy in your Pantry

Me imitating Vanna White on Good Day Atlanta dressed in all things chic: Nili Lotan from Sabot Atlanta

Me imitating Vanna White on Good Day Atlanta dressed in all things chic: Nili Lotan from Sabot Atlanta

Fox 5 contacted me last week to do a segment on Good Day Atlanta on how to organize a part of your house that might look like a hot mess. I don’t know about you, but I love Marie Kondo and her #KonMari organizational skills to “spark joy” in the home. While Marie likes to jumpstart the process in the bedroom closets with clothes, I’m a fan of kickstarting it in the pantry and kitchen with food and here’s why.

First of all as a dietitian my belief is that food is the gateway to optimal health and wellness.  In my experience, clients who live with a cluttered pantry will tend to buy the same foods over and over again since they don’t know what they have available.  This creates a tremendous amount of food & financial waste. When your pantry is cluttered and you can’t find ingredients or know what’s available, it’s difficult to get motivated to even want to make food, healthy or not.   And that’s when you order Uber Eats or GrubHub and call it a day. Then the food goes bad and you just don’t know how to break your cycle.

So here are my 6 TOP TIPS for sparking joy Marie Kondo style in that pantry of yours:

  1. Purchase a variety of food storage and organization containers: think baskets, glass or plastic jars, clear containers and varying sizes from teeny tiny to large (don’t worry, just save the receipts and return what you don’t use). Depending on your budget you can purchase a combination of items from Container Store, All Modern, Target, Ikea, Home Goods, Walmart, Amazon, to the Dollar Store.  You can basically find a full range of storage and organizational products everywhere (I’ve even sold some of my nice Container Store jars on Next Door for next to nothing so be creative and think outside the box). Nutrition Atlanta budget friendly tip: wash and reuse glass food jars and tops from salsa, pasta sauce, peanut butter then order re-usable, self-adhesive labels on Amazon here. I ordered these black chalkboard labels and they work well but I wish the marker wasn’t so fat. They have made a huge difference in the organization process and my pantry looks great too!

  2. Carve out a weekend afternoon and commit to the task:  I realize this can feel overwhelming to tackle a project like this so I prefer to schedule some time on my calendar like a doctor or hair appointment and commit to a good 2-4+ hours, depending on the size of your pantry.  You can get the kids involved to teach them the value of de-cluttering as well. Assign the whole family to do fun tasks based on age and ability to decrease your work-load.

  3. Take EVERYTHING out of the pantry and put in either the kitchen or living room and then organize by categories: this includes appliances, paper products, as well as all your food.  Organize boxed cereals, pasta, whole grains, chips, snack bars, breakfast items, protein powders and bars, herbs and spices, canned items, nuts, oils, condiments, everything boxed, canned or in a bag.  Anything you have in the pantry, take out and organize by food category so you can see what you have.  KonMari advice: only keep items that spark JOY. If there is any guilt, shame or “I shouldn’t eat that” then donate it or toss it.

  4. Check the expiration dates or sample the opened foods (ie: cereal) to make sure things aren’t stale or rotten.  At least 30% of the food in your pantry is likely expired.  I found an unopened bag of flour that had bugs in it at a clients house so that obviously went in the garbage (or ideally compost anything that is perishable to be green-friendly)!  Read labels and ask yourself, “is the food going to be something I will want to eat?” If not, store in a pile to donate to a food bank or food pantry (unopened foods only that are not expired). Keeping your pantry organized will cut down on the tremendous amount of food waste we experience in the US.

  5. Wipe down and clean the pantry shelves and floor. You might need to use some elbow grease and polish up the walls with magic eraser but clean that pantry well.

  6. Logically think about what shelf you want items stored on and organize by food type. The bottom shelves are great to use big plastic containers to store dog food, garbage/plastic bags. I purchased 4-5 square mesh garbage cans and use them for dirty dish towels and recycled items.  If you have small children, the next shelf is kids goodies for quick grab & go that’s visable on their level. Load snack items in small containers facing upwards and forward so they can see what they are.  If you don’t have kids, you can store big appliance items that you use frequently OR start placing containers of foods you use daily: like loose food items (cereal, pasta, rice, bulk items, sugar, flour, etc) that are now stored in the clear containers. I recommend labeling items you use frequently and storing in sealable glass containers. Since I have a lot of speciality superfood ingredients I store each item in a glass jar and use one of the black chalkboard labels on containers of cacao powder, hemp seeds, protein powder, goji berries, bee pollen, chia seeds, shredded coconut, turmeric and anything else that I use several times a week, if not daily. If you are short on shelf space, risers are helpful to utilize dead space above containers and make the pantry real estate more efficient. A Lazy susan is perfect for oils, dips, hot sauce, dressings, liquid items etc. Items that you use daily (salt, cereal, etc) place in a convenient and easy to grab location instead of having to hunt for it in the back or top shelf.  Higher shelves are great for larger containers of pasta, rice, flour, sugar or items you don’t use daily as well as larger kitchen items that you use for parties or events including anything else that you use infrequently. I’ve been known to hide my stash of speciality Swiss chocolate bars in a container on the top shelf, otherwise I know it will get wiped out the weekend we make it home from vacation. The only problem with that system is that food can expire if you forget about it!

Hooray! Now your pantry is organized in a logical manner to spark some major Marie Kondo joy! If these tips still feel too overwhelming and you need help then reach out and let’s schedule your personal pantry purge so I can uplevel that pantry and spark some pantry JOY!

A big thanks to Des at Sabot Atlanta for always making me feel like a million bucks! I popped into Trader Joe’s after my segment and was flooded with fashion compliments so if you’re a fashionista looking for the perfect outfit for an event, I can’t recommend Sabot enough. Des, Charlotte, Susan and Cameron are the BEST!