The Perfect Pantry – How to Optimize Pantry Storage

One of the most important parts of your kitchen is the pantry. Often thought of as just another type of closet, an organized pantry can save you lots of time and money. If you’ve ever struggled to find items in your pantry, it’s easy to understand why someone might opt for take-out, rather than cooking at home. Fortunately, there are solutions available to help you optimize the space you have available.

The Basics

Here are some rules you should always keep in mind:

1.) Convenience is the first thing to consider, with regard to your pantry. Accessibility is a must, even if the pantry isn’t in the kitchen. Although it makes sense for it to be in the same room, this may not be practical in a small kitchen. If you require lots of storage space, it might be better to put the pantry in an adjacent room.

2.) The next thing to remember is to store things where they’re going to be used. In kitchens that have separate areas for baking and food preparation, having two pantries might make more sense. If space only allows for one, it would be best to locate it between the two areas.

3.) Another consideration is the pantry’s size. Your goal should be for the items inside to be easily visible. You shouldn’t have to pull items out to access what’s behind or beneath them. This is easier when your pantry is sized to accommodate your specific needs.

The are three basic types of pantries: reach-in, pull-out and walk-in. They’re all designed to do the same thing, but they each have their pros and cons.

Reach-In Pantries

Reach-in pantries are the simplest of the three. Shallow shelves make it easier to see and reach individual items. A depth of 14 to 16 inches is best. It’s common to think that only items that aren’t used as often will end up at the back, but this isn’t always the case. When people know they have deep shelves, they’re tempted to use it all.

If your reach-in pantry is the right size, everything will be upfront and finding stored items will be easy. If you do have shelves that are deeper than 16 inches, roll-out trays can be a great way to make use of the entire shelf. Just remember that they need to be mounted on heavy-duty glides, which can be expensive. Although roll-out trays make it easier to get to the items on each shelf, you still won’t necessarily be able to see them any better until you pull them out.

Adjustable shelves are another great way to save space, allowing you to use every bit of vertical space available, without stacking items on top of each other. You’ll also be able to work around any changing height requirements that may arise.

Another space-saving solution is to install “bat-wing” doors with small shelves. This configuration makes it easy to store cans and bottles. Just make sure to use at least four heavy-duty hinges on each door, so they can support the extra weight.

Pull-Out Pantries

Wire Reach In Pantry

A pull-out pantry is what you get if you turn a reach-in pantry sideways and slide it into a cabinet. To access the items inside, you simply pull it out like a large drawer. Some are open on both sides, while others are open on only one side. If yours is going to be open on only one side, it’s best to keep it under 16 inches deep, as if it were a reach-in. Pull-out pantries are more elaborate and expensive, due to the heavy-duty hardware required, but they’re great for small kitchens.

Pull-out pantries are only practical for storing things below eye level. The best way to improve on this design is to use adjustable shelves. This is beneficial regardless of whether the shelves are accessible from one side or both.

Walk-In Pantries

Walk-in pantries are basically small rooms or closets for food storage. They’re not practical for small households, but can be useful for larger ones that buy items in bulk. In such cases, it may be better to put a smaller pantry in the kitchen, while using the walk-in to store whatever doesn’t fit. You can restock the small pantry whenever things get low.

There’s also a similar configuration called a “walk-through” pantry. The main difference between them is that the primary purpose of a walk-through is to serve as a hallway between two rooms. The fact that it can also be used for storage is of secondary importance, since the space available is limited by the walkway. At least 36 inches of walk-through space should be provided, which should be clear at all times. If wheelchair access is necessary, walk-through space should be at least 60 inches wide.

With either configuration, the 16 inch depth rule should still apply to shelves. It goes without saying that adjustable shelves would help further optimize your storage capabilities in these types of pantries as effectively as they would in a reach-in.

Additional Considerations

Once you’ve decided on a type of pantry, you’ll have to think about where to put it and whether or not it will require lighting.

The best place for a pantry is as close to the refrigerator as possible and within 48 inches of the food preparation area. The keeps your refrigerated goods and dry goods close to each other, while also being within easy reach of the cook. Ideally, they should also be at the edge of the kitchen, so that people looking for snacks or beverages won’t have to walk through the busier areas.

If the pantry is recessed, it’s likely to be dark when you’re trying to find something. Placing a light at the top will light only the top shelves and the further-down the other shelves are, the harder it will be to see what’s there. LED strips placed vertically down the two front corners are one of the best solutions for this problem. They light from top to bottom, making it possible to see into any shelf.

Ultimately, your goal should be to build a pantry that provides a pain-free experience. Every kitchen is different, so what works for one person might not be the best solution for someone else. Your best bet is to study these suggestions and use whatever you think will work best for you.