Solving the Big Issues: The breeding pantry item

You know what time it is (again) at my place? Bloody pantry clean out time is what. Which looks a little like this:


We have a bit of a dodgy pantry situation. It’s a corner thing – long and thin and dark – which is almost impossible to organise. And we all know that I am ALL talk when it comes to my cupboard management – I can pin till my heart is content how to organise it, but that actually doesn’t mean that it gets done. Huh.

I did the last cull a few months ago and I was amazed, nay, ASTONISHED just how I tend to buy another packet of spiral pasta because I can’t see one in the dark recesses of the pantry. Once I took everything out (there is no other way to do it) I noticed the other big ticket items were:

  • 27 bottles of fish sauce
  • 146 packets of pasta
  • Breadcrumbs? You bet! Here have 4 packets!
  • Rice, so much rice
  • Baking powder/vanilla essence/various baking items…here have 3 of each

SURELY there must be a better way internet, there just must be. Besides investing in 489 tupperware containers that are labelled just so is there a better way? Teach me your cupboard management ways. And do you have a way to use up all the stuff in your pantry? Should we try a week of using what you’ve got and getting creative?

What item do you have breeding in your pantry?
Are you an organised cupboard person or it is managed chaos like me?


  1. Sorry I have Tupperware… After a super busy start to 2014 my cupboard was popping out on me when I opened the door. This weekend I went through and emptied all those little bags back into their allocated containers. Satisfying. I was breeding coconut (?), tinned tomatoes and flattened mini muesli bars (chuck!). Maybe go some large lass jars? Some of my tupperware the are the rectangle 4’s (the biggest ones) and I keep all “like” items in there. So one holds all snacks, lolly bag’s from parties, packets of crackers etc, another holds all the bags of different pastas, noodles and rices. Easier than having a teeny container for each exact item.

  2. Dannielle says

    Maybe invest in some tubs or trays.
    I went to big w and bought big tubs with handles for flour. I have a mason jar storage system where I empty my packets into labelled mason jars and I pop a laundry peg on the bags that don’t fit and shove them into these cheapo round buckets with lids that I found for $2.50 at Mossy reject shop. So all the bags of stuff have a place now. Kmart have a fake tupperware range which my friend swears by. I have another friend that swears by the decor herb containers from big w.
    I also hopped onto the kmart website and bought myself heaps of plastic trays. 2 for like $2 and they now have my spices, cake decorating stuff, asian sauces, etc in them. Keeps them together and if I am making a stirfry I can just grab the plastic tray with everything in it.
    They are great for organising the bathroom too. We have one each for our toiletries. Stops things cluttering up the sink top.

  3. My solution is a) to stop hubs from going grocery shopping, and 2. make a list of everything in the pantry and only buy more when the first load is gone.

    Rather than actually look behind the front row of EVERYTHING in the refrigerator, hubs puts it on the list and buys more. Then he opens it and puts it in the refrigerator, where it eventually moves to the back with the other opened jar of same, and then he… well, you know. Grrrr…!

    • Someone said this to me the other day and it made me laugh. “There is only ONE man….and we are all married to him.”

      Your husband is afflicted with what I call, “Refrigerator blindness” Main symptom…the inability to move something and look behind it!

    • Oh I know it all too well Cyndy…unfortunately I am the person that does this at our place!

  4. Well, that post sent me on an exploratory trip to my pantry cupboard AKA The Tardis. Results:-Tuna 31 cans
    Caster sugar 12 pkts
    Chutney and jam 24 jars
    Corn flour 9 pkts
    Cocktail onions 8 jars
    Vanilla essence 8 bottles
    I’m thinking an enormous tuna, cocktail onion and chutney casserole with a vanilla cornflour and jam sauce.

  5. My cupboard breeds pasta, rice noodles, tin tomatoes and tuna! On our last trip to Mum and Dads they sent me home with a massive box of empty Moccona Coffee jars, my pantry looks 1000 x better now. I can almost see what is in there.

  6. Tamara Townsend says

    Ikea Large, Medium and Small glass jars. Cheap and plastic gone. Have converted over the year Unfortunently no matter how hard i try is the bloody pantry moths are still breeding despite the sticky traps.

  7. I recently explored and cleared out my pantry and fridge. There was pasta in there that I bought when my 9 year old was starting solids eeewww. I went and bought a whole lot of baskets/tubs etc. and sorted out like things together. At least now if I need to find a sauce, I can go to the sauce tub and fish around in there, rather than the whole pantry… that is until someone doesn’t put things back in the right spot.

  8. I want to see a blog post now on 27 ways with fish sauce. That is a lot of fish sauce and pretty funny Beth. he he. I thought 6 tins of beetroot was a lot when I cleaned my cupboard out last year but that takes the cake. Im a tupperware gal and will never have loose packets again nor elastic bands holding in icing sugar bombs in waiting in my pantry. On the help side, I have a very good friend, a super dooper organised friend who may have a pantry organiser/ printable or at least an ideas for you on her blog Eliza Ellis.

  9. MichelleH says

    We have tiny kitchen, so I have the tupperware (not the brand) system and a label machine. I can only buy what fits in/ replaces what is in those labeled containers. Baking items, that get used less often (food dyes, almond flour icing sugar, candles, cutters etc) are in a larger storage tub at the top back to make way for the everyday items, and we don’t replace until we run out. Ikea have a good range of extra storage solutions that use up the often unused space on the backs of doors for things like plastic wrap, paper towel, plastic bag holder etc.

  10. I use jars and a label maker, and it seems to work. Cans are stacked in rows, and stuff that has no home is kept in plastic tubs. It still needs to be ‘gone through’ every so often, but mostly we’re on a pretty good rotation. Maybe a light in there would help too? Our pantry is also divided into 3 (one portion behind glass doors), and I think that stops it from getting too insane as well. Definitely recommend a ‘pantry/fridge/freezer creative cooking clean out week’ too. It’s amazing what you’ll find, and how delicious the food can be when you have to work with what you’ve got!

    • I think a light will be a great idea – you can get those cheap pop on/pop off ones or battery sensor ones cheap as chips – thanks!

  11. I am a bit of a organisation nerd – but I secretly love it. I actually waste time (to avoid folding the washing) by writing a list next to each corresponding level in my pantry and stick it on the inside of the door, i.e. herbs/spices, baking items, oils/vinegars, pasta/rice/noodles etc etc. I also do this for the freezer which is mighty helpful. I tend to find that I have minimal wastage this way. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands.

    • Oooooh Stevie…that is a GOOD one! Respect.

    • *fistbump*. Another pantry nerd here! I have a laminated piece of paper on the front of my freezer(s) which I use a whiteboard marker on, and whenever something goes on or comes out, I update the page. Helps me know where to look for last minute freezer surprise dinners, and if hubby needs to find something, instead of asking me, or having a “boy look”, I just tell him to look on the list.
      My pantry has pull out drawers. If you can manage it in yours, do it. Nothing lurking at the back to scare you next time you clean, just pull out the drawers and you can see everything. And I have some small baskets in said drawers (for sauces, baking stuff) so I can get it out when I need it. Another laminated page with a whiteboard marker for anything that needs replacing- a photo on the phone before I leave for the shops, and I don’t forget anything.
      And my mum used to swear by putting bay leaves around the pantry to keep the moths away. Worth a try- non toxic and smell lovely when fresh.

  12. My two cents. A) shop with a list after checking pantry. Do not buy staples unless you know you need them. my grocery bill has drastically reduced by doing this. B) at least once a week I “shop in the pantry/freezer” and make something from what’s on hand without buying anything new. C) by keeping like items together in the pantry, you can see easier what is in there and when you are low on stuff. D) containers are your friend.

  13. Princeware – it is Tupperware’s cheaper sibling and can be found at Kmart. Looks exactly the same at a fraction of the price!

    I have a shopping list that I print each fortnight – I go through and cross off everything that I already have in the pantry and only buy what is left uncrossed on the list. This came about because I had 3 jars each of diced garlic and ginger and would have almost matched your fish sauce collection!

  14. We are currently traveling and working in WA so the pantry in the caravan is small! I have the basics in plastic containers and borrowed a label maker before we left. Anything that is getting low goes on the shopping list on my phone and that’s all we get….no room for breeding here lol

  15. 146 packets of pasta!?!? Seriously?

    I have an ikea container of pasta on my counter and a spare packet in my pantry. When the container runs out I put the packet from the pantry into the container and then add pasta to my shopping list.

    I’ve stopped buying rice in advance because my last bulk batch which we used over a couple of months ended up having little worms in it. I was told that all packets have eggs in them and if you give them long enough they will hatch.

    I’m rubbish at using fresh food. I’m trying to meal plan every week so that it gets used. I throw it out because we don’t get around to using it and it goes off. I’m trying now to only buy the fresh food that is needed for my recipes. It does mean we eat less vegetables though. There has to be a happy medium somewhere!

  16. At the ripe old age of 35 I have a pantry for the very first time…..and jack shit idea of what to do with it. So it’s a big huge mess. I’ll be reading these suggestions with great interest!

  17. I have no suggestions to using up that much fish sauce but I try to shop from my pantry and freezer for a week once a month and just make do with what we have. Reduces the ‘stuff’ we just don’t eat. Although just today I treated the chooks to some rolled oats that may have been a year or two passed its use by date. And I only cleaned out the pantry a couple of months ago.

  18. The pantry issue is squarely on my OCD husband’s shoulders, he loves nothing more than to organise it JUST SO. And takes all sorts of delight in places like Howards Storage World where he can gently stroke new pantry organisation implements. That man loves a good label maker too, bought him a whizbang model Dymo for Christmas and he was beside himself. In our old house in SA we had a massive walk in pantry – fabulous for storing all sorts of things (appliances, wine, the camping fridge, deep freezer) but also dangerous for gathering so much food. A bigger pantry does not mean a tidier pantry. Because we lived an hour out of town we’d stock up big time on items, then forget we had them and do it again, I’m sure everyone does this, but when you’re living remotely and doing it by BULK it gets a bit crazy. Now we have a kitchen with no pantry! Talk about shock to system. We use an el cheapo Bunnings cupboard which of course has it’s shelves set at juuuust the right height for certain types of bottles and cans to fight perfectly. He’s a freak.

  19. Lisa Mckenzie says

    I put it in containers usually the see through ones and label them but I can’t see all the things in there so sometimes I double or triple up in something usually tuna!

  20. These containers made all the difference to dry goods in my pantry – Group like items (or have one just for each type of pasta LOL). I store the items in their packets and it is super easy to pull out the container to see what you have/find what you need.

  21. We have been in our new house for a few months. The pantry is yet to be organised properly, my niece did the original unpacking for me. The pantry is basically the same size as the old house, so I know how I want it, it is just a lack of time. Although it is starting to do my head in…..

    • It’s so interesting how we just live with however the kitchen was unpacked by a helpful relative isn’t it? I have things in cupboards which I just leave there even though it’s not in the best spot.

  22. Ooh my goodness, my heart just skipped a beat… I love a good pantry clean out!!

  23. Stacked Decor tellfresh containers in various sizes. Baking stuff together, pulses together, etc. Baskets for herbs & spices.

  24. My house didn’t have a pantry when I bought it….so I installed a 6′ tall cupboard in my laundry room. Four years later….the mdf shelves are starting to give way from the weight of the canned goods and the doors only open straight out, (vs swinging to the sides). I need something new, but I’m limited as to width and depth. I’m thinking of having something custom made to fit the space. Problem is…it’s not that big of an area to begin with….so I have stuff stacked on top of the other bank of cabinets I put in above the washer.

    As for organization, I tend to put like things together, canned goods, sauce packets, baking etc. I do have a set of Tupperware pantry containers I’ve had forever….the lids are pink to give you an idea….I bought them in the late 80’s. LOL I would die for a large walk in pantry where I could organize to my hearts content.

    I only have one bottle of fish sauce….lol.

  25. I have no answers, I wish I did! …but I can tell you there are at least 5 part empty pasta packets & four open sugar bags going on in there & that’s without me digging out to find what treasures lurk at the depths at the back…. I may need provisions & a support team & a headlamp to excavate that baby.

  26. I have been a Tuppaware devotee for 14 years. It works.

    As for pantry breeding- lentils & tuna! Nobody eats that shit in my house so why do I keep buying it?

  27. I tried just eating what was in pantry but NONE of the items were compatible, I thought we had lots of peaches but they were baked beans, and vice versa. I have 3 packets of flour, 6 lots of icing sugar and so much sugar… not much of a baker sadly!
    I have a corner pantry so shit in the back just stays there forever, having a party!

  28. Ha! I have exactly the same problem – with all cupboards not just the pantry – but the pantry! The last time I cleared it out, which looked exactly like your set up, I found 12 bottles of vinegar and 6 packets of popcorn. What?

  29. Fashionista says

    Tupperware tupperware tupperware. I know there are alternatives out there but I am wedded to my modular mates system. I buy my beans/lentils/rice/cous-cous/polenta/nuts/rolled oats loose by the kilo at the markets so I need containers. And they are all labelled and arranged alphabetically. Oh dear, did I just say that out loud?

    My last clean out of tinned items revealed 5 tins of condensed milk and 4 tins of coconut milk (amongst all sorts of other odds & sods). I swear I’ve never bought that many. I was worried I was going to find cross bred coconut flavoured condensed milk.

  30. I am now *slightly* OCD with my pantry which we installed when we bought our new house that the wise developer didn’t put a pantry in ?!?. We put a new Ikea pantry with pullout drawers which I can’t recommend highly enough (I *may* have a pull out drawer just for spices and they *may* be in alphabetical order, just sayin’) Anyway, in the old days we had one of those deep deep pantries where once something got past the front it was never to be seen again and the only way I could keep it organised was to buy large wire baskets, one for each staple type, so when I needed “flour”, ALL my flour was together. All the kids snacks are still in a wire basket, easy to grab the whole lot and let them pick something for school without those crappy little packets playing hide and seek in the pantry.

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