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Get your pantry in shape for the holidays

Courtesy of Amanda Kuzak
Roll-out shelving allows maximal use of cabinet space, ensuring that no snack goes to waste.

Pumpkin spice is in the air, which means holiday baking and entertaining is just around the corner. Now is the time to overhaul your stale space so that you can spend less time at the grocery store and more time creating memorable meals and treats.

Our goal at Kuzak’s Closet is for pantries to feel and function like a boutique grocery store. Whether you have a walk-in pantry or a small cabinet in your kitchen to store your staples, follow our top 10 tips to refresh and refuel.

• Start with a clean slate. Take the time to pull everything out of your pantry to review expiration dates, scrub storage containers and wipe down shelving. Have bags ready for recycling, trash and food bank donations. Tip: Los Altos grocery stores, churches and schools will have donation bins ready for you this fall.

• Prioritize at eye level. As you plan your pantry layout, consider storing items used most often at eye level. Store specialty items in a lower (or higher) priority zone. Tip: If your goal is to maintain a healthier lifestyle, place nutritious snacks at eye level and take this opportunity to purge junk food.

• Employ a zone defense. Store like items together in zones, for example, snacks, baking, canned goods, beverages, cooking tools, etc. Having defined zones will help every user in your household understand where to find an item and where to put it back when they are done with it.

• Use clear storage. Save space and keep your pantry fresh by decanting grains and baking items into clear storage containers. Use clear storage bins or open baskets for chips and snacks as well. Tip: We love the OXO brand canisters that come in a variety of sizes and can easily be stacked.

• Step it up, spin it around. We install organizing tools daily, but two of our favorite pantry solutions are small storage steps for spices and canned foods and lazy susans for oils and sauces. These bargain tools will double your storage space and save time when it comes to meal prep.

• Label it. Invest in a label maker or try chalk labels if the items to store change from time to time. Whether you live by yourself or with a family of four, a label will help prompt every user in your household to put things back where they belong.

• Stock for a snack attack. We are living in a world of grab-and-go foods, so if you need a snack station, save space by removing bars and bagged snacks from larger boxes and placing them in clear bins or baskets. If you have children at home, visibility and accessibility are key, so keep snacks low and in hands’ reach.

• Don’t store reusable bags. Don’t let a reusable bag pile hog valuable pantry storage space. The reason you have such a stack to store is because you never have one available when you need one. Pare down your bags and place them in areas that will encourage you to use them, not store them. A stack in the trunk of your car and a few on a hook in your pantry or coat closet should be enough. Tip: Install a hook inside your coat closet to hang two or three bags as a reminder to take them to the store with you.

• Install roll-out shelving. If you’re in the middle of a remodel or building your dream home, be sure to add roll-out shelving in your pantry. It eliminates items disappearing into the back shadows and maximizes space and usability. Tip: If you would love roll-out shelving but a kitchen redesign isn’t on the horizon, use bins to create the same feel. Measure the shelves before you buy to ensure the bins fill the space and can easily be pulled in and out.

• Schedule maintenance. A perfectly organized pantry requires maintenance. I recommend a weekly tune-up and four quarterly overhauls each year. Weekly, take the time to purge spoiled food and clean up spills prior to restocking with groceries. Quarterly, pull out items, wipe down shelving, check expiration dates and make seasonal updates. The more you maintain weekly, the less you’ll have to do quarterly.

Amanda Kuzak is a Los Altos-based professional organizer, estate liquidator and owner of Kuzak’s Closet. For more information, visit

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