Written by Grove Collaborative

Plastic-free pantry: How to organize your pantry to detox your kitchen.

Last Updated: March 26, 2021

Now’s the perfect time to detox your pantry of plastic containers, outdated kitchen tools, and expired items. Let professional organizer, simplifier, and author Monica Leed show you how easily it’s done.

Your pantry — whether it’s a luxurious walk-in space or a few hard-working, dedicated cabinets — is there to make your kitchen run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. An organized and sustainably outfitted pantry will make the time you spend cooking that much easier.

To help you get started, we spoke with Monica Leed, author of Simply Spaced: Clear the Clutter and Style Your Life. As the principal founder of Simply Spaced, LLC, a professional organizing company headquartered in Los Angeles, Monica has developed a straightforward approach to tackling clients’ pantries to make the heart of the house both more efficient and eco-friendlier. Here's a step-by-step action plan for how you can put her recommendations to work in your own home.

Make the switch to glass

Sustainable step one: Get glass
Take everything from liquid soap to flour and baking items out of their plastic packaging and put them in glass jars.

“If you are in the ‘life’s too short to decant your cornflakes’ camp, that’s fine, too,” Leed says. “Decant the items that make the most sense to you.”

Sustainable step up: Bulk up

Bulk purchases reduce your one-use plastic purchases and almost always saves you money. Instead of bringing home bulk buys in the provided plastic bags, bring in your own containers (be sure to check with your local store’s latest Covid-19 safe food practices).

At many health food stores and shops like Whole Foods, you can ask to have your container weighed before filling it. “Bring in your own glass mason jars for flour, beans, and oats, and cloth bags for produce and fruit,” Leed suggests.

Pro tip

Decanting super seeds like chia or flax? Refrigerate them after opening for freshness.

Swap out unsustainable cleaning supplies

You can easily reduce your use of toxic cleaning tools by choosing natural-fiber scrubbers and reusable cleaning cloths and cut down on landfill plastics by rethinking how you purchase your liquid soaps.

Sustainable step one: Scrubbers

Go for sustainable scrubbers, like this one created with 100% all natural vegetable cellulose and crushed walnuts, and swap out those conventional paper towels for washable cleaning cloths.

Sustainable step up: Soap up

Purchase cleansers in multiple-fill packaging to reduce waste. Cleaning concentrates, dish soap refills and hand soap refills all cut down on one-use plastic packaging.

Shop cleaning supplies

Pro tip

Create stations based on common kitchen activities. If you’re an at-home barista, create a coffee station complete with hanging mugs. Give yourself a fun and easy morning routine!

Monica’s top 12 pantry tosses

  1. Expired foods and spices
  2. Toxic and expired cleaning supplies
  3. Mismatched/no-lid food storage containers
  4. Appliances, dishes, and tools that are broken or missing parts
  5. Gimmicky gadgets and impulse buys
  6. Reusable bag overflow
  7. Outdated cookbooks and recipe cards
  8. Unused china/crystal or your mother-in-law’s fish plates (you can give them back)
  9. Toxic, chemical-releasing cookware
  10. Expired coupons, old receipts, menus, and manuals you can find online
  11. Junk-drawer overflow: excess rubber bands, twist ties, corks, caps, and packaged condiments
  12. Single-use disposables such as paper plates and plastic utensils

How to decant

Start small

Not yet ready to shell out for a pantry of matching glass containers? Give your empty jars of pasta sauce, pickles and peanut butter new life. As old plastic containers wear down or need replacing, switch in your repurposed mason jars and other glass containers with lids.

“Decanting allows you to see what you have, saves space, and It gives your space a magazine-ready feel that’s functional - and healthier than plastics,” Leed says. “Glass jars also keep your pantry staples fresher for longer.”

Think big
  • Size: Purchase a container slightly larger than your standard quantity purchase, but also keep in mind how much you’ll reasonably use. Distributing a 10-lb. bag of flour among three storage canisters is messy and annoying.
  • Access: Make sure your measuring cup fits into the container opening. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Design: Does the lid fit tightly for an air-tight seal? No fun tossing 5 lbs. of flour due to pantry moths.
  • Pro tip

    Not into labeling? Keep track of the purchase date with a white chalk paint marker or wipeable Sharpie on the bottom of your bulk food canisters.

    Reorganize your pantry

    Reorganizing your pantry space can deeply affect how you shop, how you cook, and how you eat. Organizing and streamlining works for everyone, from minimizing the overshopping and food waste that can happen with a large pantry to completely maximizing and amplifying a minimal pantry space.

    “If your kitchen is out of control, that imbalance can affect many areas of your life,” says Monica. “Getting your pantry kitchen is an empowering first step in kickstarting your organizational journey.”

    “The kitchen is in constant flux like no other area of the home. Food flow changes daily, as do the tools and trials that accompany food prep,” says Leed.

    Did you know?

    Plastic bags take at least 500 years to degrade in a landfill and don’t ever completely degrade; they break into microplastics that absorb toxins and pollute the environment.

    Looking for more sustainable swaps, cleaning tips, or other cleaning inspiration? Grove has you covered. From basics like the most overlooked germy items you're bringing into your home — and how to tackle them — to our ultimate spring cleaning checklist, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how the transition to plastic free is going (or share your own #grovehome plastic-free tips and tricks!) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

    If you're ready to start reducing your plastic impact today, explore Grove's selection of sustainable home essentials.

    Shop Sustainable Swaps

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