One of the things I love most about spring, besides the glorious fresh smells and glimpses of little green sprouts, is cleaning. Taking just one afternoon to go through your vegan pantry storage can be really exhilarating. Trust me on this!
If you’ve never cleaned out an entire cupboard, you’re in for a treat. Not only will you feel fabulously free for a few days, but you’ll find the kitchen incredibly irresistible. You may find yourself opening up the cabinets just to smile and congratulate yourself. Plus, think of the photos you can take for Instagram!
Feeling overwhelmed and not quite sure how to begin? Don’t worry. We’ll go through it step by step together. Are you ready?
To be successful at cleaning anything, here are a few tips that I want to share to make this process much smoother and stress-free:
- Designate a Date – The most important first step is to set a date. Find a day on your calendar that you’ll be completely free of responsibilities. There’s nothing worse than trying to deep clean when you’re thinking of something else or you have to rush off to an appointment. Give yourself the entire day so that you can rest afterwords. (Trust me, you’ll be thankful of this later on!)
- Collecting Cleaning Supplies – I sometimes forget this step and then I feel so frustrated not having what I need to begin my project. When you have your cleaning supplies all ready to go, it almost guarantees your success. You can pretty much get by with just baking soda, vinegar, castile soap, and cloths, but check out VegNews’ article for suggestions on effective vegan-friendly house cleaning supplies.
- Alluring Atmosphere – To make the time go by quicker, I always play my favorite audiobook, music, or TV show in the background. I find that it helps to motivate me and keep my momentum going when I feel like throwing in the towel. Literally. You can even light your favorite scented candle or light some energy-clearing incense to brighten up your mood.
- Eliminate Everything – Please take my advice and take everything—I mean everything—out of your kitchen cupboards. You don’t have to work on the entire kitchen at once, but make sure to move all of the food items out of the cupboards. You can work on the non-food areas at another time. The less overwhelmed you feel, the better.
Cleaning Your Vegan Pantry Storage Area
Once you’ve done all of the above and you’re beginning to feel excited (I know I am!), we can get started. Here is what I do when I’m cleaning out my pantry:
- Throw out all expired food. Believe me, you don’t want anyone eating expired foodstuffs. If it’s something you can compost or recycle, please do. Cardboard boxes, glass jars, or aluminum cans can be recycled after you empty the contents into the trash or recycling and clean out the container.
- Get rid of food you don’t like and know you won’t eat. If you haven’t used it in the past 6 months, it’s time to let it go. Message your friends and family to see if they might be interested in the item(s) you have.
- Donate extras that are still good. If it’s something you think someone else might want (like cans of soup, boxes of pasta, etc), consider donating it to your local soup kitchen. Make sure that the items are not expired and are in good condition before donating.
- Wipe out each cupboard shelf. Probably a no-brainer, right? Use a damp cloth or little brush to get any leftover crumbs, dust, or dirt that’s been lingering on your shelves. You might be surprised at what you find!
- Wash all shelves (top and bottom), doors (inside and out), and back wall. Using a simple kitchen cleaner (see below for a DIY recipe) and a clean cloth or sponge, wipe down every surface in your cabinet. Your shelves will truly sparkle after a good washing up!
- Add liner or contact paper, if desired. If you love a little bit of fanciness like I do, you might want to add a pretty cloth or vinyl paper lining to your cupboards. This helps to keep the shelves looking lovely and also aids in easy clean-up.
- Write down items you need to buy as you go along. As you’re taking items out of the pantry, keep a list of things you think you might want to buy for your new, clean shelves. There may be foods that you forget that you need and always wish you had on hand. This is the perfect time to take note of them so you’ll remember next time you’re at the grocery store.
- Make a list of items you need to replace. If you have to get rid of any expired food or supplies, write them down on your ongoing list so that you’re not suddenly stuck without a necessary staple like rice or beans.
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What to Put in Your Vegan Pantry
Now that everything is squeaky clean and wonderfully empty, you can start to fill up your pantry with the essentials. This a general list of items to consider for your vegan pantry storage, but we also have an article that includes 15 Vegan Pantry Essentials that is super helpful, too!
- Legumes (pinto, black, kidney, chickpeas, split peas, lentils, etc). A good idea is to have both dry and canned, for ease of preparation when you’re low on time.
- Whole Grains (brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, etc.) You can always store cooked grains in the freezer, too. I often buy boxes of Trader Joe’s frozen rice and quinoa for emergencies or when I’m feeling too lazy to cook.
- Nuts and Seeds (flaxseeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, etc.) Remember that some nuts and seeds become rancid quickly and should be refrigerated to extend their shelf life.
- Baking Items (oils, shortening, flours, sugars, semi-sweet chocolate chips, baking soda, and baking powder) Oils tend to go bad pretty quickly, so make sure to give those the sniff test. Baking soda also loses some of its potency if it’s too old. Keep an eye on the expiration date.
- Spices (pepper, salt, oregano, garlic, basil, paprika, cumin, chives, onion, nutritional yeast, etc.) Consolidate, compost and recycle bottles of spices that are too old or you just didn’t like. Then, make a note of which spices you’re low on and ones that you wish to buy.
- Dried Fruit (apricots, dates, figs, raisins, etc) These are a family favorite and don’t last very long in our house, but it’s nice to have at least one bag or container on hand for baking and snacking.
- Bulk Food Items (potatoes, onions, garlic bulbs, etc.) I never knew until recently that you should keep your potatoes and onion in different places. The gases emitted from an onion will make your potatoes ripen quicker, which you probably don’t want. I keep my onions and garlic together in a basket in one cupboard and my potatoes in another cute basket in a different section in my pantry. It helps to keep both fresher longer!
- Sauces and Syrups (maple syrup, agave, pasta sauce, vegetable broth, tamari, liquid aminos, etc.) A pantry is not complete without a couple of liquid sweeteners and a few savory, salty sensations.
- Canned Fruit and Vegetables (applesauce, pears, peaches, corn, peas, tomatoes, jackfruit, salsa, etc.) I find these to be lifesavers when fresh food supplies are low. If you can, find low-sodium versions of vegetables and no added sugar or fruit juice sweetened fruits.
- Plant-Based Milks (oat, soy, coconut, cashew, almond, etc.) Keep a few containers of plant-based milks in your pantry and you’ll be so happy that you did. Add a couple of cans of full fat coconut milk (to make coconut whipped cream) or super creamy sauces to your vegan pantry storage is so smart!
Creating an Extra Special Pantry Space
There’s so much you can do to make your vegan pantry storage space unique and personal. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. Instagram and Pinterest are wonderful places to search for instant kitchen cupboard inspiration!
- Paint for Pleasure – If repainting your entire pantry space sounds too intimidating, consider just giving the inside shelves a single coat. White would give the shelves a super clean look and would be easy to touch up, but a bright, bold color might be just what you’re looking for. If you’re a creative type, you can paint flowers, symbols, or little scenes on each shelf or shelf edge. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?
- Concentrate on Containers – Mason jars are really popular right now and they look so lovely lined up together. But, don’t feel like you have to follow the crowd! You can use whatever you like for storing your supplies. Your next fabulous idea might become the next fad! Consider vintage containers and tins or even inexpensive clear plastic containers from the dollar store jazzed up with stickers! Just make sure that whichever container you use is air-tight so that your staples don’t become sad and stale.
- Look for Cute Labels – Call up your creativity and create some really cute labels for your containers. How about blackboard stickers with white chalk writing or handwritten calligraphy on pretty patterned paper? If all else fails, you can always fall back on retro, white-on-black label-maker strips. When I’m in a pinch, I use a scrap piece of paper and a black marker to write my label and then affix to my jar with a piece of clear packing tape. Not the best, but it looks nice from afar!
- Fields of Fabric – If you’re like me and you have a big box full of fabric that you don’t use, this is the perfect opportunity to give it new life. I love this tutorial by Family Freezer on how to create fabric jar covers! This technique works best with canning jars, but you can always use a pretty elastic to secure this cover to the lid of any container, provided that you make the correct measurements before cutting.
My Favorite Cupboard Cleaning Supplies
I love fancy kitchen towels and cute containers for my cupboards, but you really don’t need anything special. As long as your items are clean, that’s all that matters. When I have a little extra money to splurge on the good stuff, here are the products that I like to purchase for vegan pantry storage and tidying up:
- Marley’s Monsters – I love her dusting cloths, unPaper towels, and cloth-covered spray bottles. The prints are amazing and oh-so-pretty. Everything I’ve bought has lasted a long time and always brightened my mood.
- Zefiro Waste – An excellent resource for everything eco-friendly, especially for the kitchen. They offer the best bottle cleaning brushes, sponges, silicone wraps, and bags. I adore their bamboo jar lids!
- Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds – Though any of Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps work like a dream, this one particularly reminds me of the outdoors with a sweet, pine freshness and leaves a lovely scent that lingers. This cleaner is top notch, in my opinion.
- BioKleen Bac Out – If you come across any strange stains or smells in your kitchen, this is the number one product I would suggest. It’s been a miracle worker for many a mystery left in the cupboard. *shiver*
Easy & Inexpensive Pantry Cleaning Tips
While it’s wonderful to have the very best vegan pantry storage supplies, you really don’t need much. If your budget is a little low, but you want to be as eco-friendly as you can in your kitchen, here are my tips:
- Try Thrifting – I usually find most items that I need at my local thrift shop. It’s almost like a treasure hunt searching for interesting cupboard items like mason jars, paper liners, or cookware. When I find a vintage apron or a terrific, old school tablecloth, it’s thrilling!
- Remember to Reuse – Just reuse whatever you have around the house. If you’ve been saving up jars for the recycling bin, give them a quick run in the dishwasher and then fill with your pantry staples. They don’t have to be expensive mason jars that you buy online. Mismatched jars actually look adorable with their different styles and colorful lids.
- Create Your Own Cleaner – Find an empty spray bottle? Use it to make a DIY general cleaning spray. Just mix one cup of white vinegar with one cup of water and you’re good to go! For extra cleaning power, add a few drops of tea tree, lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus essential oils for a fresh fragrance, too. These easy household recipes from Good Housekeeping are pretty handy, too. If you want more eco-friendly recipes like this, check out Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan. Such a helpful book!
- Say Goodbye to Old Socks (and Undies!) – You know the ones I mean! The socks you find where part of your foot is falling out or, worse, weary underwear without any support. I don’t know how my husband can bear to have boxer briefs with big holes in certain areas…*cough*. Anyway, those are the best candidates for cleaning rags. Cut off any elastics, slice in half, and they’re perfect for wiping up spills, stains, and other unsavory sights.
Stand Back and Admire
When you’re finally done, dirty, and downright exhausted, I want you to take a tiny break and admire your amazing achievement. Give yourself a pat on the back and even a huge hug. You deserve it!
Now that you know how simple it can be to give your vegan pantry a spring cleaning, I hope you’ll make it a yearly activity that you can do for fun, not only for throwing out old food. If you take a few minutes each week to give a wipe down and sweep out of your kitchen cupboards, the next time will be even easier. You can do it!
I hope you found these vegan pantry storage and cleaning tips helpful and maybe even fun! I would love to hear (or see!) about any updates that you do to your kitchen cupboards. Be creative, let go of things you don’t use or need, and find joy in having less. You’ll actually feel like you have a lot more in the process. Good luck, my friends!
Cover photo from Canva.com. Article written by Gina House and edited by Amanda Meth, copyright of World of Vegan, all rights reserved. Please note that this article may contain affiliate links that support our work at World of Vegan.