How to Easily Master Pantry Organization like a Professional

Pantry Organization

The pantry doesn’t always get the love it deserves. It’s the middle child of the house. Sometimes ignored, but like the middle child, it wants to please. If the kitchen is the heart of the home then the pantry is the fuel.

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From start to finish, I’m going to show you how to tackle this project in 6 simple steps. It’s easier than you think and will probably get done in half the time you expect it to.

Step 1: Getting Started with Pantry Organization

This phase is super simple and all about ensuring you have the right tools for the job. So, make sure to get everything together in advance so that your task is not interrupted by you constantly searching for something that you need. You only need a few everyday items on hand to get this rolling. The secret to getting organized is preparation as it makes the actual process of organizing and setting up systems so much easier – which means you’ll finish faster too!

So, take some time and make sure that you have all of the following items on hand before you get started:

  • A cloth or towel to cover your kitchen or dining table.
  • Rags and cleaner to wipe down the pantry
  • Mop and or vacuum cleaner 
  • Bins or boxes for sorting

Pro Tip: I get all my pantry storage bins and boxes from Walmart as they have such a great variety of options that are suitable for any size pantry and I especially love their Eco-friendly glass containers.

Credit: Walmart

Step 2: The Pantry Organization Process

1) Take everything out of your pantry and set it down on your kitchen counters. If you have a kitchen or dining room table nearby, cover them with some towels or a cloth (for protection) because this is where you’re going to sort through everything.

2) Start going through everything you have and check expiration dates. If it’s too old, unusable or unwanted, out it goes.

3) Group everything that’s left into categories. Think about how you prepare meals, how you cook, how you snack. Are you a vegetarian, do you have a sweet tooth, do you have kids who can make their own breakfast? When you are mindful about your needs and understand the way you use your pantry then you can create custom systems that work for your lifestyle.

4) Then use the Post-it notes and marker to label your groups. If you can finish this in one session and can leave everything out on the kitchen counter and tables, then do that. Otherwise, place groupings into the boxes or bins during the sorting process and this will make it easier to return to the pantry.

Here are some common category groupings. You may think of others as you go along depending on what you have in your pantry.

Category 1:
  • Baking items
  • Cereal
Category 2:
  • Canned goods
  • Condiments and staples
  • Crackers
  • Health bars
  • Nuts
  • Snacks
  • Sweets
Category 3:
  • Onions, potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Sauces
  • Soups
  • Tea and coffee
  • Quick meals
  • Bottled water, soft drinks, Seltz
Category 4:
  • Paper goods, plates, cutlery, straws, etc
Pantry Organization
Credit: Maddi Bazzocco

5) Wipe everything down before it’s stored away, including jars, boxes and the pantry shelving. Mop or vacuum the floor. There are certain to be old spills and crumbs lurking.

6) Line your pantry shelves, (see shopping list below) especially if you have wire shelving. However, I prefer easy to wipe down plastic shelf liner. All you have to do is unroll and cut it down to size.

7) Now look at your empty pantry space and think about where you would like things to go. Are you a consummate baker or are you constantly making school lunches? Do you love to entertain? Do you like to test recipes from around the world? Items you use frequently should be easiest to reach. Children’s snacks and foods they like should be in unbreakable containers and on lower shelves.  Keep similar groups together, such as sauces near canned goods.

Step 3: Shop for Pantry Organizers

  1. Look at your pantry space and measure each shelf, the width, height, and depth. (Believe it or not, each shelf may not measure the same.) Now measure a second time. It’s so easy to make a mistake and there’s nothing worse than coming home and realizing the items you purchased don’t fit because you measured incorrectly.
  2. Take a picture of the empty pantry and take the picture with you when you’re shopping. It will help you to visualize what you need.
  3. Expand the space with organizers. Know that there is a large assortment of organizers to hold your staples. You can choose from Lazy Susan’s, (great for corners) bins, plastic see-through organizers, wicker, stackable drawers, food racks, shelf expanders, and more.
  4. If your pantry area is in a closet-like space, buy a back-of-door organizer that can provide storage for small items (containers of bouillon, a box of matches, tea, Jello, cupcake holders, etc).
Credit: Walmart

Step 4: Pantry Organization Storage

  1. Consolidate and clarify. Everything that comes in awkward or space-hogging boxes or bags—pasta, cereal, chips, should be poured into transparent bulk plastic or glass containers that store food compactly and permit you to see what’s inside
  2. When storing perishables like garlic, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and avocadoes, separate and store in baskets that are lined. Be sure to take them out from plastic bags or to remove any plastic wraps.
  3. To speed up the ripening of avocadoes, store them in a brown paper bag. Just fold the top over and clip it shut.
  4. Place onions, garlic or shallots in separate brown bags; fill the bags halfway. Fold the top of the bag over and label the top with a marker. You can go one step further and clip the bag with the food clip. Store in a cool, dark place, so that air can circulate between the bags.
  5. Consider stacking boxes on their side for storing. Make sure that either the labels or the contents are clearly visible. You don’t want to have to turn the box over to identify what it is.
  6. Label everything that you store in the pantry. There’s nothing worse than being unable to find the ingredients you need while cooking. This results in you rifling through just about everything before finding what you need which is likely how your pantry became disorganized in the first place. You can avoid this completely by labeling everything before you put it back in the pantry. Get creative and make it look good by buying labels – I love these chalkboard labels from Walmart – and writing on them neatly. You can label sections of your pantry for the larger categories and then each individual container.

A Creative Pantry Organization Solution

Ideally, the shelves in your pantry are adjustable to fit products of all sizes from rolls of paper towel to juice boxes. If you find, once everything is cleared out, that your pantry is somewhat lacking, then you may want to consider installing a custom pantry. Having a pantry that suits your needs is the key to developing systems that keep it organized and working for you and your family. Sometimes, that means starting from scratch. For creative pantry solutions in my own home and in my clients’ homes, I use EasyClosets. They have a range stylish pantry choices that you can personalize to fit the space you have available. The EasyClosets pantries are gorgeous and so simple to install. I find that having a custom pantry makes organizational systems so much simpler both for me and my clients. Get 5% off your custom pantry with the code: CLOSETS165

Credit: EasyClosets

Step 5: Maintain Pantry Organization Systems

Now that you’ve finished this task, all that’s left to do is maintain it by keeping your systems in place. Inform your family of any changes and explain how the pantry is to be used from now onward. Although organizing your pantry from scratch seems like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. Best of all, doing this once now sets you up to easily keep your pantry organized in the future. All that you have to do now is keep it in good shape by following your own systems that you’ve put in place. You can do that quite easily by incorporating a pantry check into your weekly meal planning routine. Do a quick inventory to see what you need to purchase, add or remove labels and make sure everything is still where it’s meant to be. Plus, knowing exactly what you have in your pantry saves you from buying multiples and ensures that you’re cooking and eating the food you already have.

Pantry Organization
Credit: EasyClosets

Step 6: The Ultimate Pantry Organization Shopping List

Now that you know exactly what needs to be done, you can compile a detailed shopping list of tools you need to get your pantry into order. Getting creative with the tools you have or planning what organizational items to include in your process is the exciting part of organizing.

This list of items includes everything I mention throughout this article. Many of the items you probably already have at home but others can easily be purchased online and delivered to your home while you’re in isolation:

And there you have it! Follow these 5 steps to organize your pantry today. It offers a productive task to do while you’re at home and makes your life easier in the long-run. Combine this with the kitchen organization tips I shared in my last article and soon you’ll be loving time spent in the kitchen. Then, you can get creative and try my favorite super simple 3 ingredient recipes too!

As you can see, pantry organization can be achieved with a few easy (but important) steps. Although it may seem like a chore, it will pay off in the long run. When you take the time to create systems now it saves you time in the future. Plus, it will leave you with a satisfied feeling and a new love for your kitchen space.

When last did you make time for pantry organization?


Pantry Organization

Comments 12

    1. I think pantries is one of the fun spaces to organize. And it really shouldn’t take too long if you’ve got a system.

  1. I don’t have a pantry anymore, but had them at two of my previous homes. You’ve reminded me of both the joys of having so much storage, making it easier to store like with like, and the downside, which is that having more space means you’re more likely to lose track of what you have. Thanks!

    1. I find that grouping items, such as everything breakfast makes it so much easier to find. Yes, the more you have the more you have to keep track of and keep up!

  2. I am happy to see that buying pantry organizing supplies is step three. Our clients need to be reminded it is not step one. I love you included creative pantry organizing solutions. Some people need to be given permission to organize things in a unique way that suits their cupboards and family situation. Sticking with the tried and true way doesn’t always give the results we are looking for.

    1. That is so funny and so true. My clients always ask what can I get a head of time? I guess shopping for organizers might be the fun part for some. Until you have to measure twice and map it out!

  3. What’s more fun than organizing a pantry, right? Such great tips here! I have learned over the years that some people care about how their pantry looks, and they tend to be the ones who are willing to take the time to transfer bulk items out of the original packaging into attractive glass or plastic containers. Others don’t care to invest that time, and just want to stick with the original containers. Either way, having a few bins and risers on hand can really help you corral small items. A long time ago, I purchased a couple of wooden boxes for my pantry “shelf.” I use one for potatoes and one for onions, and they work really well. They breath a bit, which is important for those items, and also keep out light. I didn’t know at the time how much I would end up like them:)

    1. Wooden boxes! That’s a great idea, I didn’t think of that one. I love the spinning caddies/Lazy Susans. They work well on the pantry shelf and in many other needed spaces.

  4. One of the things that are always a common thread with pantry organizing is discovering items that have expired. So letting go of those items and other ones that aren’t used is an essential step. If there is food that is still good, but you won’t use, consider donating it to a local food bank.

    I remember when I was clearing out my mother’s home. She had some ancient (as in decades-old) items in her pantry. They were from her mother’s pantry when she cleared it out. I know she kept them not to use, but just as a memory of her mom (my grandmother.) In general, I wouldn’t advise that, but I understood why my mom kept those few items. They were old coffee jars that my grandmother had repurposed and labeled with masking tape. It had her handwriting on it, and maybe that’s why my mom saved them.

    1. That is such a sweet and heart warming story. I completely understand why your mom wanted to keep those coffee jars.
      If I’m not sure about dates I just toss it. I wouldn’t take a chance, especially when starting fresh. Lately though I’ve been putting dates on many food products that come into the house. Just to be sure.

  5. These are great steps, very thorough. I completely agree, if the pantry is organized, you are going to want to spend more time in the kitchen. It sets the foundation.

    1. Absolutely. We don’t need to waste time looking for something or buying duplicates because we didn’t realize we already had it.

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