I don’t know about you, but I’m not always super motivated to, say, empty everything in my pantry, sort it all, wipe it down, and fill it back up. But it needs to be done occasionally, especially with a full life and three kids. Each year, I go room to room, tackling one space a week until everything is clean and decluttered. It keeps my house in check and my organization-loving heart happy. Recently it was my pantry’s turn to get some attention. Don’t you want to organize your pantry? Join me!
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Benefits of Organizing Your Pantry
There are many benefits to organizing your pantry — mostly they’re the same benefits from organizing any space. When you organize your pantry, you…
- Find all the food you’ve forgotten you purchased so you can…
- Make sure your food is current. There’s no sense in keeping expired food around.
- Create or reset your pantry organization systems so you can use your space efficiently.
- Make daily food prep and purchasing simpler.
Even though I’m organized and clean out my pantry regularly, I almost always find expired food, duplicates I didn’t know I had, or food that I forgot I purchased.
How to Organize Your Pantry
Before diving in and making a big mess, evaluate your space and your food. Consider your family.
Some people like to use bins in their pantry to keep food sorted. Some like to decant their food into plastic or glass jars. Some like to leave the food on the shelves, but sorted into zones. Think about what kind of system would work for you and others in your home.
If you’d like to purchase bins (which is my favorite way to organize a pantry), consider purchasing some bins before you start. This will help you avoid hitting a roadblock AFTER you’ve made a mess. If it’s convenient, over-purchase so you have options, then return the bins you don’t use. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU WILL NOT FOLLOW THROUGH WITH RETURNING. Yes, I’m yelling that!
Step 1: Clear Surfaces
This is about to be chaotic. Take a few minutes to tidy your kitchen surfaces up before diving into your pantry. Clear counters, floors, and your kitchen table as best you can.
Step 2: Empty your Pantry
While this may seem overwhelming, the first step to organizing your pantry is to remove everything that’s currently in it. If you don’t already have an organizational system in place, this is even more important. You need to be able to see all your food and then sort it.
If you’re already using bins, this step is still helpful. Also, take this opportunity to wipe out your bins.
Place food on the surfaces you cleared in step 1. You can combine Step 2 and Step 3 if you’re feeling up to it, but it’s okay if you don’t.
Step 3: Sort Food into Categories
After your food is all over your floor, table, and counter sort it into categories. Every family will probably have different categories, and that’s okay. Look for themes within your food.
Common categories of pantry food includes: snacks, breakfast, dinner, lunch, condiments, and baking.
Step 4: Check Expiration Dates
When your food is sorted and you’re happy with your categories, quickly go through each item and check expiration dates. Again, if you’re not overwhelmed, you can do this during step 2 or step 3. It doesn’t really matter when it’s done but it is important to do it.
Step 5: Contain
If you’ve decided to use bins or glass jars within your pantry, now’s the time to bring them in. You should have (current) food sorted into groups around your kitchen. Add each category into a bin, make sure it fits. If it doesn’t fit, there are a few things you can do.
Get a larger bin/Skip the Bin
It’s better to skip a bin than use a bin that’s not appropriate for the space or the items stored within in.
Remove items from boxes
If you’re having trouble with items in boxes such as crackers or cereal, remove the inside bag from the box. Recycle the box and clip the bag. The bags alone take up a lot less space than the box.
You can also take individually wrapped items, like snacks, out of their boxes and leave them loose in the bin.
Create a Spot for Backstock
If, as you’re sorting through your pantry, you find you’ve got multiples of an item, consider creating a “backstock” bin or moving some items elsewhere. For example, if you find you’ve got 3 5-pound bags of flour, you don’t need all of them centrally located in your baking bin. Keep a few on a higher shelf or in a storage closet until you’re finished with the first.
Use Baskets on the Floor
Larger items such as bags of potatoes or gallons of juice are often too big for bins. Consider adding a basket for oversized items on the floor of your pantry.
Alter Your System
Step 6: Fill your Pantry
After you’ve got all your items contained, or you have decided to not contain them, place them back within your pantry.
The placement of items may depend on who you share your home with. Ideally, you’d like the foods you reach for the most to be front and center, using the higher and lower shelves for items you use less often.
If you’ve got children, you may want to make snacks accessible so they can grab them without your help. Although, if you’ve got children that might sneak a snack before dinner, placing snacks higher might make more sense.
Also consider the weight of your bins. Heavy bin of condiments of baking items may be unwieldy on a higher shelf.
Step 7: Label Pantry Bins (optional)
The last step to organizing your pantry is to label your bins. Some people prefer to not have labels, however I find them to be helpful, especially when there are multiple people using the space. Here are some great labeling options. These exact labels are available in my Etsy shop.
My (Small) Organized Pantry
My pantry is fairly small, but it’s filled with shelves for maximum function. Our house has 9 foot ceilings, so we added an additional shelf all the way at the top. It’s not super accessible, but it’s useful for storing extra items I only need to reach occasionally.
I’d love to replace the white wire shelves eventually, but for now, they work. Plus, it’s nice that they don’t get dusty or hold crumbs.
White Plastic Bins
I use simple white plastic bins from The Container Store for my food. I’ve experimented with a few different bins and baskets (see below) and I like these the best. They’re simple, bright, and take a label nicely. They’re also durable and easy to clean if something spills. I also like that they come in a variety of sizes so I can maximize space while maintaining a cohesive look.
I currently have black vinyl labels applied to my white bins. These exact labels are available in my Etsy Shop.
Use the Door
Another way we maximize space in this small pantry is by using the door. We purchased this Elfa rack a few years ago and love it. I use it for dinner ingredients, lunch foods (peanut butter and tuna) and snacks in jars.
I have some items decanted (poured into different jars) for easy access, efficiency, and because I like the look. Widemouth Ball Mason Jars are my go-to because they’re simple, classic, inexpensive, and fit in my door rack.
I also have a set of larger glass canisters with metal lids for items such as quinoa and rice.
I also try to leave some space between the baskets and on the sides. First off, we don’t really NEED to fill the space just because it’s there. Second, it leaves us some flexibility for a Costco haul or an influx of cereal or something.
While I sometimes long for a larger pantry, when it’s time to reorganize and I take everything out, I’m grateful that I don’t have more space to organize and clean.
Organize Your Pantry
I encourage you to organize your pantry when you have a few hours. Take it one step at a time. It’s daunting, but feels so good when it’s done! Drop a comment below and let me know if you did it or plan to do it. Any pantry organization topics I missed??