How to Organize Your Pantry in Seven Easy Steps

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LEARN HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR KITCHEN PANTRY

I am a big fan of starting with “why” you want to do something before you decide “what” you are going to do and “how” you are going to do it! 

I haven’t always thought like that. I consider myself a recovering chronic organizer. I spent years organizing and reorganizing stuff without much thought.

Fortunately, after about 12 years of trial and error I settled into the pantry organization method I am going to share with you today.

But before I show you how to organize your pantry, I’d like to share with you how an organized pantry can help you maintain a cost-effective kitchen.

I’d also like to share a little about my pantry organization journey so yours won’t take you 12 years to master!

WHY YOU NEED TO ORGANIZE YOUR FOOD PANTRY

One of the main components of successfully maintaining a cost-effective kitchen is reducing food waste.

This includes not wasting prepared food such as leftovers. 

It also includes not wasting non-prepared food such as fresh produce, items in your fridge and freezer, and your pantry items.

After you’ve hung out on my site for a while, you also know that maintaining a well-stocked pantry (food stockpile) is another component of maintaining a cost-effective kitchen. 

You need to be sure you use everything in your pantry before it expires or your stockpile will end up costing you money rather than saving you money.

Therefore, you must keep your food storage areas organized so you always know what’s on hand and when it expires!

In addition, a well-organized pantry will save you time and frustration when meal planning or preparing to cook a meal! It’s a win-win!

A little effort up front can save you time, frustration, and money down the road. What could be better for a busy parent, right?

Now, let me share my organization journey with you.

WHY I ORGANIZE MY KITCHEN PANTRY THE WAY I DO

Up until a few years ago, we had five kids at home with a 12-year age difference from the youngest child to the oldest.  

Because of my chronic illness, the children learned to fend for themselves at an early age. 

They were always in the pantry getting their snacks, making lunches, or putting away the groceries after I shopped. 

Their hearts were in the right place but things never got put in the same place twice!  

Sometimes, they helped themselves to things they shouldn’t. 🙂 I still love this picture!!!

And sometimes, I would find surprises in my pantry like this little fella!

For years, there was a never-ending cycle of throwing away empty boxes, cleaning up spilled items, and reorganizing. And reorganizing. And more reorganizing. 

I so wanted a perfectly organized, beautiful pantry but it never happened!

After years of fighting the good fight, I finally gave up having the beautifully organized pantry of my dreams and instead, opted for a functional pantry. 

Yes, I chose practical over pretty! 

I was in pain. I was stressed and I had very little energy!

I didn’t want to hours in the kitchen. I wanted to spend it with my family!

I quit worrying about the aesthetics and approached my pantry organization from a frugal, problem-solving point of view. 

I decided to stop trying to recreate those beautifully organized pantries I found on Pinterest and instead, figure out how to create a pantry that worked with me, not against me!

If you are looking for a way to organize your kitchen pantry that will reduce food waste while saving your time and energy, this is your solution!

It doesn’t matter how big or small your pantry is. And it doesn’t matter whether you have one storage area or multiple areas. 

This method is customizable and will totally work for anyone who maintains a well-stocked pantry!

Let’s get started!

HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR KITCHEN PANTRY

Here is a detailed step by step guide on how you can create a functional, organized kitchen pantry for your family.

To do this right, take your time, don’t rush through it, and complete it in stages. 

Please, let me say this again. Take your time, don’t rush through it, and complete it in stages!!!

Ready to get started?

STEP ONE: FIND YOUR WHY

The first step in having a functional, organized kitchen pantry is to figure out your “Why”.

Why do you need to organize your food pantry?

What problems are you trying to solve? And why do these problems exist in the first place?

Figure out why you have these problem areas and brainstorm what you need to do to solve the problem and how you might do it.

You’ll want to grab a pen and paper. Jot down the problems you want to solve and then write down the possible solutions. 

Think about them for a day or so. Yes, a day or so! Don’t rush this step. It is critical for your success.

Do not move to the next step until you know what issues you are trying to solve and have a solution for each problem. 

Here are a few things to think about:

FOOD FACTORS

Do you have packets of yeast, taco seasoning, and Kool-Aid type mixes that get lost in the pantry? 

If so, you need to determine how you can contain them. Could you use a plastic storage container? Or maybe Ziploc bags? 

Maybe you have lots of these small items and could use an over the door shoe organizer or over the door pantry organizer with pockets?

Do you have cereal or bags of chips that often go stale or end up spilled all over your pantry because no one can remember to close the bags? 

Determine how you want to contain these items.

Do you want to use plastic storage containers for the cereal? 

Do you need clips or wooden clothespins to close the chip bags? 

Do you want to use a pants hanger for the chip bag and hang them in the pantry?

Do you have problems with bags of flour or sugar spilling over or bugs getting into them? 

Do you have any airtight containers for these? 

If not, make a list of how many you need and purchase them. 

If funds are tight, ask friends or neighbors if they have any storage containers they aren’t using.  

I use old Tupperware containers that were my grandfather’s. 

In the past, I have used Ziploc bags in a pinch, but I would not recommend these long term.

Space Considerations

Are your shelves spaced so far apart you have wasted space? 

Consider using shelf organizers or baskets.

Each of these is worth the small investment. Don’t forget about utilizing the pantry door space.  

If you are looking for a more frugal option, you can also safely stack most cans on top of each other. But be sure to spread the weight over the shelf.

Too much weight in the middle of a shelf can cause it to sag. Stack the cans in the corners and the lighter stuff in the middle. 

You can also stack multiple boxes of pasta to fill the space in the middle of the wire shelving.

Do you have wire shelving and have a problem with items falling between the cracks? 

Here’s what I did. Measure the length and width of each shelf. 

Go to your local home improvement store. 

Purchase a transparent acrylic sheet or two and have them cut it for you. 

Just lay it over the wire shelving, and your problem will be solved.

The acrylic sheets are a small investment, but for me, it was worth it for a permanent solution. 

For a more frugal option, use boxes or an old baking pan to set onto the shelves and then put your pantry items inside those.

Kid Considerations

If your kids pack their lunches or get their snacks, you must dedicate a space for their stuff. 

It will save you a lot of time and frustration in the future.

Make their space a separate bottom cabinet or low pantry shelf.  

We keep our kids’ lunch, and snack items in a basket inside a bottom cabinet. 

I also keep cereals and chips on the lowest pantry shelf.

Make sure the kids know which shelf is “their’ shelf and instruct them to get food and put away food only on “their” shelf. 

That way, you have only one shelf that may get messed up. 

Cleaning up spills from the lowest shelf is easier than cleaning multiple shelves when something gets spilled.

If you need more pantry space so you can have a dedicated kid space, then free up a kitchen cabinet or another area. 

I converted our hall closet into a second pantry by adding wire shelving and have also used kitchen cabinets as well as a free-standing cabinet. 

For a more frugal option, you can use an old bookshelf. If you don’t want it visible, tuck it away in a closet.

Other Considerations

Another thing to consider is how you will group your items in your pantry. 

If you use multiple pantry areas and make tomato-based pasta dishes a lot, you would likely want your tomato sauces and pasta in the same area.

If you don’t bake often, you may want to put your baking supplies in a corner or behind other items in your pantry. 

You may also choose to keep baking supplies in a separate cabinet altogether.

Do you have small children and are worried they could get hurt? Put glass items on upper shelves they can’t reach.

If you have bags of rice or beans, how will you store them? If storing the items in the original packing, you could use an old bread tie or a rubber band to close the bag. 

Another great option is to use plastic storage containers or mason jars.

You should also take into consideration any medical or physical issues your family may have. 

Do you have any medical problems affecting your ability to reach or lift items? 

Are there specific foods you must keep out of someone’s reach due to an allergy? 

Take these things into consideration when organizing your pantry.

Step Two: Gather Your Organizing Supplies

After you have devised a plan of how and where you will store your pantry items, the next step is to gather your supplies. 

Check around your house for items you can repurpose such as old rimmed baking sheets, small bins, plastic storage containers, etc. Check with family and friends.

Look for any type of small container or even a shoebox that can be used in your pantry to help contain and group items.

Once you have exhausted those options, go shopping if you must. 

Purchase the items you think you will need and be sure to save your receipt should you need to return or exchange an item.

It is much easier to return an item at a later date than to make a special trip in the middle of a project.

If you have a small space, be sure to take a few measurements such as the width and length of the shelves or cabinets.

Then, take your tape measure and measurements to the store with you and be sure to purchase only items that will fit your space.

Once you have your organization stuff ready to go, it’s time for the next step!

Step Three: Clean Your Kitchen

By now, I know you are ready to dive in and start organizing, but there are a few other steps you must complete first. Hang in there. It will be worth it!

You will need a place to put your pantry items when you are reorganizing so clean your kitchen first. 

Make sure your kitchen table and counters are clean and dry. You don’t want to set a cereal or pasta box onto a wet surface.

You will also need a sink of warm, soapy water and an empty trash can so don’t forget to empty the trash before you start.

Step Four: Empty and Clean Your Food Pantry

Now that your kitchen is clean, you are ready to empty your pantry areas. 

As you remove items, group like items together on your table or countertops.

Be sure to group your kids’ snack and lunch items by themselves. We will deal with them separately.

With your pantry and food storage cabinets empty, wipe them down top to bottom. 

Wipe down the walls, shelving, and doors. 

Dry the shelving. 

Sweep and mop pantry floor.

Once your pantry floors are dry, we can move onto the fun stuff!

Step Five: Check Expiration (Use By) Dates & Freshness of Each Item

The next step is to check the expiration dates and freshness of each item. 

For this step, you will need to look at the expiration date on each item. 

Throw away anything that has expired or gone stale.

Next, you need to deal with the nonexpired items collecting dust in your pantry.

This is going to be painful for some but hear me out. OK?

You need to donate any, I mean any item your family doesn’t eat on a regular basis.

We all have those items in our pantry. You know the ones.

The ones you bought with good intentions!!!

The cans of coconut milk you bought months ago for the new Thai soup you can never find time to make.

Or the dozen boxes of bowtie pasta you found on clearance but never make because your family really prefers angel hair pasta.

I know. It hurts. It’s wasted money.

But, if you want to run a cost-effective kitchen and have an organized pantry that works for your family, you must cut your losses.

If your family doesn’t love it or you don’t cook with it on a regular basis, donate it to a family in need!

And stop buying things your family doesn’t love!!!

After you have carefully evaluated each and every item, it’s time to begin restocking your pantry with the items your family loves.

Step Six: Restock Kids’ Lunch and Snack Items in the Food Pantry

Now that you have labeled everything you are keeping, you can start restocking your pantry.

Start with the kids’ lunch and snack items. Store the items in a basket on a lower cabinet or the bottom shelf of the pantry.

I take all granola bars, individual crackers, and applesauce containers out of their original packaging and dump them into a basket. Why? 

I do this because my kids can never throw away a box once it is empty.  

This way, I can pull the basket out and take a quick look at what they are running low on without having to check each box. 

After you have everything in the basket, put it away.

Next, you need to deal with cereal and chips. 

Transfer them to their new containers or put clips on the bags. 

Store them on the lowest shelf of your pantry.

Step Seven: Restock Remaining Food Pantry Items

After you have dealt with the kids’ lunch and snack items, place the remaining items into your pantry as you had visualized. 

Don’t be afraid to move things around if they don’t fit right.

Remember, your goal is progress, not perfection!

Experiment with the different organizational supplies you gathered. 

If you are storing items on the floor of your pantry, consider using a basket or an old sheet pan. 

That way, you could quickly pull the basket or pan out to remove needed items.

Keep working until everything is back in the pantry. You should now have a functional, organized pantry.

Your needs and available space may change over time. And that’s ok!

Just remember, as soon as something in your pantry isn’t working for you, immediately identify the problem, find a solution, and reorganize the necessary area!

Don’t put it off! Figure out why the area isn’t working, what you can do to solve the problem, and then figure out how to solve it.

I know you’ve got this! Happy Organizing!

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