How to Organize a Pantry

organizing a pantry

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

A clean and organized pantry is key to a clutter-free kitchen. There are a few must-dos when it comes to organizing your pantry, but the good news is that once you create a system, it's pretty easy to keep it up with a little foresight. Here, we've outlined the essential tips for keeping any pantry looking neat and tidy, whether you have a large walk-in space or you have to be a bit more strategic with a smaller area.

Follow these tips and you'll find making dinner and searching for the exact ingredient you need is endlessly easier.

Take Inventory

The first step to organizing your pantry is to make a list of everything you have and put all of your pantry items in groups. Write down the spices, grains, pastas, and cans you have, and save it all on your phone as a note. This will eliminate unnecessary duplicate buys and help you narrow in on exactly what you actually have in your pantry when you need it.

Plus, grouping everything you have into categories will make the next step even easier.

Create Zones

Now that you've grouped everything in your pantry into likewise categories, it's time to assign each to a "zone" within your pantry. Whether you have a walk-in pantry or a smaller compact one, assigning areas of your pantry to types of foods (say, shelf-stable cans, baking supplies, grains, and so on) will make it much easier to find exactly what you need.

Invest in Storage Containers

Seriously, do it right now. How many times have you knocked things over while reaching behind your rows of food to find something in the very back of your pantry shelf, only to learn it wasn't even where you thought it was in the first place? Invest in clear plastic containers that allow you to easily see what you have, but also give you the freedom to pull them out and sift around without removing everything on your shelf.

Plus, clear storage bins will allow you to more quickly take inventory of what you have when you need to update your stock.

plastic storage containers in a pantry

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Make Labels

Now that you have invested in clear storage containers, it's time to print out labels for all of your "zones." Organize your containers based on theme and label accordingly. If you don't have a label maker, a simple piece of paper tape and a marker will do just fine. If you have moved anything from its original container into a new one (say, flour into a mason jar), label the date it was purchased and its expiration so you know when you need to use it by.

Rotate on a Frequent Basis

One of the best ways to guarantee you use everything you have in a timely manner is to ensure the food with the closest expiration date is at the front of your pantry. Similar to a grocery store, the food with the further "best by" date should be closer to the back of your pantry while the older items should be easiest to spot when meal planning.

Take Advantage of Wall Space

If you have a small pantry (and even if you don't), don't neglect your wall space. Utilizing your wall space is a great way to add even more storage to your pantry and reduce clutter on your shelves. Additionally, for items like spices, storing things vertically can make it much easier to see exactly what you have and pick out what you need.

Elevate Your Items

In addition to clear plastic containers, investing in a few wire racks is another great way to make the most use of your pantry space. Stacking items is a no-no unless you want to constantly have to reshuffle what you have, but wire racks can help you take advantage of all of your shelf space without creating a Jenga-like situation.

Keep Kid-Friendly Snacks on Low Shelves

When creating your zones, you may want to create a "kid-friendly" one filled with snacks that your kids can easily grab and go. Add a bin filled with bananas, apples, or granola bars so you don't have to worry about your kids ruining your system. Assign a lower shelf to these items so your children have the freedom to help themselves when allowed.