Pantry Organization Mistakes You Might Be Making

organized pantry using storage bins

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

If you dread walking into your pantry or opening up the door to find what you need, you might be doing it wrong. A well-organized pantry should be clean, easy to sort through, and save you time and energy when it comes to making dinner.

If dinnertime is chaotic in your home, it's time to check out these big pantry mistakes you may be making. With a few quick fixes, you can take your pantry from a disaster zone to endlessly usable space in no time.

  • 01 of 08

    Not Tossing Expired Foods

    Pantry organization 101: only keep what you can use. Just like how you would clean out a refrigerator and toss expired perishables, you should do the same in your pantry. While you should have to do this task way less often than you do in your fridge, spending an afternoon taking inventory and tossing the old stuff is essential at least once a quarter.

    Think about it—nothing is less efficient than planning dinner only to find the necessary ingredients are all past their use-by dates.

  • 02 of 08

    Shoving Items Wherever There Is Room

    Like kitchen cabinets, most pantries will have some hard-to-use space, especially between shelves. While you could simply stack your cans or jars of peanut butter to take advantage of every inch of space, this will only create a mess in the end.

  • 03 of 08

    Not Creating Zones

    Sure, shoving your pantry items in every available nook and cranny is a quick fix when it comes to putting your food away, but does it actually save you any time in the long run? A well-organized pantry must have a bit of forethought with planned zones for all of your items and a system that works for you.

    If you reach for your spaces every day, don't put them in the very back of your pantry. Likewise, if you only bake once a month, don't give up valuable real estate up front for your flour or sugar.

  • 04 of 08

    Ignoring Your Vertical Space

    If you have a small kitchen, you are probably already familiar with space-saving hacks to add storage. If you are short on pantry space, the same methods should apply here as well. Invest in elevated wire racks to utilize more shelf space and add hanging storage and your doors and walls for spaces and other small items. Not only does this add even more usable space to your pantry, but it also keeps your shelves clutter-free.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Keeping Original Containers

    Big bulky boxes can take up way too much space in your pantry. If you buy in bulk, get rid of the original packaging and swap it for clear storage containers that you can easily stack and style. These require a much smaller footprint and make it easier to see exactly what you have.

    Be sure to add labels to your containers when you swap out the original packaging. Include the date you opened and manufacturers' "sell by" dates as well.

  • 06 of 08

    Ignoring the Lighting

    You may not think lighting plays a key role in your pantry's organization, but it does. A poorly lit pantry will make it difficult to keep your space organized. Invest in additional overhead lighting or add LED track lighting so you can easily take inventory of what you have and find your ingredients in a snap.

  • 07 of 08

    Keeping Odds and Ends in the Pantry

    Your pantry should not turn into a catch-all for all of your random kitchen items. Things can quickly spiral if you start to toss in cleaning supplies or treat your pantry as a junk drawer. As tempting as it may be to throw non-food items in your pantry, do your best to keep it as a dedicated space for food. Instead, assign a drawer or a cabinet in your kitchen for your odds and ends (but you should probably keep that organized, too).

  • 08 of 08

    Not Keeping Up With Your System

    Once you put effort into a pantry organization system, the biggest mistake you can make is letting it fail. While you should always take inventory of what you have when you first organize your pantry, it's essential to do a sweep every few months and update your inventory accordingly.

    Similarly, if you set up "zones" for all of your stuff, make sure to stick with the system. The few extra minutes you may take to reorganize when you unpack your groceries is well worth it.