Organizing the pantry can be one of the most satisfying projects in the home but it can be equally frustrating to try to find the perfect storage solutions.  Whether you have a walk-in pantry, cabinet shelves, or a few dedicated spaces in your kitchen, keeping this area organized can save you time, reduce food waste, and make meal preparation a breeze. Let’s dive into how you can transform your pantry into a well-oiled machine, one shelf at a time.

Step 1: Empty and Clean

Begin by emptying your pantry. Take everything out so you can see what you have and use this opportunity to clean the shelves. Grab your vacuum cleaner and start at the top of the pantry and work your way down, vacuuming the shelves and working your way to the bottom and finish by vacuuming the floor. Once the pantry is vacuumed, a simple mix of warm, soapy water (just a drop or pump of dish soap) works wonders for wiping away dust and spills. Let the shelves dry completely before you start to put items back.

Step 2: Declutter and Toss

As you empty your pantry, take a moment to declutter. Dispose of expired items, and set aside unopened, non-perishable foods that you won’t use for donation to a local food bank. Be realistic about what you will eat and what’s just taking up space.

Step 3: Categorize Your Items

Grouping similar items together is the cornerstone of a well-organized pantry. Here are some common categories:

  • Baking ingredients
  • Cooking ingredients
  • Canned goods 
  • Condiments
  • Breakfast items (cereals, oatmeal)
  • Snacks
  • Nuts, dried fruit
  • Pastas and grains
  • Spices and seasonings
  • Beverages

Step 4: Choose the Right Containers

Invest in clear, airtight containers for items like flour, sugar, pasta, and rice. Not only do they keep your food fresh, but they also allow you to see what you have at a glance. I prefer using glass over plastic or acrylic for anything that is decanted.

Step 5: Label Everything (or don’t)

Labels can be your best friend in a pantry. You can use a label maker, purchase pre-made labels, or make your own with chalkboard stickers. Be sure to label both the containers and the shelves. This not only helps you find things more easily but also helps other family members put things back in the right spot. I used to use labels more in the pantry but have found with this system it’s not necessary.

Step 6: Utilize Shelf Organizers

Shelf organizers, turntables (lazy Susans), and tiered shelf risers can dramatically increase the functionality of your pantry. Use them to maximize vertical space and keep items like cans and spices easily accessible.

Step 7: Implement a “First In, First Out” System

To minimize waste, organize your pantry so that older items are in front or on top, ensuring they get used first. This is particularly important for canned goods and other non-perishables.

Step 8: Make It Accessible

Place items you use frequently at eye level or on lower shelves for easy access. Reserve the top shelves for bulk items or things you use less often. If you have children, consider a kid-friendly shelf that’s within their reach for snacks and other approved items.

Step 9: Maintain Your Pantry

Once your pantry is organized, keep it that way with regular mini clean-outs. Spend a few minutes each week before grocery shopping to take stock of what you have, what you need, and to tidy up any areas that may have gotten disorganized.

Organizing your pantry like a pro might seem like a daunting task, but by breaking it down into these manageable steps, you’ll have a space that not only looks great but also makes your daily life more efficient. Happy organizing! 

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