If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the pantry is the soul! No matter how large or small your pantry is, be it a single cabinet, a shelving unit, or a walk-in space, it is essential to your daily cooking routine.
Unfortunately, that means a messy pantry can make meal prep or even snack time far more stressful than it has to be. Luckily, with a free afternoon and a few simple steps, you can make your pantry functional once more.
Check out these seven tips on how to organize a kitchen pantry to maximize your storage space and minimize stress in the kitchen!
1. Remove Everything From Your Pantry
The first step in learning how to organize your pantry is to remove everything! We know – it seems counterintuitive, but taking everything out will help you better understand what you have and give you a clean slate for a welcoming and organized space.
As you clear out your pantry:
- Weed out expired items
- Donate or throw away anything in-date that your family won’t eat
- Donate or sell any unwanted or unused cooking or serving pieces
We suggest doing your clearout right after a big shopping trip so your pantry is as full as it gets! That way you can plan and prepare for your pantry in its most crowded state and prevent it from looking overstuffed later on down the road.
2. Deep Clean Your Pantry
Now that everything is out of your pantry, it’s time to give it a deep clean. Cleaning pantry shelves and drawers, sweeping or vacuuming, and making everything look like new will set you up for organizational success! A clean and organized pantry will bring you joy and inspire you and your family to keep it neat and tidy.
Bugs and pests are common in food storage areas, so take this opportunity to replace any pest traps and/or spray your pantry space with a food-safe preventative treatment.
This is also a great time to repair or replace any broken shelves or drawers and add a fresh coat of paint. Whether you prefer classic white walls or a more vibrant color, choose a hue that speaks to you and makes you look forward to using your pantry.
3. Take Inventory
The next step in learning how to organize your pantry is to take inventory of everything you have. Group similar items like canned goods, pasta, and snacks together. Counter space and your kitchen or dining room table can be very helpful during this step!
Here are some common groupings you might have:
- Canned goods
- Dry goods like pasta and beans
- Baking supplies
- Baking dishes
- Occasion pieces and holiday items
By grouping similar items together, you’ll be able to better visualize how much space each category needs. You can also identify any bulky packaging you want to swap for clear pantry containers as you begin to plan your new pantry organization system.
4. Organize Your Pantry by Zones
Now that you know what you have, and have prepared a beautiful space to store it in, it’s time to create a plan for organizing your pantry. We like using pantry zones to minimize the amount of time spent looking for items in your pantry while maximizing storage space.
Here are some of our top tips for how to organize your pantry:
- Stack like items (like cans) to make the most of the height of your shelves
- Store rarely-used or seasonal items (like your turkey platter) on the highest shelves
- Store kids’ snacks at their eye level for easy access
- Use storage bins to group small items and ingredients that are often used together (like sprinkles, chocolate chips, and other baking bits)
- Keep daily-use items front and center
Check out this handy infographic for more on how to organize your pantry and what to store where:
Don’t be afraid to draw things out on a piece of scrap paper to make sure there is room for everything you need. Planning now will make the rest of the organization process easy and fun!
5. Restock Your Pantry
Finally, the fun part: restocking your pantry!
Use the plan you created to put everything back neatly on your shelves. We recommend trading any bulky packaging for clear pantry containers and jars so it’s easy to see everything that you have in your pantry. Neatly-stacked containers can also motivate you (and your family) to put things back exactly where they belong.
Start with items you use least so they end up toward the back of your shelves and drawers, and end with your everyday ingredients so they are up front and center. This process will take time and adjustment to get everything to fit the way you want it to, so keep playing with your plan until you like what you see!
Bonus tip for learning how to organize your pantry: As you’re finishing up your restocking, try to leave a little room to grow on every shelf to futureproof your organization system and keep everything looking neat and tidy.
6. Label Everything
Now that everything has a place, it’s time to label everything (and we mean everything)! You can use a simple label maker, permanent or dry erase markers, or even a vinyl cutter to create kitchen pantry labels for containers, shelves, drawers, and more.
While standard black and white labels will do the trick, your creative choices with labelling are another opportunity to turn a mundane pantry into a fun and inspiring space! Colored labels can also help you color code different groupings to help kids know where everything goes. Get creative and see what you can come up with!
With everything labeled and easily visible, creating your weekly shopping list will be a breeze. Never again will you be caught searching for an ingredient while your meal burns on the stove!
7. Tidy Your Pantry Often!
Our final tip for learning how to organize your pantry is to create a plan to keep it neat! After all the effort you’ve put in to get your space looking great, you don’t want to return a month later to find your pantry a disaster zone.
Here are some kitchen maintenance tasks and habits to consider that will keep your pantry in tip-top shape:
- Clean up any spills or messes
- Throw out old or empty packaging
- Deal with any pest problems
- Remove any foods that have expired
- Check your stock of essentials before your trip to the grocery store
- Clean and refill any empty containers
- Check for items nearing their expiration and relocate them front and center to use them up
- Get down any seasonal items and put away those from the previous season
- Give your organizational system a “check-up” and adjust as needed