14 Easy Tips for Deep Pantry Organization

Having an organized pantry is not just visually pleasing – it also saves you time and reduces stress every time you go to grab an ingredient. An efficiently organized pantry allows you to quickly find what you need, avoid purchasing duplicates, and keep track of items before they expire. Follow these 14 easy tips to get your pantry looking and functioning better than ever!

Do a Full Pantry Clean-Out and Take Inventory

The first step in pantry organization is clearing everything out so you have a blank slate. Take literally everything out of your pantry – all food, dishes, appliances, etc. As you do, check expiration dates and toss anything that’s expired.

Once the pantry is completely empty, give the shelves and walls a good clean. Vacuum up crumbs, wipe down the shelves, and consider using shelf liner to make your surfaces easy to wipe down in the future.

Now take an inventory of the items you removed from the pantry. Get rid of anything you realistically will not use. Be ruthlessly honest here – we all have impulse purchases that have sat unused for months or even years. Donate unopened and non-perishable items to a local food bank.

For the remaining items, check expiration or best-by dates. Toss anything that’s already expired or will expire soon.

Once everything is cleaned out and expired/unwanted items removed, you’ll have a clear idea of what you actually need to store in your newly organized pantry!

Categorize and Group Like Items

Now it’s time to return items to your clean pantry in an organized way. Think about how you typically use your pantry, and group foods that generally go together or that you use in recipes together. Some common categories include:

  • Baking essentials (flours, sugars, baking powder/soda)
  • Breakfast foods (oatmeal, cereal, pancake mix)
  • Canned goods (soups, beans, vegetables)
  • Condiments (oils, vinegars, sauces, dressings)
  • Grains (rice, pasta, quinoa, etc.)
  • Snacks (granola bars, crackers, chips)
  • Spices and seasonings

You may come up with other categories that make sense for your needs. The key is grouping like items together.

Within each category, organize foods alphabetically so you can find exactly what you need at a glance.

Use Clear Containers

Use clear, canister-style containers to store items like flour, sugar, pasta, and rice. This makes it easy to see what you have and identify when supplies are running low. Pay attention to container sizes – they should be just large enough to neatly hold each food category without a lot of empty space.

Use Shelf Dividers

Shelf dividers are key for keeping your categorized foods separate. They instantly provide visible cues to keep things neat. Dividers that hang or clip onto shelves are easy to move and adjust as needed.

Assign Shelf Space by Most/Least Used Items

Think about convenience and regularity of use when assigning shelf and cabinet space. Reserve the most accessible shelves and spaces for foods you use most often. Good choices for upper shelves and spots closest to the pantry entrance are everyday staples like coffee, cooking oils, daily spices, canned beans, pasta, and so on.

Place foods you use less frequently or only for special recipes on harder to reach shelves. This might include things like cake decorating supplies, specialty baking ingredients, soup stock bases, large bags of rice or grains, etc.

Store Heavier Items on Lower Shelves

Take advantage of lower shelves for heavy canned goods, large bags of pet food, and other heavy items. This avoids straining your shoulders trying to get heavy things down from overhead.

And consider placing lightweight items up high. Things like spices, small cans, or snack boxes are easier to reach up for.

Keep Foods You Use Together Near Each Other

Think about common ingredient pairings and place these items together in your pantry. For example, if you regularly make tacos, keep the taco seasoning, tortillas, beans, salsa, etc. on the same shelf.

Pancake or waffle mixes should be near the syrup. And baking essentials like flour, sugar, chocolate chips, and vanilla extract should all live together.

Use Slide-Out Shelves and Tiered Risers

Slide-out shelves and risers maximize your pantry’s storage potential. Slide-outs allow access to items pushed way to the back. Risers utilize vertical space by elevating a section of shelving.

These additions are simple DIY upgrades. But if installing them from scratch seems too hard, look for affordable premade versions that can sit right on existing shelves.

Keep Frequently Used Items at Eye Level

The “prime real estate” in your pantry is at eye level – about midway up for most people. Keep everyday staples like cooking oils, spices, canned tuna or veggies, peanut butter, cereal and more in this convenient zone.

You spend less time digging around or stretching up high when go-to ingredients are right in your line of sight. Avoid storing rarely used items in this premium space.

Use Over-the-Door Clear Organizers

Take advantage of the inside of your pantry door by hanging clear mesh or acrylic bins. These are perfect for small, lightweight items that otherwise tend to clutter shelves – things like spice packets, drink mixes, small cans, etc. Over-the-door storage is also great for recipe books!

Transfer Foods from Bulky Packaging

Big bags and boxes quickly eat up prime real estate on your neatly organized shelves. Take the time to transfer these bulky goods into more space-conscious containers.

For example, pour flour and sugar from large sacks into canisters, and pasta from family-size boxes into nice jars. Doing this helps you see exactly how much of each item you have. And it avoids finding surprises like a nearly-empty bag way at the back.

Label Everything

A labeled pantry is a organized pantry. As you transfer foods into smaller containers, be sure to label each one. Masking tape and a marker are all you need. This step seems tedious but is essential – you’ll no longer have to guess what’s in each identical canister or jar!

Store Foods in Baskets on Shelves

For small packages like granola bars, snack crackers, and seasoning packets, use inexpensive baskets to corral everything together. Just drop the baskets right onto existing shelves. The baskets become removable categories that still allow you to see all the food items at a glance.

Turn Wasted Space Into Storage Space

Don’t let prime real estate go to waste! Turn unused gaps between and underneath appliances into storage space. Spinning “lazy susan” shelving is perfect for making use of awkward corner spaces. And you can install pull-out drawers in cabinet gaps too narrow for regular shelves.

Create “Zones” for Efficiency

Designate zones or mini-pantries throughout your kitchen for specialty items that don’t need daily access. For example:

  • Baking zone: Flours, sugars, chocolates, etc. Kept together in a base cabinet near baking sheets and pans.
  • Spice zone: Bottles and jars of herbs, blends, and seasonings. Next to the stove for easy access while cooking.
  • Breakfast zone: Cereals, oatmeal, pancake/waffle mix. In a small pantry or upper cabinet close to bowls and breakfast plates.

Zones streamline daily prep by only keeping foods you immediately need in the main kitchen pantry. Rarely used items still have a handy home in your kitchen without cluttering prime space.

Use Portable Shelves for Added Storage

Portable shelving units with wheels or casters offer flexible extra storage. They can be moved around your kitchen and positioned wherever you need a little more space.

Great for holding appliance extras like pots and pans, bakeware, or small appliances. When not needed, roll them out of the way.

Take Advantage of Wall Space

Your pantry’s walls are valuable real estate too! Install utility hooks for pots and pans. Mount a magnetic strip for knives. Use wall-mounted spice racks.

Floating shelves give you additional vertical storage space. Just a few screws or brackets is all it takes to hang this extra storage right on the wall.

Maintain Organization

An organized pantry requires maintenance. No matter how perfectly designed your space is initially, things will get disorganized over time. Make it a habit to:

  • Put items back where they belong after each use.
  • Do a quick straighten-up periodically to keep things nice.
  • Wipe spills right away before they get sticky and dirty.
  • Toss expired items promptly.
  • Transfer bulk items to containers as soon as you return from the store.

Follow these tips, and your pantry will function efficiently and look great for years to come! With some creativity and a few organizational tools, it’s easy to maximize every inch of space. A few hours spent getting your pantry in order will save you time and stress every single day.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pantry Organization

Organizing your pantry efficiently takes some forethought but is worth the effort. Here are answers to some common questions on how to maximize this important kitchen space.

How should I arrange my pantry for maximum efficiency?

The most efficient pantry organization method is to group like items together into categories, label everything clearly, and arrange foods by frequency of use. Everyday staples should go at eye level while specialty ingredients can go up high or down low.

What are the best pantry organizational tools?

Clear containers, divider shelves, slide-outs, risers, and wall storage help organize pantries. Baskets and turntables efficiently use awkward spaces. Labels ensure you know what’s inside containers.

How often should you clean out the pantry?

Aim to do a full pantry clean-out and inventory check every 6 months. This ensures you use up existing items before they expire, and you don’t buy duplicates of products you already have.

What are items that don’t belong in the kitchen pantry?

Pots and pans, appliances, dinnerware, and cleaning supplies are often stored in pantries but are better left in cabinets intended for those items. The pantry should only contain foods and specialized cooking items like oils, seasonings, etc.

What should I store on the top and bottom shelves?

Top shelves are great for foods used only occasionally or lightweight items you can reach for easily. Lower shelves should hold heavier ingredients you don’t want to lift overhead.

How can I add more storage to my small pantry?

Look for wasted vertical spaces to install extra shelving. Use over-the-door organizers, wall storage, or mobile units. Transfer bulky ingredients into containers that maximize shelf space. And consider designating specialty ingredient “zones” elsewhere in your kitchen.

How wide should pantry shelves be?

The ideal pantry shelf is 10 to 12 inches deep. This prevents items from getting lost at the back while still allowing some stacking. For narrow pantries, adjust shelves to around 8 inches deep.


With some strategic organization and storage upgrades, it’s easy to transform even the smallest, most crowded pantry into an optimized space. Categorizing foods and keeping like items together, labeling everything clearly, and assigning real estate based on frequency of use will ensure your pantry works efficiently for your needs.

Aim to do a thorough clean-out, purge, and inventory check every 6 months. Continually maintain organization by always putting items back where they belong after use. Invest in organizational tools like bins, dividers and racks to neatly corral your pantry contents.

By spending a little time maximizing every inch of space, you can create a pantry that makes your meal prep easier, saves you money by reducing duplicate purchases and eliminates the headache of hunting for ingredients. An organized pantry truly makes cooking less stressful and more enjoyable on a daily basis.