How to Clean Out Your Pantry in 4 Easy Steps

Sort Through Everything and Get Rid of Expired or Unwanted Items

The first step is to take everything out of your pantry so you can see what you’re working with. As you do this, get rid of anything expired, stale, or that you simply don’t want anymore. Check expiration dates and be ruthless about tossing anything past its prime or that you know you’ll never use. This is the time to clear out duplicates, items you bought on impulse but never used, and snacks nobody in the family likes. A clean sweep will give you a blank slate to work with.

Clean the Pantry Shelves and Storage Areas

With everything out of the pantry, take advantage of the empty space to give the shelves and storage areas a good clean. Use a natural cleaner or mild soap and warm water to wash down the shelves. Be sure to dry them thoroughly so they’re ready to be refilled. Wipe down any pantry drawers as well. Not only will this make your pantry look freshly cleaned, but it also sanitizes the space.

Categorize and Group Similar Foods Together

Now comes the fun part of putting everything back in an organized way. Think about how you want to categorize foods, like snacks, baking ingredients, canned goods, etc. Use coordinating storage containers to corral similar ingredients, like pasta, rice and grains. This grouping method makes everything visible at a glance so you can quickly find what you need while cooking and baking.

Label Containers and Shelves for Easy Identification

To take your organized pantry to the next level, use labels to identify what’s in each container and on each shelf. This eliminates the guessing game of what’s inside opaque canisters or which shelf the olive oil is on. Use a label maker, printable tags, or simply write on containers with a marker. Not only do labels help you find things fast, but it also keeps everyone else from messing up your stellar organizational system.

With these 4 simple steps, you can transform your crowded, messy pantry into a functional space that makes cooking less stressful. Here are some additional tips for maintaining pantry organization:

Store Foods You Use Often Within Reach

Place everyday ingredients like oils, spices, canned tomatoes and condiments on easy-access shelves.

Use Clear Canisters or Glass Jars

See-through storage helps you locate items quickly. Uniform containers also give your pantry a tidy, cohesive look.

Don’t Overbuy Food Items

Resist sales and bulk deals that cause your pantry to overflow. Buy only what you know you’ll use.

Purge Expired Foods Regularly

Set reminders to check expiration dates every few months to keep your pantry turnover current.

Keep Your Most-Used Items Accessible

Store go-to ingredients, tools and appliances where you can reach them without rummaging deep into cabinets.

Store Foods in Airtight Containers

Securing loose dry goods in airtight canisters or jars keeps them fresh longer and contains messes.

Shop Your Pantry First

Before making a grocery list, take stock of what you already have so you don’t buy duplicates.

Donate Unopened Food

If you’re getting rid of unexpired, sealed foods, donate them to a local food pantry.

With a decluttered, clean pantry where everything has a designated spot, you’ll gain back precious time and reduce stress every time you cook or bake. No longer will you have to dig through disorganized cabinets or deal with mystery expired cans in the back. A tidy, efficient pantry helps make your kitchen more functional and enjoyable to work in.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Out Your Pantry

How often should you clean out your pantry?

Ideally, you should do a deep clean and reorganization of your pantry every 3-4 months. Quick purge expired or unwanted foods every 1-2 months.

What are the signs it’s time to clean out your pantry?

Clues your pantry is due for a cleanout include: expired food lurking on shelves, duplicate ingredients, disorganized bins and shelves, foods you or your family don’t eat anymore, cabinets overflowing with rarely-used items.

What’s the fastest way to clean out a pantry?

The speediest method is to take everything out all at once to sort and get rid of unwanted and expired items. Then wipe down shelves before putting back only what you want to keep in an organized way.

What is the best way to organize a pantry?

Group similar ingredients together, use clear containers or matching canisters, label shelves and bins, store everyday use items within reach, keep baking essentials together.

What’s a good organizational system for a small pantry?

Vertical space is key – use shelf risers, hanging racks, over-the-door storage and wall-mounted spice racks. Group like foods in stackable clear containers. Keep just the essentials.


Cleaning out your crowded pantry can be a challenging chore, but by following this simple 4-step method you can make quick work of it. First, remove everything to sort and purge unwanted and expired foods. Next, give the empty pantry a thorough clean. Then start fresh by categorizing ingredients and supplies into groups before placing them back on the shelves. Finally, use labels to identify contents. With an organized, tidy pantry, you’ll gain back precious time when cooking and baking. Just be sure to maintain the system by regularly checking expiration dates and restocking smartly. In no time, you’ll have a Pinterest-worthy pantry you can’t wait to show off!