How to Organize a Pantry

Having an organized pantry is essential for any home. A well-organized pantry allows you to quickly locate ingredients, reduces food waste, and makes cooking and baking easier. Follow these tips to transform your pantry into an efficient and functional space.

Assess Your Pantry’s Current State

The first step in organizing your pantry is taking stock of what you currently have.

  • Remove everything from the pantry shelves and gather all items on your kitchen counters or tables.
  • Discard any expired, spoiled, or unwanted food items. Be ruthless and toss anything you know you won’t use.
  • Group like items together – all the cans together, all the boxes and bags together, etc.
  • Take note of what types of food you have a lot of and which items you need to restock.
  • Check the dates and use up anything that will expire soon.
  • Wipe down the empty pantry shelves to prepare them for reloaded items.
  • Consider donating unopened non-perishable foods that you want to remove from your pantry. Local food banks often accept donated items.

Once everything is out of the pantry, you’ll have a clear sense of what you have to work with and can better organize the space.

Categorize and Consolidate

Now it’s time to put everything back in an organized manner! Go through all the piles and group similar items together. Here are some common pantry categories:

Canned Goods

Group all canned foods like beans, vegetables, broths, and tuna. Stack cans upright and position labels facing forward for easy identification. If possible, keep like cans together – peas with peas, tomatoes with tomatoes.

Baking Essentials

Store all baking ingredients together – flours, sugars, baking soda/powder, spices, etc. Use containers to hold bulk items like flour and sugar.

Snacks and Breakfast Foods

Keep all snacking items like granola bars, popcorn, and chips in one area. Store breakfast foods like cereal, oatmeal, and pancake mix together.

Sauces, Condiments, and Oils

Group all bottled sauces, vinegars, salad dressings, oils, and condiment jars. Consider using small shelving or lazy susans to better organize small bottles.

Packaged and Boxed Goods

Keep pastas, rice, dried beans, broths, etc neat and upright. Position taller items on lower shelves.


Store drink boxes, cans, and bottles on shelves close to the pantry entrance for easy access.


Use baskets, turntables, or small shelving for food packages like crackers, cookies, and snack bars.

As you categorize, consolidate items that you have multiples of. For example, combine all open bags of chips into one bag to limit open packages.

Optimize Shelf Space

With everything categorized into groups, now it’s time to optimize the shelves.

  • Place the most used items at eye-level for convenience. Good candidates for prime real estate include cooking oils, canned tomatoes, spices, etc.
  • Reserve lower shelves for heavier items like cans and jars.
  • Use upper shelves for lightweight items or things not used as often.
  • Position tall, narrow items like cereal boxes upright to save space.
  • Allow a few inches between shelving and ceiling for tall items.
  • Use shelf risers or small bins to create extra vertical storage.
  • Turn small items sideways to fit more on one shelf.
  • Slide deeper items like olive oil and pancake syrup to the back of shelves.
  • Use hanging racks or over-the-door organizers for additional storage.

Play around with arranging items for the most efficient use of shelf space. Every pantry layout is a bit different.

Label Strategically

Labels are invaluable for staying organized. Here are labeling ideas:

  • Use removable vinyl labels to clearly mark shelves or bins. This lets you quickly find items.
  • Label any storage containers with contents and dates.
  • Attach small stickers on jar lids to easily identify spices and other foods.
  • Consider a label-maker to professionally organize.
  • Masking tape and permanent marker work too for DIY labels.

Labels allow anyone using the pantry to quickly put items away properly.

Store Food Properly

Storing pantry items correctly will help them stay fresh longer:

  • Keep all boxed, bagged, and canned goods off the floor to prevent water damage or bugs.
  • Transfer flour, grains, and other bulk foods into airtight plastic bins or glass jars.
  • Use small containers for spices to keep flavors fresh.
  • Ensure canned goods are not exposed to sunlight, which can affect flavor.
  • Store oils away from heat sources like the oven.
  • Keep refrigerated condiments like mayo on pantry door shelves.

Proper food storage is just as important as pantry organization!

Add Functional Elements

Look for ways to add function to your newly organized pantry:

  • Install pull-out drawers for easier access to items in back.
  • Incorporate a sliding ladder for reaching top shelves.
  • Use racks or shelving for pots, pans, and appliances.
  • Add a step stool to reach upper shelves.
  • Consider glass jars or containers for visibility.
  • Use turntables or lazy susans for corner storage.
  • Incorporate hooks for utensils and towels.
  • Add a battery-powered light for visibility.
  • Install a door rack for condiments.

Look for unused spaces like walls, doors, and corners to maximize every inch!

Maintain the System

Congratulations – you now have a dream pantry! But organization requires maintenance:

  • Put items back where they belong after each use.
  • Do a 5-minute tidy as needed to keep clutter away.
  • Reorganize if systems stop working as food supplies change.
  • Check dates monthly and rotate older non-perishables to the front.
  • Update labels as needed.
  • Deep clean shelves annually.
  • Do a full re-organize every few years.

A bit of effort upfront and small tasks routinely will lead to pantry bliss!

Pantry Organization Tips

Keep these additional tips in mind as you organize your pantry space:

  • Store healthy foods at eye level and indulgent treats hidden away. This encourages better eating habits!
  • Keep a notepad and pen handy for taking stock of needs.
  • Use baskets to corral smaller items. They pull out for easy access.
  • Repurpose kitchen hardware like cake stands for vertical storage.
  • Paint the back wall a dark color to hide shelving lines and flaws.
  • Incorporate lighting like battery-operated tap lights inside cabinets.
  • Use an over-the-door shoe holder for small packages and jars.
  • Purchase two or three of staple items when on sale. Stock up on non-perishables!

Pantry Organization Ideas

Need more inspiration for organizing your pantry? Try these clever ideas:

Frequently Asked Questions About Organizing a Pantry

Organizing a pantry takes effort but is well worth it. Here are answers to some common organizing questions:

Should perishable and non-perishable foods be stored separately?

Yes, you generally want to store non-perishable canned and dry goods separately from perishable items that require refrigeration. Non-perishable items have a longer shelf life at room temperature.

What are good pantry shelf materials?

Glass and metal shelving are easy to wipe down and durable. Wood also works but may warp over time. Avoid particle board as it can swell or deteriorate.

Where should spices be stored?

Spices last longest stored in a cool, dark place away from heat. A dedicated drawer, shelf away from appliances, or pantry cabinet are all good options.

How should onions and potatoes be stored?

Store onions and potatoes in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area. A basket or breathable fabric bag works well. Keep away from light to prevent sprouting.

Should cans be organized with labels facing out?

Yes – position cans with labels facing forward. This allows you to instantly see what’s inside rather than sorting through unmarked cans.

What are good ways to maximize vertical space?

Use shelf risers, racks, or containers to double stack where possible. Install extra shelving going up walls or doors. Utilize hanging baskets.

How often should a pantry be cleaned?

A deep clean once or twice a year is ideal. Quick tidy ups every 1-2 months helps maintain organization. Always put items back immediately after removing.


Organizing your pantry effectively takes some effort but yields big rewards. Start by taking stock of current supplies and removing any unwanted items. Categorize foods using an intuitive system. Strategically use containers, labels, and functional elements to optimize the space. Maintain organization with regular tidy ups and cleaning. An organized pantry saves time, reduces waste, and makes cooking easier!