5 Simple Steps to an Organized Pantry

pantry shelves with containers and organization tools

Gorgeous pantries are hot right now. Just hop on Pinterest for a minute and you’ll see what I mean. Don’t let these masterpieces scare you away from believing you can have your own beautifully organized pantry. You can!

Here’s the deal though – pantry organizing does not require fancy, expensive supplies. Simply apply a few basic organizing principles, add a few carefully selected containers and you’ll be able to find everything you need, when you need it. Simple as that.

A note before you begin:

If you have time and energy for a full project and believe you can finish in one pass, go ahead and take everything out of the pantry before you begin.

If, realistically, you only have time and energy to work on the pantry in short increments then you can absolutely follow these steps without the need to offload the entire pantry first.

Step 1: Purge

First, give some thought to your current eating and cooking style, as well as the current season and the types of meals you’ll likely prepare in the next several months. Once you’re clear about this, take a first pass through the entire contents of your pantry and purge:

  • Expired/spoiled food.
  • Any ingredient that sounded like a good idea – but in all honestly you’ll never use!
  • Any non-food item that can/should be stored somewhere else in the house.
  • Finally, get the trash out: empty boxes, mangled paper products, 80% of the shopping bags you think you’re going to use.

Step 2.  Group Items Into Categories

Now, take a look at everything that’s left and group similar items together.


If you’ve pulled everything out of the pantry, simply make groupings on your table or countertop.

If you’re working within the pantry, simply shift any stray items back to where the majority of your categories already are.

Here are some suggested/common groupings:

  • Breakfast foods – this group can be further separated into cereals, oatmeal, bars, nut butters, syrups, etc.
  • Canned items – further separated by proteins (tuna/chicken), beans, fruits, veggies, etc.
  • Soups/Broths
  • Pasta
  • Rice/Beans
  • Other Grains
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Oils & Vinegars
  • Spices/Seasonings
  • Condiments
  • Baking items
  • Snacks
  • Chips
  • Breads
  • Beverages
  • Paper products
  • Tools/Small Appliances
  • Entertaining

Step 3.  Move Seldom-used Items Out of the Way

It’s likely that despite having purged everything possible, you’re either wondering how the heck it’s all going to fit back in (if you pulled everything out) – or – your pantry is still overflowing and short on space.

If this is the case, move seldom-used items out of the way:

  • Specialty baking tools and ingredients can be stored in bins with lids, labeled and stacked on the top pantry shelf.
  • Entertaining and party supplies can be handled the same way, or moved to another cabinet or closet.
  • Small appliances and other tools can be moved to an enclosed ‘overflow’ cabinet in the basement or garage.

Step 4.  Assign a Home

We’re almost there! Now that the entire contents of your pantry are separated by category and items rarely used have been moved out of the way, let’s decide the most efficient placement for everything that’s left.

In a nutshell: Store most often used items within easiest reach. Less often used items should be stored on a higher shelf. Bulk or overflow items should be the least accessible.

Step 5.  Containerize

Now, we can add the few carefully selected containers I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Like I said, it’s not necessary to spend a fortune tricking out your pantry. Simply take a look for areas where a container would help with hard-to-reach items or keep certain categories separated.

My favorite go-to pantry containers

Lazy Susans for seasonings and hard-to-reach corners

3-tier step shelf for cans and/or spices

Open plastic bins (for easy washing) to keep categories separated

Congratulations – you now have an organized pantry. Be sure to give your family a tour so everyone will know where to find things and where to put them back.

Now that your pantry’s in order and easy to navigate, check out Simple Meal Planning Tips.

Kim Cossette Organizer

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