Pantry Organization: Your Step-by-Step Guide With Creative Tips

Pantry organization: spice jars

Organizing your pantry is an essential part of keeping your entire kitchen tidy. Unfortunately, your pantry can quickly become the messiest part of your home. However, with a little planning and the right pantry organization techniques, a streamlined pantry is just a few steps away. Read through this pantry organization guide for creative ideas and a step-by-step plan to clean and organize your pantry for easier shopping, storage, and cooking.

Unique Storage Ideas for a Variety of Pantry Problems

When it seems like organizing your pantry is an impossible task, you likely don’t have the right storage solutions on hand. A variety of containers, shelves, and drawers can help you utilize every nook and cranny to create a streamlined pantry or even organize your entire kitchen. Consider these creative tips to neatly store all the items in your pantry.

Matching Storage Containers for Dry Goods

Dry goods often come in paper or plastic sacks that are easy to tear, difficult to stack, and easily accessible to pest insects. Finding clear containers to store these items in doesn’t just make your pantry more attractive. It also streamlines your food prep routine and eliminates messy problems. Consider these types of containers to store dry goods neatly:

  • Mason jars with labels
  • Clear canisters with airtight sealing tops
  • Tall, slim canisters for cereal storage
  • Mini glass jars for spices
  • Ceramic containers with labels
  • Glass bottles with matching lids for spices
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Storage Solutions to Avoid Can Clutter

Cans can be neatly stacked when they’re the same size. However, you can only see the front row, and most cans aren’t exactly the same size. This means that each time you search for canned food, you have to play the rearranging game. Instead, try one of these pantry organization solutions that keep cans in place and provide the visibility you need.

  • Installed closet racks on your pantry shelves
  • Clear shelf stackers
  • Tiered shelves that elevate cans in the back
  • Narrow shelving racks to utilize vertical space
  • Canned food racks
  • Straw bins separated by category

Pantry Organization Pro Tip

If you’re storing home-canned goods, then make sure to find a cool dark space. Use sturdy shelving and utilize cardboard dividers when storing your jars in boxes. Always label and date home-canned goods.

Keep Spices Neat With These Hacks

Spices make your recipes pop, but they can easily disappear in the pantry. While having a shelf dedicated to spices can help, these small containers often hide behind one another and slow down your cooking process. Try these tools to keep your spices neat and easily accessible.

  • Lazy Susans on your spice shelf
  • Stackable spice shelves designed in a U-shape
  • Pull-down spice racks for high spice cabinets
  • Countertop spice racks (for when you need to move spices out of the pantry)
  • Door mount shelves
  • Shallow drawers with dividers
  • Decorative wall cabinets or shelves

Expand Your Pantry Space With Door Storage

Taking advantage of the space provided by your pantry doors and cabinet doors can free up your shelf space for larger items. There are a variety of door storage options available to create a perfect storage zone for those smaller items that get lost on shelves or in large bins. Consider these door storage products to expand your pantry space:

  • Over the door wire shelves
  • Cabinet door spice racks
  • Over the door pocket storage
  • Door pantry organizers with adjustable baskets
  • Built-in pantry and cabinet shelves

Add Visibility With Slide-Out Pantry Storage Options

Drawers aren’t only for clothing and silverware. Furthermore, slide-out storage options for your pantry go way beyond drawers (though drawers are helpful, too). So consider these slide-out options that eliminate clutter and ensure nothing gets lost in the back of the cabinet.

  • Bins or baskets you can pull out or remove completely
  • Pull-out wire shelves
  • Deep drawers located near the floor to store large items
  • Pull-out cabinets with shelves
  • Pull-out shelving with lips to keep things in place

Pantry Organization Pro Tip

When utilizing large drawers, consider using dividers to keep glass jars or smaller bottles from banging together or falling over.

Take Advantage of Vertical Space With Wall Storage Options

Imagine the simplicity of being able to see every tool or item you need to use at once. Wall storage options take advantage of space that you couldn’t use otherwise. It’s incredibly convenient. Forget rearranging shelves or looking through bins. Instead, consider these pantry organization options that make the most of your unused wall space.

  • Shallow floating cabinets
  • Pegboards
  • Magnetic wallboards or strips
  • Wall-mounted spice racks
  • Wire wall mount baskets
  • Floating shelves

Look For Space Savers That Can Be Used on Every Surface

All too often, your pantry has enough space to store everything. The space just isn’t properly designed. You may have deep cabinets where food items hide until they’re no longer safe to eat, excessive vertical space that creates a toppling mess, or limited shelving. A variety of space savers exist in many sizes to eliminate these problems in every corner of any type of pantry. If you’re unsure about how your pantry will be organized, then seek multi-use storage options like these:

  • Stackable wire shelves
  • Lazy Susans
  • Clear bins
  • Wire bins
  • Baskets
  • Storage options that mount on walls or doors
  • Organizers that do double duty as lid storage or pan storage
  • Under-shelf bins and drawers

Organization Ideas for Small Kitchens Without a Pantry

Not every kitchen has a pantry. Luckily, it’s not impossible to create an organized space to neatly store all your food products without a traditional pantry. Utilizing a variety of storage solutions can help you build an attractive pantry-like space in a small kitchen with no pantry.

Repurpose a Bookshelf

Take advantage of your empty wall space by adding mobile shelves. A bookshelf can be used for open storage of neatly stacked dishes or pantry items in attractive jars. Placing baskets on the shelves can easily group items or hide items that would otherwise look cluttered. Tiered shelves or can organizers can create an attractive, organized kitchen without a pantry.

Install Shelves

Examine your kitchen for spaces that go unused. You’ll likely notice that you have room above windows, between cabinets, and over the sink. Attractive wall shelves can be as simple as a few shelf brackets and a board. Even better, they can be used for a variety of items. Moving attractive cups, bowls, and plates to open shelves can provide cabinet space for pantry items.

Use Pegboards

Different-sized pegboards can provide storage for a variety of items. When neatly arranged, pegboards that hold pans, cooking utensils, and mugs can be an attractive focal point in your kitchen. As a bonus, pegboards that are placed where items will be used provide convenient access to everything you need.

Make Your Counters More Efficient

Placing small shelves on your countertops can double your storage space. These shelves can be used to hold small appliances, spices, canisters, or other items you want to make easily accessible. Over-the-sink versions can be used to hold cleaning tools and soaps.

Seek Storage Options Designed for Small Spaces

Slimline rolling pantry shelves can fit into small gaps like the one between your refrigerator and countertop. These shelves feature wheels that allow you to keep items out of sight when you want a neat appearance and roll the shelf out to provide visibility of all items. Additional space savers that keep items out of sight include behind-the-door storage and stackable containers.

Hang Things From the Ceiling

Hanging baskets are an obvious solution for fruits, but they can also be used for other items. For instance, lightweight dry goods like bread can easily be placed in hanging baskets. This solution also works for non-food items like paper goods.

Utilize Wall Space

Magnetic wallboards or strips can create storage for utensils and tools. A row of hooks can create attractive storage space for mugs. Wire baskets can be used for a variety of items like bread, vegetables, and small boxes. Wire shelves provide a great option for creating spice racks, sealed storage containers, and cans.

Make a Pantry in Another Room

Your home may not have been designed with a pantry, but you can still create one. Converting a nearby hall closet can provide you with a serviceable pantry. If a closet won’t supply the storage you need, consider converting an entryway mudroom or creating a pantry out of a portion of your kitchen. Installing shelves, cabinets, and drawers can provide you with the pantry you’ve always wished for. Adding frosted glass doors can allow natural light to enter without leaving everything completely visible.

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Pantry Organization

Man sorting through food in his pantry

Pantry organization is about more than purchasing storage containers and new gadgets. Taking certain steps to clean and prepare your pantry will ensure that your final organization process leads to long-term success.

To make your pantry a space that neatly houses all your food, you need to purge all items that don’t belong and those that are expired. Take these steps to clean your pantry and create a unique organizational system that will make every process in your kitchen easier to accomplish.

1. Empty Your Pantry

You may have been hoping to avoid it, but you need to remove all the items from your pantry so you can see everything that’s been stashed inside. Use your countertops and table to lay everything out and take a visual inventory.

If it’s been a while since you cleaned out your pantry, you likely have food, small appliances, miscellaneous clutter, and even trash. As you clear out your pantry, eliminate obvious trash (like ancient Tupperware, paper products, and food too old to see an expiration date) and set aside non-food items.

2. Check Expiration Dates

If your pantry is a catch-all for every type of food, then you’ll likely find expired items among the mess. Check the dates on everything, and eliminate foods that are expired or stale.

If you store dried goods like flour and grains in their original packaging, inspect the ingredients inside for odors that seem off, grayish coloring, or dark (possibly crawling) specks. Toss any items that seem less than fresh to avoid a flour beetle infestation.

3. Find a Solution for Foods That Won’t Get Eaten

If a member of your family embarked on a fad diet or a unique food experiment, there may be foods in your pantry that no one intends to eat. Group these items in a box to donate to your local food pantry or give away. Donations only apply to food that is unopened. Trash items that have been opened but will never be touched.

4. Clean the Shelves

When you’ve completed the organization process, you’ll want a sparkling clean space to put all your food. It can be cringe-worthy to consider just how messy your pantry can get, but it’s time to face the mess and get a deep-down clean.

Vacuum loose bits of food and dust (yes, dust) from your shelves and pantry floor. Use a washcloth with warm water and food-safe soap to wipe down the shelves. While you’re at it, use a clean cloth or paper towels to wipe sticky residue from jars, bags, and food containers.

5. Take Inventory and Categorize

Now that you’ve removed the items that don’t belong, it’s time to see what’s left to take up your pantry space. You may want to create a list as you work so you can document what you have and list the items you need to pick up at the grocery store.

Group foods into categories based on the way you use them. Every family approaches meals and snacks differently, and your pantry organization should reflect that. You can categorize pantry foods in a few different ways, including:

  • Categorize by Meals: Whether your family is independent and everyone grabs quick-fix meals and snacks, or you need meal-based organization to keep things on track, sorting food into meal categories can be convenient.
  • Categorize by Food Types: Placing dry goods in one area, cans in another, and spices separately is a nice way to ensure everything is easily visible. Remember to include sections for condiments, snacks, and bread.
  • Categorize by Frequency: Placing items you only use seasonally or less frequently out of arm’s reach can provide easy access to the items you use every day. For some household cooks, storing baking goods at eye level makes meal prep a breeze.

For many people, using a combination of the three organizational styles provides the neat appearance and easy access you need. Remember to consider placing ready-to-eat snacks in an easily reachable spot so that kids can grab healthy snacks on their own.

6. Explore the World of Storage Containers

It’s time to revisit the pantry organization tips you’re dying to try. As you consider the spaces your food categories will occupy, figure out which storage solutions will neatly corral all your food items. Generally, you’ll need more than one storage option for different food types and to neatly contain small items that are easily overlooked. When choosing storage containers, remember to consider:

  • Storage options designed to save space, like door storage or slide-out options
  • Containers for storing dried goods
  • Containers for grouping similar items together
  • Options for grouping small jars or packages
  • Hacks for creating easily visible storage, like a Lazy Susan
  • Solutions for large items

7. Apply Labels

Easily visible labels on containers will help you keep everything in place and easily identifiable. While you could slap a sloppily torn piece of masking tape onto everything, you’re cleaning your pantry for an improved experience. The labels you choose can assist the overall aesthetic of your organized pantry and inspire you to keep it looking great. Consider these ideas for inexpensive, attractive pantry labels.

  • Printable labels on Pinterest
  • Stick-on labels you can write on
  • Personalized labels from Etsy
  • Washi tape for easily removable labels
  • Templates for creating your own labels
  • Investing in a label maker for labels you can create in seconds
  • Using semi-permanent ink to write directly on containers

8. Consider Non-Food Items

Many people keep non-food items like cooking tools in the pantry. If you have the space, then it’s a great way to keep your kitchen organized. Items like blenders, toasters, rice cookers, and food processors can quickly take up your available counter space. Creating a shelf in your pantry to neatly store these items allows you to use more counter space for food prep. If placing non-food items in your pantry equals clutter, find another storage option for these objects.

9. Designate a Permanent Space for Everything

Instead of shoving everything back into your pantry, assign spots for each group of food items that make sense. For instance, placing the items you need to grab each morning at the back of your pantry or on a high shelf simply doesn’t make sense. Use these tips to create an organized space for your neatly categorized food items.

  • Place seasonal items (like Christmas cookie-cutters) and items used for entertaining or special occasions on high shelves.
  • Arrange daily-use items at arm’s reach.
  • Consider which foods shouldn’t be stored together. For instance, storing onions or garlic near potatoes cause them to spoil faster, and bread and flour can absorb the flavors of strong spices.
  • Avoid placing oversized or heavy items overhead since they can be difficult to remove without injury.
  • Consider placing labels on shelves to keep items in their assigned spaces long-term.

10. Return Items to the Pantry

It’s finally time to assemble everything for the pantry organization finale. When placing items back into the pantry, avoid overcrowding. Then you can easily remove items without disturbing other products. When you’ve finished, take a moment to step back and admire the amazing results. No one would blame you if you decide to take a few pictures and show off your masterpiece.

Keeping Your Pantry Organized for the Long Term

Woman organizing her empty pantry

Unfortunately, creating a beautifully organized pantry isn’t the magical solution for making it stay that way. However, some minor upkeep will do the trick. Use these tips to keep your pantry organized.

Weekly Assessments

While your neatly organized pantry will make it easier to keep things from overflowing, routine cleaning will ensure things stay tidy. Your weekly grocery run supplies a natural schedule for pantry cleanup.

As you take inventory to pick up items from the store, return stray items to their rightful spot, clean up spills, and wipe away dust. Alternatively, you can tidy up while you put away groceries. This gives you a good opportunity to ensure the newer items go behind those that have already been around for a while.

Make Changes When Necessary

Your sister’s or your friend’s pantry organization system might not be the one that works for you. When aspects of your new system aren’t making your life easier, make changes to improve your situation. This doesn’t mean you have to get everything back out and start all over. Instead, begin by swapping a few things or invest in different containers more suited to your needs.

Expand Your Pantry Organization Process

Organizing your entire home can help you avoid stashing things in your pantry that don’t belong there. After you complete your successful pantry organization, apply the techniques you learned to the rest of your kitchen. Once you have your kitchen clutter under control, you might decide you want to organize your entire home.

Organizing your pantry can offer a wealth of benefits. Besides creating an attractive kitchen without clutter, you can change the way you do things in the kitchen. Your neatly organized pantry makes putting away groceries easier and streamlines meal prep. It can help children independently pick out snacks and help keep the kitchen neatly organized. With so many pantry organization options to choose from, there’s no reason to put off organizing your pantry.

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