Organizing the Pantry

Tips for organizing a pantry

The pantry is another one of those typically small spaces that we can organize – or at least mostly – in just 30 minutes or so. Many places I’ve lived didn’t even have a pantry, just a closet shelf or a cabinet to store food. We’re using the same SORT and SUCCEED system to organize the pantry (or wherever you store food).

    • Work quickly, one shelf at a time, and work bottom to top, left to right. Stay in the pantry, and don’t wander.


    • Sort food items together. Soups with soups. Baking goods together. Beverages all in one place.You can sort on the kitchen counter, where you can see how much space you need for each category.


    • Purge now so you don’t get sick later. You may not be able to get to a magazine-worthy pantry in less than 30 minutes, but you can dispose of all outdated and expired food items in about that time. This is the number one thing that people want me to help with when I’m in their pantry. If it doesn’t have a sell-by or use-by date, it’s a good bet that it’s too old, and should be tossed.


    • Think about the best spot for non-food items. Heavy appliances and pans need to go at waist level or below. I store my rice-cooker and blender up high, but they are light-weight. Slow cookers and large pots go down below.


    • Containerize. If you have adjustable shelves, now is the time to adjust them. Cereal boxes need a taller shelf. Canned goods need a shorter shelf. I’ll warn you now, adjusting shelves will blow the 30-minute goal here, but it can be so worth it to put that extra inch or so in the right place.


    • While we’re on containers, I very rarely buy them. I have had the same see-through canister set for decades because they have a great seal. I re-use mason jars to store dry goods. A few converted Easter baskets hold snacks. Re-use what you have. Clear containers work great in a pantry, but you can also wrap food boxes with paper to stylishly store smaller things like spice packets and coffee pods.


mason drawers store dry goods in an organized pantry


    • Follow the 2×2 rule. We try our best not to stack anything more than 2 items high, and no more than 2 items deep. Use Expandable Step Shelf Organizers like these. You can easily see everything, even though it’s 3-items deep.


    • how to organize the pantry with step shelves“Face” your items. Just like the folding hint from yesterday, “facing” your canned goods instantly makes things look organized, even if they aren’t really. Just rotate the labels front and center like they would be in a grocery store.


    • The space on the floor should have wheels. Use a cart down below to add drawers for snacks or produce like onions, or provide a platform for sodas or other bulk items. If they have wheels, you’ll be able to get to things better, and you’ll be able to clean better.


    • Maintenance in a pantry is the fun part. Eat through your stock. I try to eat down to the bare bones (or nearly so) every few months. I have the luxury of making a game of it, but it’s how many people live, and it’s also a good reminder of that. When was the last time your kid said, “There’s nothing to eat in here?” Show them what that really looks like. That’s the time to wipe down the shelves, grab the least favorite items (that are always on the back of your shelves) for the local food bank, and make your shopping list.


Many people start the New Year with a goal to eat better or get healthy, but they don’t really do anything about it. I believe the number one thing you can do to help your nutrition goals is to get your food organized. If you can find the good stuff, you are more likely to eat it. If you don’t buy unhealthy snacks, you can’t eat them. Make good choices in the store, and make those choices easy to follow up on in your organized pantry.

This post is part of my 31 days of 30-minute Organizing Projects. Be sure to subscribe for daily emails with projects you can complete in just a few minutes to start your New Year off right.


New Years organizing projects

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kristine

    Great tips to help me organized my brand new pantry! I was wondering what the best place would be for my heavier items. Thanks!

  2. Darla

    Congrats on the new pantry! Heavier like appliances often do better on the lower shelves, where they are easier to reach and will do less damage if they fall.

Comments are closed.