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How to Organize a Pantry

Learn how to organize your pantry with these tips and tricks to make it feel bigger and run more efficiently. An organized pantry will give you back time and money and save you from the frustration of searching for something you know you have, or re-buying things you forgot you already have!

7 Tips for Organizing a Pantry

Let it be known that I nearly cry tears of joy every time I get to walk into my new pantry that is organized from top to bottom. I am 38 years old and this is the first time in my life that I’ve had a walk-in pantry. I’ve always known I wanted one, but I never knew how truly amazing it would be!

But whether you have food storage in various cabinets (like I’ve always had), or a large walk-in pantry like I have now, these helpful tips will help you out!

We moved into this house last month, and I knew I would have to tackle the pantry first thing because the disheveled-ness of it was making me crazy. I even tried to organize it a little bit with everything still in there, but it was a no go.

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Our Family Pantry Stats:

  • We are a family of four with two adults and two young kids
  • No pets
  • We cook dinner about 5 nights a week and pack lunches every day.
  • We do shop at Costco for a few items like snacks, pasta and obviously Rotel tomatoes. 😜
  • We have a walk-in pantry with two walls full of wire shelving and a side storage piece for spices on one wall. The ceilings are 9-feet tall.
  • I would love to replace the wire shelving at some point, but that’s not a priority right now.

NOTE: Go ahead and read through all of the steps below before you get started, because you will want to measure your space and order your organizing baskets and bins before you start with step 1 in the decluttering process.

How to Declutter a Pantry

Before you ever start organizing, you need to declutter. First of all, you can’t organize well AT ALL with everything still in the space. It’s like brushing your teeth with Oreos in your mouth. Not gonna happen, right? So, let’s get rid of the unnecessary items before you organize your stuff, OK?

How to Organize a Pantry - the before pic.

Step 1. Remove Everything from the Pantry.

I removed everything from the pantry except for a few serving dishes at the top that I knew were staying there. But all food items came out and most everything else did too.

How to Organize a Pantry - remove everything from the pantry.
You’ll see my new containers on the left and lots of crap on the right. 🤪

And I’m just telling you that it will get worse before it gets better. It WILL look like a bomb went off in your home and you’ll wonder how all of that stuff ever fit in the space. But it will get better if you follow all of the steps, I promise!

How to Organize a Pantry - remove everything from the pantry.

Step 2. Sweep the floor and wipe down the shelves.

Cause you know it’s dirty. 😉

Step 3. Group similar items & throw away expired foods

I know this seems like two steps, but they can be done together. As you make groups of flour, sugar, oils, baking goods, snacks, etc., go ahead and check expiration dates and throw out anything that’s expired.

Step 4. Donate any foods that are NOT expired, but you know you won’t use

For example, if you bought 8 cans of sliced pineapples for your daughter’s school party and then forgot to send them in (hypothetically, of course), it’s time to send them on to the food bank. You’ll actually see mine still in the pantry, but I am donating them as soon as I’ve finished this post!

Step 5. Move any items to a new space in your home, if it makes sense.

What I mean by moving items, is if there’s something in your pantry that should be kept somewhere else, then move it! I put all of my serving pieces in the top of the pantry when I was unpacking the moving boxes.

But, I realized I had empty cabinets in my butler’s pantry and they would be better off in that space. They would be easier to access and not as likely to get broken when I would take them off of the top shelf of the pantry. This opened up space for my paper towels to be stored on the top shelf.

So move anything that should be housed somewhere else in your home!

Steps to Organizing a Kitchen Pantry

Now comes the fun part! Once you’ve decluttered your stuff and grouped like items into categories, it’s time to make your space more function and even more beautiful!

Years ago I would have argued that you could just use whatever baskets and bins that you have on hand in order to organize your pantry. And if the budget is an issue, then by ALL means use what you have and save up for pretty storage bins later. (Cover those diaper boxes in contact paper all day long, sister!)

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How to Organize a Pantry | Tips and Tricks for organizing a pantry

Scroll and Click an Image to Shop the Organization Pieces

But, if you ARE able to make the investment in storage pieces that will make your space look aesthetically pleasing as well, then I highly recommend it! It’s not necessarily cheap if you have a large space to organize, but it’s a worthy investment that you will only have to make once.

I know for me, that if a space is visually appealing, then I just feel better in that space. If I look into my pantry and LOVE it, I will be more likely to keep it that way and enjoy cooking for my family and making their lunches each day. So, if you can, do it!

Step 1. Measure Your Space!

Before you go and buy a bunch of organizing tools, measure the height and width of your shelves. Take special note of any obstacles that might keep you from being able to use certain tools in your space and maximize the space you have.

I found that The Container Store had the best selection of items for the best price. This is not a sponsored post (I wish), but be sure to sign up for their free loyalty program and get 15% off of your first purchase.

For me, I knew I wanted baskets because of my wire shelving and the baskets slide easily on the shelves and act like drawers. So, finding the perfect sized baskets for my space was crucial. Thankfully closet shelving is a standard size and the basket people make them for those sizes!

Step 2. Think through what you need to store.

Do you have a large selection of cans and will need tons of can storage? Or do you have a lot of food that you want to put in canisters when you get home from the store – like flour, sugar, rice and beans?

Do you have a lot of snacks that need baskets or oils and vinegars that need lazy susans?

How to Organize a Pantry - systematically organize your pantry so that it makes sense to you

Step 3. Buy the containers you need & want + extras!

With your measurements and food needs in mind, start filling up that online cart. I knew I wanted to have opaque storage so that when I opened the door, I saw mostly uniform color and texture and not all of the contents of my pantry. But you may want clear plastic bins so that you can see what you have at a glance.

How to Organize a Pantry - pretty baskets with chalkboard labels | Tips and Tricks for organizing a pantry
Look at all that extra space on the right!! It’s amazing what organizing can do! I got rid of very few things because I got rid of so much before we moved.

Scroll and Click an Image to Shop the Organization Pieces

I knew I wanted white and wood tones, so I stuck with the water hyacinth baskets, large white shelf risers and the white metal basket with wood handles. Think through how you want your pantry to look when you’re done and choose storage solutions accordingly.

And order MORE than you think you will need! You can always return the extras, but it’s a pain to order more. I thought I was ordering plenty, which I did of some things. But I didn’t initially get enough baskets and had to order 8 more after my first order came in!

Step 4. Organize the contents in a systematic way that makes the most sense to you!

I can’t figure out this step for you, because I don’t know your life. BUT I’ll share below how I organized MY pantry and I hope that helps give you lots of pantry organization ideas!

How to Organize a Pantry - baskets, labels and cereal dispensers

How I Organized My Pantry {tips and tricks}

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1. Use Can Risers for Cans (and other back stock items)

I did a lot of research before I started my pantry organization project. I watched Instagram stories and read books, because I wanted to know the BEST way to make my pantry work for me.

How to Organize a Pantry - can risers for can storage

And the #1 thing I heard over and over was to use the Large Expand a Shelf for cans. I don’t have a ton of cans, so I used the second expand-a-shelf for random back stock items. (Don’t buy the original size of the expand-a-shelf, because it doesn’t fit full-sized cans. The large size fits all types of cans as well as large jars.)

The risers keep your items easily accessible and easy to see, which I love!

2. Label Your Heart Out!

Y’all. I’ve never loved a label more than I love these chalkboard black bin labels that fit perfectly over the sides of my baskets. I used this chalk maker and practiced the words first on paper, and then wrote them in pencil on the chalkboard labels before finishing them with the chalk pen. But, aren’t they just adorable??

How to Organize a Pantry | black chalkboard labels with chalk pen

And now, instead of telling my husband that the rice is in the middle, left side of the pantry, I can say it’s in the “rice and pasta” box and he can find it with ease! Magical, I tell ya! 😜🦄

I’m pretty sure that labeling my baskets will be the #1 reason this pantry stays organized. I’ll be sure to do an update post in a year.

How to Organize a Pantry - label most things so that it STAYS organized | hyacinth baskets

At the same time, you don’t have to label EVERY. SINGLE. THING. I didn’t feel the need to label my large cans of protein powder. I just put them on a shelf and called it a day!

Pantry Organization Ideas - drink station

3. Categorize in a manner that works for you.

When you group like items, it will become obvious what your organization system should be. But you may want more generic labels, like: dinner, lunch, breakfast and beverages. Or you may cook with 5 different kinds of pastas and you want to have clear containers and decant all of those pastas every time you go grocery shopping.

Your family may have 7 types of cereals and you need to have that many cereal containers. You do you, boo. And it will be glorious!

How to Organize a Pantry - white metal basket with wood handle for potatoes and onions

I bought two of those white baskets with the wood handles: one for potatoes and one for onions. Then I realized it would work for both and I took the second basket and used it elsewhere in my home. You’ll figure it out as you go!

4. Use extra wall space or the back of the door.

We don’t need any back of the pantry door organization for extra storage, but I would use it if I did. We do have an organization system on the left wall, which is where I have alphabetized our spices. (I have plans to buy matching spice containers and make it look more uniform, but that’ll be another project for another day.)

How to Organize a Pantry - extra wall storage or back-of-the-door storage

I also used the side wall on the right side of our pantry for our grocery bag organizer. I’ve had this thing for years and it’s perfect for keeping those plastic bags organized and handy!

5. Use a lazy susan for small round containers or hard-to-reach corners

With wire shelving, it’s easy for oils and sweeteners in round containers to fall over. It’s also hard to see what’s behind everything on the from row. Enter the lazy susan!

How to Organize a Pantry - use lazy susans for hard-to-reach corners and for round jars and containers that fall over easily

I put vinegars and sweeteners in one and oils in another. And it’s perfect!

I have plans to buy some more for the corners of my pantry in order to maximize that hard-to-reach space.

6. Put Frequently Used Items in Canisters

I don’t want to decant everything I buy because that would take too much time. BUT the things that we use on a very regular basis are put into containers, like cereal, rice and chocolate chips.

How to Organize a Pantry - cereal in canisters

Literally, those are the only things I removed from their boxes. I may put the chips in their own containers at some point if the tray of chip bags doesn’t work out. (I have a feeling it won’t.)

But if some of your dry goods are staples in your home and you go through them quickly, they would qualify for being put into a canister. I love the OXO Pop canisters and these cereal dispensers.

7. Use Reach-in Bins for Larger Items

I grabbed several of these stackable wooden bins to keep larger items together, like drinks on the floor and plastic containers. I wanted to be able to see inside and reach everything easily, but wanted a way to keep them together.

The bins on the floor really help the drinks from rolling around and get lost down there.

How to Organize a Pantry | Tips and Tricks for organizing a pantry | baskets, bins & chalkboard labels

I hope these tips will help you get your own pantry space organized! Let me know if you have any other great tips that I missed in the comments!

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17 Comments

  1. Love those baskets but unfortunately I don’t think those will work for me but l Love that clear lazy Susan and think I will look at big lots and see if I can find one and I am going see if they have one of those over the the door hanger and those shelf risers

  2. Thank you for inspiring me!!! I just completed my pantry and it turned out fantastic! Your tips and pictures were perfect and so helpful. Now I need to tackle my other closets!

  3. Great post. How deep are your pantry shelves? Mine are 15 inches and I’m trying to decide which size of Water Hyacinth basket to use. The small one which is 13-1/3 x 9, seems small, and the next size up is 15-3/4 x 10-1/4 and I don’t know how much it will bother me if my baskets all stick out 3/4 inch from the shelf. lol

  4. Great post! Organisation is the key to happy wife, happy life!!!! I have organised my hand towels and face cloths neatly folded and stacked on their side in wire baskets in the bathroom cupboard. That way the front ones get used and the freshly laundered ones get put at the back. Have done that with my towels in the kitchen draw. I do envy you having such a generous pantry but I am now going to organise my cupboards that are a hot mess!!!

    1. Thanks Nancy!! I need to organize my new linen closet next! It’s smaller than my previous linen closet and currently a hot mess. So, I’ll get to it soon! Love your tip about arranging towels so that they get used in order!

  5. Do I spy some trim healthy mama ingredients???
    Do you follow THM??? If so, a post about how you make it work for you would be awesome.

    1. Hi Erin! I haven’t ever done Trim Healthy Mama, but I do have the cookbooks and enjoy some of their recipes. I did Keto last year for a little while and used some of their recipes when I did that. So… kinda?! LOL I’m thinking about doing Keto again in February. I’ve thought about doing THM, but it seems a little labor-intensive to me and I wonder if I would stick with it… Do you do it??

    2. Looks pretty. I have a semi-messy system that works well for me, and it isn’t very pretty, but it’s FREE, and easy! I got some ideas here, though. One thing I don’t understand- why put foods in plastic containers? For example, you mentioned the cereal and rice. It seems like a waste of time and money, but there must be a reason people want to do it. Thanks!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing! So happy for your family finding your dream home! We are building a new home and I plan to use more baskets for organizing. I have these same baskets from Container Store currently that I ordered online and had no idea they made chalkboard labels that hang on the side! My new pantry is actually cabinets with roll outs, but I also have several linen closets with deep shelves and I think the labeled baskets will be great for sheets, towels and whatever else I need to store in there to keep stuff from getting shoved to the back and make it easier to know what’s in each basket, especially ones on higher shelves that you can’t see as easily. Love it! Looking forward to seeing more pictures of your new home!

    1. Yes!! Those bin labels are fantastic! I have plans to buy more baskets for the linen closet and higher up laundry shelves as well. Just gotta let my wallet recover from our recent purchases. 😜

    1. Hi Ellen, they came with the house, but I imagine you can get them at any hardware store, like Lowe’s or Home Depot!

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