Organizing Your Pantry

I recently bought Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen to help me organize my pantry.

On a visit from my Dad, we expanded the shelving and reinforced them to carry more weight. I have a small amount of food storage and am slowly building up more. 

Of course, the below are only ideas, but they are some good ones to start with.

Here are 5 Universal Rules that I found

Whether your pantry is a few shelves in the cupboard, a walk-in closet or three deep drawers, you can make it work. Just stick to these rules:

  1. Know what you use. How to know what to keep a stash of? Ask yourself what you eat most. If you love rice, then a 20-lb bag is great (if you’ve got the space). If you’re crackers about crackers, sure, keep a row of them. Avoid the common mistake of filling your pantry with foods you don’t often use, such as a supersize bag of flour or a row of powdered drinks.
  2. Shop small. I know, this is contrary to the dogma of rolling up to Costco in your minivan, but you don’t need a pantry that can feed your family through autumn, bomb-shelter style (unless that’s what you’re aiming for). Buy in bulk only the stuff you use often.
  3. Go canned. Whether store-bought or home-canned. Canned food lasts years and is handy.
  4. Unwrap. Cut off that wrapper that holds the rolls together, and you can fit individual paper towel rolls much easier.” Ditto for soda, snack packs and multipacks.
  5. Be cool. Pretty much all pantry items do well in cool, dark environments. Store foods away from your stove. The biggest threat? Nearby appliances giving off heat. Dampen your hand and feel around your pantry to make sure the fridge or dishwasher isn’t heating it.

What Goes Where?

You want to create a pantry filled with easy-to-see foods in active rotation.

  • Clean it out. Purge. Which in this case means eat. Go through your pantry and pull out absolutely everything. Split your items into two piles: stuff you use and want to keep, and foods you haven’t touched in at least three months (if you haven’t used it by now, you’re probably not going to use it). For the stuff you generally don’t use, decide whether to toss it, donate it to a food pantry or serve it imminently. If it’s shake powder from that diet you did three years ago, toss it. If it’s cereal you just haven’t gotten around to eating, serve it soon. Free up space so that you have room for what you really need. And re-gift those gift baskets that take up half a shelf.
  • Consider relocating. Not you, your stuff. Your pantry probably has more than a few non-food items. Doors are the great underutilized spaces in pantries. If your cleaning supplies must stay, at least get them on door hooks. I like the Reisenthel Big Eye Wardrobe Shelf. You’ve probably seen it in someone’s coat room, but its four hooks are perfect for hanging brooms and mops, while the shelf works for paper towels, all-purpose cleaners and the like ($35;
  • Create zones. Group your pantry items by type—grains, drinks, pet food, baking items, canned goods, soups, snack foods, etc. And group similar items within each zone (all the canned pineapple in one cluster, canned peaches in another). The items in each zone (rice, couscous and pasta, or canned fruits and vegetables) tend to be interchangeable, so this way you’re working toward your goal: healthy meals. Each zone gets its own dedicated shelf or drawer. If your shelving doesn’t naturally separate the zones from each other, create separations. Shelf dividers, like the ones used for sweaters, work great ($7 for 2; Large items or jugs that you rarely use go in bottom corners.
  • Label. If it makes sense for you, label the edges of your shelves with what goes there. You and the potentially confused people you live with are pretty likely to put cereal on the shelf labeled cereal.
  • Make it visible. You want to be able to see everything and grab it with one hand. Builders often design pantries with fixed shelves that are 1 to 2 feet apart. If you use those shelves for cans or boxes of rice and soup mixes and so forth, there’s tons of wasted space, and tons that you can’t see. For items that are hard to see or blocked by other items, consider these organizing helpers:


Related Links

Your Guide to a perfectly organized food pantry

How to Organize Your Pantry in Just 8 Steps


5 Strategies for Organizing Your Pantry (and Keeping It That Way)

Organize Your Pantry by Zones



EASY Pantry Organization! How to Organize Your Pantry



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