Check out 11 of the best pantry organization tips to help you create a more efficient pantry for you and your family!
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My family and I recently moved into a new home that has a huge pantry. I was excited to be able to utilize the space in a more efficient way, plus make it look pretty along the way. Pantry organization can feel overwhelming, but once done you’ll be able to see what you have and less food will go to waste as a result. This, of course, saves you money!
Remember this as you get started:
These pantry organization tips can work with any size pantry. Whether you have a large space like I do, a smaller closet, a visible rack or some cabinet space, each of these tips can be used to better organize your pantry.
Tip #1: Inventory your current food storage situation – Take into account all places you have food stored: cabinets, closet, etc. Make notes of the types of items you have (this will help with tip #2). We have a lot of snacks, especially granola bars so making note of that helps me know what type of organization I need to consider buying.
Tip #2: Bins and Containers – Going along with tip #1, for example, I do a lot of baking and cooking so I keep flour, sugar, cocoa, etc very accessible. I knew I wanted to get rid of the bags and containers they were stored in to make my pantry more organized. So I made a note that I wanted a new container for those items. Mark down each item you want a bin or container for so when you are buying them, you can get the right amount.
Tip #3: More is Better (when it comes to bins) – Because you may not know exactly how everything is going to fit, I recommend buying more bins than you think you’ll need. You can always take excess back when you’re done. Having to go to the store for more bins in the middle of your organization takes up unnecessary time and will slow you down.
*PRO TIP* Remember to measure the space you want to put the bins in. Buy bins that will maximize your available space. Consider jotting down the dimensions or taking a measuring tape to the store with you. This will also save you time.
Is it necessary to stick with one system?
As you research what type of containers and bins will work best for you, don’t feel like you need to stick with one system. I found a lot of different systems as I looked on Amazon but there wasn’t any single one that fit all my needs. I chose to use clear acrylic or clear plastic containers with clear, black or white lids. This helps maintain a cohesive look in my pantry, even though the containers are from different companies. (I will link to all the containers I used at the bottom of this post to make it easy to find.)
Tip #4: Everything out – When organizing anything, the first and most helpful thing to do is take everything out. This allows you to see exactly what and how much you have of everything. And when I say everything, I mean, everything. You want to start with a blank slate.
*PRO TIP* I highly recommend clearing off your counter and table space before you get started. If you have folding tables or can borrow some, get those as well. You will be surprised how much food you have once you start pulling it all out.
Tip #5: Throw away old, expired, unwanted items – I try to go through my food supply fairly regularly, but even I was surprised to find food that was way past its expiration date. I also found food that I had bought, thinking my family would like but they didn’t, and it was just taking up precious space in my pantry. If it’s expired, get rid of it. If it’s not expired, but it’s not going to get eaten, see if anyone you know might want it. Another option, depending on what it is, would be to donate it to a local food bank.
Tip #6: Organize into groups and like items – Once everything has been pulled out, start grouping things together: baking, paper goods, granola bars/snacks, breakfast/cereal, drink mix, boxed dinners, etc. Then, you can see if there are any misc items that can be logically put with other groups. Keep your bins and containers nearby so you can start getting a feel for what can be stored where.
Tip #7: Get rid of boxes and bags – How often have you reached for something in your pantry, only to find the box or bag empty? Being able to see the food you have is key to keeping it both organized and knowing exactly what and how much you have. As you organize your pantry, discard cardboard boxes and bags whenever possible. It might be tempting to keep them but taking the time to empty them and place the food into a more visible container is worth it.
How do I know if I should I keep it in the bag/box?
Most of the time, you’ll want to get rid of the bag or box, but here are a few exceptions:
- Chips, pretzels, goldfish
- Muffin, biscuit and cake mix
- Dried fruit, trail mix
The great thing is that you can still keep these items organized through the use of bins. It’s when everything is loose and unlabled that your pantry will become disorganized.
Tip #8: Make it visible – Going along with tip #7, being able to see what you have lets you know when it’s time to stock up or refill. This is where the type of containers you choose will make a big difference. For my pantry, I used a combination of clear acrylic containers and plastic bins. (I will link everything at the bottom of this post to make it easy to find.)
Tip #9: Labels – Another key to pantry organization is using labels. Containers and bins only go so far. If you don’t know what’s in your bin or container, it will be more difficult to find what you’re looking for. I used two different types of labels for my pantry:
- Clip on chalkboard labels – For each plastic bin, I used a simple clip on chalkboard label. The chalkboard label is a great way to allow the flexibility of relabeling bins as needed.
- Vinyl – For my clear acrylic containers, I made some vinyl labels using my Silhouette. Not only are the labels functional, but they provide uniformity to the space. Plus, they look so nice! You can grab the cut file for free and make your own pantry organization labels.
Tip #10: 2 Deep Rule – Don’t go more than 2 items deep unless you are able to pull it out so you can see. My pantry shelves are only about 15″ deep so this isn’t an issue for me, but in my old pantry, it was closer to 20″ deep. This meant that items, especially on higher shelves, could easily get lost or pushed to the back and forgotten. If you have a large cabinet with deep shelves, you can use long acrylic bins to store items such as cans.
Tip #11: Overflow items – Inevitably, you are going to have some food that doesn’t fit into your bins or containers. This is the overflow and it’s what you will restock the containers and bins with when you run out. There are a few ways to store your overflow:
- Ziploc bag – Going along with the visibility tip, keeping your overflow in a plastic Ziploc bag lets you see how much you have left of any given item. I’d recommend using this solution for items such as granola bars, fruit snacks, etc.
- Behind bins – As mentioned above in tip #10, avoid storing anything more than 2 deep. This doesn’t necessarily apply to overflow, as long as you’re not stuffing a bunch of items behind your bins or containers. However, I still recommend putting your overflow in another bin or clear bag so it’s easy to find and access.
- Another space in the house – If space is an issue, consider other areas of your home to store overflow. This might include under your bed, in a cabinet or somewhere else that is temperature controlled.
*BONUS* Tip #12: Add Decor – If you have a little extra shelf space or wall space, add a little bit of decor! I kept it simple by putting up some framed wall art and making a boxwood wreath (much cheaper than buying one). It’s a great way to add some personality and style. And besides, why not? There are so many fun designs to choose from!
List of Items Used to Organize My Pantry
Large Rice Containers with Pour Spout – Easily holds a 5lb bag of rice. I bought the two pack: one for brown rice and one for white rice.
Cereal Containers with Pour Spout (Set of 6) – Say goodbye to random sized cereal boxes and bags. I love that these containers are clear so I can see exactly how much cereal is left. They keep my cereal fresh for longer and the opening on top helps my kids not pour too much into their bowls. This et comes with 4 large and 2 medium. I can fit a large box of cereal (family size) in the bigger one and a regular size box of cereal in the medium one.
Rubbermaid Brilliance Airtight Containers (Set of 10) – I’ve been using this line for our family’s leftovers for a long time. The seal on them is great and everything is dishwasher safe. I love their pantry set because it has some bigger sizes, perfect for cocoa, chocolate chips and brown sugar.
Extra Large Plastic Storage Containers – I bought these in a set of 4 to hold my flours and sugars. The wide opening makes it easy to scoop out what I need without making a mess. Depending on what you are storing in them, they will hold between 6-9lbs.
OXO Good Grips 3-Piece POP Round Canister Set – Best deal I’ve found on a set from this brand! There are 3 sizes. I used them to organize small wrapped snacks, such as fruit snacks, fruit roll ups, gum, etc.
Chef’s Path Tall Airtight Containers (Set of 4) – These are absolutely perfect for pasta! They seal well and are also easy to open and close. I used 3 for the pasta I always use in larger quantities and kept one for the lesser used pasta that is still in bags (hidden behind the others for overflow).
Clear Acrylic Storage Bins with Dividers – We have a lot of granola bars and similar shaped snacks. These divided bins make it easy to see what we have and they fit so perfectly in the slots! (similar)
Y-Weave Plastic Bins in Medium (white and teal) – I got the bins pictured in this post from Walmart, however, they regularly change out the style of plastic bins they offer. The link I am sharing is for some that are similar in style and size to what I used. (This is a link to the exact bins from Walmart.)
Extra Large Floor Bins (white and gray) – I got the large floor bins pictured in this post from Target, however, as with the bins above, they may not be available at the time you are viewing this post. The link is for similar bins but I will also link to the exact bins I used. (similar)
Shelf Liners – I highly recommend getting plastic shelf liners. They protect your shelves from getting scratched when you pull bins out which keeps your pantry looking nicer for longer. I’ve also used these in my cabinets and on wire shelving to give added stability.
3 Tier Expandable Can Risers – I like to keep a few canned items easily accessible in my pantry (the overflow is stored elsewhere). These risers are a great use of space, I can see what I have and easily grab it. (They come as a set of 2 and I used the other set to organize my overflow spices.)
Clip On Chalkboard Labels – These clip on chalkboard labels make it easy to identify what is in each bin. Plus you can change what’s written on the label whenever you need to.
Chalk Markers – There are so many different chalk markers to pick from! It doesn’t necessarily matter what color you go with or even if you choose to do a rainbow of colors. A basic white chalkboard marker is a great way to stay uniform but any color will work.
I hope these pantry organization tips are helpful as you work to create a more functional space in your home! If you have any questions, please comment below and I will be happy to reply.
Additionally, check out these other organization posts I’ve shared on my blog: