Organize Your Pantry

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How To Organize Your Pantry

With the holidays fast approaching, now is the time to get your pantry in order. You will be cooking for family get-togethers,  you’ll probably be doing some holiday entertaining and then there will be all the baking for the holidays.

If you have your pantry in order, it will make all these things easier and faster to do.

When your pantry is well organized, you will be able to see immediately what you need to buy to restock. Now, before all the frantic holiday activities start is a great time to organize your pantry. Once you’re organized, you won’t be caught without some ingredient you need and being organized will make it easier to take advantage of all those great sales on pantry items that are offered this time of year. Most canned goods, chocolate chips and other pantry items will last until next year’s sales roll around again, so you’ll save a bundle of money, too!

  • First, clean each shelf and lay down shelf paper where needed. It you have sticky things like honey or syrup, use a plastic lid like the one from a cool whip container or cottage cheese container for these things to sit on. If they get sticky, it is much easier to wash or throw away a disposable lid than to try to clean the shelf.
  • Instead of using expensive shelf liner, you can find inexpensive rolls of kitchen wallpaper or scrap pieces of vinyl flooring. Just use thumb tacks to hold the corners down.
  • When putting food away, put like things together. Put your canned goods in rows so you can easily see how many of each item you have. Store all the corn together, beans together, peas together, fruits together, (peaches, pears, plums), soups, crackers, cereal, etc.


Organize your pantry in similar groups like:

Grains and pastas
Vegetables (canned)
Soft Drinks
Fruits (canned)
Meats in cans (tuna, spam, roast beef)
Coffees, teas, creamers, sweeteners, etc.
Baking items


  • If you store your baking supplies in the pantry, group the baking supplies together. Keep a tray by the baking supplies. That way you can quickly stack everything you need on it and carry it all at one time to the baking center.
  • Arrange all the labels of the canned goods facing forward so you can see them. Place all your corn on one row one behind the other so you know everything behind that can of corn is corn. Do this instead of placing two cans of corn side by side. Do this with all your canned goods.
  • If you need to, buy the little wire shelving or adjust your shelving to use all of your space. I often don’t think about adjusting my shelving and, if you have 2-4 inches of space at the top of each shelf, that can add up to 12 inches of wasted space for just three shelves.
  • Use a basket to hold things like small box mixes, juice packets, cake mix packets, etc. You can take it out in one movement instead of digging through the entire cabinet. It will also save when grocery shopping so you can see what you have at a glance.
  • Put all of the breakfast cereals, bowls and cups on a low shelf so the kids can get their own cereal. Put milk on a lower shelf of the fridge, too. For 3 and 4 year olds put a pre-measured cup of milk on the shelf.

    Note: This applies to many things. If your children keep asking for you to reach a glass for them for a drink, place a few glasses in a lower cabinet for them. Just today, my 16 month old grandson came marching into my house, went straight for the cup cabinet, got himself a cup and handed it to me for a drink of water, so they can start young.

  • Be sure to put food you use every day on a shelf in the front and middle. I store the tea I use every day at the front and the tea I use every now and then in the back.
  • If you have children, put the canned goods on the lower shelves of the pantry. This way, if they try to get something out, there isn’t a risk of cans falling down on them.


For more help with organizing, cleaning and laundry, take a look at our Keeping It Clean e-books.

photo by: irisheyes


  1. John Trosko says

    Hi Jill!

    Good list. I’d suggest folks consider using shelf doublers for cans. Cans take up a lot of space. You can purchase a shelf doubler which allows you to double stack cans and other items. You can grab what you need and not disturb the whole lot.

    John aka OrganizingLA

  2. andi says

    Two things come to mind!
    First, as my kids were growing old enough, the kitchen table was
    set for breakfast, the night before! It can be a chore, for one of
    the kids, or mom or dad… Its wonderful to come into the kitchen or
    dinning room, and find each child has everything ready to eat, and
    to get their own pop tarts, pop up waffles, or what ever they may be
    eating. I also had a timer on my coffee pot, I liked being wide awake
    first thing in the morning, but still get a few minutes to myself before
    everyone gathered around the table.

    Also, to John who commented before me!
    I get the cut down can boxes at the grocery store for free.
    I can stack the cans easily, and in the right sizes.

  3. Jaime says

    I would suggest instead of storing little packets, such as juice or mixes, in baskets, use clear plastic containers such as tupperware. This helps to keep mice and/or bugs out of your food. They can chew through baskets and little packets easily. Using a clear plastic container not only protects the food packets but it also allows for easy carrying to the kitchen.

  4. says

    Plastic containers are not rodent proof. Glass or metal are the surest way to keep mice and squirrels out of food items.
    I keep flour and cornmeal in large plastic food pails and one year I moved it so I could open it and found a pile of plastic and cornmeal behind the pail. A mouse had gotten into it.
    I don’t have mice in this house so I am not worried too much about it but once bitten twice shy so coffee cans are my storage of choice.

  5. geri says

    i remember one time a friend opened her cabinet and there was spilled flour on the shelf along with spilled spices – what a mess! i keep my opened bag of flour and of sugar in gallon size plastic zip lock bags. that way, when i put it away, nothing slips out!

  6. Ashley says

    Don’t forget to rotate your cans, packages, boxes of noodles, etc forward when you buy new. For those of us who try to keep a well-stocked pantry that is important to remember. I am all about buying things on sale. When mac n’ cheese went on sale for 19 cents a box I bought a case. Things like that last me a year though, and I definitely want to use the older stuff first so I’m not letting it expire and wasting it. Throwing out a case of 19 cent mac n’ cheese doesn’t actually “save” any money. :)

  7. gertrud says

    to keep up with what I have I put the date of the day of purchase, with magic marker, on cans etc. and then try to stack them in the back of the pantry. This way I can see easily that I bought eg.this bag of noodles on 3-15, of last year, since today is already 1-5. For me it’s an easy system

  8. Leah says

    Just a few comments. I find that my indoor only cat is an excellent deterent to rodents (haven’t had one in the house yet!) I also use glass jars to hold rice, flour, sugar, pasta ect because I can see what’s in it! A 12 pack box from soda works great for small packaged stuff like gravy and you can even file alphabeticly if you’re so inclined! I have some work to do on my pantry because the space is not what I think it should be but I’m getting there!

  9. Denise says

    The last time I cleaned out my pantry, I marked the tops of all the cans, boxes, and containers with their expiration dates.
    Then I put them back in the pantry with the longest expiration dates in the back and also numbered the items backwards so I now know how many of each I have left. When I get down to number 3 of anything, I know there are 2 left and it’s time to put the item on my stock up list.
    When I buy more, I again write the expiration date on the tops so that it’s easy to see, and they go behind the older stuff. No more inventory list for my pantry.

  10. Susan says

    What do you suggest as the “ideal” height between shelves? We’re just about to do some additional shelving in our walk in pantry. Thanks!

    • says

      Susan that is really hard to say because everyone has different needs. I would measure a few things you will be putting in there. For example do you have a bread machine or mixer? Measure them and then use that measurement. Also stack 2 of your canned goods like peaches or soups on top of each other and get an idea. Usually it is best not to stack anything more then 2 deep.

      Leave enough room so you can easily put them in and out (about 2-3 inches). Then go from there. I think in a pantry adjustable shelves are a must but if you don’t have those then do like I said and measure your tallest items etc. and the use the small wire shelves to help you use the space better.

  11. Sandi P says

    I’ve had infestations of those annoying tiny little moths you sometimes see in the grocery store (they absolutely ruin anything they get into with sticky webs and larva). To prevent that now, as soon as I get home from the store I put any pasta or grain items in the freezer for at least 24 hours to kill any eggs or larva that might be there. If there’s room, I just keep the items in the freezer to protect against rodents as well as insects. Flour and sugar are in old tins that just happened to be the same shape and size as the 5 pound bags. I keep the sugar tin in the refrigerator since ants got into it a couple of years ago.

    • says

      Yes I always put my flour in the freezer for 24 hours to kill the bugs in it. I know it is gross but most flour does have some in it. You need to be careful too of roaches. They are often in bags of things like potatoes and you need to be careful if you bring something in in a cardboard box like a case of canned fruit.

      They are awful Sandi. Also I had an exterminator once tell me the best way to get rid of whevels(sp) which can be really bad in older homes is to wipe down cabinets and shelves where you store the food with the Lysol which is the concentrate and comes in the old brown bottle. I thought I would never get rid of mine and sure enough it worked along with freezing my flour.

  12. says

    I also store my flour, sugar, corn meal, and confectioners sugar in the refrigerator during the warm months. I dOnt have air conditioning and it keeps out bugs. No problems with baking either. Any suggestions on making a stockpile pantry? I am working on this now in a small room. I have treated 2 by 4s left over from a deck.

  13. says

    First timer here.

    I just wanted to comment on what Geri said. I too keep my opened bag of flour, cornmeal, sugar etc in gallon size plastic zip lock bags. Then I put them into the metal containers for storage and that helps keep them free from any loose product spilling out into the container. So I don’t have to worry about cleaning the metal container before I put fresh product in it.

  14. Stacey says

    This is interesting, I thought I was the only one that stored their flour, cornmeal and even my baking mix in my refrigerator. What’s funny is I have no idea when I started doing it…lol.

  15. Rae Ann says

    If you have a short wall (or back of the pantry door)to work with in your pantry then a clear plastic fronted shoebag adds a lot of storage! I use mine for pudding mix,pasta boxes,seasoning mixes,chocolate chips,bags of nuts,packets of oatmeal,marshmallows and gelatin are just a few of the things I store in mine.It helps keep small pantry items visible and prevents them from getting lost in my pantry.

  16. Grandma says

    A few years ago my husband started drinking a glass of wine a day to help with his circulation. It works great but my fridge would not hold the extra wine so he bought a small wine cooler. a year later he stepped up to one that hold more than 12 bottles since we shop 4 hours away and he wanted to stock up and try new wines.
    I have stored the 12 bottle one until 2 weeks ago when I said I should buy one of those small fridges for vegetables and fruit. My fridge is too cold for many of them.
    He brought up the wine fridge which only goes to about50′.
    he took out two of the racks and now my tomatoes and green onions mandarin oranges and plums and lettuce are all in there without being bruised by the root vegetables in the crisper drawer. I have only tossed 2 oranges in 2 weeks and that is a record for me.
    sometimes being innovative comes in handy. the racks for the bottles keep things from rolling as well.

  17. Laura says

    My pantry is in my garage, and to make it easier to keep track of canned items, I used an old wire shelf. I leaned it at an angle so that the cans lay on their sides and roll down as I remove one. I got the idea from the soup isle at the grocery store. Everything is stacked according to type (corn, peas etc) and new items go up on the back of the rack. This way, I’m always using the older items first!

  18. Mary Jane says

    My husband built me a free-standing pantry cupboard with swing out doors and shelving built in to the inside of the outer doors. He put in two full size shelves across the top, and what seemed like the most likely shelving heights I would need in the interior, behind the swinging doors.. Now over 20 years later, if we had to do it again, we would install those metal corner pieces on the inside of the cupboard, that have adjustable notches to move your shelves up and down. I think they use something similar in closet organizers, but the basic parts can be had for a lot less at most hardware stores. Just a suggestion for anyone altering or building a pantry space.

  19. Mechille says

    I also use a clear plastic shoebag on the inside of my pantry door, like Rae Ann was talking about in a post above. I first started using it for all those different kinds of snack cakes that I kept for my husband’s lunch. Then I started putting bags of individually wrapped chocolate candies and hard candies in there. Now I also use it to put packets of pasta, gravy’s, tea bags and anything that is lose. This makes it much easier to keep up with. I’ve used this for about 12 years. I’ve even put a small one in the bathroom and used it to keep the shampoo, cream rinse, body wash, etc in. It keeps stuff off the bathtub floor and it’s always there when you need it.

  20. Tbf says

    I just have a question. It seems like I have heard that it can affect both the quality of the food as well as the length of time it keeps if food is stored in an area such as a garage where temperature extremes are common? I even removed my canned and boxed goods from a small pantry that was always warm because it shared a wall with the space my dryer is in because I was concerned about spoilage. Any experiences with or thoughts on this?

    • says

      It is best to store things in as close as you can come to 70 degree temps. Basements are probably the best place to store most foods as far as temps go. Now these temps are talking about long term (4-5 years plus) storage. It you will be using the things with in a year or so unless you have really extreme heat it would be ok if you have no place else to store it. I don’t store any food in a garage. There is too much extreme temperatures one direction or the other.

  21. Denis says

    I KNOW you are not trying to make me work harder. I KNOW it. SURE I DO…

    But this thing about hitting on ALL of the things that need doing in my house is getting scary! I know better than to think that you have a camera watching me and thinking,” Oh, hey! Denis really should do something about his pantry!”, or something else you have maybe noticed in your own place.

    It is so weird that just yesterday I was thinking, “Oh one of these days I need to do something about this pantry!”. I didn’t do ANYTHING about it, and sure enough you poked me with your email today on exactly that! I am laughing as I write this email, just because it seems like you are writing this post exactly about ME!!! I know you are not, but doggone it I need a rest!!! lol

    I am single without children, so I don’t have a honeydolist, but some days when I get your emails it sure feels like I do! (very big grin)

    Thank you for getting me laughing!!!


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