How to Organize the Pantry in Five Easy Steps is surefire way to get those cupboards clean and organized and keep them that way! Thank you OXO for sponsoring this post as part of their Spring Cleaning & Organizing with OXO campaign. As always, all opinions are always 100% my own. Thank you for supporting brands I love and and genuinely believe in, which helps to make the free material found here on Comfortably Domestic possible.
Spring is in the air! After an overcast winter, I like to throw the windows open to enjoy the sunshine and warm breezes of spring. The warmth also spurs a fierce need in me to tackle the Spring Cleaning projects that have gone otherwise ignored. Something about the extra sunshine sheds new light on all of the disorganization that has accumulated over the winter. Dusty corners that were invisible before, seemingly jump out and slap me in the face as I walk by.
Can you walk by dingy walls and clutter piles for months? Up until that one day that you see everything in a new light? That blissful ignorance that flips to an “oh-my-goodness-how-can-we-live-this-way?!” state of mind in an instant?
Nowhere is that ignorance-turned-disgust as apparent as in the pantry. There’s just something about being able to close the doors on the chaos that makes the clutter easier to ignore. My boys put the groceries away with a “if it fits, it sits” method that quickly gets out of hand. Boys aren’t the most organized of sorts to begin with, but adding hunger to the equation makes it worse.
For as much as encourage them to eat out of the refrigerator first, the pantry doors are rarely closed in their continuous hunt for food. If I want to be able to find anything in the pantry, it must be organized. Pantry clutter is something that no one seems to notice or seems to care about…until it’s well organized. Once you organize the pantry, you’ll save money and meal preparation will be so much easier. How? Let’s talk!
How to Organize the Pantry in 5 Easy Steps
Step 1: Clear Out
Remove everything from the pantry and set it on the counter or table. This is definitely a It Gets Worse Before it Gets Better type of situation. Once the pantry is empty, pick up or vacuum any debris that may have found it’s way out of the bags or boxes and onto the shelves. If your house is like mine, there’ll be a smattering of Cheerios and crushed Goldfish crackers lurking in the corners. Afterward, give the shelves a quick scrub with warm, soapy water.
Step 2: Group
Clearing out the pantry is a surefire way to see all that you have in there. Start checking expiration dates and tossing or composting anything that is beyond the expiration date. If your anything like me, you might find a bottle of salad dressing that expired three years ago and needs to be pitched before it stages a mutiny. You’ll also discover three unopened bags of brown rice or other staples that got lost in the back of the cabinet, so you kept buying more.
It happens. This is a judgement free zone.
Then, sort the items into like groups–cereal with cereal, cans with cans, etc. Grouping pantry items together results in less waste and over-buying in the future. The amount of food that ends up in the compost pile because it was out of sight in the back of the pantry (or refrigerator) and expired before it was used is ridiculous.
Step 3: Contain
Once the sorting is complete, assess what you have in larger quantities and what may be stored more efficiently in an air-tight container. Large quantities of cereal or other dry goods combine easily into one container to save on shelf space. Bagged items are also good candidates for container storage. That way, they won’t spill or get lost in the shuffle of things in and out of the pantry. Investing in high quality storage containers will pay off in the long run.
I love, love, love these OXO POP Containers because they keep everything so fresh. They’re also stackable so they make efficient use of available space in the pantry. The push-button lid mechanism creates an airtight seal with just one touch. The pop up button on the lid also serves as a handle to lift it on and off. The corners of the containers have the perfect shape for pouring out the contents. I’ve seen the 10-Piece POP Container Set sold at all of our major stores, as well as on Amazon for a reasonable price.
I really like how easy it is to get a good seal with the POP lids. Gone are the days of things drying out because the lid wasn’t on properly. In addition to the pantry, I use POP containers for brown sugar and baking supplies so that everything stays fresh. In my experience, using clear storage containers in the pantry is best because the contents are easily identifiable, and I’m able to see at a glance which items need to be replenished. Transparent containers also help if you live in a house with anyone that needs to have something readily visible and smack in front them in order to find it.
Printing labels for the containers to list exactly what is inside is always a nice touch. I label my containers with the contents, cooking ratios (if applicable), and serving sizes. That way, everyone in the house knows what is inside, as well as how to prepare or portion everything appropriately. I figure that if I label well, then my family will feel more empowered to take initiative and cook!
A girl can dream, right?
Step 4: Organize
Next, organize the pantry items into general categories so that they are easy to find. Think of the logical category of foods in a grocery store and use that as a model: cereals, rice, pasta, beans, snacks, canned goods, meal helpers, etc. Keeping items in the pantry in categories makes them easier to find later. You can’t eat it if you can’t find it!
Step 5: Arrange
Once you sort, group, and organize the pantry items, consider the most convenient arrangement for them. When arranging the pantry, keep in mind the height and weight the items as well as the frequency of use. Adjust shelf heights to accommodate taller items, if possible. For me, it makes sense to put tall, lighter items on higher shelf because they are easier to lift and won’t cause too much damage when dropped from a higher shelf. Whereas short, heavier items are best on lower shelves because they can cause more damage when dropped. Meaning, I’d rather drop a box of cereal on my head than a can of tomatoes!
I keep our most often used dry goods on the top shelf because we use them just about every day. This includes hot cereals, cold cereals, pastas, and brown rice. The pasta and rice labels list measurement equivalents and cooking ratios on the front for easy preparation.
The second shelf is at eye level, so that’s exactly where I want the snack foods. I call it our On the Go Snacking shelf because I keep the seed butters, trail mix components, and cereal bars on that shelf. The Sons can easily see what pantry snacks are available. They can grab the soy or sunflower butter for a sandwich, sprinkle some seeds into yogurt, grab a piece of beef jerky for quick (shelf stable) protein, or blend the seeds with banana chips, dried fruit, and cacao nibs in a bag for a healthy trail mix. I labeled the snack containers with serving sizes so that (hopefully) the boys understand what an appropriate serving of each snack food should be. (Read: they resist snacking on 2 cups of dried fruit in one sitting.)
The next shelf contains the prepared convenience foods, like bread crumbs, condiments, seasoned/marinated vegetables, and baking mixes. Yes, baking mixes! Y’all know I’m a from scratch baker 95% of the time, and that I can get a batch of One Bowl Fudge Brownies in the oven in ten minutes. That said, sometimes I’m too lazy to do even that much, so brownie mix happens. Son #4 also has a weird fascination with Jell-O, so that happens from time to time too. #realtalk
The bottom shelf holds all of the basic pantry staples, such as canned goods, chicken broth, and any extra boxes of pasta that I’m hoarding for a specific meal, like this Meaty Rigatoni. Keeping heavy cans on the bottom of the cabinet better supports the weight, which can buckle upper shelves over time.
Take advantage of the freshness of spring time to clean and organize your space. Following this method for How to Organize the Pantry in 5 Easy Steps is a great start! A well organized pantry is not only more convenient, but looks great and saves time and money in the future.