Clean & Organize your Pantry #HowTo

One of the most important elements of kitchen storage is, for me, the pantry. I appreciate that not everyone is fortunate enough to have one, but if you do, and you’re like me, it can easily become disorganized over time.

With a pantry, you have space to stock up on dried and tinned items when they are on sale or fill the shelves with your own dried goods and preserves. A well-stocked pantry will have all of the basics for day to day meals, but it also ends up being the repository for those strange oils your neighbor gave you, the peaches in brandy you received one year over the holidays and all of the assorted food items you gave a try but hated on first taste.

The beginning of the year is a great time to clear out & reorganize your pantry. Give it a pre-spring clean, ready for the coming year and all of the exciting goodies it may bring.

Empty out the pantry & clean it

  • It is always best to start with a blank slate so take out everything. No matter how tidy you are, your pantry will always have some debris somewhere. For some inexplicable reason mine always seems to accumulate salt and an unidentified dust that I can only imagine is a mixture of spices.

  • Thoroughly clean every nook, cranny, corner, and crevice with a vacuum then with warm, soapy water.

  • Allow to dry thoroughly.

  • Wipe all of your shelves, food containers, and other surfaces with white vinegar. For added protection against pests, use a few drops of essential oil like peppermint, citronella, eucalyptus, or tea tree.

Start Sorting 

  • Stale or Expired Food – Just because it’s a dried food or a non-refrigerated item doesn’t mean that it doesn’t go bad. Check the expiry dates on all of your items and inspect any packages that have been opened. Be brutal – if an item is open & you can’t remember when you last used it – it may be time to throw it away

  • Infested Goods – When you buy foods in bulk, there is always a chance that they could be contaminated with some kind of pest. Inspect any items you have decanted into jars or containers to ensure they are pest free before reintroducing them to your pantry.

  • Old dried herbs & Spices – They may not have expiration dates on them, or you may have decanted them into your favored containers, either way, those dried herbs, and spices will lose their potency over time. If you are unsure if the spice is still good, then it’s time for the sense test. The spice should have a vibrant color, taste potent and smell strong (in a good way!) If it fails in any of these points – throw it away.
  • Multiple, Multiple Items – Take a long hard look at all of those items you have accumulated. Do you really need that many cans of sweet corn? Even if a natural disaster strikes, would you ever get through all of those kidney beans? Take a long hard look at what you have and either organize a neighborhood food swap or donate to the local food bank.

  • All things gross – We’ve all been there, having to smile sweetly as the elderly neighbor hands you four giant jars of her unique recipe loganberry preserve. Or looking delighted as you sit under the Christmas tree and unwrap that set of herb infused oils and vinegars. Now is the time to liberate yourself from all things gross.

  • All the things that get put there and forgotten If your food shares space with your brooms, a growing community of empty carrier bags and other random items, try to find new homes for the non-foods. It’s a pain, I know, but you’ll thank me when you no longer get hit on the head by a broom every time you bend down to get the cooking oil.

Now you should be left with only edible food that you will actually use – yeah! The next step is to organize it to make the best use of your time and space.

Pantry Organization

Lay out your pantry according to your most-used items.

Put your most used items where they are easiest to lay your hands on them. Where you put your pantry items should be determined by how you work and by what causes the least amount of extra work while you’re cooking.

Group similar items and flavors together

Group similar items together. This seems like an obvious thing to do but as time passes things migrate around the pantry and may end up with a little of everything everywhere. In our pantry, we have a baking section, a spice section, an Italian section and so on. It’s an easy way to reach into your pantry and grab what you need for an entire meal without digging through all the shelves looking for five ingredients that have all ended up as far from each other as possible.

Alphabetical

Lining up the spices in alphabetical order is great, so you never have to rummage around looking for the nutmeg. If you have lots of tinned soups, they are much easier to find – and replace when used- if they are stacked alphabetically.

Organize packets and bags

Open bags are an organized pantry’s greatest enemy. It’s happened to me, you open the door, and the bag of rice falls over sending an avalanche of grains across the floor. You can choose between decanting items into containers (don’t forget to label & date them) or use clips to keep the bags closed and put them into easy to maneuver baskets.

Face all the labels out

I know this is kind of an OCD thing for some people, but it really does help. Having the labels facing outwards lets you see exactly what you have at a glance. This is especially important when you have lots of items from the same store or of the same brand – they often have similar labels for very different things.

So now you have a fresh, clean, organized pantry. Next time we’ll look at how to keep track of your stock and how to put together quick, tasty meals just from what you have in there.

74 COMMENTS

  1. I really need to do this, but it’s so low on my priority list. I should add it anyway. Great tips.

  2. Great advice!
    A well organized pantry is a joy to behold!
    I changed my diet a few years ago to a low carb one and my pantry shrunk to 1/4 of what it was- makes spring cleaning easier 🙂

  3. Super organisation, that makes access to all items easy. And to put a little time in arranging your shelves saves heaps of time later on especially when you are in a hurry. I find I go back to face labels towards me when I did not the first time round. I just makes sense to me.

    I loved when you called yourself OCD because you like the labels to sit at the front. I thought placing herbs and soups in alphabetical order was more OCD. Big giggle at that one. I thoroughly enjoyed your advice and you effort. PS – that aromatherapy is a brilliant idea.

    Rachel.

  4. Our pantry cleans itself out at the end of every month. We eat almost everything in it at the end of each month. There is something great about eating all you have before you go to the store again.

  5. I miss having a pantry. I had one for years and when we moved I chose a house with more cabinets instead. I’ve regretted that ever since.

  6. That’s exactly how I would do it I didn’t have other people living with me that don’t care about keeping it clean and organized. I’ve given up fighting over this. Therefore, I don’t cook as much either. Their loss 😉

  7. Sigh…if only I had a pantry! I try to keep my cabinets organized, but I think what would help is labeling canisters, etc… I have a lot of nuts, grains, seeds, etc… and sometimes they start to look alike! 🙂 Thank you for sharing these great tips!

  8. I usually do this yearly and I really think I need to do it again! My family makes me crazy. I clean it out and organize it and then they all make a mess (same with everything else in the house! LOL)

  9. I love the step-by-step method because I do thrive by these kind of posts. I am so unorganized and scatter-brained when it comes to cleaning that I need something like this to follow. Thanks!

  10. I try to clean out my pantry at the end of the year – your know, start fresh Jan 1st 🙂

    Monica.

  11. Good post. Very methodical.
    I liked when you started with a empty Pantry.
    Some may not start at this point.

    Here’s to our Pantries 🙂

  12. Our “pantry” is actually classified as cold storage. I am actually planning to reorganize and reformat it soon. Because it’s fairly large, we will have holiday decor storage at the back and then shape our shelving units to box it off. I’m hoping it works LOL

  13. Great timing on this post. I was just cleaning out my Pantry which is actually a small closet in my kitchen. I found many expired items and I was very disappointed because I could have used them or donated them!

  14. I love keeping organized, and it is great to have a reminder set for me to do this. We have two lazy susans and a few deep cabinets in our kitchen, so I need to work on ways to make them work. Thank you for the push!

  15. Thanks for sharing this post. I really need to clean out our kitchen cabinets and this will be really helpful. I think at the change of every season I get an urge to purge everything. 🙂

    Brooke @ Brooke Blogs
    #blogelina #commentathon

  16. I love your ideas. I actually did a much better job organizing my pantry when we moved. It makes life so much easier. Thank you.

    Jen
    #blogelina

  17. I do not have a pantry but use some of my cabinets as a pantry. It gets overwhelming thinking about reorganizing and clearing it out. A lot of times I am just loading new groceries to the front of the cabinet which shoves the old groceries back even further. I usually forget what I have because I am not able to see the items.

  18. I wish I had a pantry…it would be so nice to be able to keep a lot of food items all in one place where I could intermingle things like canned goods, spices and appliances. My mother has a pantry that I covet, and she just went through organizing it. It’s amazing how many things she had to throw out because they had expired. She also utilizes plastic baskets and those wire shelves that help make stacking items easier.

  19. Great tips! I think it’s important to do this on a regular basis, as it can get out of control very quickly. Right now, we are moving very frequently, so our pantry fits in one box. That keeps us from having a bunch of ingredients we never use, but I can’t wait until we settle down and buy a place so that I can have at least a few more staples available when I need them! But I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the overloaded pantry we used to have. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions!

  20. LOVE these ideas! With three teen/tweenage boys in my house most food items don’t last long, but the ones that do get shuffled around or pushed to the back and hidden, it drives me crazy 🙂

  21. Ahhh I can’t wait to have a pantry so I can be this organised! Love the image of an elderly neighbour handing you loganberry jam and it being reluctantly accepted! Thank you xxxxx

  22. I find my kitchen gets very disorganized over time. These are some really great tips for keeping everything in the pantry easy to find and organized.

  23. Awesome post! There is nothing like a clean and organized pantry/closet/area. I get a sense of accomplishment and pride when things are in order. I also got a few new tips from you, thank you!

  24. I need to get organized and this was a great reminder for me. Often, I have to force myself to make those changes, and I know that it is a good idea. When I actually do it, it am so happy I did.

  25. Great post! I’m a pro organizer, and the pantry is one of my favorite areas to organize! I agree that its so important to group like items together to create “zones”. I find that using a variety of bins/baskets to contain the items helps to prevent things from migrating. Labeling the containers helps even more!

  26. Thank you so much for detailing the steps to organizing our pantry. My To-Do list has just grown however, it is a very necessary task.

  27. Our pantry is pretty small, so organizing it is even more important! I do need to go through it again, though. I sometimes go through “stock-up” phases where I find something for a really good deal and then think that I’ll eat enormous quantities of it (like a whole pound of hibiscus tea! :)).

  28. Great tips! We are lucky enough to have a pantry too, but it does get very disorganized. We’re due for another clean out, so I love your suggestion of taking everything out, so you can clean and go through it all. I also love the tip about adding the essential oils to keep out pests. We get pantry moths frequently, so maybe this will help. Thank you!

  29. I think we ALL need to be more organised and focused in the pantry. I know where everything IS but finding it sometimes – I need these tips!

  30. A lot of great organising tips in this post. And some of them can be applied not just to the pantry but also shelves and cupboards and refrigerators in the kitchen.

  31. I have slowly started cleaning out my backroom to convert it into a pantry rather than storage area for crap that we no longer use.

  32. When I have a pantry one of these days, I’ll be using your organizing tips!:) I enjoy organizing so I’m going to enjoy having another space to organize!

  33. I love organizing my pantry! I find it relaxing, LOL! Our family helps the local food pantry by sharing food items; veggie cans, pasta, cereal, etc that we have to many of. We don’t use many spices but for the ones that we do, I have a small plastic container that stores them (fits right into the cabinet) Also, when organizing I put the soon to be expired cans or boxes right up front, to use first. I find that helps vs being put in the way back of the shelf !

  34. Thank you so much for this! I need to clean out my pantry before I go the the grocery store again!
    I’m adding this to my buffer to share with my readers1

    #commentathon

    Erica

  35. I’m pretty organised where my larder is concerned so hopefully there’s nothing too nasty lurking at the back! Though saying that, I don’t have an awful lot of room in my flat, so food is stored all over the place!

  36. What great organizing tips. I certainly need to take your advice. My organization skills are lacking these days. Everything is a bit cluttered and it drives me crazy.

  37. I completely agree with you about needing to clean out your pantry. We usually do it every couple of months. My husband hates doing it but I remind him that cooking and shopping are both easier with an organized pantry!

  38. My pantry looks horrendous like someone just dumped a whole bunch of seasonings off and left them there. I try to keep it clean but with three unorganized kids, it’s just too much work. Thanks for the tips!

  39. Thanks for the organization tips. When my pantry isn’t organized it drives me NUTS to say the least and I too am OCD about things facing the same way too – LOL #BlogelinaCommentathon

  40. I coupon so I Love to reorganize my pantry pretty often! I like when you say be brutal, and get rid of the gross haha. I try not to even let the gross stay long enough to collect the spice dust. Keeping an organized pantry does take some time but it saves so much time and actually money too. My family and I are going to Disney World in November so I’ve basically stopped shopping for the next few months and am living out of the pantry!

  41. Such great tips!! I try and organize mine every few months. There are those days you get home from the store and just toss things, since you don’t have time, and it’s nice to have them go where they are supposed to! Loved finding this post on the #BlogelinaCommentathon

  42. Stopping by from the Commentathon. Great organization tips. I do not have a pantry (sad, I know). But I do have a cabinet that I have claimed for dried/canned goods. I know what you mean about the random dust coating on the shelves!

  43. I always put the expiration dates on all my pantry items to ensure they will be used before the expiration date. I also no longer stockpile because I may have save a ton of money getting items for pennies, but when I had to throw most everything away due to being expired, it really wasn’t worth it. I put all my new items in the back and move everything up front to be rotated.

  44. *hahaha* I recognise the OCD tendencies in me when it came to making sure the labels all face the right way! Some great tips here on how to organise your pantry; having just had a new kitchen fitted, I had no choice but to sort out my food out – it’s amazing (and quite shocking) what we’d managed to stockpile. Including some of the ‘gross’ foods that we were too polite to say no to!

    With blessings, Callie – London, UK #blogelina

  45. I always hated reorganizing my pantry when I had one. Believe it or not, my apartment had a pantry while only one of the houses I’ve ever lived in has had a pantry. I wish I had one now, considering that our kitchen cabinets can’t hold all the food we buy! LOL

  46. They add a little bit of handy shelf space. When there s room inside the pantry door, install wire shelves for storing small items like packaged sauces, mixes, spices, and extracts.

  47. This is excellent advice. We got invaded by pantry moths and it took me three month to get rid of them!

  48. Great tips for the pantry. We cleaned ours out about a year ago and it’s about time to do so again. We have a bunch of stuff in there that I know we have forgotten about and need to use up or throw out depending on how old it is. Thanks for the info.

  49. My resolution this year was to be more organized .So i really appreciate this post .Thanks for the helpful tips

  50. I dont have a pantry now but wish I did. They do cone in handy. Much better than a mess drawer or cupboard,like I have now.

  51. I have to organize this space regularly. My guys (jr & sr.) are slobs sometimes and move, shift, and generally undo my organizing. Drives me nuts lol. It’s MY space.

  52. Thank you for sharing this, I try to go through everything every couple of months. Thank you for this checklist.

  53. I am always trying to keep my spices/herbs in order but my husband just puts them back on the nearest shelf!
    Also wish I had a pantry but I have never had one

  54. That is a great looking pantry! I wish I had one. Our kitchen isn’t that big but defiantly need organized.

  55. This is something I really need to do. I have a bunch of popcorn seasonings I purchases and hate that are just sitting in there and I am constantly digging through my spices to find the one I need. I really need to get my butt in gear and get this done.

    • For me the worst thing is sample packs of things – I always keep them ‘ just in case” and end up having to dig theough them to find the things I want.

    • I always find it easier to write a piece like this rather than get on and do it – so hopefully mine will be done soon too 🙂

      • Ha. easier “said” than “done” right. I need to go through every food cabinet and donate or use this stuff up. I am on my way to food hoarding not good.

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