How to Organise Your Pantry Effectively

Mitchell Fisher By Mitchell Fisher Updated 27 May 2022

A pantry is easily the most convenient place to keep produce, condiments, and other foods as well as miscellaneous items that you can’t hold in your kitchen drawers or your fridge.

The biggest advantage of a pantry is the amount of space that you have at your disposal, but the biggest disadvantage is that with all of the items that you put in there, it’s likely going to get very cluttered very fast.

If you have an overstuffed pantry or just want to prevent it from getting to a point where you can’t find anything, then we think that our article on how to organise your pantry can help you get and keep things sorted with very little difficulty.

Start Fresh

Before we actually tell you how to organise your pantry, you’ll need to clean it out first if it’s cluttered. Collect all of the food, boxes, bags, jars, and other items that you have inside and take them out.

Go over the entire space with a wet cloth and a vacuum cleaner, and make sure that you get all of the collected dust, crumbs, and other dirt from the shelves and the floor. Once you’re done, go ahead and throw away anything that you don’t need and anything that’s passed its expiration date.

Now that all of your items are in one place, take a short inventory check and start sorting into small groups.

Develop a Sorting System

The first thing that you should do when figuring out how to organise your pantry is create a system. This way, you’ll know exactly where you’ve put your spices, and you won’t have to fumble in between or behind cereal boxes looking for the paprika.

Here are a few basic tips that you can follow when creating a sorting system:

  • Sort your foods by type;
  • Create a canned goods section;
  • Create a boxed items section;
  • Create a baking goods section;
  • Create a section where you can put the miscellaneous items that don’t really go anywhere else;
  • Place the everyday food items that you use the most on the right side;
  • Keep most of the cooking supplies and other more rarely used items to the left.

It’s worth mentioning that the left-to-right rule is arbitrary, and if you’re a lefty, you could go inverse. 

We’d also recommend setting the most used items either at eye level or just below. This way, you won’t have to stretch or bend over to get some cereal every day. We’d also reserve the lower shelves for the heavier items so you won’t have to keep lifting them. The top shelves can be used for anything you want to keep but don't use often.

Pay Attention to the Expiration Dates

This point sort of goes hand in hand with the previous one, but we thought it was important enough to merit its own section.

You should probably check the expiration dates on your food items at least once a week or so to make sure that it’s not gone past the due date. Knowing which items will expire soon is also useful as you’ll remember to use them before then. In line with this, another way to sort your pantry is organising the items by their expiration dates.

Simply place the food that’s closer to spoiling to the right and place all of the items with a much longer shelf life to the left. 

As we said, this system is simply based on how most people pick out items from right to left, so if you prefer to place the food that’s closer to expiring on the left, feel free to do so.

Separate Certain Items

Now that we’ve pointed out the importance of having a sorting system in your pantry, we should also point out that it’s equally as important to know when to deviate from the system and separate certain foods from the rest.

Certain vegetables just don’t go well together. If they’re just left bare on the shelves, items with strong odours like onions or garlic can mingle with fruits or vegetables next to them and distinctly change their flavour due to the strong emanating smell.

In the case of the onions, these vegetables are also known to induce early sprouting in potatoes, so not only can they affect the taste, but they can also spoil certain other items.

Luckily, there is no need to separate all of your vegetables, and simply giving the onions and garlic a bit of breathing room should be enough to stop them from causing any damage in your pantry.

Keep most of your veggies to one side, and place the strong-smelling foods on the other, preferably surrounded by jars or well-sealed containers so that the smells can’t seep in.

Doing only this should be more than enough to prevent any early spud sprouting and keep veggies from going bad prematurely.

Use Clear Plastic or Glass Containers

A lot of items like flour, rice, sugar, and so on come in bags or soft containers that make storage a bit more difficult than it needs to be. This bag packaging method isn’t bad by itself, and a lot of the time, the larger quantities of these sorts of items can only be found in bags rather than standard boxes or plastic containers.

However, balancing soft bags on a narrow pantry shelf is very annoying, and placing them next to each other can lead to them slipping and falling over. They’re also very easy to break, and all it takes is one small snare before you accidentally open a hole and all of the contents end up making a mess on the floor of your pantry.

Keeping your rice or sugar in jars or plastic containers is a much more efficient way to stack them on your shelves. The solid containers are much easier to organise, and they can also be stacked on top of each other to open a bit more space. You can also give them large labels so that you can immediately see what’s inside without having to pick them up.

The one drawback to using jars is that the glass itself is pretty heavy, so it might add a bit of weight to the shelf. This shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t stack too many jars on a single shelf, and the shelf will usually show signs of sagging in the middle if there’s too much weight on it, so any weight issues are pretty easy to detect and avoid.

Keep in mind that we specifically mention clear plastic containers so that you can see through to the inside. This way, you’ll be able to see if the food that you’ve placed inside has accidentally gone mouldy and needs to be thrown out. 

Use Large Plastic Containers

Vegetables and fruits are too big to fit in a jar, and the bags that they come in are a bit too cumbersome to put on a shelf. Since they usually can’t fit on the shelves without toppling over, people place them on the ground. The problem here is that just putting them on the ground below the shelves doesn’t really keep things organised, and you’ll have bags on top of bags pretty soon.

If you don’t want to go digging through a dozen different bags wondering where you put the flour, then the best thing to do is buy yourself a few large plastic containers. Develop some sort of sorting system for these containers, slap a few labels on the front so that you know exactly what’s in each one, and you’ll have a much easier time finding things in your pantry.

Keep in mind that while we only mentioned fresh produce as an example here, there are plenty of other food items that come in large bags or soft containers that can’t fit on the shelves, so they need to be put into containers for sorting purposes.

Buy Some Extra Shelves

Going one step beyond the previous segment, if you don’t have enough space in your pantry for all of the items you want to store, it may be time to think about expanding.

Suppose you don’t have enough space in your kitchen or home for another door-sized pantry shelf setup. In that case, you can still either get something like a tall and slender upright high standing floor cabinet or a smaller but still convenient storage cabinet with drawers and shelves.

You can also just put down a few more small plastic containers and place them wherever you have the space for them. They’re still going to be useful even if they’re in the living room, so if you’re hurting for pantry space, they’re always a viable option.

Every Pantry Is Different

Not everyone has a walk-in pantry, and not everyone has the same amount of space on the walls or the same number of shelves. This is mainly why we kept our advice to general organisation tips rather than instructions on sorting very specific food items you might not even use.

The main point that we were trying to convey was that organising your pantry actually takes very little effort. All you need to do is pay attention to a few minor things such as expirations dates and sorting out your items to know what goes where.

Keep things simple, don’t buy more food than what you can reasonably store, and you’ll develop an effective pantry organisation system of your own in no time.