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Pantry Organization Ideas and Guidelines

Pantry Organization is about putting related items together and finding a designated place to store them. A well thought out plan on how each of your pantry items should be grouped together, how they should be stored and where to put them are keys to having successful organization whether you have a big walk-in pantry or just a small pantry closet. Bear in mind, that you need to make an investment in organizing products such as baskets, bins, and containers to make your pantry organization a success.

Below are the Pantry Organization Guidelines following the same principle of Kitchen Organizational Rules that I wrote in my article How to Organize Your Small Kitchen.

 Guideline 1 : Remove Everything From The Pantry.

Most of the time, it is better to start from scratch especially when you are new on your organizing journey. Getting everything out of your pantry will give you instant inventory of the following:

  • pantry supplies that you have not used for a while
  • pantry supplies that are about to expire
  • pantry supplies that are already expired
  • pantry supplies that you have overstocked

From doing this, you will also able to identify the following:

  • the items to keep
  • items you should not keep
  • pantry items you should stop buying
  • pantry supplies that you need to buy less to avoid overstocking

Remember that you only keep items that are useful for your everyday cooking. Then categorize each item according to its frequency of use, this will help you to know what item to put where .

High Frequently Used Items/Often : Store in easy access shelf that will not require your effort to grab them.
Medium Frequently Used Items/Once in a while : Store within the same area like the middle shelf or bottom shelf of your pantry.
Low Frequently Used Items/Very seldom or just use on certain occasions : Store at a distance that will require a ladder to access your kitchen essentials.

Guideline 2 : Do a Thorough Cleaning

Cleaning is always part of the organizing process! Take the opportunity to clean your pantry since you have already removed everything. It will make it a lot easier for you to clean every crevice of your pantry shelves.

Guideline 3 : Follow the 7 Pantry Organization Steps to Know What Item to Place Where

1. Gather and re-examine all pantry supplies and group them according to their Function, Frequency of Use and Location.

  • For Function –  Answer the question “What items do I have with similar use or function?  By answering this question, you will able to gather and identify items under the same function or items under the same family. See the examples below:
    • Entertaining Essentials Category:
      • napkins
      • paper plates
      • trays
      • toothpicks
      • straws
    • Food Containers Category:
      • plastic Food Storage Set.
      • glass Container with lid
    • Breakfast Category
      • oatmeal
      • grits
      • cereal
      • pancake Mix
      • coffee
      • tea
    • Baking Supplies Category:
      • all Purpose Flour
      • sugar
      • cinnamon
      • baking Chocolate
      • cocoa Powder
    • Snacks or Easy Quick Meal Category:
      • chicken Noodle Soup
      • ramen Noodles
      • chips and crackers
      • mixed Nuts
      • granola Bars
    • Oils and Condiments Category:
      • olive Oil
      • vinegar
      • soy Sauce
      • cooking Sauces
    • Herbs and Spices Category:
      • favorite Spices
    • Canned Goods Category:
      • tomato sauce
      • beans
      • tuna
      • chickpeas
      • chicken Broth
    • Grains and Pasta Category:
      • noodles
      • small star shape pasta
      • rice
      • red lentils
      • couscous
      • dried split peas
    • Kitchen Tools and Appliances Category
      • seldom-used Cooking Utensils
      • blender
      • food Processor
      • slow Cooker
      • rice Cooker
      • mixer
    • Produce Category
      • potato
      • onions and garlic
      • tomatoes
  • For Frequency of UseAnswer the question “How often do I use this supplies?” By answering this question you will able to come up with 3 subcategories (which are shown below) based on the item’s frequency of use:
    • High Frequently Used Items/Often: Pantry items that you use everyday or almost everyday.
    • Medium Frequently Used Items/Once in a while: Pantry items that you use once or twice a week or once a month.
    • Low Frequently Used Items/Very seldom or just on certain occasions : Pantry items you use on a certain occasion.
  • For Location Answer the question “Where do I use it?” By answering this question, you will able to identify what item to to put where as illustrated below:

Pantry Organization

2. Designate a Specific Location Per Category in your pantry shelf for pantry items or group of items based on their Function, Frequency of Use and Location.

  • All High Frequently Used Items under the same Function should be placed on an easy access shelf or in the most accessible spot in your pantry.
  • For Medium Frequently Used Items under the same Function these should be stored in a shelf that requires a bit of stretching or bending.
  • For Low Frequently Used Items under the same Function such as items used for special occasions, certain gatherings, these should be placed on the upper most shelf of the pantry. This will require you to use a ladder to access those items.

Reminders For Safety Purposes:

  • When choosing a location for your pantry staples you need to consider its size and its weight. Large or heavy pantry items should be placed at the bottom part of your pantry.
  • Kitchen Tools and Equipment– All kitchen tools and equipment that are not frequently used and bulky such as rice cookers, blenders, mixers, and slow cookers should be stored at the lower shelf of your pantry.

3. Put everything in its place – Place all of your pantry supplies in their designated shelf. Arrange them in an efficient way so every inch of space that you have available is used.

  • Follow Produce Storage Restrictions– Keep in mind that there are some produce that should not be stored together in a bin such as potatoes and onions. Also store your bread and flour away from pantry items with a strong smell such as curry powder, cumin, etc. so they don’t absorb any of the flavors. To be safe, try to copy how the grocery stores the food items.
  • Condiment/cooking sauces and spices ideally should be stored close to your range or stove. But if you are the type that likes to buy big jar of spices, 16 oz or more, and an number of extra bottles of condiments, then you need to allocate a pantry space for them.
  • Pick and Choose What To Decant and What Not To Decant – After looking at beautiful pantry photos of the famous personalities, it’s really very tempting to decant all pantry essentials into matching glass storage and to put artfully designed labels on them. You suddenly want to go buy those beautiful pantry jars to transfer all your dry good into them. That feeling is understandable because they are very satisfying to look at. But you need to understand that it will require a lot of work to maintain that and can be very expensive. If you are not sure that you can maintain the decanting process, then choose only pantry goods that need be decanted for food safety. Below are just a few examples of items that need to be decanted to prevent infestation:
    • flour – rice – sugar – cornflour – left over cookies or sweets

4. Use of space saving organizing products to help you utilize your space effectively as well as help you to follow the first in first out basis.

  • Use an organizing product to store your pantry essentials in a way that helps you to follow the first in first out basis and help you to maximize the usage of pantry space.

First In-First Out System (FIFO) – is an accounting method in which the first item bought should be the first item to use. This will help you to consume your food before it expires.

Pantry Organization

Use of basket or bins will help you to easily push the older items to the forefront and adding the newly bought products behind the older stock. This will help you to be sure you use the older items first. BUY FROM AMAZON


Pantry Organization

Buy a can dispenser with a FIFO can-rotation design. BUY FROM AMAZON




  • Organizing products also help you to use every inch of your pantry space. If you have a small pantry, it is essential to use an organizing product that will help you to utilize every inch of pantry space. Using the right organizing products will make your pantry feel twice as big.

Pantry OrganizationA Stackable Organizer Bin is always a great buy because it helps you to maximize the usage of space as well make the items accessible BUY FROM AMAZON


Sliding Under Shelf Hanging Wire Storage Drawer Organizer – great product to utilize the shelf space as well as an easy access to items. BUY FROM AMAZON


Smart Design Cabinet Storage Shelf Rack - Medium (8.5 x 13.25 Inch) - Non-Slip Feet - Steel Metal Frame - Rust Resistant Coating - Cup, Dish, Counter & Pantry Organization - Kitchen [White] - Set of 6

The Storage Helper Shelf creates two rows of space for your pantry allowing you to store more pantry items. BUY FROM AMAZON


Space Saving Lazy Susans Cabinet Organizer 2-Tier Height Adjustable – maximize the storage capacity and offers easy accessibility. BUY FROM AMAZON


Metal Wire Basket with Wheels and Cover, 4-tier Stackable Rolling Fruit Basket Utility Rack, Storage Organizer Bin for Kitchen, Pantry Closet, Bedroom, Bathroom Stackable Rolling Basket is ideal to utilize the bottom area of your pantry cabinet and offers easy accessibility because of attached wheels. BUY FROM AMAZON


  • Storage products that matches your storage needs –Buy a storage container that will store the whole pantry item. This will also help you to monitor your pantry inventory effectively. Do not buy too big or too small storage container from what your storage needs. A container that is too big will occupy too much space in your pantry while a container that is too small will create the usage of multiple containers which will also result in using more space.  Aside from that, you should also consider the size of the jars or containers. They should be matched to how you want to access your pantry goods. If you prefer to use a scoop like you would with rice or flour, then you need to put them in the container with a bigger or wider mouth. See Size of Pantry Containers Matters


pantry container5 lbsRice Airtight Dry Food Storage Containers – Will store 5lbs of rice. If you typically buy a 5lb bag of rice and you want it to put in container, buy a container that will store the whole bag of rice.


5. Label Each Designated Location Per Category – this helps you and your loved ones to locate the pantry items easily as well as keeping your pantry organized. This will also help you spot the items you need to replenish.

Image Source: Pinterest Classyclutter.net

Rules in labeling: Labeling is necessary for easy identification of the content inside a container especially if the container is not glass or not made with clear plastic. It also needs to indicate the expiration of the content for safety purposes. See article about Pantry Organization Labels Essential and Its Benefits.

6. Orient your loved ones about the good news! Tell them the changes that you have made and what and where to find supplies in your pantry and let them know that you are expecting them to put things back in the same location where they got them.

Image Source: Pinterest iheartnaptime.net

7. Make the necessary changes if something is not working out or your needs have changed. Always remember that you should arrange your pantry essentials based on your current needs and if those needs change, then your pantry organization should also change.

Keep in mind that true Pantry Organization means that all your pantry essentials have their own designated place and are arranged in a systematic way to help you easily use your space in comfort which will make your everyday living easier.



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