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Weekend Project: Organize Your Pantry

Family cleaning out their pantry.

An organized pantry makes prepping meals easier and helps keep you from needlessly throwing away food that expired before you got to it. Knowing where and how to shelve your foods is the key to a perfect pantry.

Before You Get Started 

You’ll have to pull everything out of your pantry. Starting with a blank slate will allow you to make sure each food item goes in the right place, that all similar things are together, and that you’re organizing by expiration date.

Before you pull everything out, grab a trash can and your recycle bin. If you find expired food, cereal or grains with bugs in them (it happens), or cans and jars with broken seals and lumps, you’ll want to deal with them immediately.

Get some tools for organizing as well. BPA-free plastic storage containers and even glass storage containers will come in handy.

Clear Out the Pantry

Pull everything from the pantry and immediately toss expired foods. If they’re in recyclable containers, empty the food in the trash, rinse or clean the container, and recycle that. Non-perishable items you no longer have a use for can be set aside to donate to a local food pantry. (Be honest—we all buy food sometimes that we decide we don’t like anymore, and it sits in the pantry gathering dust.)

Get Organized

Put all soups together, whether they’re in a can or box. Put cereal with other cereal, including hot cereal. Once you have everything organized where it goes, you can transfer open boxes of cereal, noodles, and other bagged and boxed dry foods to plastic containers. The plastic containers will help keep them fresher for longer, and they’ll make your pantry more neat and organized. Use clear plastic, so you can readily see what’s inside.

Prep the Pantry

Wipe dust off of cans, jars, and boxes as you’re pulling them out. Then, clean off the shelves in your pantry before you get to organizing your food.

If your shelves don’t have liners, line them. If your shelving in the pantry consists of wire racks, consider buying some cheap cookie sheets. Measure the space, so you get the right size. This will help keep items from tipping on the shelves, and will make it so you can stack cans of the same food without playing dominoes in your pantry!

Putting Stuff Back in the Pantry

This is where things get a little more complicated. Don’t just put food wherever it will fit—you want to keep everything organized, pay attention to expiration dates, and ensure nothing is hidden in the pantry.

Start on the lower shelves. This is where you want to put heavier items, like canned goods. This is for safety as much as it is for keeping critters like mice out of your food (or at least making them have to work more for it).

Boxed and lighter items can go up higher. If you have children in your house, make sure foods that are okay for them to grab are within their reach.

Use tiered shelves so that you can put multiple items of different types in the same area. If you only have a can or two of one item, you won’t need the entire shelf space for them, but you also want to use up as much space as you can.

Organize by Expiration Date

As you’re putting your food items back on your pantry shelves, be sure to put items that expire soonest in front. When you bring in new food after a trip to the grocery store, always put it behind the stuff you already have. This is how grocery stores organize food, and it will help you waste less food in your home.

Use the Doors and Extra Wall Space

If you keep more than food in your pantry, like storage bags and your reusable shopping bags, don’t let them take up precious shelf space. Hang bins and racks on the inside of your pantry door. Hang a hook on an open wall space to hang grocery bags.

Put Stuff in the Right Spot the First Time

To cut down on future pantry organizing, always put groceries away as soon as you bring them home. Put away the cereal after breakfast, noodles after cooking dinner, and whatever else you pull out of the pantry throughout the day to use for cooking or snacks.

Ongoing: Check Your Pantry Weekly 

Take a look through your pantry each week before you head to the grocery store. You’ll save money at the grocery by knowing what you already have on hand. An organized pantry will make it easier for you to track what foods you’re using and which ones you’re not.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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