wikiHow to Keep a Pantry Organized

The secret heart of every kitchen is its pantry. Stored in the pantry is everything we use as the basis for our meals, along with snacks and sometimes pet food too. However, a poorly managed pantry can be a huge source of frustration, waste, and can even attract pests. You can run your pantry so that it's both practical and waste efficient. Continue to Step 1 to get started.


  1. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 1
    Take an inventory of what you already have. This inventory should include the product type as well as how many of each item you have. If you're really keen, type up a list and use it for future reference; using a laptop, notebook, or iPad as you work through the pantry can make it easier to type straight in.
  2. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 2
    Clear out old food. Use this inventory opportunity to dispose of anything past its use-by or sell-by date. Also toss anything you don't ever intend to eat (for example, that exotic stuff you bought as it was a special price, but ended up wondering what to do with). With dated foods, while many may hypothetically be okay, it's still a risk. Dispose of anything that may be starting to spoil or is infested with moths or weevils. It can be quite surprising that food that otherwise looks fine has already spoiled, so check closely.
    • If the food is in good condition and within its lifespan, donate it or give it to someone who can use it.
  3. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 3
    Look at how your foods are stocked on your shelves. To reduce the messiness and difficulty in finding things, it's important to plan how to group the foods together. Quite often the most frequently used foods, such as tea or coffee, seasonings, sauces and frequently used tinned goods occupy the shelves in the middle range, as this is the easiest area to access.
    • It's usually best to group cereals, flour, pasta, rice and dried beans together.
    • Then it's practical to group all canned goods and all jar products together.
    • Or, you may find it better to group things by type, such as preserves in one group, but pasta sauce in another. Sort in the way that is most practical for you.
  4. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 4
    Invest in small shelving units. These will enable you to double stack tinned goods, jars and other condiments, creating more space and making it far easier to see what's in the pantry with just a glance.
    • Sachet foods, such as spices, desserts, instant soups and other products can end up being a hassle in a pantry because they can slide behind other food and don't sit neatly. It's best to place all sachets together in one container (like a basket or a lunchbox with or without its lid, or if practical, store the sachet contents in a jar. This works well for spices and you can recycle the jars.
    • Consider removing sachets from bulky boxes and adding the sachets to smaller storage containers. If the box has cooking instructions, cut these off and tape them to the container lid for easy reference. This way surplus boxes can be gotten rid of to save space.
    • Use a pantry "Lazy Susan" to be able to turn items around. This item is great for spice and herb containers, cans, and condiments. Look for a double decker one to make the most of the space.
  5. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 5
    Don't leave heat sensitive food in the pantry. Unless your pantry is naturally and consistently cold, don't store anything that is heat sensitive (such as eggs, chocolate, or butter) in there unless you have something such as a polystyrene box or other heat-proof container to store them in. The fridge is usually undesirable for some foods that only need a cool environment (especially chocolate), but in hot environments, it's the best alternative.
  6. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 6
    Keep your pantry clean by wiping the shelves and products down every week or so. As the doors of pantries seldom stop swinging, lots of dust and other debris can find their way in and settle on foods. Moreover, general movement of spices, herbs, grains, and packets of food tends to leave a trail of food residue on the shelves. This is bad if you store things such as bread on the shelf, where it is better to store them in a paper bag. It's also a vermin attractant, so be sure to clean it all up regularly.
  7. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 7
    Place heavy products on the lower shelves. This makes them much easier to retrieve and less likely to cause injury if they fall.
  8. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 8
    Avoid storing any foodstuffs on the floor. Foodstuffs situated on the floor space makes it much harder to clean the floor and vermin or pests can hide behind them or be attracted to the food more readily.
  9. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 9
    Invest in some sealed containers. Sealed containers are ideal to store foods that can perish when exposed to the environment; sealing them in will help to prevent spoilage. It can also prevent a weevil or other pest outbreak from spreading. Many foods, such as rice, sugar and flours already come sold in resealable screw top plastic canisters that can be cleaned and reused to store other foods. Charity stores also sell them cheaply secondhand, including the normally expensive products such as Tupperware®, but you don't always get matching containers.
    • Gradually build up your sealed containers whenever there are sale prices on them. This is the most affordable way to collect them provided you're patient. Also keep an eye out for people moving house who list such items on online auctions; you can grab an entire set of pantry containers for next to nothing if you're lucky – just be sure to wash them well.
  10. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 10
    Practice FIFO. FIFO refers to: "first in, first out". This means that you use up the food stock in order that you purchased it. This prevents old foodstuffs sitting on the shelf for many years and ensures that what you're eating is at its freshest.
    • Supermarkets practice FIFO, especially in the dairy or refrigerated section. The oldest stock is usually right at the front of the shelf, with the fresher foods behind these. Shoppers who don't take care often reach for the nearest product and consequently take home foods that will not last as long. It's recommended to check the spoilage dates and buy the freshest one that has the longest lifespan; such smart shopping will prolong the life of your foodstuffs.
  11. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 11
    Pin up a whiteboard or a magnetic shopping list you can reuse inside the pantry. That way when you are cooking and use the last of something, you can write it down to buy more while it is fresh in your memory.
  12. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 12
    Put back ingredients where you took them from as you use them. If necessary, label the place, but this can be a little over the top unless you're really absentminded. It is a lot easier to stay tidy if you get into this habit of returning ingredients straight after use and a well managed pantry is easy to return stock into because the space where the item should be hasn't been jammed with other things.
    • Educate other people in your household where things are, so that when they want to cook, it's easy for everyone to find what they need. Also encourage them to put everything back in its place; simply make this a rule of participating in a well-functioning kitchen.
  13. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 13
    Look at how you cook and match it to how you shop. If you do a lot of baking, it makes sense to buy flour in larger portions to save costs and to take advantage of bulk-savings. The same applies for rice, pasta, beans and other pulses. The aim however, is to store them properly in screw top, or rubber seal containers (or any good sealed containers), so try to get the container before you get the large quantity purchases. Also buy or make scoops, cups, and other implements that will help you to transfer the ingredients from the storage containers to your kitchen workspace; it's not much fun lugging a very heavy flour container to where you need it!
    • Non perishable foods on special can be a good bargain, providing it is a genuine special, and not just because the foods are nearing their spoil dates. Pasta sauces are sometimes sold as a special for several jars and if it is something you will use in a reasonable time, it's fine to take advantage of these specials. On the other hand, if you know it's too much food, leave it for those who will use it rather than having food going off in your house.
  14. Image titled Keep a Pantry Organized Step 14
    Every month, go into your pantry and do a check. Anything that is in surplus, or has limited lifespan left you should plan to use within the week so it is not wasted. Throw out anything old and be sure to remove empty packets and containers.


  • Once the pantry is in order, apart from a little wipe-down of the shelves, they are really low maintenance.
  • Keep children and animals out of the pantry whenever possible.
  • When choosing storage containers, square options will store more in less space than round ones will. Not all containers are food safe, and some will leave food with a flavor or odor.
  • It makes it far easier to cook when your pantry is in order firstly because you know what you have (so don't end up buying more than you need), but also that you know where it is and how to use it.
  • To help motivate you keep your pantry in order, take and keep a picture next to it. This also helps as a guide for replacing items after using them.

Things You'll Need

  • Storage containers
  • Lazy Susan's for a pantry
  • Shelves
  • Canisters
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Shopping list or checklist and marker

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Food Preparation