Whether you’re organizing a small pantry or looking for walk-in pantry organization ideas, these pantry organization tips and tricks will make cleaning and upkeep a cinch! Check out how to maximize food storage and minimize the mess when creating an easy and accessible family pantry storage space.
Looking for more kitchen and pantry organization ideas and hacks? These free printable pantry labels are a beautiful way to label your food storage containers, and here’s 30 genius kitchen storage hacks you’ll love!
Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve lived in a home that has a dedicated pantry. I’ve always had to get creative about how carve out space for food storage in cabinets or random areas (once, a basement) due to the lack of a pantry. So I’ve learned how to maximize storage in even the smallest (almost non-existent!) spaces, and which has come in handy in just about every room in our home– not just our kitchen!
Our current home– PRAISE!– does have a pantry, a huge walk-in sized one in fact. At first, I didn’t know WHAT to do with it with all that space. Slowly though, I divided it into zones and put into place some space-saving tricks and made it work for us. Now, it’s one of my favorite spaces– utilitarian, yes, but it’s neat and tidy and makes finding what I need quick & easy. And you KNOW I love systems that make daily tasks easy!
With a few simple organization tips in place that can TRULY work in about any sized pantry or cabinet, it’s easy to find what we need instantly. It’s more like a family command center with the added bonus of easily being able to see exactly what we want and clean up any accidental messes. We store cleaning and emergency supplies along with items we use on a daily basis, and I’m going to show you how you can do the same no matter what size pantry you have.
What Supplies do you Need to Organize Your Pantry?
Before you get started, here’s a handy list of supplies to have on hand:
- shelf liner and scissors
- permanent marker and a dry erase marker
- trash bags and recycling bins
- cleaning supplies
- labels or label maker
- pen and paper (or a notes or shopping list app on your Smartphone, if that’s how you roll)
As for storage containers and baskets, I urge you to wait until you know exactly what you need before purchasing them! If you’d like to gather what you already have around the house in terms of bins and baskets, that’s a good starting point– you can add or switch them out later. While you’re working on the pantry, make a list of the clear containers and baskets you need so you don’t waste money on storage items that don’t work for your family.
How to Organize Your Pantry Step-by-Step
Here’s my proven step-by-step process for cleaning and organizing your pantry. Once you have this system in place, upkeep is minimal and you’ll only need to tidy it up every so often with a seasonal or annual clean-out to check expiration dates and wipe the shelves. Pinky swear!
(HUGE thanks to Duck Brand for partnering with me on this sponsored post so I can share helpful content with support from one of my favorite brands at no cost to you, my lovely readers!)
1. Set up a staging area.
The very first step is to set up a staging area where you will sort the contents of your pantry and use as a workspace. You’ll need an empty surface such as a table, island or counter. Also get your trash and recycling bins out and ready; here’s the aftermath of my pantry cleanout:
I used one big box to gather all the smaller boxes to be recycled:
Not pictured, but I used our kitchen table and island as a place to sort as I emptied the pantry in step two.
2. Empty out your pantry space, and/or anywhere you store food. All of it, cabinets included.
Take everything out of your pantry and sort items into the following categories as you go:
- keep (sort into smaller categories on a flat surface as you do this, such as ‘baking’, ‘snacks’, and ‘canned goods’)
- toss (expired food or empty wrappers)
- recycle (empty boxes and recyclable containers)
- donate (food that’s not yet expired but you aren’t using will be appreciated by a food pantry)
- move (items that belong in another part of your home)
This is going to look like a big ‘ol mess, but remember– it’ll be worth it. Trust the process!
3. Clean it.
Whether you have a full pantry or cabinet space, get in there and do some deep cleaning. Start from the top shelf and work your way down. Then, vacuum and clean the floors. Now you have a sparkling pantry, ready to showcase your delicious food!
4. Add shelf liner.
This is one step I almost skipped. When we first moved in, I put all my food on the shelves and by week two they started to look awful! Dings, scratches, chipped paint– UGH! All the shelves in my pantry looked like this, BIG mistake.
That’s when I realized lining all the shelves with EasyLiner shelf liner would be my best bet. Not only would it add a layer or protection to the shelving itself, it would make any spills easier to clean. Plus, it gives my shelves a nice, finished look! If you have wire shelves, this is a great way to catch spills and food from falling through the wires.
I debated whether I should go with a marble pattern or clear. This marble patterned EasyLiner has a smooth top and gripped bottom surface to keep it in place without an adhesive. In the end, I chose the clear liner but the marble liner is gorgeous and I have other ideas for that roll; you know how much I love that marble!
I love how the clear EasyLiner has little ‘grips’ so I don’t have to worry about glass jars slipping off shelves. ‘Specially when little hands are reaching into the candy jar while balancing on a step stool (ask me how I know, haha!)
PS– you can get EasyLiner at your local Walmart in tons of different colors and surface textures to match your personal style in case you’re not obsessed with marble like me. 😉
4. Decant items into containers and baskets.
THE most impactful task was decanting items into clear containers and matching baskets. You can find both on a budget too, you don’t need to spend a lot to get this look! But having a set of baskets and containers that all match makes the pantry look SO much more organized. I used OXO POP containers, but you could upcycle mason jars or find containers at discount stores.
The containers save tons of space because they use every last inch. You can stack them on top of one another, put taller ones behind and smaller ones in front, and so much more.
As for baskets, the key is to get ones ones that match. You can find inexpensive baskets in discount stores, my advice is to go for a neutral color you can easily match in case you want to add onto them over time.
Root vegetables should be stored in a ventilated but dark place so I used wire magazines files and lined the bottoms with EasyLiner to make them mess-free. I used the bottom of the basket as a template to cut the liner:
and then added it to the bottom to prevent dirt and onion skin from going everywhere!
Grouping like items saves space, and looks good too. Cookie cutters double as decor when stored in a large glass jar.
You may be wondering– CARRIE– how do you know when the food expires if it’s decanted into jars? Easy. I simply write the expiration date on the back with a dry erase marker. I also do this with ratios for cooking– like my quinoa, for example. I have the ratio of water to quinoa written on the back so I can easily reference it when cooking up a batch. I store both a dry erase marker and permanent marker in a basket in the pantry marked ‘Household’ so it’s always at my fingertips when needed.
We don’t have a lot of space in our mudroom, so I use the pantry as a spot to store household items we use daily such as my daughter’s hairbrush/elastics (we do her hair before running out the door in the AM), sunscreen, and my workout gear. They look organized in matching baskets right at the front of our pantry, and now I never need to hunt for a bandaid or sunglasses.
5. Arrange pantry items into zones.
We’re getting closer to the finish line! This part is crucial to keeping your pantry organized, because it creates a system that your family will (hopefully) learn and use each time they grab something from the shelves or put something away. As the adage goes, a place for everything and everything in it’s place.
Whether you have only a few shelves or an entire walk-in pantry, you can use ZONES to stay organized! It’s time to put everything back into your pantry and cabinet by ZONE. Here’s the zones we used to group all our items:
- household and emergency supplies
- paper products
- canned goods- I used expandable shelves and it makes it super easy to see what we have
- snacks- individual sized bagged snacks in one basket, open bags of snacks in the other, stacking bins for smaller bags and snack bars, and clear containers with commonly used snack items like popcorn kernels
- baking ingredients and mixes- mixes are easy to grab when you utilize the corners of the pantry by adding Lazy Susans, and we put other ingredients in clear containers so we can see what we have (tip: use a dry erase marker to note the expiration date right on the back of the container!)
- breakfast items and cereal
- quick meals and pasta
- gluten-free flours & mixes
- cleaning supplies (and playdough apparently, lol)
- wine and beverages
6. Label the containers and baskets.
Now, my favorite part! Make sure everything is labeled so there’s no excuses for anyone to put things back in the wrong place. You can use a labelmaker (I swear by this one), these FREE printable pantry labels (there’s two styles, the one I used and another gorgeous look on a black circle), and/or bin clips like I used on the baskets.
7. Add hooks and pockets to walls and the back of the door to utilize every inch.
Don’t waste valuable space! Use hooks on the walls to hang aprons or stepstools, over-the-door shoe holders on the back of the door for small items, and floor space for large baskets of backup supplies!
This is, officially, the most difficult to photograph post I’ve ever done; no natural light + small space = I tried my best, ha! I hope to get my photographer out here and do better for you, but that’s an overall idea of how we’ve organized our walk-in pantry with tips I’ve picked up along the way from all those years when our ‘pantry’ was stuffed into small kitchen cabinets, baskets above the cabinets, and even wire racks in the basement.
Hopefully you picked up a pantry organization idea or two! How do you organize your pantry? Are you dealing with pantry storage in a small space or looking for more walk-in pantry organization ideas?
Disclosure: many thanks to Shurtape and Duck Brand for sponsoring this post. As always, opinions are 100% my own.