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5 Tips for Organizing Your Food Pantry

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Need ideas for getting your pantry in tip-top shape? 5 Tips for Organizing Your Food Pantry |

It can be a cupboard in your apartment, a shelving unit in your garage, or a separate room in your house. Whatever it looks like, a pantry acts as a functional space for storing canned goods, baking supplies and anything you just HAD to buy during that last double coupon offering at your supermarket. With winter months quickly approaching, it is a perfect time to start stocking up on non-perishable food items and creating an organized area for them. All the squirrels are doing it. Why not you?

Here are 5 easy ways to help your ‘inner squirrel’ get your food pantry organized…

Use Helper Shelves
Helper shelves (one of my favorite organizing products) double the horizontal space in your pantry, offering more space for canned goods, boxes, bottles, etc. They often come in 3-4 different widths and heights—some are width- and height-adjustable. Helper shelves can be found in the same aisle as other kitchen organizing products and purchased at general stores like Target or in specialty stores such as The Container StoreHelper Shelves = Saving Space

Group ‘Like-Foods’ Together
Group foods and/or products by type, brand, or ethnicity for easy retrieval. For example: Put all canned fruit in one area, brownie mixes on another part of the shelf, and all spaghetti sauce jars and boxes of pasta on a shelf separate from the other two. Now go to your pantry and gather ingredients for tonight’s lasagna dinner. How quickly did you locate the pasta and sauce? Probably, pretty darn fast since they’re now grouped together in one place…Grouping ‘Like-Foods’ Together = Saving Time

Keep it Neat and Orderly
Place cans/jars/bottles on shelves with labels facing front. Line up boxes with their ‘spines’ facing front (like library books) or facing forward depending upon your space limitations. This way you can scan the shelf quickly and find what you need in a matter of seconds. Disorganized shelves are a big time, money, (and food) waster. Orderly Shelves = Saving Time and Money

Take Inventory
Before you go to the supermarket, take inventory of your pantry shelves. Helpful Hint: Line up your cans/jars/bottles from the back of the pantry shelf to the front edge with labels facing forward. Depending upon their size as well as the size of the shelf, you may be able to line them up 3-4 deep. When you need a can/jar/bottle, take it from the front. When you see you have one left (hugging the back wall of the pantry), it’s time to put that item on your shopping list. Taking Inventory = Saving Money

Rotate Your Food
How many times have you found cans or boxes of food languishing behind an extra large cereal box? You don’t know how long it’s been there and you’re not planning on serving botulism for dinner, so that old can of peas you unearthed is money down the drain. Whether you line them up one in front of the other or stack them, it is important to rotate your boxes/cans/packages of food. If you usually buy cans of tuna in bulk and stack them 6-high on your shelf, don’t pile five new ones on top of one old can. Put that remaining can in the fridge and stack the new ones behind the old stack. You can take it a step further by dating your canned/boxed goods. It takes a bit of work but it’s worth it. Even non-perishables can perish…Rotated Food = Saving Money

What pantry items will you start organizing today?

About Stacey Agin Murray

Stacey is a professional organizer & speaker in New Jersey specializing in residential organizing, time, and paper management challenges. She also authored The Organized Bride’s Thank You Note Handbook: Let Systems and 101 Modern Sample Thank You Notes Take You From Overwhelmed to Organized.

Categories: Basic Organizing Principles, Container Store, Kitchen


10 responses to “5 Tips for Organizing Your Food Pantry”

  1. Seana Turner says:

    I love the term “helper shelves.” I’ve never been quite sure what to call these, but they really do make all the difference. So many pantries have large/deep shelves and the food just disappears inside. In addition to the freestanding ones, I like the shelves that hang off of the shelf above. Sometimes these offer just enough storage for that one small item!

    • Stacey Agin Murray says:

      I’m a big fan of those shelves that hang off the shelf above, too–a great use of ‘dead’ space. Whoever invented it would get a gold medal from me! Perfect for small items that would normally get lost on the shelf below.

  2. Shallow shelves in your pantry are wonderful so nothing gets forgot in the back. Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

    • Stacey Agin Murray says:

      Deep shelves=pantry dark hole. Shallow shelves are the right size to hold a few cans/boxes/packages of food so they don’t get lost or forgotten about.

  3. Liana George says:

    Great tips just in time for the holidays! I love the group like with like tip – I often tell clients to think of their pantry like a library for their food. Without defined categories, like fiction, non-fiction, etc, finding the book we want would be chaos! The same is true with our pantries…”like” categories makes finding the foods we need so much easier! Great post 🙂

    • Stacey Agin Murray says:

      I love that ‘library’ analogy–so true! I find that the grouping ‘like’ with ‘like’ principle gets the most ‘a ha moments’ from clients. Once they understand it and apply it, they experience that wonderful feeling of being able to locate their belongings more easily.

  4. I also like bins to hold like items. I have a bin for all teas, a bin for cat treats (would work for people treats as well), and a bin for small cans of tuna or salmon.

    • Stacey Agin Murray says:

      Bins are amazing at keeping smaller pantry items from getting lost, crushed, or scattered in a cabinet or pantry. I have a bin for onions, one for potatoes and one for the small bags of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered almonds that I’m addicted to. I wouldn’t want those to get lost or squished! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I’ve never thought of storing things together that will be used together, though it makes a lot of sense!

    • Stacey Agin Murray says:

      I found that arranging my pantry in this way saved me time when doing meal prep, cooking, and the times I do inventory before heading to the supermarket. With all the cooking I do, keeping the pantry organized like that is a necessity!

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