If there is one place in the home that I organize religiously, it’s our kitchen pantry. Our home in Los Angeles is pretty small, so we don’t have the luxury of a nice walk-in closet to store our food. I try to keep our pantry as tidy as I can, but every January I like to embark on a giant kitchen pantry organization project to start the year fresh.
Today I’m sharing my tips for kitchen pantry organization to help your declutter your cabinets.
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Prepping for Kitchen Pantry Organization
Toss Expired Items
First, you need to make sure that before you work on your pantry organization, you toss any expired items. If an item doesn’t have an expiration date and you can’t remember where you may have used it as an ingredient for something, that goes, too.
By clearing out expired items first, you can be sure that you’re organizing fresh items and giving everything its appropriate space.
Separate Pantry Items Into Categories
Once you’ve gotten rid of all old food, take a look at your remaining inventory and break things up into categories. This can be as generic as Snacks, or as specific as Nuts.
Here are a few categories in our pantry:
- Nuts & Seeds
- Pasta & Grains
Organizing Your Food
Source Bins to Contain Categories
After you create your pantry categories, you’ll be able to see how much space to allocate for each. I like to have large, clear bins for each category. The Snacks category in my pantry takes up a lot more real estate on our shelves than Vitamins, so it gets a much larger bin.
When picking out your bins for your kitchen pantry organization project, be sure to measure. This includes the width of your shelves as well as the depth. Clear bins come in all sorts of depths and heights, so this is a critical part in organizing. By measuring, you can be sure something isn’t too deep for your pantry. This also saves a lot of back and forth with returns or store visits.
Our cabinet shelves are adjustable, and most clear kitchen bins are never too high for a pantry, but it’s always good to check the height, too. I prefer bins that are at least 6” tall so that you can carry or move them without the contents falling out.
I’ve been slowly transitioning to these bins because they’re 10” and fit perfectly right to the edge of our shelves without peeking over them.
Use Clear Canisters to Keep Items Fresh
Other than making your pantry have a more streamlined and cohesive appearance, clear canisters help keep food fresh.
I don’t put every single thing in a clear canister, but I’ll usually use clear canisters for items that may get stale quickly (cereal), or larger packaged goods (flour and sugar). I like this clear container for cereal, and use OXO POP containers for pasta, baking ingredients, and nuts.
Another reason to use your measuring tape? If you plan on placing a lot of canisters inside of a category bin, you’ll need to be sure that the bin is large enough.
Keep a Section for Back Stock Items
What is pantry Back Stock? Back Stock is anything extra that doesn’t have a home in your new, nicely organized space.
Maybe not all of the flour fits into your container for it. The remaining flour in the bag is Back Stock. You don’t need it right now, so it can go have its own home until you need to refill. I purchased spice jars to decant my spices so that my cabinet has a cohesive look. Any spices I don’t totally empty go in the Back Stock bins. Finally, if you refilled something you were running low on but have not emptied it yet – Back Stock. You do not need 2 identical strawberry jellies in your fridge. Finish the opened one first, and put the extra in Back Stock so you don’t have doubles or triples taking up prime real estate.
My only exception to this is for canned goods. I have dedicated space in my pantry for canned goods, so I’ll stack multiples of the same item there. But, if you don’t have space to do that, the Back Stock system obviously works for them!
PRO TIP: Put items you use less frequently on higher shelves and items you use regularly closer to eye level. I house my Back Stock bins on the highest shelf in our pantry. That’s because I only reach for them when I need to refill/replace something, or before a grocery run.
Use Labels for Easy Identification
Once you have everything nicely in its dedicated space, the last step in pantry organization is labeling! This makes it super easy to identify whatever you need. If you’ve done all of the work of nicely categorizing your pantry, you want to be able to look at a bin and know exactly what’s inside of it without having to reach into it.
I made my own labels, but Etsy is a great resource for a variety of pantry and spice labels. You can also buy these pantry labels from The Home Edit collection at The Container Store if you want a handwritten look.
Don’t get too caught up in labeling everything so specifically. If you’re constantly be re-labeling it’s not really a sustainable organization method. While some of my clear canisters always contain the exact item inside (cereal, sugar, oats, etc.), my other canisters don’t. For example, I may have walnuts in a container one month, but the following month it could house cashews. It’s okay to label these as a category: Nuts. The same goes for rice or pasta. Unless you are a couscous fanatic who always has couscous on hand, label the canister Pasta. (Then you can put penne in there one day if you decide to get wild!)
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Tips for Maximizing Pantry Organization Space
Utilize Lazy Susan Turntables
On higher shelves that may be just out of sight, use a lazy Susan turntable. In some instances, spinning the turntable to see your things may work better for you than pulling out a bin every time to want to grab what’s up there.
You’d be surprised how much you can fit onto a lazy Suzan. I also like this divided version in case you want to break something into special sections.
Use Vertical Space for Pantry Organization
I use a spice rack riser so that I’m not sifting through the cabinet and so I can easily grab spices while I’m cooking. Depending on the size and layout of your pantry, you can also use risers for canisters, canned goods, pasta sauces, etc.
I also like these chrome cabinet shelf inserts. They instantly add another shelf without any drilling and help avoid heavy stacking. If you have a cabinet that houses both very tall and very short items, use one of these shelves to place over the shorter items and utilize that empty space.
Stack Things Vertically
Technically pans and lids aren’t food items, but often times they’re part of pantries. Instead of stacking everything on top of one another (which always ends up in a noisy mess), stack them vertically in a rack like this. Not only does this save space, it’s a lot easier to sort through what you need.
I have these stackable wine holders in my fridge, but they also work for water bottle organization depending on your space.
Organizing is so therapeutic for me. I always love finding new pieces and hacks to make a home more organized, decluttered, and functional. I hope this helps to make your kitchen pantry a pantry that you love!