In episode 319 of the Vegetarian Zen podcast, we gave you 7 Awesome refrigerator organization tips to help you stop wasting food. Also in that episode, we promised to share some pantry organization tips with you…so here we are!
Let’s get organizing!
Why Pantry Organization?
While most pantry foods have longer expiration dates than things in your refrigerator, a messy pantry can keep you in the dark with respect to what you actually have on hand. This can lead to wasted food.
Additionally, a messy pantry can be very demotivating, causing you to be much more tempted to eat out instead of cooking.
One note before getting started: if you haven’t organized your pantry recently, plan on at least a couple of hours (depending, of course, on the size of your pantry). It’s best to do this in one shot…if you’re anything like Larissa, stopping mid-way means it’ll sit there, halfway finished, for days!
7 Tips for Organizing Your Pantry
1. Start by taking everything out
Depending on how much your pantry holds, this can seem daunting, but unless you take everything out you won’t know what you actually have.
Use this as an opportunity to check for expiration dates. As we suggested in episode 319, you may want to consider a designating a special area in your pantry just for those items that will be expiring soon.
For herbs and spices, McCormick suggests that, as a general rule, whole spices have a shelf life of approximately 3-4 years; ground spices, 2-4 years; and dried herbs, 1-3 years. Remember that these times are valid for herbs and spices stored in a container with a tightly fitting lid and in a cool dark pantry.
Besides past expiration dates, another sign of expired items is bulging cans. Yuck! Throw them out!
Put items that aren’t expired but you’ll probably never use before they go bad in a box or bag to donate.
Once your pantry is completely empty, wipe down the shelves and sweep and mop the floor.
2. Take stock of what you are keeping and group similar items together
While everything is still out of the pantry, group like items together so putting things back in will be easier.
You may want to group items by packaging type (all canned goods, all bagged items, all herbs and spices, etc.), by use (baking items, etc.), or by meal type (breakfast foods, snacks, etc.). As you start to put things back, this will save you time and also give you a clear picture of how much space is needed for each category.
3. Get bins and containers
This is not a MUST, but can definitely be very helpful. Shelf risers and lazy Susans can make it so much easier to see what’s in your pantry without having to move things around.
Mason jars can also be used to store items and keep the bugs out.
Be sure to cut instructions off of items before throwing the box away!
4. Pull out the label maker
Not only are labels helpful in finding what you’re looking for, but they’re also a great way to add a little “flair” to your pantry.
If you’re a labeling purist, a good old fashioned label maker like the Brother brand will definitely work as well. The Brother P-Touch is the one I’ve used for years.
5. Everything in its place!
Using your new storage baskets, lazy susans, and/or label maker, start filling the pantry shelves again.
One way to potentially organize is by “zones.” For example, you might create zones for:
- Kids snacks
- Staples (like pasta, beans, quinoa, etc)
- Baking supplies
- Weeknight meals
You can use large baskets to store items such as potatoes and onions on the bottom.
Use the middle shelves for items that have a high turnover rate, such as beans, pasta, rice, flour, sugar, etc.
Use the top shelves for lighter items such as cereals, paper towels, etc.
There are many layout possibilities but the best one is whatever makes the most sense for you and your family.
6. Review regularly
Unfortunately, pantry organization is not a “set it and forget it” process.
While you don’t necessarily need to take everything out of your pantry every week, you should at least take a few minutes before each shopping trip to make sure you’ve done a quick purge and inventory.
Organization is an ongoing process, but with a little bit of effort, you’ll find yourself saving money and staying motivated to cook more!
7. Give the family a tour and set some guidelines
Now that your pantry is organized, the last thing you want is for a family member to start moving things around and undoing all of your hard work!
Be sure to give the family a tour of the pantry. You might even want to place a whiteboard in the pantry to serve as a reference should someone forget where something goes.
In multi-family households, it definitely takes a village!
We hope this episode has inspired you to clean up your pantry. As we said at the beginning, be sure to make this fun for you so that’s it’s something you’re more likely to stick to!
Please note that some of the links on this page may be affiliate links and, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through to the product using the link we have provided. We never recommend or provide affiliate links to products or services we do not use ourselves, and our ultimate goal is to provide helpful products and advice to you, our readers and listeners.
Products We Mentioned
- Plan To Eat
- Brother P-Touch Label Maker
- Ball Mason Jars
- mDesign Farmhouse Decor Metal Wireframe Food Storage Crates
- Vtopmart Airtight Food Storage Containers with 24 Free Labels
- Ball Dissolvable Canning Labels
Recipe of the Week
- Easy Vegan Scones by Vegan Lovelie
Thanks for listening!
Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa