Pantry Organization 101

This is one of the blog posts I am most excited for because it combines two of my favorite things: food and organization. This quarantine project has been super useful because it allows me to keep track of the food I’m buying and prevents me from allowing food to go bad before it can be eaten.

Now you may be asking yourself “Amanda, how did you become such an expert in pantry organization?” The answer is simple: I spend a lot of time thinking about it, and I watch a lot of YouTube videos. Conveniently, someone I’m subscribed to on YouTube posted a video about pantry organization the day I’m writing this. I highly recommend watching videos like these because you can learn a lot from people who have taken on this project, especially if they have a pantry in similar size to yours.

This project can be overwhelming when you’re first starting, especially if your pantry is super full after a recent grocery shop. So let’s start with a simple 5 step process for organizing your pantry:

  1. Take everything out of the pantry.
  2. Sort by item type and how frequently it’s used (use this time to also throw out any expired or rotten items).
  3. Clean up the pantry surfaces (wipe down everything, clean up any spills, etc).
  4. Plan out where everything will go (measure your pantry during this step) and buy any necessary storage items.
  5. Put everything back, move around as necessary, and enjoy!

There you have it – 5 easy steps to pantry organization…

Just kidding – this process will be a little overwhelming starting from step one, especially as you look at the mounds of food all over your kitchen. However, the second step is critical and where I found peace was mapping out how I wanted my pantry to look at the end before I even started step 1. Here’s how I ended up organizing my pantry:

Pantry Organization: From the Top

My pantry is “reach-in size”. It has 5 built in wood shelves where the the middle 3 are the most accessible. I organized the pantry with this in mind and put my most reached for items in the middle 3 shelves.

Starting at the top, I use the top shelf to hold things I don’t access very often. The bin on the left has my supplies for heat sealing cookies. The bin in the middle holds extra dry goods or oils. The bin on the right holds any additional snacks or treats that don’t fit into my regular storage. That last box on the right is an extra glass Kitchen Aid mixing bowl (I accidentally got 2 for Christmas one year but I haven’t been sure what to do with it, so it sits here for now).

Shelf 2 holds most of the dry ingredients I use for cooking. I have a clear bin labeled “cans and stuff” that holds canned goods and… stuff. “Stuff” means things like tomato paste tubes, extra orzo, croutons, etc. I have these tall clear containers to hold various carbs (brown rice, white rice, basmati rice, pasta). A handled container holds potatoes, onions, garlic, etc. A lazy susan on the right holds all my oils/sauces. 10/10 recommend lazy susans to take advantage of deeper spaces in the pantry because you can reach everything on it fairly easily.

In the Middle

Shelf 3 of my pantry is arguably my most used shelf. It holds my baking ingredients, spread between some containers and a bin, and snacks. I was looking at these containers when The Container Store was having a sale and Erica mentioned she had them and liked them and I was sold (so far 5 stars – highly recommend). The rest of the shelf is dedicated to snacks. There are two reasons I decant my snacks into containers. One is that it allows me to purchase in bulk or bring my own containers (allowing me to reduce my single use packaging). Two is that it allows me to view clearly how much of any particular snack I have left and if I need to add it to the shopping list.

Shelf 4 is my “food storage” shelf. It holds any and all food storage containers, as well as cling wrap, my food scale, and the remainder of the plastic sandwich bags I have left (Note here: I generally use re-useable containers when I can, these were leftover from before I moved in that direction).

On the Bottom

The 4th shelf and floor of my pantry function as miscellaneous shelves. The shelf holds extra paper plates/plastic utensils (left over from a party a few years ago, I haven’t figured out what to do with them yet), plastic food storage containers (which I usually use to give away to people if I’m sharing food), tissues, extra snack containers, water bottles, and paper towels.

The floor holds dog food/dog bowls for when I have a foster dog, a leftover case of bottled water from a neighborhood event, a tamale pot (which I actually use for brining turkey at Thanksgiving), and a bag with extra grocery bags.

There you have it – the process I use to organize my pantry, and a full tour of my pantry. I hope this helps you go through this process and sets some guidance for how you might decide to move things around. Stay tuned for more home decor/organization and adulting content. Let us know in the comments if this is a project you’re taking on and tag us on instagram your final results!

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