Keeping an organized kitchen at all times is tough. The shelving starts out nice and neat, but over time, things descend into disarray, and before you know it, you've accidentally eaten a jar of almond butter that's way past its expiration date. Additionally, not everyone has the luxury of a walk-in pantry or even one with shelves deep enough to accommodate all of those dry goods and storage containers. However, if you're ready to declutter, an organized pantry with a logical layout is easier to achieve than you'd think. Just follow our steps to take control of your food storage space (or those kitchen cabinets that serve as makeshift pantries) and get it back into tip-top shape. Time to get to work!
How to Plan Your Pantry Organization
Before you go nuts on your pantry makeover, a purge needs to happen — and then some. It's the best way to really see what you have to work with, and let's be real — there's always stuff that's no longer useful. Also, consider just how much pantry space you have in the first place. How can you optimize it?
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1. Do a deep clean before anything else.
To start, completely empty the space and throw away expired pantry items. Then, wipe down the surfaces. If you're wary of using chemical-heavy solutions to clean places so close to edibles, creating a vinegar spray is a cheap, easy, and natural option. Once your kitchen pantry is clean and empty, you'll be able to start strategizing.
2. Let shelves do the heavy lifting.
Look at those shelves. Do you have way too many or too few? You can find undermount shelves or add risers to create even more storage surface. Start visualizing how you want your pantry to look and what you want it to contain. Do research online or flip through your favorite decor books and magazines for ideas.
3. Prioritize prime shelf space.
Arrange your most-used food goods on the shelves that are easiest to access. An organized pantry can quickly become disorganized if you have to rifle through everything in order to find what you need. Keep the items you use daily at eye level so they can't be missed. Even if those shelves get a little messy from time to time, the rest of your pantry will remain nice and neat.
4. Divide the space by category.
Once you've cleared and cleaned your shelves, divvy up the space. After arranging the things you use every day front and center, assign the rest of the shelves specific categories, like "baking supplies," "snacks," and "canned foods." With each item in its proper place, finding that bag of microwavable kettle corn will be a breeze. Bonus: Use labels for added ease.
5. Install pull-out shelves in cabinets.
No one likes having to reach all the way to the back of a cabinet or shelf only to realize that they've grabbed the wrong thing. So, whether it's a cabinet or a pantry, adding pull-out shelves like the ones shown here just makes life so much easier.
6. Don't dismiss the doors.
You can install extra storage on your pantry door to add more space to organize things like salts or spices. Or maybe you want this area to be all about those cake-decorating doodads you keep on hand for whenever you're ready to make a baking masterpiece.
7. Try tiered shelves.
If you have deep shelves to work with, then lucky you! This can, however, make it tough to find things you need when you need them. Try some tiered shelves so you don't have to go on a major expedition for your tomato paste.
Our pick: Copco Non-Skid 3-Tier Pantry Organizer, $11.59
Where to find pantry organization accessories:
- The Home Depot: The Home Depot isn't just a hardware store for DIYers. It's chock full of useful pantry organization items too.
- Pottery Barn: We like Pottery Barn for the decor, but the kitchen organization items are pretty great too. As an added bonus, the storage accessories are incredibly stylish, making them great for a pantry that's both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
- Organized Living: Visit Organized Living if optimizing your kitchen storage is a top priority. From baskets to shelving systems, there is something for every pantry no matter the size.
How to Make It Cohesive
Beyond being ultra organized, think about your pantry style. Are you a minimalist who likes all your containers to match and have the same look and shape? Or do you like to mix things up with some old and new pieces?
1. Ditch the packaging and use pretty jars or stackable containers.
Ditch your food's original packaging and use your own containers instead. Not only will the uniformity look gorgeous but sealed canisters will do a better job of keeping your food fresh. This may even help cut your grocery shopping trips in half. Additionally, if you opt for clear containers, you can easily keep stock of everything so you know when you're running low. You'll never end up with three boxes of confectioner's sugar on your shelf again. Pro tip: You can cut out the nutritional info and cooking instructions and tape it to your containers for later use.
2. Embrace baskets and bins.
For pantries (as well as cabinets), organizing with baskets and bins is a game-changer. Not only are they available in a wide variety of stylish options and convenient sizes but they're also incredibly handy for grouping things together. Don't forget to include a designated "miscellaneous" basket or bin to serve as a catch-all container for the items you have trouble finding a home for.
3. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Instead of going out and purchasing all new containers, think about reusing things you already have at home. We all have some lidded jars we meant to use for fruit canning but never got around to utilizing them. Or how about refilling your empty spice containers with loose herbs and salts instead of buying new jars all over again?
4. Color code your items.
Maybe you want to create a pantry that's not only amazingly organized but also an IG-worthy work of art. Group your stuff together by color and get ready to snap pics of your progress.
5. Remember that size matters.
Think about what you're storing. If you have things like rice, pasta, sugar, or flour, maybe you want to go with bigger containers that hold more — and leave a scoop inside each for serving. When it comes to stuff with limited portions, like rare saffron or vanilla beans, smaller is better.
Where to find pantry containers:
- The Container Store: Some would consider The Container Store the mecca of all things organizational, and we'd agree. There are rattan baskets as well as plastic and metal ones. Plus, the inventory is unmatched. If you want your kitchen storage to feel cohesive, this is a great choice.
- OXO: For all the clear bins, jars, and lazy Susans your pantry needs, this is the place to go. You won't break the bank with any OXO products either.
Ways to Optimize Your Pantry
You've sussed things out. You've done your planning. You've figured out how you want your pantry to look and what you're putting in there. Now, it's time to go nuts (or go step by step) and organize the pantry of your dreams.
1. Go on a labeling spree.
As you transfer your pantry loot into separate containers, pull out your label maker or premade labels and create tags for everything. If you don't own either, you can use dry-erase markers to write directly on the jars. Just make sure you pick containers with a smooth surface, like glass, plastic, or glazed ceramic, so you can wash off the words whenever you wish.
Our pick: mDesign Home Organization Labels, $7.49
2. Group like items on lazy Susans or turntables.
Don't let the moniker fool you — when it comes to organization, lazy Susans do some serious work. Like baskets and bins, these spinning beauties are great storage solutions for grouping similar products together in an organized fashion. They're commonly used as spice racks in kitchens, but the possibilities are endless. Store condiments, tea, canned goods, bottles of vinegar, or coffee.
3. Carve out space for cookbooks and wine.
If you fancy yourself a foodie, we imagine that some of your counter space is dedicated to your stash of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and prized bottles of cabernet. But those can take up quite a bit of valuable real estate, especially in a small kitchen. Think about how your pantry can accommodate these items. Do you have room for a cookbook shelf? Can an empty square of cabinetry be fashioned into a wine rack?
4. Incorporate your pots and pans.
If you cook regularly, it can be a real hassle to dig through your cabinets looking for your favorite skillet. Instead, try dedicating one wall in the pantry to hanging pots and pans. This way, you'll always have quick and easy access anytime you want to turn up the heat in the kitchen.
5. Consider the kids too.
Keep healthy snacks (and even art supplies) accessible to your little ones by storing them on the bottom or lowest shelves. The panty can be multipurpose for everyone in your household.
6. Consider containers on wheels.
When space is tight inside the pantry or you just need to supplement the storage with something moveable, add a little multitiered cart like this one we spotted on Wayfair. You can even use it for daily necessities, like bottles of vino (we're not judging) and a wine opener.
Our pick: Ktaxon 4 Layers Rolling Utility Cart, $31.60
7. Stock up on certain things.
If we've learned nothing else, it's that it's always good to keep things with a long shelf life on hand for an easy meal. This goes for your favorite beverages too. Soda and drink cans are especially important, so find a system that allows you to see your inventory in a snap.
Where to pick up more pantry must-haves:
- Wayfair: Wayfair is the one-stop shop for everything. Whether you need shelf risers, baskets, or clear containers for food storage, this is the place to go for massive online orders.
- Target: We like Target for the wide selection, and you can easily pop in the store and see exactly what you're getting before purchasing.
- Amazon: For quick pantry organization items that you need in a flash (we're talking two days or less), check Amazon.
- Michaels: More than just an arts and crafts retailer, Michaels carries affordable containers and baskets too. And the best part? With a coupon (that can be clipped directly from the Michael's website), you can save even more.
- IKEA: Everyone knows IKEA has great Scandi furniture, but its food storage options are top-notch too. If you want glass jars with aesthetic wood lids or a cool bin to corral all those snacks, this is where you find the cutest options.