An organized pantry is the first step toward a well-functioning kitchen. Learn how to organize your pantry items with these essential tips.


The pantry is like the heart of the kitchen. When you don’t know how to organize pantry items, the rest of the kitchen is bound to be chaotic. A disorganized kitchen can make cooking stressful, especially if it’s something you already don’t enjoy.

If you’d like to reduce the chaos and enjoy an organized kitchen, here are nine must-have tips to organize food and arrange pantry sections.

1. Remove All Pantry Items

When starting the organization process, it’s easiest to take everything off of a shelf one at a time and move it to the counter or a table. You’ll get a visible idea of all the items in your pantry that need categorization. This sets you up to group similar items together. Take the opportunity to wipe down and clean the shelves while they’re empty, too.

How often should you organize a pantry?

It’s a good idea to organize your pantry at least once per year, though you can complete this task more frequently if your pantry is often in disarray. Organizing your pantry yearly allows you to check expiration dates, evaluate your food usage, and generally keep your dry food items tidy.

Related Article: Complete Guide to Storing Food in the Fridge

2. Determine Your Pantry Categories List

Arranging pantry sections is helpful in maintaining organization to find whatever items you’re looking for easily. Choosing categories to organize your food will be unique to your home based on your and your family’s eating habits. 

Pantry categories to consider:

  • Grains and pasta
  • Dry goods
  • Wet ingredients
  • Healthy snacks
  • Junk food
  • Breakfast foods
  • Canned goods
  • Spices

How does Marie Kondo organize the pantry?

The KonMari method recommends organizing items by category rather than location. Utilizing pantry organization categories is the best way to follow this method. Regarding the pantry, Marie Kondo recommends you “store things in an upright position if the packaging allows and group them by subcategory. Whether opening a drawer or gazing upon your pantry shelf, you should be able to tell at a glance where everything is.”

Related Article: How To Marie Kondo Your Closet: 4 Tips for Getting Started

how to organize pantry items - Home kitchen, pantry, woman near wooden rack with household kitchen utensils, food in jars and containers, vegetables and fruits

3. Check Expiration Dates

Old food often gets shoved in the back of the pantry and forgotten until we make it a point to go through it. As you’re removing items from the pantry, check the expiration dates. Toss anything that’s outside the expiration date.

When restocking pantry items, organize them so foods expiring sooner are at the front. This ensures you get through the food quicker and reduce the risk of food waste. 

4. Use Glass or Clear Plastic Containers

Even if your pantry is relatively clean, boxes, bags, and even non-clear storage bins can make a pantry feel cluttered. Place items you use frequently into glass or clear plastic containers. It is more aesthetically pleasing and can preserve the freshness of the food. Avoid doing this with items you don’t go through quickly, as you want to avoid using items past the expiration date.

This process is also useful in creating shopping lists. You can easily see what you have in stock in your panty to avoid overbuying things you may already have.

How much food should you keep in your pantry?

Unless you’re preparing for an emergency, you want to avoid keeping too much food stocked in your pantry that can’t be feasibly eaten within 3–6 months. When you overstock your pantry, you risk wasting food. Use your best judgment based on how frequently you shop. If you shop weekly, you want enough food in the pantry to last a week.

Some items, such as canned foods and grains, can sit in the pantry for quite some time. Having a general stock of these items makes sense if you use them often or like to stock up. If you find yourself throwing out quite a bit of food each time you clean the pantry, you may be overstocking it.   

how to organize pantry items - Neatly labeled food ingredients on the kitchen shelf

5. Add Pantry Shelf Labels to Storage Containers

There’s no reason your pantry can’t be both functional and attractive. You are much more likely to follow through with a system if it’s both functional and visually appealing. You can either purchase vinyl labels from a craft store or make your own using a die-cutting machine or label maker.

Labels can also be helpful to ensure everyone in the family can keep up with the pantry organization system. Aside from labeling storage containers, you can also affix pantry shelf labels to identify your pantry categories clearly. This way, no one gets confused about which items belong where.

Related Article: How to Store Wine Properly at Home

6. Use Baskets to Store Small Loose Items

Using baskets is a great way to efficiently organize smaller pantry items such as coffee pods, tea bags, or cereal bars. The baskets can break up the monotony of other storage containers in your pantry. Plus, since smaller items are typically used on the go, having them located in a basket makes them easy to grab as you run out the door or prepare your morning caffeinated beverage.

7. Maximize Small Shelf Space with Racks

The best way to maximize small spaces in your kitchen pantry is to add racks for spices or coffee pods. Rotating racks or fixed racks make it so much easier to sort through and see everything at a glance. This trick is helpful when shopping, especially because it’s pretty common to end up with extra spices if you aren’t sure what you already have.

You may need multiple spice racks to keep everything organized if you have different size containers. If you’re short on space, another pantry organization idea for spices is to build shelves onto the pantry door. You can even use these narrow racks for organizing other small, lightweight items such as oils or powders.

how to organize pantry items - pantry still with shelving on pantry doors

8. Utilize a Turntable

A turntable, sometimes referred to as a lazy Susan, allows for quick access to items in the back corner of a pantry or simply boxed items like baking powder or corn starch. Turntables work nicely for maximizing corner space or other awkward pantry angles. Place a few turntables in your pantry to make items easier to find. 

9. Keep a Pantry Inventory List

If the thought of being out-of-stock of items in your pantry makes you feel stressed, create a pantry inventory list. For the pantry items that you use frequently or like to keep on hand, organize them into a list so you can quickly keep an inventory of your stock. 

Related Article: Hiring a Professional Organizer to Help You Declutter

With these quick tips, you’re on your way to keeping your pantry as organized as possible. No more stressing about what’s in stock, where an item is located, or feeling generally overwhelmed by this space. Now, you can calmly enjoy your kitchen. 

This post originally appeared on the Life Storage Blog on 8/17/16 and was revised on 7/11/20 & 6/9/23 to provide new information.

About the Authors

Kate Fann

Kate Fann is an established SEO content writer with 10 years of experience, taking a specialized focus on home-related content. She has a Master's of Marketing degree from Southern New Hampshire University and her work has been featured in publications such as Angi, Broadband Now, and Love What Matters. Kate takes a keen interest in all things home from design and decor to remodeling and cleaning hacks.

Madison Wetherill

Arizona based food blogger passionate about hospitality and community around the table. Madison shares easy recipes to inspire others to get in the kitchen and learn that cooking can be a fun part of every day life.

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