glass fido jars in pantry

11 Things You’re Forgetting to Do In Your Pantry

The pantry is a great place to start if  you’re on a new home organizing journey. In the pantry, purging is straightforward, there are few sentimental items, and it’s easy to group similar items together. Unfortunately, most people make big mistakes when organizing this small space. 

In this post, I’ll cover 11 things most people forget to do when organizing their pantry, so you can feel confident you know the best tips and tricks before organizing this space or you can reassess your pantry and make updates as needed. 

1. Adjust your buying habits to fit the size of your pantry 

This is at the top of the list for a reason. Although we all have different-sized pantries, we all have limited space, and if we buy more than the space we have, we’ve given ourselves a huge problem.  If you have a smaller pantry, buy only what you need for the week (or two) and don’t stock up on extras. If you are blessed by the pantry gods with an abundance of space, fight the urge to completely fill up your pantry with food. Let items breathe, and try to only buy for 1-2 weeks at a time, so food doesn’t go to waste. 

2. Adjust shelves

Remember, pantry shelves are almost always adjustable. Move the shelves to accommodate the various heights of containers and items. Put frequently used items at eye and waist level. Keep heavier items closer to the ground. 

3. Group like things together

The key to organizing any area is to group similar items together. Our brains look for patterns, which is why a disorganized space causes us to feel overwhelmed––there’s no visual cue for our brains. Here are some example groupings for your pantry: 

  • Canned goods
  • Jarred items 
  • Oils
  • Condiments
  • Breakfast items
  • Snacks (kids)
  • Snacks (adults)
  • Grains 
  • By cuisine such as Italian, Mexican, Asian, etc. 
  • Backstock 

4. Remove excess packaging

Companies make packaging loud and bold, so it catches your attention when shopping online or in-person. And it works! But once you get those products into your home, you don’t want to call attention to that vibrant packaging.

Build a habit of removing excess packaging especially for bulk items. This is helpful for three reasons: your space will be easier on the eyes, you can see exact quantities of what you have, and you can take all of the recycling and trash out at one time.

5. Contain items with bins

Use bins to contain opened snacks, pastas, and items that you removed excess packaging from. Decide if you want to invest in clear, translucent, or opaque containers, or a mix of two. Remember, group like things together and customize based on your individual needs. 


6. Use food storage containers 

Use food storage containers for cereal, grains like rice and quinoa, and protein powder for three reasons: the pantry will have visible structure, food will stay fresh longer, and fewer spills will happen.

Pro tip: Don’t use food storage containers for pasta. Cooking times vary by pasta type and shape, and there’s rarely enough pasta leftover to fill a container. It will end up taking up prime real estate in your pantry, especially the tall, thin spaghetti containers. 

7. Label 

Be sure to label your food storage containers and bins. This helps hold everyone in the family accountable for finding and putting away items correctly. Labeling also helps you quickly make a grocery list. You already have items grouped together, and you can quickly see what you’re running low on. 

If you want something less permanent than adhesive labels, a wine glass marker works great! 

8. Allow lazy susans to become your best friend

Lazy susans are my go-to organizing item for the kitchen and pantry. Use lazy susans to keep jarred items, syrups, and oils easily accessible. Divided lazy susans are great for granola bars or fruit strips for kids. 


9. Be mindful of expiration dates and get rid of that can of cream of mushroom soup (I know you have one hiding somewhere)

For the average person, there are at least 10 expired items in a pantry. Check the expiration dates of jarred and canned items and toss anything that’s expired. 

And be honest with yourself about canned goods. Most people hold on to canned items because they “may use it some day” but in my experience, rarely are stored canned goods used up with the exception of soup. I don’t know how many cans of cream of mushroom soup I’ve donated to food pantries on behalf of clients over the years. 

10. Use risers for canned goods

Canned goods often get shoved in the back of deep cabinets or placed randomly on pantry shelves. Use risers to keep canned goods organized, and use the “window” method, so you can easily see what you have on hand. 

One riser per household should be plenty.


11. Designate a home for backstock 

In almost every pantry, there will be a need for backstock. Designate a home for backstock/extra items, and be sure to check this area before doing your grocery shopping. 

Time to tackle the pantry!

Remember, the pantry is the perfect place to start getting organized. Now that you know the 11 things most people forget to do when organizing their pantry, you can be successful on the first go. And if you’ve already organized your pantry, reassess your space and fine-tune as needed. 

Organizing the pantry takes a few hours from start to finish. Remember to have a step stool, trash bag, recycling container, and cleaning supplies handy. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed by shopping for organizing materials or don’t know where to start, grab my complete Pantry Organizing Guide which includes my top 20 picks from The Container Store, so you can choose the right items to help get your pantry organized once and for all. 

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