Jul. 12 2023

Ditch The Messy Kitchen Pantry with These 5 Steps to Pantry Envy!

by Emily Santos

Have you ever spent too much time looking for an ingredient in your pantry? You’re pretty sure you bought that champagne vinegar recently but... Where is it when you need it?

A pantry can be one of the most difficult areas in your home to keep organized. Why? Everyone in your family uses it. Each week you need to make space for new items to fit. And no matter what size it is, it feels too small.

Whether you’ve recently remodeled your kitchen and built a sizable walk-in pantry, or you are making it work with no pantry at all, summer is the perfect time for a pantry refresh (before school starts, life gets busy again). Take control of your pantry and transform it into a place of pride rather than shame. Follow my proven steps to organize a pantry below, plus tips to avoid common mistakes for each pantry size.

Step 1. Set a goal.

Do you want to be inspired to cook more? Or have your kids make their own lunches? “Have an organized pantry” doesn’t tell the full story. Think about your specific goal for your pantry.

Step 2. Start with a clean slate.

Empty the pantry of all food and non-food items. If you store food in other places in your kitchen, empty those cabinets and drawers as well.


Step 3. Remove what you don’t need.

Dispose of any food that’s expired. If you have a high volume of expired items, make note of what they are - this tells you what to buy less of. Now edit things like platters, vases, and small appliances. If you don’t use it frequently or remember when you last used it, consider donating it.

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Step 4. Identify categories based on how you live.

For food, categories can be activity-based like breakfast and baking, or ingredient based like canned goods and spices. You can also have a mix of both; it just needs to support how you and your family will use it. Categorize non-food items based on how frequently you use them: daily, weekly, monthly or once or twice a year.




Step 5. Put categories away based on your goal.

Consider the goal that you started with and let it guide which categories go in the most accessible locations. From there, put all your food categories back in the pantry, starting with what you use the most. Ensure you leave 20% space in each category for growth and your next grocery shopping trip. As a final step, look back at your non-food items. If anything was used daily or weekly and there is space remaining, use it for them. 

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Pro Tip

Before you begin an organizing project, anticipate its cascade effect. It’s common to decide to relocate an entire category to a different area of your home because of frequency of use or space constraints. Plan for this in advance: where do you have space available? For a pantry project, frequently relocated categories include cleaning supplies, paper goods, small appliances and backstock of bulk food.


Walk-in Pantries: The Trap of extra space

A large pantry comes with the desire to store everything in it. Pay particular attention to non-food items. Are entertaining supplies and holiday cookie cutters getting in the way of storing your food the way you want to? These items may not deserve space in your pantry. Whereas frequently used cookbooks or food storage supplies may belong. No matter what: prioritize food and what you need every day.



Reach-in pantries: Overcoming deep shelves.

Reach-in pantries are commonly 24” deep, making it difficult to access and see items in the back. Investing in a few organizing supplies can make all the difference:

  • Risers for cans and jars
  • Two rows of turntables with the most frequently used items in front
  • Baskets or bins for smaller items
  • Adhesive, battery-powered lights

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No pantry: Be prepared to reorganize your entire kitchen.

If you (like me!) don’t have a pantry, “organizing the pantry” really means finding the most efficient way to store food anywhere in your kitchen. Unless your food was already stored in one general zone, evaluate all cabinets and drawers as possible options, trying to keep food as together as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be opening and closing cabinets all over the kitchen to find that specialty vinegar you know you bought at some point. 





Pro Tip

Want to keep your pantry organized? Refresh your grocery shopping habits. How do you know if you’re out of something? Do you find yourself picking up items “just in case?” Do you have any automatic orders set up? Do you have space for items that you’re buying in bulk? By making a few simple changes to your grocery shopping routine, you can eliminate extra items in your pantry and maintain your new organization system with ease.


No time to reorganize your pantry on your own? 

Innovative Home Renovations is partnering with Emily Santos and Essential Organizing to bring you regular organizing advice, tips, and how-to's. If you need extra help as you start organizing, head to her website, to download her free Sorting Tips. Or, if you already know you’ll need some extra help to get the job done right, schedule your complimentary Initial Intake Call, and start organizing with Emily! 


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