How to Organize Your Kitchen Pantry

Five simple steps to clean out and organize your kitchen pantry, with easy-to-follow photographs.

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I am actually a very organized person. You won’t know this when you walk into my house today. Because I was able to be a very organized person BEFORE I had kids. Some days easily spin out of control as early as 6 o’clock in the morning. And between 2 schools, 3 kiddos, scouting, blogging, dinner and everything that consumes our days and nights, organizing gets pushed to the sidelines. It’s okay. It happens to all of us.

Luckily, I’m not as bad as my mother. Sorry, Mom. My mom’s method of organizing is the out-of-sight-out-of-mind strategy. She shoves everything and anything in the cupboard or drawer. The house looks clean and uncluttered and then you find medical records in a kitchen drawer.

My pantry is my disorganized albatross.

Things get shoved in there on a daily basis. It’s worse after a Costco run. I always buy too much and it never seems to fit. Anywhere. I also have this habit of buying ingredients thinking I don’ them in stock, and low and behold – there it is, in the back of the pantry. Grrrr…

So when OXO asked if they could send me some of their POP Containers to organize my pantry, this was the kick in the pants I truly needed. I have broken it down to 5 easy steps so you, too, can organize your kitchen pantry.

Let’s start at the beginning. Here is the before shot of my pantry:

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As you will note, I do not have a pantry, but cabinets. And as a foodie, I have a lot of fun stuff to cram into these cabinets. I do not use a lot of processed foods, but yeah, we have some treats and junk. My husband is getting into pho, ramen, and other fun Asian soups so he just bought a crazy amount of noodles and accessories for his soups. You can see that crammed in our cabinets, too.

Step One: Clean Out the Cabinets/Pantry

This might sound like a nightmare, but it really is the only way to see what you have hiding in there. My kitchen table filled up before I was even halfway done with the emptying process. I soon discovered that bags were my worse enemy. I had oodles of bags: bags of pasta, bags of beans, bags of specialty flours, bags of chips, bags of trail mix. I had to get these bags under control.

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Step Two: Sort and Organize Likes with Likes

Having a food blog means you have collections of spices, beans, rice, nuts, chocolate… You name it, I seem to have it. Whether I’m buying it myself or the culprit product is sent to me, I tend to collect foodie stuff. During my cupboard evacuation, I found old nuts, half opened bags of rice, and lots and lots of duplicates. I started sorting the beans, rice, nuts and spices. I threw out what I would never use, what had expiration dates and what was stale.

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Step Three: Invest in Clear Plastic Bins

I love, LOVE these POP Containers from OXO. They are clear, so you can see exactly what’s stored inside. The lids are very easy to open and close. The center handle “pops” in and out to seal the container from air and bugs. You push the top in to seal the container, and the lids are nice and flat – perfect for stacking. You can also open and close these suckers super easy with one hand. They are square and rectangular shaped which really does optimize the organizing space. I know this because I happen to have a few old round plastic containers in my pantry. I regret every owning them as there is prime cupboard real estate that is not being used. I couldn’t quite get rid of my old canisters, but I am definitely motivated to replace them with the cool POP Containers.

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Step Four: Fill ’em up!

So you see my OXO army up there? I quickly realized that I didn’t have enough bins to fit all my crap food in them. During my sorting process, for example, I found that I had a massive variety of bagged dried beans and lentils. I methodically started to stack them in one of the bigger bins, layering them in one by one. Opened bags were placed inside of resealable bags. Everything was labeled.

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Since I had a gargantuan Costco bag of quinoa, I poured it into one of those cereal dispensers. I cut out the cooking directions from the bag and stuck it inside with the quinoa. So now, instead of a wobbly bag that won’t stand up properly, I have a big, clear container filled with quinoa. It’s all neat and pretty.

I repeated this routine with my rice, grains, nuts and dried fruits…. you get the point.

I won’t lie. This is by far, the hardest and the most time consuming step. It might be handy to have a glass of wine or a margarita handy during this step. Chocolate also works. Hey, it’s part of the cleaning process.

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Step Five: Organize the Shelves

It’s not just about the containers and organizing everything inside those containers. You also want to group these containers on the shelf when you put them back in the pantry. I bake a lot, so I have a shelf dedicated to baking. Mom-approved kid snacks are on the easily accessible bottoms shelf. Of course, my kids are older and smarter than they used to be and can easily snag a chair to sneak upon the junk hiding on the top part of the pantry. Items that I rarely use and my duplicates are stored on the tippy top shelf.

And four hours later, I have my clean and organized pantry. Here it is:

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And because I’m nerdy and awfully proud of myself, here are the before and after pictures side-by-side:

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I don’t know about you, but there’s something inspirational about a clean and organized pantry. Are you inspired to clean out the pantry?

Disclosure: I was given the above pictured OXO Pop Containers to help me organize my kitchen pantry. I was not paid to write this post. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t blog about it.


9 Responses to How to Organize Your Kitchen Pantry

  1. Holly W at #

    Looks Great!!! My pantry is also laden down with lots of ‘from scratch’ items. (flour, beans…baking stuff) With the most recent move, I hired folks to help unpack the first day…just to get a big chunk started…The women were older with no kids and were gluten free. They were baffled at how to organize my kitchen cabinets and did not believe I used what I had. …You have 3 types of flour? (I used to have 8!) You want baking spices together and cooking spices separate – What is the difference? You have 12 cookie racks, can we put them in the garage? (NO!) We should store you kitchen aid mixer in the cupboard. (No, please leave it out on the counter – its used more than the toaster) The woman was lovely, but at one point she was trying to sell me on gluten free living (after unpacking my two bags of 25 lbs of AP flour and Bread flour) Next time I hire unpackers, I think I’ll just do the kitchen myself….

    • Holly, you are totally cracking me up! You bake so much more than any blogger I know! LOL! And I hope you got those sugar Nazi’s at school under control! xxoxx

  2. Oh, whew. I’m not the only one with a messy pantry.
    I stockpile foods and ours is BURSTING with stuff, most of which is probably
    stale. I recently organized it, but it’s back to being a big mess again.
    I’m going to take queue from you and clean it up this w/end.
    We need to have an organized pantry before New Year’s Eve so it’ll
    stay organized all year (an Armenian saying). Haha! xo

  3. Robin O at #

    This is inspiration AND motivation. My pantry is calling me — Help!

  4. My pantry is a disaster! I need to follow your tips and shape up!

  5. This is just what I’ve been looking for. We had a moth infestation and I had to throw away so. much. food! I want to re-style my pantry with air tight containers so that I don’t have to do that again. The waste almost made me cry!

  6. Kate at #

    I need to start cutting out instructions and putting in the containers! Great idea!

  7. It would be so helpful to get organized before the big baking holiday season!

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