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How to Organize and Clean Your Pantry

If your pantry is getting full of jumbled miscellany, cooking can become a depressing chore. At least once a year (I’d say every 6 months for most people), you should clean it out.

Whether you have an actual pantry or kitchen cabinets or shelves, the place where you keep your canned goods, flours and unopened condiments can become very cluttered. You keep buying new products and pushing other products around to make room for them. After a while, you may not even know what’s in the back.

And that’s why you need to give it a good decluttering once or twice a year. Take all the items out and decide which you should keep, which you should throw or give away, and put them back in some kind of order.

Organized pantry shelves

Organizing and Decluttering Your Pantry

Items to throw or give away

  • Expired items. Go through every item and check its expiration date. If it’s past, throw it away. If it’s still good but you’re unlikely to eat it before the expiration date, you can give it to a food bank or a local shelter that can use it. 
  • Items your household doesn’t eat. If some of your pantry items are foods your family doesn’t eat anymore, or an impulse buy your family never did eat, give them away to a food bank.

Cleaning the shelves

Once you have these items out of the way, get everything else off the shelves or out of the cabinets. Give your shelves a good cleaning with some kind of disinfectant wipe or spray. It’s a great idea to line your shelves with something that will catch spills before they soak into the wood.

You don’t need to buy special shelf liner material for this. Plastic-lined freezer paper is great for lining cabinet shelves and under the sink. If you want a liner that “grips” the shelves, we recommend Contact Grip Liner.

Getting Organized

Now take a look at how you arrange your pantry goods, and decide on some kind of order for everything. Pastas here, canned vegetables there – it doesn’t matter how you organize, as long as everything has a place.

This way, instead of randomly putting new items into empty spaces where you’ll forget them, everything is where you expect. If you’re looking to cook something with beans, for example, all the cans of beans are in one place. You can quickly tell if you have the right kind of beans and the right number of cans for your recipe.

Creating extra shelving?

Some cabinet and pantry shelves are tall enough to stack a couple of layers of cans. It can make sense to create an extra shelf to go in that space so one shelf can hold double the amount of cans or other items.

You can make a small one time investment on some nice expandable shelf units.. Or you can make your own shelves out of pieces of wood or other sturdy stuff. It may not look glamorous, but who’s going to see it? It makes things so much more visible, which saves you time spent looking for them, moving stuff around, putting stuff back.

Date your items

You may find it helpful to write purchase dates on anything that doesn’t have an expiration date. Or write the expiration date on an item that’s no longer in its original container.

A Sharpie will usually work on the top of canned goods or on boxes. Cheap mailing labels will stick to almost anything you can’t write on directly. You can also use freezer labels if you have them on hand.

This helps you see at a glance which items need to be used first.