The Top 10 Pantry-Organizing Tips the Smartest Home Cooks Know

updated Sep 13, 2019
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Credit: Laura Flippen/The Kitchn

Ever wish you could peek into the pantries of super good home cooks? Well you can’t — because that’d be rude! But you can read this story, which is just as helpful. We polled the smartest home cooks we know to get their best pantry-organizing tips. Here’s what they know that maybe you don’t.

1. The dollar store is the best place to go for bins and baskets.

Sure, you can spend a small fortune on baskets at high-end organizing stores. But you obviously don’t have to. While we’re huge fans of bins and baskets, we’re also fans of saving money! Hit up your local dollar store and buy them on the cheap. (Just make sure you measure first.) This way, you can afford to get more!

Read moreI Hacked My Messy Pantry Using Only Stuff From the Dollar Store at Apartment Therapy

2. Everything needs to be labeled.

Every item that goes into your pantry that’s not in its original packaging needs to be labeled. Because you may know what something is now, but that doesn’t mean you’ll remember weeks from now.

Credit: Faith Durand

3. Group items together on baking sheets.

Things that aren’t in baskets or bins can go on baking sheets. This will make it easier to see what’s what, contain any messes (should there be a leak), and make it easy for you to grab related items, all in one fell swoop. Similarly, if you have a walk-in pantry or one that’s decently sized, consider adding a rolling cart. If you stash, say, all your baking stuff on it, you can easily roll it out and over to your workspace when it’s time to make a cake.

Related: Pantry Organization Tip: Use Sheet Pans & Hotel Pans to Hold Ingredients

Credit: Kaitlin Garske

4. Anything that’s stored on the bottom should be on wheels.

Speak of roll-y things! No matter how big or small your pantry is, put the stuff on the bottom (read: the floor) on wheels so that you can easily pull things out (without throwing your back out!). Here, you’ll see small appliances on plant stands from Home Depot. Another idea: You can add casters to a wooden crate.

See more: This $9 Plant Stand Is the Key to Organizing Your Small Appliances

Credit: Marge Perry

5. Every inch of wall space can be put to good use.

Yup, even the skinniest bit of space! Look at that super-narrow space to the left of the photo above. Usually that space would go wasted, but here (in the pantry of two professional recipe developers), it’s used for special bottles of oils and spices. And look even further up at the photo for our first tip. See those baskets hung? They’re proof that you don’t even have to do anything permanent.

Read more: Why Shallow Pantry Shelves Are the Best Shelves

Credit: Tess Wilson

6. Boxes should be stored with their skinny sides facing out.

You don’t need to display all your groceries. You just need to be able to see what’s what — and, usually, the skinny side of a box is enough to make that clear. Put boxes on the shelf this way and you’ll be able to store more at any given time.

Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

7. The kids need their own space.

If you don’t want your kids to ransack your pantry every time they want a snack, consider giving them their own shelf. (Or, at the very least, a basket.) This way, they’ll always know where to look and you can even approve their after-school snacks in advance. Also, do the same in the fridge for perishable things like string cheese and yogurt.

Read more: The Super Smart Organizing Tips I Stole from The Pioneer Woman

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Things have to be put back where they were found.

It seems so obvious … and yet. If the people in your house need some help with this one, you can add little labels to the shelves to act as little reminders.

Credit: Jill Chen/Stocksy

9. Sometimes, you’ve gotta purge stuff.

We hate food waste, but expired stuff doesn’t help anyone! Try to do a clean-out once a quarter as the seasons change. So, well, this weekend is a good time to do one!

Read more5 Things to Purge from Your Pantry Right Now

Credit: Minette Hand/Apartment Therapy

10. Your pantry should be constantly evolving.

Something that works for you now might not work for you in six months. Either because the season changed or you’re a different type of home cook now (we’re always evolving as we learn new skills!). Take a minute to think about, really think about, if your pantry is still working for you. If it’s not, take everything out and reorganize it.

Related: 6 Tips for Keeping Your Pantry Clean Once You’ve Organized It

Got anything else to add to this list? Leave your tips in the comments below!