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"But I might need that cranberry sauce from 3 Thanksgivings ago" of my favorites! But let's be honest, if you were to go into your pantry right now you would find at least several items that are expired, and open packages of things that are probably stale/soft. And that's because food is sneaky. It falls behind other items. Or, those kids & significant others of yours that you love so much, opened something and conveniently forgot, or didn't know how to close it.

Organization is key in any pantry, but especially in smaller pantries.

Today we will talk about grouping of similar items. Some categories you will be looking at are;

-Pasta & sauces




-Canned vegetables

-Canned fruit

-Canned meats


-Baking needs




-Packaged savory


Everyone will have a variant of this list, but these are generally the standard categories.

The easiest way to keep a pantry organized is with baskets, labeling, jars, & space savers/stackers. Pantries tend to have a lot of wasted space vertically, and as we know by now, I'm a HUGE fan of using vertical space.

Generally speaking, you will want something along the lines of:

6 10x7x4" baskets

5 sealable plastic containers in varying sizes

2-3 smaller 7x4x2" baskets

sealable cereal size containers

4 14x10x8" baskets

2 lazy Susan spice racks

Space saving stackers (If that's your preference)

Baskets, depending on your budget, can get pricey for a pantry. If you are like me, and want matching baskets for aesthetically pleasing purposes then it's going to cost you a little more. But if you don't have the budget for this, you can find baskets at the Dollar Store, Goodwill, or other second hand places. Home Goods & TjMaxx usually have some great deals too, but you won't find an entire matching set most likely at these stores. However, you can definitely mix and match and create a cohesive look!

I will post some purchasable items on my 'Shopaholics - Doing it right' page for reference, and as examples of what you may want to create a pantry you will love.

If you would like the rest of your family to join in with keeping the pantry organized after you are done organizing it, labels are your friend. I am a huge fan of the chalkboard stickers. However, I am not a fan of the chalkboard paint. So I bought white Sharpies & use those instead. Pantry organization is generally a permanent label situation. And if you need to change something, you ca just peel the label off and replace it. If you don't like the rustic look of chalkboard labels, there are a large variety of label makers you can use. I will also list s few of these.

So, as far as the process, the first thing to do is to remove every single item from the pantry. Usually a dining room table will work for the majority of it, and then kitchen counter space for the overflow.

Second, wipe down all of the shelves with disinfectant. I can't tell you how many clients I have that have a mouse situation in their pantry. So when we are all said and done, this pantry will hopefully keep those nasty little buggers out!

Third, dispose of any and all expired food. There are some foods that CAN make it past the expiration date, but I'm going to go with the fact that the FDA makes companies put expiration dates on everything for a reason lol! Therefore, I am not going to recommend keeping any expired food. And sometimes it's hard to throw food away because it feels wasteful. If you're anything like me, you were raised in a home that did not waste food, and you cleaned your plate whether you were hungry or not. And childhood learned behaviors are hard to eliminate from adulthood. But I'm here to tell you, it's ok to throw that food out. I'm also here to so save you & tell you that food pantries do not accept or use expired food. We just need to get a system down so that you are not over-buying any types of food. I'll help you with that later...

Fourth, we sort! This consists of grouping 'like items'. So piling all the pasta together, the sauce packets together, the packaged dry goods (like instant mashed potatoes, croutons, taco shells, au gratin etc.) canned soup, canned vegetables, condiments etc. You get the idea. You do NOT have to worry about sorting them into baskets at this point, because right now, you don't know which baskets you will need for what.

Fifth, and I want to express the importance of product placement in the pantry if you live in the country or where there is a mice issue, the TOP SHELF IS FOR CANNED, BOTTLED OR JARRED ITEMS ONLY. You need to be able to see the little black, rice shaped poop that mice leave in your pantry, and there's a solid chance you can't see the back of the top shelf, where these little food wasting creatures feel safe. So we're only putting items up there that they can't get into. If you have wire shelving it's not quite such a deal, but solid shelves, for sure are an issue. We are using baskets to eliminate crumbs hitting the floor, but we are still going to place these items in the middle of the pantry so that we can see clearly if anything is getting munched on, or if there is any 'black rice'!!

We will also not be putting anything on the floor that has crumbs or can be gotten into by these little fella's. Generally, I will put bottled water or canned drinks on the floor only, along with maybe paper towels. But that's about it usually.

Sixth, we basket. Clearly, it's going to depend on the quantity of each item as to which basket or container you use. But in my experience, there's usually the most of pasta, snacks, dry packaged goods, and cans. The cans definitely don't need to go in a basket unless you really want them to and I tend not to do that. It's better to stack them, to use the vertical space. I only stack cans on top of each other that have the same contents. This is so that you don't have to dig around toward the back of the shelf to see what you have back there, knocking the cans in the front down. We're not here for bowling. If you see a can of black beans on the top layer, then you know you have at least 2 cans of black beans if you only stack same items together. There are different tiered step type storage for cans, but I find this wastes space and doesn't really help with the organization. If you really want to get something for cans, I would definitely go with a can rack organizer instead. It's a preference for each person for sure. I personally prefer the stacking by same items option. It works for us in my home.

I group snacks by "fruit" type snacks, (this could mean fruit cups, raisins, applesauce or fruit snack packets) Chips & pretzels, (Individual bags & family size bags) Crackers, (Goldfish, graham crackers etc.) Cereal bars, protein bars, and any other type of bars together, & cookie or treat type snacks together.

Drink mixes go in a small basket or container.

Sauce packets go in one of the smaller baskets or containers.

Rice goes in a sealable container.

Open pasta goes in a sealable container.

Open crackers or chips need to be in containers or at the very least in gallon freezer bags.

Label the baskets & containers using your preferred method for labeling as discussed above.

In another blog, I will discuss grocery shopping and lists which will also involve your pantry, and help with not over-buying, but that's at a later date.

Below are some examples of pantries I have done in the past, on a variety of budgets.

Every pantry can be organized. Any size. Any space. It just takes a little prep work beforehand! If you need help, you can always contact me and we can simplify your life together!

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