The Zen of Organizing the Pantry

Are you guys in full Christmas/Holiday mode yet? About this time of year, I host my annual cookie baking day/night where my neighbor friends come over for an all day and evening bake-fest to make cookies to distribute to the neighborhood. This day usually kick starts my festive season mood. Without it, my brain is confused! My family shall turn on our “holly, jolly” switch soon. In the meantime, my dear friend, Julie, wrote a blog post about her tips on organizing a kitchen! 

I always joke with her and my “organizer” friends that I’d rather poke a needle in my eye than do an organizing project. Ha! Thank goodness for opposite traits of people in our lives. I value their skill-set… especially having the patience to label and decant their pantry items! Enjoy these tips from Julie. During this next phase of quasi- Stay-at-Home life with the spike in virus numbers, a project like this is a good idea for us all!

The Zen of Organizing the Pantry

As with most people, 2020 has put a wrench in the gears of my seemingly “in control” life.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was nice to have this “great pause” to reflect and put many things in perspective like how much I value face to face interactions with my friends and family. I tried various things to distract myself: jigsaw puzzles, gardening, crafts and organizing.  But, I found that my favorite diversion was organizing.  It gives me a sense of control and purpose. 

After I had organized my pantry, I was on a roll and itching to organize someone else’s pantry!  Organizing someone else’s things is cathartic because you’re not emotionally attached to them.  It’s so much easier to throw out someone else’s broken mug than yours, and purging is an important step to organizing.  Thankfully my dear friend, Jen, agreed to indulge my OCD.  This project was like another jig saw puzzle that was completely satisfying when completed.

Before the pantry was organized

Jen’s Pantry: BEFORE

Here are things I learned in the process:


Take everything out and then sort it by categories. I used the following categories: Baking, Breakfast, Grains, Seasoning, Oils, Snacks, Paper Good, etc.


I think this is the hardest step for most people. We hate the idea of wasting food (or anything for that matter).  Sometimes, it helps to know it will go to someone or will be recycled.  (Please learn your city’s recycling rules as not everything can be recycled i.e. soiled paper.)

Make sure to keep a trash can and a recycle bin nearby as you’ll need them to toss expired or broken items.
If you have duplicate or obsolete items, you can always donate unexpired, unopened foods to a local food shelter.
There are also things that can be moved out of the pantry. For example, there was another cabinet full of appliances elsewhere in the kitchen, so I moved the appliances (that were in the pantry) there.


Decide what type of containers you will be using and be consistent so your eyes can focus on things inside. Many food items (such as flour, sugar, rice, snacks) need to be in a sealed jar to not attract pests like pantry moths and ants.  I chose clear glass jars for the baking ingredients and clear plastic containers for grains, pasta and snacks.  I prefer clear containers so that I can quickly see what’s in them and also if I’m running low on something. 


Decide where you’ll place things with the most used items at the most accessible shelves and the least used items on the very top or bottom shelves.
I placed overstock items behind the corresponding jars (i.e. extra flour went behind the flour jar).
Snacks were put on shelves where they can easily be seen and then grouped in clear bins by nuts, chips, sweets, etc.
Different oils and seasonings (such as soy sauce and vinegar) were sorted in their own separate lazy susans. I find when I’m cooking, I need to find these things rather quickly and hate searching for them.


This step may seem like it’s just for aesthetics, but it is one of the most useful step to keep things organized. It helps other members in your family, as well as yourself, to put things back in their “home” and create good habits.  Also as mom, it helps me from having to answer the annoying question, “Mom, where is…?”




Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. A Lifestyle Blog by Jen Oliak (and friends.)