7 Tips to Organize Your Pantry for FREE

Go look at your pantry right now. How does it make you feel?

Lady being hit by falling Tupperware

If you’re like me, looking at your pantry will make you feel like just closing the door and opening the UberEats app on your phone (meaning that NO cooking will happen in your kitchen tonight).

But also, organizing things is a laborious and tedious task. And for me, usually the closest that I ever come to organizing things is creating a Pinterest board to *inspire* me to organize things. Or, I would browse Instagram, looking at gorgeous kitchens designed by professionals or naturally well-organized people. I don’t usually actually go and organize the things, to be honest.

But my pantry was not only uninspiring, it was also wasteful and dangerous.

Unorganized bottom part of my pantry

How can a pantry be wasteful?

As you can see in my pantry organization video, I had to discard two identical boxes of brownie mix because they both had become buried underneath an unorganized mess of other boxed foods.

How can a pantry be dangerous?

On more than one occasion, something fell on my foot while I tried to retrieve something else from my pantry. Things can fall on you, too, especially if your pantry has shelves. It’s better to organize your pantry to avoid food waste and possible dangers.

Speaking of Pinterest inspiration, let’s face it: many inspiration photos on Pinterest and Instagram include high priced containers, all purchased at the same time, measured and fit perfectly into the space. Because I am currently a renter, I am hesitant to purchase the perfect set of pantry organization containers. I did that before (as you can see in my video that I do own several similar looking containers already) and have learned that one storage solution may not work perfectly in another space. Whomp whomp.

So, before you go out and spend your paycheck on perfect organization bins at The Container Store or Target, let me share a few of my tips to organize your pantry for free, using what you already have (existing bins and/or boxes from Amazon!):

Tip #1: REMOVE EVERYTHING FROM THE PANTRY

Pretend that Marie Kondo is with you as you begin your pantry cleaning and organization process. Marie would tell you to first take everything out of your pantry. Removing everything forces you to go through what you have, not just “thumb through” your crowded box of food looking for what needs to be discarded (like I would normally do).

Empty shelves of my pantry

Tip #2: PUT HEAVY AND CLEANING ITEMS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PANTRY

Use your knowledge of the laws of gravity and good ole common sense to organize the things that you put back into the pantry. Gravity says that you should put heavy things (that could fall and bop you on your noggin) on the bottom. Common sense says you should put cleaning supplies (that could spill into your food) at the bottom, too.

I wanted to be able to put my recycling bag inside of the pantry, too. I was tired of seeing it hanging on the doorknob outside of the pantry, so I made sure to put it in first and work around it. As you can see in the photo, I did not have a “proper” trash can for the recycling bag. Since recycling items are usually lightweight (like empty milk jugs and other plastic containers), you can simply use a thumb tack or nail to hang the bag on the wall.

I also put a few craft supplies along the left side, underneath the bag. For me, the heavy items were my waffle maker and a couple of other small appliances.

Tip #3: DISCARD OLD AND UNWANTED ITEMS

My next tip is to thoroughly go through your food and remaining items. I discarded two expired boxes of brownie mix and some dishwashing soap that was not of great quality (sorry, Target!)

Tip #4: REPURPOSE OLD CONTAINERS AND BOXES

My next tip is to simply use whatever containers you already have or shipping / shoe boxes to create storage solutions. I had a really nice, see-through drawer type container that I purchased several years ago from The Container Store. I was using it to store tea on a shelf that was above my head, which meant that I risked a slight bop on the head whenever I tried to retrieve tea. I had to take the entire thing down every time I wanted tea. How silly of me!

I removed the tea from the container and put it into a soft, fabric container. Then, I relocated the tea to a middle shelf where I can simply look into the container and easily see all the tea. Genius!

If you do not have *any* containers or boxes and you have a little money, you can go to your local Dollar Store and purchase containers. The genius mom blogger at Do It On a Dime has lots of content to help you know what kind of containers you can use from the Dollar Store.

I reused this container for snacks. Previously, it held tea (as shown on the right).

Tip #5: DECANT WHEN POSSIBLE

When you are going through your pantry items, you may discover that you have the same item in different places. For example, I discovered that I had 2 partially (mostly!) used bags of jasmine rice AND a dedicated container for jasmine / white rice. Sometimes, I amaze myself with how much sense I do NOT make. I’m ludicrous!

If you, too, are ludicrous, then decant the similar items into the same container. Doing this will save space and allow you to know exactly how much of each item you have.

Put all of your similar rices in the same spot!

Tip #6: ORGANIZE ITEMS BY CATEGORY

Before you put things back into your pantry, make sure to organize things by categories that suit you and your life best.

For me, that meant decanting most of the sweets / snacks and putting them into the large see-through container. I grouped sweets and snacks together because I do not snack much and don’t need separate categories for different types of snacks. If you have several different kinds of snacks, like chips, cookies, granola bars, etc., you can store them separately.

Marshmallows, hot cocoa mix, cookies, and crackers all fit nicely and together into this container.

Tip #7: ARRANGE ITEMS ACCORDING TO USAGE FREQUENCY AND CATEGORY

Lastly, arrange your food stuffs according to when you will use it (and keep things together according to the categories you have created).

I have tea at least once a day (most days I have at least 2-3 cups of various kinds of tea). So, I prioritized putting my tea at eye level.

As previously mentioned, I don’t snack much, so I put the snacks in the heavy-ish see-through container and put it on the top shelf.

Another tip (consider this a bonus!) is to use sticky notes to create labels. I had some bright green sticky notes that really “popped” out to me, so I used those with a little piece of tape along the bottom to label most of the containers. I added a little pizazz to each of the letters and used a black Sharpie for high contrast.

Since I knew that all of the snacks were in the see-through container, I did not bother to label it. Also, I placed all of my various pastas in the top, gray bin, so I did not label it, either. Lastly, the same is for the bottom, gray bin: it holds all tea, so I did not see the need to label it.

Top part of my newly organized pantry!
Bottom part of my newly organized pantry!

What are some of your own low or no cost organizing tricks? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

Also, you can watch me express disgust with myself and work to get the pantry organized in this video:

Make sure to like, share, comment, and subscribe to this blog + my YouTube channel. I’d love to have you join my basic ass cooking and living community!

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