How to Organize Your Pantry and Save Cash

by Tisha Tolar on 11 January 2012 8 comments

The cost of groceries is increasing, and many consumers are on the hunt for better, more efficient ways to save and cut down on their monthly food expenses. While researching sales between retailers and clipping coupons can certainly help, there is a good chance you’ll get the most savings by first clearing out your current food pantry and cabinets.

Too often consumers with disorganized cabinets and pantries overspend simply because they can’t find anything. They buy excess amounts of stuff they already have. Here are some organization tips that everyone should use to sort out the pantry and make you more effective at grocery shopping. (See also: How to Grocery Shop for Five on $100 a Week)

Hunt and Gather

Start by clearing your kitchen table, then opening all of your food cabinets and removing everything from the shelves. As you remove items, try grouping them on the table in categories such as baking supplies, soups, and condiments.

Check the Dates

Keep a trash bag and an empty box nearby. As you remove items, check expiration dates and toss the bad stuff. When you find items you know you will never use, put them in a donation box, provided you have never opened/used the items. This box can later go to a local food pantry, soup kitchen, or church organization.

Clean Effectively

Since your food pantry and cabinets likely do not get cleaned weekly, make the most of the empty shelves. Clean and disinfect them thoroughly. Add some grip liner to keep items in place after the space has adequate time to dry.

Make an Inventory

With everything spread out before you, consider the pantry priorities. The things you use most should be placed at a convenient location so you can see immediately when you are running low.

Label Shelving

If you are not living the single life and fear others will mess up your organization efforts, use a labeler or colored tape to designate where things can go. Make categories somewhat generic such as condiments or snacks so as not to micro-organize yourself out of space.

Eliminate the Mess

If you store bags of sugar, sacks of flour, and boxes of cereal, invest in some air-tight canisters. Not only will they help in organization and space-saving, you will also help eliminate the attraction of pests. Don’t forget to purchase containers that are in line with the height and width of your shelving space.

Tier It Up

In order to make it easier to see in the back of the cabinets that go three or four rows deep, insert scrap wood or other items from your home that could serve as tiers, boosting the height of the canned goods and other items in the back row, so you can see everything easily at one time without having to rifle through the rows of items.

Restock Wisely

Extra grocery items should be stored up and out of the way. Make a list of how many extra jars of peanut butter you have found. By recording the extras and taping the list inside the pantry door, you’ll know right away if you have something you need, even if you can’t see it right away. Similarly, if you purchase items in bulk, consider another storage area that is out of the way so your pantry is less cluttered and easier to manage.

Spices and smaller items can be stored in a plastic tote or basket so you can remove the whole thing when you need something.

Also, consider putting items in categories by expiration dates. Put stuff you need to use first in the front, so you can stop having to toss food out after it expires.

Install a Dry Erase Board

Pick up a dry erase board at the dollar store, and install it inside the pantry or on the back of the cabinet door. When you take the last of something, make a note of it so you can keep your grocery list more accurate, and likely shorter.

Going forward, your pantry and your refrigerator should ideally be free of clutter, kept clean, and regularly organized so that any time you need to, you can glance at the shelves and know immediately what you need and what you don’t.

And don’t forget to drop off that donation box at the local food pantry or soup kitchen. What you don’t use or don’t like will be appreciated by those who receive it.

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Guest's picture

We have a small pantry closet in our kitchen that isn't roomy enough for the stuff we keep, so we have a shelving unit at the bottom of the stairs that we keep most of our canned and dry goods on. I actually have a to-do item for sometime this month to re-arrange it. I always do so and follow a lot of the tips here, most importantly moving the stuff that expires first to the front. Clearing it off and re-organizing also always lets you find something that you forgot about, often opening up a new meal idea or two.

Guest's picture
Diana

I downloaded an app for my Android tablet called "My Pantry". It took some time, but I was able to get an inventory of the cans and spices in the cupboards. I'm also able to create a shopping list when I run out.

I do like the idea of the whiteboard. I'll definitely use it when I can't use the tablet app.

Guest's picture

Great ideas! I had a huge pantry makeover a few months ago. Definitely takes time but is so worthwhile. I also recommend lazy susans. there are so many better options than the plain-jane white plastic ones and really are a godsend in terms of keeping things close at hand and making it easier to get stuff in the back.

Guest's picture
NCN

I like to get my kids involved. They love going through the cabinets, organizing and putting away groceries. (Even in an organized home, with three kids, it's easy for the pantry to get in disarray. Keeping them a part of the progress really encourages them to be neat, too.)
To that end, we have a "kids drawer" in the kitchen, where they can put after-school snacks, at kid-level. They must keep it neat, organized, with tops sealed. The oldest brings the groceries in from the car, and the two younger kids put items away.

Guest's picture
NE Kelly

You don't need a dry erase board - just a laminated piece of card stock and an overhead marker (wipes off with water) - I have reused mine for years and years. Taped it to the inside of a cabinet door for easy access.

Guest's picture

This sounds obvious, but it's clever. We try to shop without overspending, but who knows what "extra" items find themselves in our pantry. Thanks. :)

Guest's picture

Great tips! I try to clean out my cabinets at least once a month because so often items got lost in the sea of food and I'd re-buy things I already had! Love the idea of the dry erase board inside the pantry, great way to write reminders.

Guest's picture
Jeff

Checking the date is also so key when stocking up on discounts. Nothing worse than realizing a few months worth of product expires in a week.