Tips to Stock and Organize your Pantry

posted by Andrea | 02/28/2012

{a few shelves of my “pantry” area in our basement}

I’ve been known to have a VERY well-stocked pantry. I guess that comes from my mom — growing up, we always had 4 or 5  more of everything down on the pantry shelves in the basement.

And although Dave and I don’t really have a true “pantry” in our kitchen, we have several shelving units in our basement that house all our extra canned goods, baking supplies, cereal, chips, snacks, beverages, and loads of other non-perishable food supplies.

These shelves have seriously saved my butt many times when I run out of a specific ingredient in the middle of making a recipe. Instead of wasting time running out to the store, I can simply head down to the basement and “raid my stash”!

{my pantry right after we moved… I have since re-stock it many times!}

I have to laugh because I honestly thought it was completely normal to have shelves and shelves of extra food in the basement! After all, my mom does it, my grandma does it, Dave’s mom does it, so everyone must do it… right?!

But then I posted this picture of a couple of my pantry shelves {in our old house}… and I immediately started getting comments, facebook messages, and emails from people asking what items I keep in my pantry, how I keep it organized, how long I keep certain items, etc. etc.

{my “pantry” in our old house}

So I guess this might not be as “normal” as I thought! 

If you’ve never taken the time to create/use a pantry in your home, here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Designate a place for your extra food.

You don’t need a fancy pantry in your kitchen — I’ve never had one and that certainly didn’t stop me! Start with one shelving unit in your basement or garage {you can find cheap shelves on Craigslist!}. If you don’t have a basement or garage, use plastic storage tubs that fit under your bed… or in a hall closet.

It doesn’t have to be a huge spot, just one designated place to store your extra food supplies.

2. Stock up when items goes on sale.

I save LOTS of money by having a well-stocked pantry… because I always buy the items when they are on sale and I have coupons. Just last week, my mom told me about a deal on Kellogg’s cereal and I was able to get TEN boxes completely free {and we eat lots of cereal}!

Obviously, you don’t need to go crazy here {think Extreme Couponing} — the purpose is not to stock up just so you can say you have 5 bazillion packages of something! The idea behind a pantry stockpile is to save yourself time and money by not running out of certain supplies you use on a regular basis. So keep that in mind as you stock up!

If you are new to stockpiling, here is a free printable that will allow you to track all the items in your pantry and help you know what you might need to stock up on!

3. Organize food by type.

Obviously, it’s much easier to find what you need when you need it if you have some method of organization. My method is nothing special, I usually just designate one shelf per item {Here’s a list of foods I always try to keep in my pantry.}

For example, I have one shelf for pasta, one shelf for canned fruits and veggies, one shelf for cereal, one shelf for chips, one shelf for crackers and other snacks, one shelf for baking supplies, etc. etc.

And of course, I use shoe boxes to organize smaller items like extra condiments, spices, seasonings, etc.

4. Put newer items in the back.

If you’re like me, you will most likely add to your stockpile on a weekly basis. I stock up on different items each week, depending on what’s on sale — this way, my pantry is never empty. However, when I buy more items, I always make sure to put them in the back… even though that may take a little extra work on my part.

If you don’t take the time to continually rotate your items {oldest items in front, newest items in back} you run the risk of things expiring before you use them… and that’s a huge waste!

5. Create meal plans around your pantry stockpile.

I use a really simple meal-planning method that gives me lots of flexibility and options each week. However, I always try to integrate as many pantry staples into my meal plan as possible.

Like I mentioned before, one of the main reasons I keep such a large stock-pile of food on hand is to save time and money — but if I create a meal plan that doesn’t use the ingredients I already have in the house, then I still waste time and money making a special trip to the store.

And every couple of months, I’ll challenge myself to make an entire weekly meal plan using ONLY the items in our pantry and freezer. Not only do I save a TON on groceries that week, but it also gives me an opportunity to clean out some of the pantry staples that might have been around for awhile!

6. Re-stock your pantry.

Obviously, in order to maintain a well-stocked pantry,  you should have some type of system in place for re-stocking your pantry supplies.

As I mentioned in #4 above, I try to restock mine on a weekly basis — but I don’t stock everything each week. For example, if cereal and crackers are really on sale one week, I’ll buy a whole bunch {probably enough to last us 4-8 weeks}. The next week, peanut butter and salad dressing might be marked down so I’ll stock up on those items, but I won’t buy any cereal or crackers.

I think you get the idea! Just keep looking for those sales and stocking up on specific items each week.

Another thing I do is keep a running list of items I’m running low on. When I bring up the last bottle of syrup, I write it on my list. When I open the last bag of cheddar chips, I put that on my list. That list helps me remember what to look for and assures that our stockpile never runs out.

Stocking and organizing a pantry really doesn’t have to be a lot of work.  In fact, I don’t even think about it anymore — it’s just second nature! And honestly, I’ve saved SO much time and money by keeping my pantry stocked and ready for my next freezer cooking day, massive baking extravaganza, or just unexpected company.

Do you have a “pantry” somewhere in your house?

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26 comments

  1. Annette {Simple Mom}

    02/28/2012

    I actually have a post just like this in the works bc I do the same thing. I basically know what I need…and stock up when they are on sale. We use a book case and shelving.

    [Reply]

  2. Chris

    02/28/2012

    I have a large pantry and love it! I have a hard time keeping it organized sometimes though :)

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  3. Melrose

    02/28/2012

    i never thought of random garage shelving before! My house has no basement and i’ve always felt so deprived… haha.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    we actually got these shelving units out of our garage when we moved into our new house — the previous owners left them. And while we didn’t need the extra storage in our garage we knew we could put them to good use as our “pantry”. So for it’s working well!

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  4. Jen @ Dear Mommy Brain

    02/28/2012

    This is a perfectly timed reminder that I need to go through my stockpile. It’s been sorely neglected for a while.

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  5. Rebecca

    02/28/2012

    A well-stocked pantry is a necessity when you live in the country. I am blessed to have one in my kitchen, huge shelves (buit ins over our washer and dryer) and a whole closet pantry in our mudroom. Each one is stocked full of necessities and replenished on a regular basis. I also keep a tote of ingredients for a few of my “go to” desserts for the nights that my kids spring it on me that they need to bring something for school in the morning – it’s saved me many times.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    amen! We don’t really live in the “country” but we are about 15 minutes from the store {30 minutes round trip} so it’s still not super convenient to just quick “run to the store” if we need something. So yeah, our pantry has saved us many times too! I live your go-to dessert ideas too!!

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  6. Kim Whiteside

    02/28/2012

    Re well-stocked pantry: I also have a pantry like this, but must admit I was a bit shocked that not all of your lettering on cereal boxes were going the same direction.

    Seriously, I noticed that. Do you think there is help for one as obsessive as me?

    All teasing aside, I am enjoying your blog tremendously and learning (and applying) so much. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Kim, believe it or not, I a most definitely NOT a perfectionist of any sort! I like things to be organized and easy to find… but I don’t worry about little details like that! I figure if it’s behind closed doors, then I don’t care what it looks like :)

    Although I do often dream about those ultra-organized pantries where everything is in clear containers with chalkboard labels. Not the most practical but it sure looks amazing!!

    [Reply]

  7. Susan

    02/28/2012

    I love this post! It is exactly the system I use it. I 2 thought it was normal until my mother in law I was shocked at the size of my stockpile. I share my meal plan weekly for free at http://www.diningdivadinners.com

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  8. stephanie

    02/28/2012

    I never really have taken the time to keep a well stocked pantry or organize the one I have. I am starting to realize the benefit of it. Now to reorganize the one I have and make a list of what I want to keep stocked up. It will help a lot, so that I don’t end up with 3 containers of oatmeal ever again. :)

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  9. KimH

    02/28/2012

    I’ve always kept a pantry.. My mom did, and my grandmas & great grandmas did as well. Im with you.. Its the norm.
    I have a 2 door stand alone pantry in a hallway off the kitchen and then I have a nice sized room in the basement that is a serious pantry. I keep my home canned goods there too.

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  10. Christelle

    02/29/2012

    Great post for something that I need to tackle this week!
    I also grew up with a stocked pantry, but abandoned the idea sometime through the years…and decided that I need to implement it again.
    Since I turned my grand kitchen storage plans on its head by buying a lovely but not-so-practical huge old shop counter, I needed to find extra space somewhere…and this week cleared out a small free-standing cupboard that has served as toy storage, wardrobe and currently, linen closet. So IN will go pantry stuff!
    It will remain in the funny walk-through room we have between our original house and a new addition, and I will also include cleaning supplies there. AND I plan to put my “bathroom cleaning stuff in a bucket” as per one of your previous posts in there as well :-)

    [Reply]

  11. Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead

    02/29/2012

    I actually have multiple pantries in our house. I have the basic staples like flour, sugar, spices, dog food, and so on in our main kitchen in drawers and a pull out pantry. Then I have a big walk in pantry outside the kitchen off our mudroom that has the stuff I use on a regular basis to cook…and about a month’s worth of food in general. Aside from that, we then have our long-term food storage in the basement with beans, rice, sugar, etc in larger quantities. Some might think it’s overkill, but we like to be prepared…

    Now I just need to get better at using some of the stuff up regularly…Going to go check out your other post about that now :)

    [Reply]

  12. Pantry Organization: Part 3 | iSavvyMom

    02/29/2012

    [...] Check out my tips on how to organize the pantry. Also, Andrea at organized living recently wrote a great post on how to organize and stock the pantry. [...]

  13. Kristen

    02/29/2012

    I also thought that a pantry was something everyone had, considering Mom has one, Grandma did etc. I find it so essential to keep things on-hand that we use all the time, especially now that I’m a SAHM. First, who wants to take a toddler to the grocery every other day (NOT ME!) Second, if I’m not running to the grocery that often, it saves gas. Even though we are extremely close to the store, little trips definitely add up! I’ve made my freezer my best friend and given Heavy Duty shelving a workout! :)

    [Reply]

  14. Jessi

    02/29/2012

    I grew up in a house with a well stocked pantry too, and my grandmother always had extra food in her pantry so I’m totally used to the idea.

    I was bummed when I moved to an apartment with no real room for a pantry, but I have finally got a system in place to make sure I keep enough of what I need around. I just wrote a post about it on my blog but I’m so glad to see other people do this “having tons of extra food” thing too and it’s not just my family!

    http://practicallyfunctional.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-i-always-have-enough-butter.html

    [Reply]

  15. Robin

    02/29/2012

    OMG I wish I could attach a photo of my pantry! Organization is a constant revolving practice. I too live in the country and it’s a must to have a well stocked pantry. Something I grew up with when visiting my Grandparents ranch. It was common place to see a case of tuna (of course purchased on-sale) in Grandma’s pantry.

    When Kim commented on the cereal boxes lettering not being in the same direction, I laughed. Kim and I are alike. Though I didn’t notice it at first via your photos, I am that way at home. Even my FIFO can organizers have all my cans in one direction. I read a great book years ago and I’m what they call a “messy profectionist”. Which can be good and also bad at the same time.

    Tips I have for organizing (especially since I coupon too) are:

    Dating month and year (4/12 for example) on the ends of your cereal boxes with a Sharpie (or any boxed items you have for that matter). I do this where the calorie info is. This helps my family to know which box to choose from next, so were not having expired boxes left on the shelf.

    Save “store” card board boxes that hot sauce some in. When I see an almost empty box on the shelf I place it in my cart (with a couple of the bottles I’m purchasing). This way when I get home, I add the rest of the bottles on my shelf to fill up the box.

    I received an excellent tip off of the Organizing Site “Orgjunkie.com) (how I originally found Andrea!) that has come in so handy. She mentioned about a post of purchasing those white “closed-type” storage organizers when their at thrift stores, on sale, etc. This tip helped tremendously! I’ve picked up two for less than $5 (retail at Lowes $12.99) and added them to my pantry organizing. I’ve been able to nicely place a 4 qtr. crock pot on each shelf and then stack my large-large Tuperware containers for Flour and Sugar. I then found another and was able to place a cute small square basket filled with powered drink mixes such as Crystal Light on the top, canned fruit on the 2nd shelf and my son’s large lunch pail and thermos neatly MAXIMIZING space which if you could see my pantry I need more of.

    Rotate by date canned items and such.

    I’ve been picking up 2nd-hand hard plastic containers to help maximize my my pantry organization. Just the other day I found a cute colorful basket which now houses my Spenda Blend (I’m a low carber and love to bake!), brown sugar Spenda, etc., etc. It’s nice to have one basket to pull when I’m ready to bake.

    I’m now rethinking my kitchen storage vs. my pantry storage contemplating moving my measuring cups, large mixing bowls and such to my kitchen and the large crock pot and various baking dishes to the pantry. Basically moving the items I use more often into the kitchen and those I don’t out. It’s an ever evolving process, don’t you think?

    Excellent topic!

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  16. Flavia

    02/29/2012

    I am just now learning about couponing and stock pilling. we will be moving back to the US around April time and I can’t wait to start doing that. Thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

  17. L.

    02/29/2012

    I don’t have a pantry. About how much would I expect to spend around if I buy everything at once? what are the things I should start w/?

    Where is a good place to get coupons (in the mail since I don’t have a printer) and freebies?

    [Reply]

    Kristen @ Joyfullythriving Reply:

    I’d recommend buying one extra item next time you are out and notice a good sale. Do this and slowly you’ll accumulate a good pantry. Or, you can allocate a certain amount of your grocery budget for stocking up. You can get coupons from manufacturers, just for writing. I had a whole series on my website about that last year, and received hundreds of high value coupons in the mail!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Great advice Kristen… Now I have to go read your series and see how you got your extra coupons :)

    [Reply]

  18. Kristen @ Joyfullythriving

    03/01/2012

    Great glimpse inside your pantry, Andrea! I have a fully stocked pantry in my basement too, especially since my kitchen is teeny-tiny. Like you said, it’s a great time and money saver! What a great skill / strategy to learn from our Moms! :-)

    [Reply]

  19. Weekend Reading: March 3, 2012

    03/03/2012

    [...] Tips to Stock and Organize your Pantry | Simple Organized Living [...]

  20. Lanelle

    10/15/2012

    We just moved from a 2000sq ft home with a 2 car garage to a 1300 sq ft home and NO garage! I HAD to get organized because I am a couponer and had a stockpile. I have store bought canned goods, canned goods that I canned and freeze-dried foods from Shelf Reliance. To help me organize I purchased one of their Food Rotation system racks for my pantry and smaller ones to retrofit in my cupboard.

    I loved the food and racks so much I became a consultant. If you look at many of the couponers featured on Extreme Couponers most all of them have the same racks. It doesn’t do any good to save money on food just to have it expire! Rotate, rotate, rotate ;) I’m not trying to sell just passing on something I’m passionate about and that helped me.

    [Reply]

  21. heather

    05/17/2014

    i have a small pantry how do i keep it stocked and uncluttered at the same time

    [Reply]

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