How to Declutter a Kitchen Pantry

If you struggle with storing food in your kitchen then this guide on How to Declutter a Kitchen Pantry will help. learn tips on decluttering and streamlining your setup and get you one step closer to your pantry organization goals.

Clutter and food. It’s not something you usually pair together. But here’s the thing, if you have food you are not using because you have too much of it or you do not have an organized way to store it, then you are most likely wasting it and that is what clutter is. 

How to Declutter a Kitchen Pantry

Stuff you have that you do not use. 

The answer to keeping food out of your clutter category is to set up food storage areas that are streamlined and organized. Areas such as a pantry, kitchen cabinets, refrigerator, freezer, and even a root cellar. But before you do that, there is one important step to do first. You will need to sort and declutter all the food that you have. 

Decluttering all of your food can be a pretty big and overwhelming project, so let’s break it down just a bit. 

Let’s walk through how to declutter the dry food that you are keeping in your kitchen cabinet or walk-in pantry. This may still be a bigger-sized project, but work on it one step at a time, and you might find it easier to get through than you first realized. 

How to Declutter a Kitchen Pantry

With any large project, I like to break things down into quick steps. Focus on just one at a time and work your way through your setup.

Step #1. Pre Work

Set up a sorting area that gives you enough room to really spread out and work. I like to use a kitchen table for this, but if you have only a small one you can use the kitchen counter, a folding table, or set up a blanket on the floor. The trick is to choose a spot that you can leave and come back to if needed. 

If you decide to use the kitchen table, give your family a heads up. Let them know that take-out or cereal is on the menu for tonight’s meal so you can work without the pressure of a ticking clock. Be sure you have the rest of your sorting supplies ready as well. 

Read How to Setup a Decluttering Kit

Step #2. Purge and Donate

Next, gather up all the dry food that you have stored in your kitchen, this includes cans, pouches, and boxes. Once you have everything together, do an initial sort weeding out the food you will not be putting back.

How to Declutter Food:

  • Toss – Anything that is expired, stale, or spoiled
  • Donate – Anything that is still good to eat but you know your family will not eat. You can give this to a family member, friend, or the local food pantry.

Step #3. Sort

I find it is best to sort things out into categories as I go. Categories are different types of food and they can help to keep your storage area neat and put away. Start out with a generic list to see how things flow. Later you may want to move things around to better fit you and your family’s dietary needs.

Food Categories:

  • Main Course – Boxed dinners
  • Side Dishes – Rice, noodles, vegetables
  • Soup/Beans
  • Breakfast – Boxed cereals, breakfast bars, drink mixes, oatmeal
  • Snacks
  • Fruit, potatoes, onions, garlic
  • Drinks
  • Seasonings
  • Pasta/Rice
  • Keto, Gluten-free, Sugar-free, etc

READ: How to Use Categories to Organize Your Food

As you start a new category, use a post-it note or index card to label the container. This will help you as you are sorting, but also after you are done to remember what belongs where.

This step will take you the longest to get through, so don’t get frustrated if the clock is ticking and the progress you are seeing is small. The good news is, once you get the sorting done the hard part is over.

Why is sorting your food into categories so important?

Sorting food into categories will help organize what you eat more efficiently. Start out with basic topics and add in more as you see you need them. So, for example, if you find you have quite a bit of gluten-free food for your son, label a bin to hold those foods going forward.

If you have young children that want to get snacks to eat on their own, you can set up a basket for each with their name on the label. Fill it up with their favorites using small snack baggies to proportion things out in an amount that fits their age. 

Step #4. Keep Track

While you are sorting, you might see you are running short on a few things, keep a list close by for anything you see you need to purchase the next time you are at the store.

The best part of having a streamlined food storage area is you will be more efficient with your shopping meaning extra savings with your food budget. First, you will no longer be tossing food or buying items you already have too much of.

Before heading to the store, go into your pantry with your shopping list. Double-check to to ensure that what you are going to purchase, you actually need. Next, look at the containers in your pantry and see where you may be running a bit short. Add any items to your list. This one tip will be a huge game changer going forward. 

a women making a grocery shopping list while standing in her kitchen pantry

What should you keep, and what should you donate? 

This can be a bit tricky so let’s talk about it for a minute. 

Have you ever been online playing around when suddenly you see a photo of a recipe that looks so amazing you can actually taste it? It is something you have never made before but the directions look easy enough. So you print it out and take it with you to the store and purchase all the ingredients on the list. Once home you put the newly purchased supplies into your pantry and go about your day, completely forgetting all about them.

Now you are sorting through things and in your hand, you have a bottle of miso paste and a can of bamboo shoots. You may be asking yourself, why on earth do I have this? If you are, that is your cue to donate it to the food pantry or a family friend that might be into stirfry more than you are. 

When it comes to food, we often feel we must keep eeverything we purchased even if we know they may never get opened. The truth is, an efficient food pantry is one that has items inside you routinely use. Start out fresh with a clean slate. Let go of anything that is not something you want and free up space for things you and your family enjoy.

Step #5. Clean

There is nothing easier than cleaning a pantry that is completely empty! Take some time to wipe things down from ceiling to floor giving you a clean area to organize. 

a woman cleaning a counter with a glove and rag

Step #6. See Things for the First Time

This is the easy and fun part of decluttering your pantry. Go inside and take a look around. See this space as if you are for the very first time. Look at the space as a whole and imagine what bins of food would do best where. If you see an area that you may need to purchase an organizer for, make a note on your shopping list to grab that item the next time you are out. 

Great Organizers for the Pantry:

Step #7. Organize

When it comes to organizing a pantry, your goal is to make it easy for you to find the food you need and just as easy to put new food where it belongs. This may mean that how you organize the food will relate to how you cook and eat.

I like to have things by ethnic cuisine meaning I have a bin for Italian, Asian, American, etc. This is how my head works with organizing food so this setup fits me the best.

I would suggest trying one way of sorting your food and see how you do. After a few weeks if you see you are still keeping up with it, then you have a pretty good setup in place. If, however, you are finding food in the wrong bins or are still in shopping bags on the floor, this is your cue that you may need to rethink things. 

Pantry Organizing Resources:

When it comes to decluttering your kitchen pantry you might be a little overwhelmed at the size of the job. Take a deep breath and just work on one step at a time and before you know it you will have another area in your home neat and free of clutter. 

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