Before you organize your kitchen pantry, you first need to know what you plan to keep there. With a pantry categories list, you will be able to streamline your food pantry in a way that fits your family and your stage of life.
Pantry organization tips might just be my most popular topic and for good reason. When it comes to our food, we spend a lot of money. Money that we continue to spend week after week after week. And when you invest so much in what you eat throwing out boxes of stale and jars of expired food, can be so frustrating.
By creating a plan for how you store your food you will not only save a ton of money at the grocery store, but you will also make meal prep a breeze. Before I used to fly by the seat of my pants at dinner time hoping that I had just one more box of mac and cheese to get me through. Now, I walk into my pantry, look at all my organized categories and create a healthy meal I know my family will love, all within a few minutes. If an organized food pantry can promise that kind of result why wouldn’t you want to give it a try?
If you are looking to declutter your pantry you will want to do that project first. Jump over here and read: How to Declutter Your Kitchen Pantry. Once you are done cleaning out the food you no longer need or want, head back over here so you can get the categories that will take you to the most important step of a streamlined pantry, organizing it in a way that matches your family’s food.
Why do you need categories to organize your food?
To answer this question, let’s take a look at a grocery store. I am sure if you have been to a store more than once you could walk inside and quickly find the bread without getting lost. You could probably also find a can of tomato soup and a package of American cheese. In just a few minutes you would be able to gather up all the ingredients for soup and sandwiches no matter how large the store is. That’s because the store relies on categories to streamline the setup. Produce is usually first with dairy along the outside, canned goods in the middle, and baked goods on the end.
The same is true for your home food storage. Categories help to streamline this frequently used space. So, rather than searching and digging through piles of boxes, pouches, and cans, you can quickly find the spaghetti, sauce, and canned mushrooms getting you off and cooking an amazing dinner in just minutes.
Pantry Categories List
When it comes to our food what you like to eat is probably different than what we like and for that reason, I will have a pretty thorough list of categories. This way you can pick and choose the ones that sound like a good fit and use them to streamline your entire kitchen pantry.
Categories by Cuisine
If your family loves stirfry, tacos, pasta, or mac and cheese then this might be a good fit for your setup. By using categories that rely on the cuisine you can set up bins or entire shelves with the ingredients you need to cook your favorites. Our family loves pasta so I have an entire shelf devoted to that cuisine.
This will include pasta, sauce, cans of whole, diced, and seasoned tomatoes, tomato paste, pizza sauce, mushrooms, and pizza crust.
This is what I like to call meat and potatoes cuisine. This will include potatoes both fresh and boxed, canned vegetables, stuffing, biscuit mix, cornbread mix, and rand breadings.
This will include shells, tortilla wraps, seasoning packets, box dinners, chilis, sauce, refried beans, and rice.
This will include rice, noodles, sauces, canned vegetables, and ramen.
This will include canned soup, mac and cheese, beans, barley, soup noodles, boxed dinners, canned vegetables, canned fish or chicken, and condiments.
This will include canned beef, pasta such as shells or macaroni, broth, spices, and seasonings.
Categories by Course
This is a great way to incorporate all cuisines into one list. Rather than the type of meal you are cooking you will instead organize by the course you are preparing.
This will include boxed dinners, seasoning packets, pasta, soup, gravy, and sauces.
This will include rice, noodles, mac and cheese, canned vegetables, beans, soup, and seasonings.
This will include crackers, dips, salad dressing, croutons, chips, and sauces.
This will include boxed or bagged desserts, icing, flour, sugars, baking powder and soda, vanilla, and any other ingredients you often bake with.
This will include ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, hot sauce, honey, sauces, dressings, and oils.
Categories by Theme
This is very similar to courses but a bit more based on the type of meal. I like this option as it is easy for your entire family to keep up with.
This will include oatmeal, cereal, breakfast bars, breakfast drinks, pancake syrup, jelly, and jams.
This will include canned fish or chicken, crackers, canned fruit, bread, dips, soup, broth, chips, and any snacks you and your family enjoy at lunch.
This will include sweet snacks, salty snacks, granola bars, bagged snacks, canned fruit, popcorn, nuts, seeds, trail mix, and dried fruit.
This will include pasta, sauces, boxed dinners, canned dinners, soups, seasoning packets, rice, noodles, broth, gravy, canned fish or chicken, and beans.
Categories by Diet
If you or any member of your family is on a restrictive diet, having categories that address those needs might be valuable to your setup.
Keto, Atkins, Paleo
Diet-friendly sugar and flour, diet-friendly wraps, low carb snacks, dressings, canned vegetables, diet-friendly canned fruit, canned meat, pickled eggs.
This will include beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, gluten-free pasta, rice flour, almond flour, and gluten-free baking supplies.
This will include nuts, seeds, low salt seasonings, canned fish or chicken, low salt beans or vegetables, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta and bread, brown rice, canned fruit (no sugar added), any diabetic-friendly snacks.
Categories by Family Member
If you have different ages in your family, categories that fit those members specifically are a great way to make a family-friendly pantry setup. It will also (hopefully) stop your spouse if they happen to snack on the little kid’s food when you are not looking.
For younger children, you can pre-bag snacks in these baggies so you are sure they are eating an appropriate amount.
This will include toddler snacks, small crackers, small cookies, fruit cups, dried fruit, graham crackers, cereal, and fruit snacks.
This will include any snacks your kids love to munch on along with items for packing lunches, breakfast foods, and drinks. You can prep foods for lunches with these great reusable snack bags giving each child their own design.
Teens can often eat without thinking, cleaning out a pantry in a few minutes’ time. To deter this you can set up an area of “free game” options that they can munch on without sending you off to the store a few times a week.
This will include drinks, fruit, crackers, meal bars, meal drinks, trail mix, canned meals, boxed meals, nuts seeds, trail mix, popcorn, pretzels, and chips.
This will include sweet snacks, salty snacks, fruit both canned and dried, crackers and dips, canned fish or chicken, snack bars, drinks, popcorn, nuts, and seeds.
Using Categories to Organize your Kitchen Pantry
Since I gave you quite a bit to digest I want to make sure you have the steps you need to put this all into action. Let’s walk it out and make this project just a bit easier to get implemented.
Decide what will work best.
Go through the list above and write down the categories that you will use to streamline your family’s pantry. You will want to be sure you have containers that will withstand the weight of what you have inside and hold up to constant use. I like the plastic bins the best. I have used these plastic bins for several years and they are still in great shape.
You will want to have a bin for each category unless you have more than one bin can hold, in that case, you can either go larger in size or more than one basket. For my family, we love pasta and that means I have 3 bins labeled “Italian”. That is the best part about using categories to organize your food, there are no rules and that means you can tailor it to fit your family.
Gather your supplies.
The best way to do this is to pick a category and start. Take a bin and make a label to better help you and your family know what is inside. I like to use a label maker for this step, but you can also purchase tie-on labels if that is what you prefer to have. Chalk labels are nice as well, but you will want to be sure you have containers that will keep the tag stuck in place.
Gather the food.
Starting with one bin, go into your pantry and gather up all the food you plan to keep inside. I like to just make a pile at this point so I can better see how many bins I will need for the job.
Once you have things matched up you can fill and put your newly organized and labeled bin into your pantry.
Hold a meeting.
This is a step that many people tend to skip over and it can kill a newly organized area in days. Yes, it’s show-and-tell time. Show your family what you have done and why you have things sorted out as you do. This will better help them to know what belongs where so they can continue to keep up with the system you created.
Continue filling, labeling, and returning your bins until your entire pantry is organized. Don’t forget to step back and admire your work.
Let it sit.
Before you know for sure if a setup will work for you and your family, you will want to let things coast for a while. I suggest a full month letting your family use the pantry without much coaching. This will really let you see what, if any, changes need to be made.
How will you know if your pantry categories are working?
If your pantry is still put away after a few weeks, then it is safe to say you are on the right track. If, however, you are seeing food in the wrong bin, or piles on the shelf and floor, that is your cue to adjust to make it easier for everyone to keep up with.
A few extra food pantry categories to consider.
- Every now and then we may purchase items at the store that we don’t routinely use. Rather than letting them get lost in a bin that doesn’t quite fit, you can set up a bin labeled “New This Week”.
- Another bin option is for any foods that are getting close to their expiration date. This is when having a bin labeled “Use This Week” can be quite useful. When creating a meal plan take this bin into consideration and never toss expired food again.
When streamlining a food pantry you will want to create a system that fits your family and the foods they like to eat. A pantry categories list that you can set up for each member, creating a space that the entire family can keep up with.