Pantry Categories List

It can be super tricky to organize our food and maybe that is why you are here today. I have a tip that will make it much easier to use categories to keep things organized. Check out this pantry categories list and see if it helps you with your Pantry organization.

This one tip might just be my most popular approach to organizing food, and for good reason. When it comes to what we eat, 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 handfuls of stale or expired food can be frustrating. 

Pantry Food Categories

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 your pantry is still a hot mess and needs a bit of decluttering love, you will want to do that project first. Jump over here and read: How to Declutter Your Kitchen Pantry.

Once you are done clearing out the food you no longer need or want, head back over here. This list of categories is the trick to finally setting up a streamlined pantry. One that is easyu to keep organized because it matches your family’s food style.  

Why do you need categories to organize your food? 

To answer this question, let’s 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 just as easily.

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 at the end near the deli counter.

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. 

a woman in a red apron cooking at a stove in a kitchen

Before you organize your kitchen pantry, you first need to know what you plan to keep there.

Pantry Categories LisT

When it comes to our food, what you like to eat is probably different than what you like; for that reason, I will have a pretty thorough list of categories. This way, you can choose the ones that sound like a good fit and use them to streamline your kitchen pantry. 

Categories by Cuisine

If your family loves stirfry, tacos, pasta, or mac and cheese, this might be a good fit for your setup. 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. 

#1. Italian

This includes pasta, sauce, cans of whole, diced, seasoned tomatoes, tomato paste, pizza sauce, mushrooms, and pizza crust.

pantry basket labeled Italian filled with food

#2. Farmer

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 breads. 

#3. Mexican

This will include shells, tortilla wraps, seasoning packets, box dinners, chilis, sauce, refried beans, and rice.

#4. Asian

This will include rice, noodles, sauces, canned vegetables, and ramen. 

#5. American

This includes canned soup, mac and cheese, beans, barley, soup noodles, boxed dinners, canned vegetables, fish or chicken, and condiments. 

#6. German

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 organize by the course you are preparing. 

#1. Main Course

This will include boxed dinners, seasoning packets, pasta, soup, gravy, and sauces. 

#2. Side Dishes

This will include rice, noodles, mac and cheese, canned vegetables, beans, soup, and seasonings. 

#3. Appetizers

This will include crackers, dips, salad dressing, croutons, chips, and sauces. 

#4. Desserts

This will include boxed or bagged desserts, icing, flour, sugars, baking powder and soda, vanilla, and any other ingredients you often bake with. 

#5. Condiments

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. 

#1. Breakfast

This includes oatmeal, cereal, breakfast bars, drinks, pancake syrup, jelly, and jams. 

#2. Lunch

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. 

#3. Snacks

This will include sweet snacks, salty snacks, granola bars, bagged snacks, canned fruit, popcorn, nuts, seeds, trail mix, and dried fruit. 

a pantry basket labeled snacks filled with treats

#4. Dinner

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 family member is on a restrictive diet, having categories that address those needs might be valuable to your setup. 

#1. Keto, Atkins, Paleo

Diet-friendly sugar and flour, diet-friendly wraps, low-carb snacks, dressings, canned vegetables, diet-friendly canned fruit, canned meat, and pickled eggs.  

#2. Gluten-Free

This will include beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, gluten-free pasta, rice flour, almond flour, and gluten-free baking supplies. 

#3. Diabetes

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), and any diabetic-friendly snacks.  

Categories by Family Member

If you have different ages in your family, categories that fit those members 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 to ensure they eat an appropriate amount. 

#1. Toddlers

This will include toddler snacks, small crackers, small cookies, fruit cups, dried fruit, graham crackers, cereal, and fruit snacks. 

#3. School-Aged

This will include any snacks your kids love to munch on and 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. 

Snack drawer filled with things to eat in a pantry

#3. Teenagers

Teens can often eat without thinking, cleaning out a pantry in a few minute’s 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. 

#4. Adult

This includes sweet snacks, salty snacks, fruit, 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 ensure you have the steps to put this all into action. Let’s walk it out and make this project just a bit easier to implement. 

1. Decide what will work best

Go through the list above and write down the categories 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 plastic jute bins and find they work the best. I have used these containers for several years, and they are still in great shape. 

Set up a bin for each, ensuring it is large enough to hold everything you need. If you have a lot of one category, you may want to have more than one basket. For my family, we love pasta, and that means I have three 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. 

2. Gather your supplies

The best way to do this is to pick a category and start. Take a bin and make a label to 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. Chalk labels are also nice, but you will want to be sure you have containers that will keep the tag stuck in place. 

You can also use adhesive labels that bring a bit of fun to your otherwise dull kitchen pantry.

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3. Gather the food for the category

Starting with one bin, go into your pantry and gather all the food you plan to keep inside. You can start by making a pile to better see how many bins you will need. 

empty basket next to a pile of food

Once things are matched up, you can fill and put your newly organized and labeled bin into your pantry. 

4. Keep Going!

Continue filling, labeling, and organizing your bins until your entire pantry is organized. Don’t forget to step back and admire your work. 

5. Hold a Family 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 know what belongs where so they can keep up with the system you created. 

family meeting at a kitchen table talking about a pantry and food

6. Let it sit

Before you know 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 of allowing your family use the pantry without much coaching. This will 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 organized, or close to it, after a few weeks, then it is safe to say you are on the right track. If, however, you see 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. 

food bins labeled by category in a pantry

A few extra food pantry categories to consider. 

Experimental Foods – 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 container labeled “New This Week.” 

Use it or Lose it – Another bin option is for any foods 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, consider this bin 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. 

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