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Family Organizing | Kitchens & Pantries

Use Pantry Zones to Create a Low-Maintenance, Organized Pantry

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Create a low-maintenance pantry using pantry zones.

Is it a constant struggle to keep your pantry organized enough to find things when you need them? Given that everyone has their hands in the pantry grabbing things, it might feel like a never-ending battle. Creating pantry zones and using containers can make a big difference in keeping your pantry organized longer.

How to create pantry zones to keep your pantry more organized.

Every home functions better when its spaces are separated into designated activity zones. Just as we want to consider what activities take place in each room of your home, and ensure that the supplies needed to perform those activities are stored nearby, your pantry will function best if you create pantry zones for the food categories that are stored there.

If you feel like you are constantly having to reorganize your pantry, you can stop or at least minimize the mix-up game by getting most of your food into containers. Then designate specific pantry zones to further discourage disheveling. The easier you make things to find, access, and put away again the longer your pantry will stay organized. 

Just as you can establish a coffee zone, a cooking zone, and a baking zone, when organizing your kitchen. You can do the same thing by creating pantry zones in your pantry.

Start by getting related food categories into labeled containers. 

Label the containers so that family members are discouraged from tossing things into the wrong bins. I like to use simple clear plastic pantry bins, and larger baskets for bottom shelves like the ones in the photo below, but there are numerous choices out there when it comes to finding pantry containers and baskets that appeal to you. 

Examples of sorted food categories are: 

  • Grains
  • Snacks
  • Pasta
  • Side Dishes
  • Drinks
  • Condiments
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Dried Fruit/Nuts
  • Energy Bars
  • Baking
  • Sauces

Store related food containers together to create your pantry zones.

Once you’ve put most of your food in labeled containers, identify your pantry zones with consideration to your family’s unique lifestyle and specific food needs. The following are some suggestions; choose the pantry zones that make sense to you. Designate one or two shelves for each zone. If needed, you may want to separate your pantry zones with shelf dividers to clearly distinguish each zone.

Pantry zones may include the following:

  • Snack Zone – energy bars, dried fruit, nuts, chips, crackers, cookies, etc.  
  • Breakfast Zone – cereals, pancake batter, syrup, peanut butter, jelly, honey, granola, etc.
  • Canned Food Zone – all canned food items. I like to store these together on an expandable tiered shelf. Group similar canned food categories together, soups, veggies, fruit, beans, etc.
  • Grains, Pasta, Side Dish Zone – rice, quinoa, mac and cheese, stuffing, etc.
  • Beverage Zone – all drinks, including, hot chocolate, powdered drinks, juices, tea, soda, etc.
  • Baking Zone – flour, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, baking soda, food, baking mixes, and any other ingredients used for baking. If you put your baking staples into clear canisters, these would be stored here as well. 
  • Lunch Zone – any ingredients needed to prepare lunches; Fruit cups, puddings, bread, single-serving bags of chips, and other single-serving snack pouches. Lunches boxes could be stored here too.
  • Appliance Zone – crockpots, air fryers, mixers, and other appliances. Be sure to store heavy items on lower shelves for easy access and safety.
  • Paper Goods Zone – napkins, paper plates, plastic cups, silverware, etc.
  • Pet Zone – pet food, treats, medications, etc. 

The following are additional tips for keeping your pantry organized once your pantry zones are established.

Take things out of their outer packages to make them more accessible and to save on space. Especially individual snack bags, energy bars, and any items bought in bulk packages. You’ll want to make everything in the snack zone super easy to grab. This way little hands can get to them quickly with minimal disheveling. Leave tops off of containers and avoid stacking them so that everything is easy to see and access.

Pantry Zones Tiered Shelves

Avoid Stockpiling.

This is where many families get snagged. The more stuff you have, the harder it is to stay on top of knowing what you have in there and where things are. It is tempting to stock up because the tendency is to assume that the more you buy, the greater the likelihood that you will always have on hand what you need when you need it. But believe it or not, the opposite is actually true.  

The simpler you keep your pantry, the easier it will be to find what you need when you need it. Knowing what you have in your pantry, and where it’s located is key. Once you lose control of these two things, everyone, including you will no longer know where to find or store things. At this point, everyone gives up and food starts getting tossed randomly, wherever space can be found. This is where the chaos begins.

Don’t store food in multiple locations.

Resist buying more than what you have space for and avoid having so much food that you have to store it in more than one place. Avoid storing food in a storage room or basement. Before you know it, you will forget what you have stored in these other locations. Once this happens, you will end up with expired food on your hands. 

Not only is this a waste of your time and money, but it is a waste of material goods. This is also not ideal if we want to be mindful consumers. It is best to keep all of your food in your pantry. If this is impossible because you have a small pantry, you can store a specific food category in a nearby kitchen cabinet, for example, all canned foods or all baking-related items.

Communication is key.

Once you get your pantry organized, it is important to call a quick meeting with your whole family to set some family pantry rules. Establish the rule that everything now has a permanent home, and it is everyone’s responsibility to keep it that way. 

Explain that keeping the pantry organized needs to be accomplished through team effort, NOT just the person who organized the pantry. Show family members where everything goes and where the pantry zones are. Though this may seem obvious to you, this may not be clear to everyone else.  

Never shop without a grocery list.

A grocery list is another essential tool for helping you stay on top of your pantry inventory. Ever play the guessing game at the store and purchase something you think you need just to discover that you already had more than enough at home? Avoid this by sticking to a list. Get yourself in the habit of adding items to your grocery list immediately after you realize you need something. 

A grocery list will ensure that you will stop bringing home things you don’t need. It will also help you remember to buy the things you do. I have created a handy printable Pantry Inventory Checklist, for you to use. Take this list with you to ensure that nothing is forgotten on your next trip to the store.  

In a nutshell, getting your food into labeled containers and creating pantry zones will go a long way in keeping your pantry organized, but limiting how much food you try to store in there is also a key factor to long-term success.

To learn more about how to schedule an individualized virtual assessment for your unique space, visit my Virtual Organizing page. You will receive valuable transference of skills just as if we were working side-by-side. As a professional organizer with over 10 years experience I have a wealth of knowledge to share.


About Laura

I  am a Southern California turned small town, Midwest Mom. I am wife to Bruce and mom to my three girls.

Back when I first started my organizing journey in 2013, I had what I thought of as a dirty little secret. I have ADHD and although I am organized, and enjoy the process of sorting, and tidying. I knew that there were many others with ADHD who really struggled with staying organized. I had a case of imposter syndrome and mostly kept the fact that I had ADHD to myself. That is until I learned that there are other successful professional organizers who have also learned to compensate for their ADHD.

I eventually realized that my need for order and simplicity actually stems from having ADHD as a way to compensate for my short attention span. So my gifts and my challenges are all ironically tied together to create who I am,  and I am able to relate to and help others as a result of this coping method that I have developed for myself.

I help women and moms with ADHD, but I also help those who struggle with clutter without having ADHD.  Because simplicity and less clutter are always at the heart of staying organized, there is much overlap when it comes to finding solutions to clutter and disorganization.

I am dedicated to keeping my life as simple as possible and to helping others do the same by teaching them how to declutter their homes, simplify their lives, and manage their busy families better.

I have been helping others stay organized since 2013.

It is my hope that you will find resources here that will bring you closer to living a simpler, more intentional, and more peaceful life. 

always have



in your space…

…but let it be

as simple

as a daisy

in a vase.

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