During spring cleaning time we give our rooms a good deep clean and declutter, but it can be easy to forget the smaller areas that our guests don’t see. The pantry is the lifeblood of food preparation in your home, so it’s worth giving it the attention it deserves. This might be overwhelming if you haven’t reorganized your pantry in a while. But fear not! Our 5 helpful tips will get you on the right track in no time.

1. Adjust Your Shelves

To make the most of your space, you’ll want to look first at the food in your pantry and then arrange the shelves based on those items. This will be more effective than stocking your pantry once the shelves are put in place, because you won’t waste vertical space by storing short items on tall shelves, for example.

Ideally, you’ll want adjustable shelves in your pantry, but if that’s not an option for you, consider stocking up on wire freezer shelves. Cans will fit nicely beneath them, while boxes of noodles and condiments fit on top to maximize the space. This also keeps items from toppling over or spilling, and means you don’t have to unstack items to find them.

2. Toss Out Old Items

Before putting food back onto your newly-adjusted shelves, check the expiration date on the packages. Toss out anything that’s no longer in date. To prevent throwing out unopened food in the future, make it a habit to stock your shelves back-to-front. If you’re always putting the fresh items at the front of the shelves, the older items will stay at the back, remain forgotten, and go to waste next spring clean.

3. Organize by Category

Establish categories of food items so it’s easy to find ingredients when you’re looking for them. There’s no set list of categories you should use – in fact, for best results, your personal lifestyle should determine the categories you use.

For example, you might create a category of quick lunch items and another for weeknight dinner ingredients. You could also group baking essentials, noodles, and cereals into three different categories. Do whatever feels right for your food preparation needs.

4. Arrange by Frequency of Use

Now you’ve defined your categories, you’ll want to arrange those categories in the pantry based on how often you use them. As a rule of thumb:

  • Items you use most often should be set at chest height and closest to the door for easy access.
  • Items you use frequently but not every day should go on the lower shelves so they’re still easy to reach.
  • Any items you hardly use should go on the highest shelves.

Once you’ve assigned foods a category and a particular location in your pantry, why not make some labels? This way the whole family will get used to the new organization and into the habit of placing the items in their proper spots. Keep a step stool in the pantry so you can all access the food on every shelf.

5. Use Storage Containers

Transparent storage containers are a much better alternative to bags for items like flour, sugar, rice, and nuts. Not only are these solutions cleaner, but they keep their contents fresher for longer. On top of that, they’re easily stackable and their transparency makes food tracking simpler. You’ll waste less, you won’t have multiple packets of the same food open, and you’re unlikely to run out of an item without realizing it. These are all great qualities for a well-organized and functional pantry.

Baskets are useful for items that don’t sit well on the shelf, from packets of gravy to napkins. They also make great tools for organizing your weekly dinner ingredients. Assign one for each day of the week, and then deposit the right ingredients after you go shopping. Just don’t forget to label your containers and baskets.

Organizing your pantry now can set you up for easy meal-prep in the future. But the real key to pantry organization is to stick with it each time you grocery shop. How will you reorganize your pantry layout to suit your lifestyle this spring?