Pantry Makeover Tips

Whether you have a generous walk-in pantry or a few shelves in the kitchen, it helps to get organized.


An efficient pantry may help you save trips to the supermarket as well as keep you from breaking your back for that last can of soup. Let these handy hints guide you:

Styling by Arlene Sanchez-Maslog. Photographed by Miguel Nacianceno.

Read the original article ("Pantry Makeover") in the September 2009 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App ( now! Log on to for more details.  

Get started by prepping your pantry and doing a lineup. Remove and Edit: Empty your pantry of all existing items and place everything on the kitchen counter. Get rid of all items that are past their expiry date, even items that haven;t been consumed and have only three months to go.

Clean it up: Wipe the entire pantry clean with a mixture of warm water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Go over with a dry cloth.

Categorize by type: Organize all products before returning them to the pantry. Group similar items together: canned vegetables, canned meats, soups, boxed items, packaged drinks, etc.

Do a lineup: Once you've categorized your products, here's how you can arrange them:

- Place the taller items behind the shorter ones. This will make everything visible.

- Place the rarely used items on the top shelf and often-used items at eye level.

- Heavier items such as canisters of flour or bottles of cooking oil should be at waist level to make it easier to lift off the shelves. Canned goods should be placed on lower shelves with the labels facing you.

- Reserve the higher shelves for lighter items like cereal boxes, paper towels, and napkins.
Assemble a breakfast tray and put it in your pantry. Place all breakfast items like cereal, jams, and coffee on the tray, and just bring it out when you're ready to eat.
Create a kiddie shelf. If you have kids, place snack and breakfast items on lower shelves to keep them from climbing dangerously to get to the higher shelves. Have fun with it and stick attractive signs to let your kids know what's available.
Stick a brightly colored sticker on items that are nearing their expiry date. This will help remind you about which items need to be discarded or used right away. For the same purpose, place newer items at the back of the older items.
Use airtight containers. Any food item that comes in paper or plastic bags must be transferred to airtight containers like pasta, rice, flour, and sugar. Airtight containers will keep food fresh, bug-free and keep goods from spilling out of opened bags.
Keep pests away. Use a few drops of citronella oil in a small container of water to ward away roaches and other bugs from your pantry. If you have an "ant invasion," wipe petroleum jelly along the ant trails to keep them away.
Choose square or rectangular storage containers. Square or rectangular containers fit better in shelves compared with round ones. Transfer loose food items like pasta, rice, flour, and sugar into airtight containers to keep them fresh and bug-free.
Make a pantry survival kit. Have a roll of masking tape, package clips, scissors, markers, and blank sticker labels on hand for regular pantry organization. A pen and paper will be useful too for making lists.
Use a liner. Instead of re-painting your entire pantry, use self-adhesive vinyl drawer liners to give it an instant facelift. These are available in hardware stores and come in interesting patterns.

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