Purge That Pantry!

The kitchen pantry often ends up a dead zone where cleaning is concerned. Items are tucked away from view, so neglecting to clean the space is easy. A clean, well-organized pantry can improve shopping and cooking efficiency, however, leading to faster meal prep and lower grocery bills. To take advantage of these benefits, clean out your pantry using these quick cleaning tips.

organized pantry

1Start with a clean sweep

You won't be able to see what you're working with until you've completely removed everything from your pantry. Small containers and packages of spices tend to fall over and get pushed to the back. By emptying your pantry, you may uncover a few hidden gems that you'd completely forgotten.

2Sort and purge

Once everything's out of your pantry, take inventory of your supplies and decide what to keep and what to toss. If you have a tendency to hang onto unused goods("I may use that... someday"),  consider this advice from Alejandra Ramos, owner of Alejandra Ramos Culinary & Lifestyle: 

"If you don't use it, throw it out! Those old protein or diet shakes, the high-fiber breakfast cereal you bought with good intentions, and that new popcorn flavor you bought but didn't like need to go. If it's unopened and unspoiled, donate it. If it's opened, toss it. No sense in crowding your shelves with past mistakes."

Other items you should toss include:

  • Dented cans
  • Bags and boxes with rips or tears
  • Spices older than one year
  • Items that are expired
  • Any bulk food item with an unknown purchase date


Once you've purged your pantry, categorize your remaining items in a manner similar to a grocery store. Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design suggests grouping canned goods on one shelf and condiments on another, creating a breakfast center and so forth. Keeping your pantry organized in this fashion will make it easier to identify the items you need when heading to the store or making a meal.


Before restocking your pantry with your newly categorized supplies, make sure you thoroughly clean out the space. Start at the top shelf and wipe down all surfaces with a warm, damp towel, then dry the shelves completely. Use your vacuum's dusting attachment to dust corners and floors. If any of your food containers are sticky or dusty, wipe them down before placing them back in the pantry.


It's one thing to clean out your pantry; it's another to keep it clean and organized. By putting in a little effort initially, you'll save yourself the hassle down the road. Bins, airtight containers, shelf dividers and under-shelf baskets can help you keep things fresh and in their proper places. Get out your labelmaker and label the pantry categories so your family will know where to replace supplies after using them.

expert tip

"Have little ones in your home? Create an easy-to-reach shelf for them in the pantry where they can easily grab a snack. Make sure to include healthy foods like granola bars, raisins, air-popped popcorn and other items on this shelf. Make sure to store the least healthy snacks (like candy and chips) towards the top where these items are out-of-reach for the kids." – Jill Kushinksy, chief cleaning officer at MaidPro

Read more

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Keeping things clean for drop-in guests
5 Tips for a sparkling clean kitchen


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Comments on "5 Tips for cleaning out your pantry"

Tiffany January 10, 2013 | 12:04 PM

I think it's great to categorize everything! It definitely helps stay organized and be able to locate everything easier.

leina lewis October 21, 2012 | 2:29 AM

My shelves just cannot handle the amount of food I choose to put in them. These tips are helpful and worth the work put into such a task. I have little room for anything else edible and want to get working on this task as soon as possible.

Tara June 09, 2012 | 7:51 PM

This is exactly what my family and I need to do! I agree with Stacy ^This is a serious issue, as we have everything in our pantry, from different brands of cereal, to candy bags from last Halloween. I hate having this problem because then we forget what’s really in our pantry, and most of it will end up going to waste. I would love to get some of those cereal containers that keep them fresh and organized as well as that spice holder I keep seeing on TV! Sometimes, we can’t even close our pantry or cabinets because so much food is jammed in, it is on the verge of busting open. We try to clean it out every once in a while, especially before summer starts and it heats up because we don’t know what’s left open in the pantry that bugs could get in to. During the winter, the only time we end up going through the pantry is when there is a canned food drive. While we are helping others have a meal during the holidays, it also helps clear out our pantry with things we know will end up going to waste. It takes so much time to clean and go through each product, but if we can do this more often with a little more organization, it may not be so bad!

Kayla June 09, 2012 | 10:35 AM

I find myself only cleaning my pantry when I move, and by "cleaning" I mean throwing everything away that I haven't touched since I moved in. Thanks for the great tips on keeping a clean pantry. I'm going to do this this weekend. Having a clean and organized pantry will most definitely eliminate some un-needed stress!

Stacy May 23, 2012 | 1:19 PM

This is at the top of my to do list! It often pains me to see old boxes of food I could have used long ago but didn't realize I had because it was so far pushed back! Something my mom used to do when I was younger was clean out the pantry and if there were still snacks my brother and I had never touched and they were within a certain time period, she would place them all in a grocery bag and have me bring them to my soccer games for reward snacks. (Cheez Its, Oreos, goldfish etc.) It was a big hit and she was happy to see if her kids weren't eating them, then others would instead of her throwing them away. I try to clean out the pantry around spring time so I know what needs to be tossed out before the bugs start to make their way in my cool air conditioned house during the summer heat. What I usually do during the winter season is clean out any cans or non perishable food I know haven't been touched in some time and donate it to food banks. Not only does it make me feel less cluttered but better knowing by doing so, I am feeding someone for the holidays. :)

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