creating a pantry inventory and containers with food

Organizing your pantry is more important than ever before.  With how much everyday life has changed over this last year, keeping a pantry inventory will help make your life easier and save you money. 

Maybe you’ve decided to do an organizing overhaul.  You’ve gone through your pantry and tossed any expired items and things you aren’t going to use.  On the other hand, maybe you have stocked up on pantry staples and aren’t sure how to keep everything organized.

I will walk you through the steps to keep your pantry organized and a system to keep track of what you have on hand.    

Reasons to inventory your pantry

Creating a pantry inventory is essential because pantry staples such as condiments, canned goods, and breakfast items don’t go bad or run out simultaneously.  Say you’re sitting down to create a grocery list, or even out and about and decide to stop by the grocery store to get some things you need.  But it’s not always easy to remember what you need. I can keep track of a certain amount of grocery items, but it’s almost impossible to keep track of everything in my fridge, freezer, and pantry.  So, is there any easy solution?  

The goal of making this pantry list is to mark items when they run out to keep track of what you need to pick up the next time you go to the grocery store. 

I like to also separate my list into stores where I buy certain products.  There are quite a few things that I try to buy at Costco and usually stop there first.  That way, if they’re out of something I need, I can try and pick it up at my grocery store next.

It’s not always easy to stay organized.  It takes planning and preparation.  But in this case, a quick pantry inventory provides numerous benefits.

Simplicity

I like to keep my menu planning as simple as possible.  I went through a phase where I would scour online recipes, searching for fun new recipes to try.  It was fun to experiment and try new things, but it also complicated my pantry organization.  Many recipes called for ingredients I didn’t have on hand, and then would be left with jars that just sat in my cupboard if I didn’t end up liking the recipe.

Efficiency

I’m not sure if you can relate, but I feel much calmer when I have a way to track things and know what I have on hand.  It saves me time when I create my grocery list and even helps when I stop at a grocery store unexpectedly to pick up a few things.

Save money

When you keep track of what you have on hand, it keeps you from buying things you don’t need.  If I know that I have limited space, it keeps me from buying something impulsively.  Keeping track of what you have on hand and when things expire also helps to use stuff up before they go to waste.

Stay Organized

When you take the time to organize all of your pantry items and keep a list of everything, it’ll help you keep it this way.  Creating an inventory is one part of the equation, but keeping items grouped together and stored in an organized fashion allows you to maintain a list of everything effortlessly. 

Save Space

A pantry inventory allows you to keep only what you need on hand.  Instead of buying multiples of items you don’t need, you’ll know exactly how much of something you’ll need to pick up on your next grocery trip. 

If you find yourself keeping more on hand than you used to, to minimize the amount of time you run to the grocery store, keeping like items together and storing them in basket really helps.  You can stack, pile, or clump things together while still knowing what they are if you have multiples of the same thing. 

decanting can help with pantry inventory. canisters of dried goods

Creating a pantry inventory

Creating a pantry inventory involves six steps.  As life rhythms change or dietary habits change, you can revisit these steps. Laying the groundwork and creating a pantry inventory system will help keep your food items organized and simplify creating a grocery list.

There is also no right or wrong way of going about this.  I want to provide a few different suggestions so that you can tailor your pantry organizational system to fit your lifestyle.

pantry inventory

Step 1: Sort and purge

It’s best to pull everything out of your pantry and cupboards.  Go through and toss anything that is expired.  Also, get rid of anything you don’t plan on using. 

I know it’s easy to buy things spontaneously at the grocery store, but if it’s not something you’ll use, it best to toss or give it away to a food bank or someone who can use it. 

Step 2: Master list of all pantry items

As you go through the items, start creating a list of the things that you regularly use.  This will become your master list.  You can add items as needed and keep track of what you have on hand. 

Step 3: Group items together

Divide your list up into categories of like items and do the same with your pantry.  Storing similar or the same items together allows you to keep track of things visually. 

I love using baskets to separate items and to help find things quickly.  I have labeled my bins so that family members can easily find things also. 

lady creating a pantry inventory in a notebook with a laptop

Step 4: How to best organize your pantry to keep track of what you have

Functionality

If you’re lucky enough to have a nice sized pantry/walk-in cupboard, you might not have to worry about deep shelving.  If you do have deep shelves, pullout drawers are great.  They can be expensive, so at a minimum, store things in baskets so that you can pull out a basket and don’t need to remove individual items one at a time.

Another great storage option for pantry closets is to use a lazy Susan turntable in the corners.  This helps utilize an awkward space and helps keep track of things easier to see what you have on hand. 

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. Please read full disclosure here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


pantry inventory with labeled baskets and plastic bins

I really like the clear plastic bins for canned goods as it nicely holds 5 cans. They are also stackable. The beverage can dispenser also can hold canned goods. The grey bins from Target are made from a flexible plastic which is nice if fitting in a tight space. The white metal bins are great if you have open shelving to put on display. This turntable comes in two different sizes and is great for being able to visually see what you have on hand.

Accessibility

Store things that you regularly use on the most easily accessible shelves.  If your shelves are deep, store extras in the back, but remember to keep track of these items on your pantry inventory, so you don’t forget about them!!

Decanting

If you are a person who likes to take care of things up front, decanting is a great option to keep track of what you have on hand.  Putting dried goods in clear containers makes your cupboards look organized and uniform.  I enjoy getting everything out of cardboard boxes and plastic bags after a shopping trip. 

There are so many options out there, and it’s hard to know which canisters are best. Here are some that I’ve used and really like. The first step is to determine what size you’ll need depending on the amount of dried goods you buy/have on hand. And then choosing a jar that seals well. I’ve bought cheaper canisters where the lid doesn’t seal well which kind of defeats the purpose of a canister.

Step 5: Do the same thing for your Fridge and Freezer

Space in your refrigerator is limited, and finding room for leftovers can be a challenge.  It’s easy to put condiments on a shelf on the door and forget about them.  Instead of checking for what you already have, another bottle of ketchup or mustard is added to the mix. 

Expired perishables easily take up precious space.  Clearing out your fridge and wiping everything down is definitely a task worth regularly doing.  But if you keep track of what you have and keep extras in the pantry, it’ll keep your fridge less cluttered. 

If you go through something like salad dressing or different sauces quickly enough, keep extras in the pantry and make sure to mark them on your pantry inventory when you get low. 

set of measuring spoons. Pantry inventory

Step 6: How to maintain your pantry inventory

You can make this as straightforward or as complex as you’d like.  I like to think of this as the person you know who just throws all the silverware in the dishwasher basket and does the sorting when putting away their utensils.  But another friend meticulously separates silverware as they place their forks and spoons into the dishwasher based on dividers so they can quickly put away each category. 

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Decide how much effort you want to put in on the front end and consider how detailed oriented you are so that you create a system you can maintain.

  • Create a list based on what you have on hand and brainstorm any additional items you might be out of at the moment
  • Separate into categories.  I like to create my list based on the aisles of the grocery store.  For me, ketchup and other condiments would go first.  Then, the next aisle contains baked goods, so flours and sweeteners would go next. 
  • Decide on how detailed you want your list to be. 

At a minimum, I keep a list of all the pantry items I consistently use.  I maintain a reasonably simplistic pantry and can keep track of most things, but I like to keep a list taped to the inside of the door with a dry erase board on my refrigerator.  As soon as I run out of something, I add it to the list. 

I think the best way to go about a pantry inventory is to create a list, whether on paper or printed out, and adhere to a cupboard door with dry erase contact paper. 

If you tend to keep a lot of items on hand, and you end up not using stuff before its expiration date, add a column for expiration date and keep track of the oldest date with the corresponding item.

As you run out of something or get close to running out, circle, or highlight the item.  That way, you’re keeping track of what you need as you need it. 

And that’s it! 

pantry inventory- organizing spices on a rack

Pantry Inventory to the Rescue!

Keeping some type of list to add things to when you run out of staple items in your kitchen will make life easier and save you money.  A pantry inventory will help with this process and help keep your pantry organized.  A list goes hand-in-hand with what you have on hand and even helps with how you store your things in your pantry, cupboard, and refrigerator. 

Having an inventory list and keeping a tally of when you run out of things is helpful no matter how complicated or straightforward your cooking routine is in the current stage of your life. 

Hi, I’m Shara

I have a passion for organizing. This stems from being naturally drawn to simplicity and structure in my home. Combined with my desire to help women achieve their goals, Simply Renewed Living was born.

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