Use this pantry cleaning routine and printable checklist to get your pantry clean, organized and more efficient than ever before. You’ll know what you have on hand, where it is, and what you need. Plus, you’ll protect your food from pests and keep it from getting stale.
Pantry Cleaning Routine
(BONUS: there’s a printable checklist at the end!)
1. Start tossing.
Move the trash can close to your pantry shelves and begin removing items, starting at the top. Figure out what’s gone bad by understanding expiration dates, then toss expired and stale foods, including old spices that have lost their flavor. Make a note of items you need to replace.
2. Give away good (unwanted) stuff.
If you have canned goods, you know your family will never eat (like the lima beans that sat on my shelves for six months), put them in a bag and give to your local food pantry. There are so many families in need!
3. Clear the shelves.
As you work, separate items you often use (cereal, crackers, etc.) from those used less often (pickling spices, Christmas-colored sprinkles, etc.).
4. Clean the shelves.
Carefully scrape up any sticky spills with a table knife or spoon. Sprinkle on baking soda to absorb the mess, then wipe clean with a microfiber cloth and warm, soapy water. Let dry, then sweep off or vacuum away any crumbs. Be sure to look in the corners and under shelves for cobwebs.
5. Line the shelves (optional)
I am not a fan of adhesive shelf linings because they peel up in the corners and attract dirt. If I’m going to line shelves, I use wax paper or even foil gift wrap bought on clearance as a liner. Just cut it to fit, folding it over the front of the shelf if you like, and use push-pins to hold it in place. Now you’ll it will be easy to wipe up messes, and the next time you need to clean the pantry shelves, you’ll only have to scoop up the used paper and put down a new layer.
6. Corral the clutter.
Gather small items like packets of oatmeal or dressing mix and store them in a container. I re-use pasta boxes by cutting them in half and sticking a label on their spines. (One day I’ll get fancy and cover them with pretty wrapping paper.)
7. Repackage dry goods to protect them
Ants, cockroaches, and pantry moths can all get into cardboard boxes or paper bags. To protect your dry goods, transfer them from their original packaging to air-tight glass canisters that let you see what’s inside. Worried you won’t be able to tell all-purpose flour from cake flour? Label the canisters!
8. Group by use.
Keep your baking items (flour, baking soda, etc.) with each other so you can find recipe ingredients quickly. Store multiples together, so you know how many cans or boxes of an item you have left. A can rack organizer can drastically increase your storage while keeping things neat. If you have several items about to expire, place them together in a container, so you know to use them ASAP.
9. Clean and restock.
Wipe down items as you return them to the shelves. Heavier items should go on the floor or lowest shelf for safety. Place less often used things on the highest shelves, and more commonly used foods at eye-level. If you want your kids to help themselves to snacks, be sure to place them conveniently, so they don’t rummage around.
Printable Pantry Cleaning Routine
Click on the image below to open and print a .pdf file. Be sure to set your printer to landscape orientation and that you’ve chosen the “fit to page” option.
Note: This entry first appeared on July 30, 2012. It has been republished with a revised checklist.