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Ask a Cook: How to Organize Your Kitchen to Save Time and Waste Less Food

Organize Pantry Shelves

Photo by Meredith

Ever feel like your kitchen cupboards are out of control? That you can't find anything quickly and easily? That you spend money on an ingredient only to find that it was in your pantry all along? Tired of wasting time and money on food that gets lost in your kitchen? Yeah, same here.

It's time to get smart, down-to-earth kitchen organizing tips from real life people—our dedicated community of Allrecipes home cooks. I reached out to them to see what they do to create order out of kitchen chaos—from organizing their spices to planning meals and shopping lists. Take a look at what they suggest and see what might work for you, too.

8 Easy Tips to Organize Your Kitchen Pantry

1. Take Inventory

"First, take inventory by emptying your pantry and sorting by category as you go," says Allrecipes home cook Bibi. She suggests you group the spices, the canned vegetables, the soups, the condiments, and so on.

2. Out With the Old

Bibi's next step is to check for any "use by" dates and toss any out-of-date items. (And if you can't find a "use by" date, my own policy is "when in doubt, throw it out.")

3. Get Clear

Clearing your shelves is a good time to consider placing bulk items in clear containers. Bibi suggests, "Place 'dry' goods in clear containers, with pasta in one group, cereal, chips, and bread in another group, and baking items in their own group." This kind of organizing helps you quickly find the flour, sugar, baking soda, etc. when you're assembling ingredients for cookies or pancakes.

4. Come Clean

Now that your pantry shelves are cleared off, take time to wipe down surfaces, replace shelf liners, and remove dust and sticky fingerprints from food packages and containers.

5. Restock

Bibi suggests using the highest shelves or the very lowest shelves (near the floor) for items you don't use often. "Most frequently used items should be as close to eye level as possible," she says. "Group canned items by type: veggies, fruit, and condiments, placing oldest by date in front."

6. Spice World

Manda says, "Usually I end up digging in the pantry and finding every spice I own before I find what I'm actually looking for." I get it—spice jars are small and tend to play hide-and-go-seek. Here's what Bibi does: She organize her spices alphabetically, and stores them on a spice rack hung over her pantry door. (I organize spices alphabetically, too, but I store them in a spice drawer.) More: Here's how to make an easy DIY spice drawer.

7. Meal Planning

Allrecipes community member Manda shops her pantry before she shops the stores. She says, "I always try to look at what I have first (or have a rough idea of what staples I still have on hand) and try to meal plan around that. For example, I generally always have black beans and pasta in my pantry. If I see tomatoes on sale, I can make some marinara and have pasta for dinner. But if I see bread's on sale, I might make black bean burgers instead." More: Save your grocery budget with smart meal planning.

8. Reduce Food Waste

Allrecipes community member dotdot says, "I also try to organize the pantry with things that are about to expire closest to the front and then search Allrecipes for a recipe that includes that product to cut down on waste." Tip: Use the Ingredient Search function on Allrecipes to find recipes that use ingredients you have on hand.

And when she's grocery shopping, dotdot uses tech to save money: "A lot of the grocery stores offer grocery lists in their apps.  It is easy to add things to list on the go, and then you always have you list with you!"

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Vanessa Greaves

About Vanessa Greaves

Good food, friends, and fun are always on the menu. Find me as foodelicious on Allrecipes and vanny.gee on Instagram (but only if you don't mind cat pics and cocktails).