How to Clean Out Your Pantry

Tired of buying too many cans of chickpeas when your pantry is already full? Try these tips learn how to clean out your pantry and keep it organized.

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canned goods - how to clean out your pantry

How to Clean Out Your Pantry: Pull Everything Out

The first step on how to clean out your pantry is pulling everything out. I know it sounds like a drag, but it’s the best way to see everything all at once, and be able to organize most efficiently.

Clear off the dining table, or designate another area for this project. Ideally you’ll have it done in a day, but if not it’s good to have a contingency plan to be able to step away and return later. Designating an area for this project keeps clutter away until you’re able to finish.

Once you’ve chosen your sorting area, take everything out of your pantry. All the cans of beans, olives, corn. Even your flour and sugar stash. Don’t forget the oatmeal, nutritional yeast and bag of almond flour that’s been sitting unopened for months. It’s all gotta come out and into the open.

Here’s a bit of choose-your-own-adventure: whether or not you decide to include spices in this pantry clean-out is up to you. They are technically pantry items, but if you have quite a collection (like me) you may want to wait and have that be a separate project.

canned goods - how to clean out your pantry

How to Clean Out Your Pantry: Sort Expired Items out First

Now that you’ve gathered all your miscellaneous pantry items in one spot, from the various cabinet nooks and cranny’s they’ve been stashed in, it’s time to start sorting.

The first step is (hopefully) a simple one: sort out the expired items first. Now before you say, “Nothing in my pantry is expired.” Think again. While canned items tend to have multi-year shelf lives, other things do not. Spices, for one, don’t last as long as we may like to think. If you’ve had a spice sitting around for a year or more, it’s time to use it or lose it.

Look for expiration dates on the top or bottom of cans. For glass-jarred goods, they could be on the label, or printed directly on the glass. Sort items that have expired out from ones that are still good on the expiration date.

What do you do with those expired goods? We’ll cover that later in the article. For now, we keep sorting!

canned goods - how to clean out your pantry

How to Clean Out Your Pantry: Group Like Items together

Next step: group like items together. Exactly how you want to do this is up to you. In your new journey to pantry organization, you may go through multiple iterations of your system before finding one that works for you. That’s totally fine! The most important thing is that it’s easier for you to find items, keep track of what you have and use what you’ve got.

I like to group items first by year of expiration. Most pantry items, especially canned goods, last a few years. I group everything by year of expiration first. This makes it easier to see what I need to use pronto and what’s good to wait until next year.

Then, I’ll sort by type and how often I use the item. For example, items like rice, oats and nutritional yeast stay within the cabinets above my counter for easy access. Items like canned beans, corn and olives like in my closet pantry, as I don’t use those as frequently.

canned goods - how to clean out your pantry

Make a List of Things You Need

Chances are there are some things in your pantry you thought you had a lot of, but turns out you don’t. These are typically the items I use most. Again, this will be personal to what you use in your house. For me it’s refried beans, black beans, chickpeas, nutritional yeast, oats and rice.

To make restocking your favorites easy, set up a recurring order with Instacart. Set up your account here.

Plan some Recipes to Use Things You Have in Excess

Find some recipes to use up pantry items that will expire soon. Additionally, this is a good way to tackle items that may expire soon. Gathering recipes and posting them in a place you see often will inspire you to use what you have.

One way I like to use this method to clean out my pantry is to place items that will expire soon on the counter. That way I see them and am more likely to use them before they go bad.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s some recipes that use common pantry ingredients.

Instant Pot Quinoa | Meal Prep
Sized for meal prep, this Instant Pot Quinoa recipe is the easiest, fastest way to make fluffy, perfect quinoa every time! Make once and enjoy throughout the week or freeze some for later.
Check out this recipe
Crispy Curry Chickpeas Recipe
These crispy curry chickpeas are incredibly addictive and so easy to make. Cook them in the air-fryer for 15-20 minutes, and snack away! Trust me, you won’t be able to put them down.
Check out this recipe
Lentil Soup Recipe – Vegetarian
Winter seems to be holding on strong, let's warm up with this quick and delicious Lentil Soup. Packed with protein and flavor, this has been a go-to weeknight dinner in my house.
Check out this recipe
Lentil Soup
canned goods - food donation

Disposing of Expired or Unwanted Items

If you just don’t see yourself using those three cans of goat milk in the near future, it’s best to donate, especially if the expiration date is within the next 6 months. Take the items to your local food bank, add them to a local free pantry, or try giving them away on your local Buy Nothing Group or Facebook Marketplace.

Have flour that’s gone rancid? Use it to make paper glue or modelling dough. Use cornmeal and almond meal as bird feed. Add finely ground uncooked rice (rice flour) to compost for a natural boost.

canned goods - organized pantry

Put it all away – the best part!

Ideally you now have a nice, organized pantry. Keep like items together, like you did earlier. Make sure everything is labelled clearly and that commonly used items are easily accessible.

For some inspiration on how to organize your pantry, check out this article from Good Housekeeping.

Keeping your pantry organized, however, is a whole different challenge. One way to stay organized is to keep a list of items on hand. This will help keep track of what’s already in your pantry.

I like to use a blank sheet of paper inside a sheet protector. Essentially, this makes it like a dry erase board! You can use dry erase pens to write down what you have, and easily cross things off when you use them.

Another option to help keep your pantry organized is to use different shelves for different years of expiration. For example, my bottom pantry shelf is items that will expire this year. The upper shelves contain items that are good for years to come. That way I always know what to use first.

Happy Organizing!

I hope this post proved useful to show how to clean out your pantry. Kitchens are the heart of our home, and can easily become chaotic! That’s okay sometimes, as long as we take the time to reassess and reorganize every once in a while.

Did you find this post useful? Let us know in the comments below!


Hi! I’m Lauren, creator of edible ink. I’m a writer who loves food, travel and dogs. I started edible ink as a way to share recipes, food facts and travel tips for fellow foodies. Learn more.




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