Tips for Stocking & Organizing Your Pantry

Woman selecting food from her organized kitchen pantry.

Cooking basic meals is a lot quicker and easier when the ingredients you need are readily at hand. While canned goods last a long time when stored properly, some items such as dried herbs lose quality and freshness as soon as they’re bottled. Always check expiration dates before buying shelf-stable items.

Shop for Pantry Staples

Stock items in your pantry that appeal to you and your family. If no one likes quinoa, don’t buy it. If you can’t see yourself ever using olives, forgo them. Don’t feel you need to have all of the following items on hand all the time. Buy what you’ll use most often.

To get you started, here are some of the more common pantry items.

  • Basic Baking Staples

    • all-purpose flour
    • baking powder
    • baking soda
    • cream of tartar
    • vanilla extract
    • unsweetened cocoa powder
    • semisweet chocolate chips
    • agave syrup
    • maple syrup
    • honey
    • cornstarch
    • cornmeal
  • Basic Breakfast / Snack Staples

    • breakfast cereals
    • rolled oats
    • applesauce
    • seeds
    • nuts
    • nut butters
    • dried fruit
    • crackers
    • tortillas
    • popcorn kernels
    • rice cakes
    • all-fruit jams
    • shelf-stable nondairy milk, tea, coffee
  • Staple Condiments, Grains, and Dry Goods

    • oils
      • extra-virgin
      • a neutral variety, e.g. grapeseed
    • canned beans
    • roasted red bell peppers
    • sun-dried tomatoes
    • crushed and diced tomatoes
    • tomato sauce, tomato paste
    • salsa
    • olives
    • capers
    • broths (vegetable, chicken)
    • vinegars
      • apple cider
      • red wine
      • white wine
      • balsamic
      • sherry
      • rice
    • canned tuna
    • hot sauce
    • unsweetened canned coconut milk
    • mayonnaise
    • mustard
    • ketchup
    • low-sodium soy sauce
    • pickles
    • quinoa
    • brown rice
    • polenta
    • couscous 
    • breadcrumbs
    • dried lentils
    • pasta
  • Basic Produce Staples

    • onions
    • potatoes
    • garlic
    • shelf-stable tofu
  • Staple Seasonings

    • salt
    • pepper
    • red pepper flakes
    • chili powder
    • ground cayenne pepper
    • curry powder
    • paprika
    • dried thyme
    • dried rosemary
    • dried oregano
    • ground cumin
    • granulated garlic
    • ground cinnamon
    • ground ginger
    • ground cloves
    • bay leaves
    • black peppercorns

How to Organize Your Pantry

There’s no single best organization system for everyone, so consider what would work and be most logical for you. Will it be easier to find baking items if they’re grouped together? Or does alphabetically stocking the shelves make more sense for finding something in a hurry?

Keep Pantry Items Visible

Try to have all items visible. If you don’t see it, you probably won’t use it. If you want to transfer items to clear glass or plastic containers, consider those that are rectangular in shape. They stack more easily and take up less space.

Label & Date Your Pantry Items

Use permanent marker on painter’s tape to make labels. Mark the item’s name and expiration date, and place the label where it can easily be spotted. This is helpful when trying to find something located below eye level.

Finally, enjoy your well-stocked and organized pantry! Use it as inspiration to plan healthy meals. 

Click to See Our Sources

“Cooking from the pantry: Pantry essentials checklist” by Food Network Kitchen,

“How to stock a modern pantry” by Julia Moskin,

“What you should always keep in your pantry...” by Dawn Perry and Carey Polis,

Ready to Try it Out?

To get you started, the following recipe makes good use of items commonly found in the kitchen cupboards: olive oil, spaghetti, sun-dried tomatoes, and nuts.


The Taste for Life Staff

The Taste for Life staff come from a wide variety of backgrounds and specialties. We believe learning is a life-long process, and love to share the knowledge we gain.