How to have an Organized Pantry Without Plastic

Having an organized pantry has been pivotal to our success with a No Waste Kitchen. We can easily see what food items we have, what’s running low, and plan accordingly.

But, if you search online for pantry organization, almost everything that comes up is made of plastic. In our No Waste Kitchen, we try to avoid plastic as much as possible. It doesn’t recycle as easily as other materials, and can eventually leech chemicals into your food.

Steps for an Organized Pantry

Take Everything Out

When you are organizing your pantry, the easiest way to start is by removing everything from the pantry. Lay it all out on the counters in the kitchen or your dining room table.

Group Similar Items

As you take your items out of the pantry, group them together in a way that makes sense for you and your family. We tend to separate our pantry by meal, but others may do it by type of food.

For example, we keep all of the breakfast food in one area, baking goods in another, and the kid’s snacks on a shelf they can reach. I’ve seen pantry organization with the bread and grains together, fruit and vegetables in one area, etc.

Check Expiration Dates

Again, as you are pulling food out and separating, check the expiration dates. But, also remember that a “best before” date does not mean the food is bad and needs to be tossed. Give it a sniff, your nose will usually tell you if a food is still good better than a date.

Assess Container Needs

After you have all of your pantry items separated, decide which type and size of containers you will need. Also, think about how much food you typically have if you haven’t been grocery shopping for a while. There are many types of containers that you can use, and you will want a variety so you can best fit the food items.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to keep all of your food in its original packaging, or you want to put it in a container. I prefer my food in containers because it looks more organized and I can see what I have quickly.

Purchase (or Reuse/Upcycle) Containers and Organize

Take a look around your house and see if there are any items you already have that can be used for your organized pantry project. In this case, it may be better to use a plastic container that’s just laying around rather than buying something new. If you do this, I suggest using it for foods that are already packaged so that packaging is between your food and the plastic.

If you don’t have enough containers around that house and need to purchase some, try hitting a thrift store, first. There are often many organization containers at those stores that you can reuse in the pantry.

Once you have your containers, put everything in the containers and place them back in the pantry.

Non-Plastic Containers for an Organized Pantry

Glass Containers

Glass containers are my favorite! I am slowly building up the number of glass containers I have in our pantry. Glass is see-through, meaning I can very quickly see how much I have of anything in the pantry. I also use a dry-erase marker or chalk marker to label the containers, and it can be wiped off if I change the contents of the container.

The only downside to glass is that it’s breakable. If the container is dropped, you are not only down a container, but the food inside is all over the floor, too. For this reason, I also don’t like to stack my glass containers.

Most of our glass containers are ones that we have saved after purchasing food from the grocery store. We keep all of our spaghetti sauce jars, jelly jars, etc. and clean them to reuse the glass in other ways.

Metal Containers

An alternative to glass containers is to purchase ones made of metal. You can get stainless steel canisters for food storage if you are worried about the glass breaking.

I don’t use many metal containers except for some of the kid’s snacks in case they drop them. Stainless steel is harder to label since it doesn’t clean off as easily as glass, and they don’t usually seal without a plastic ring inside.

Wicker Basket/Wooden Crate

For the foods that don’t have to be sealed, a wicker basket or wooden crate may be all you need. They are perfect for things such as potatoes, onions, and other food that may get chaotic in the pantry if it’s loose.

If you prefer to keep your food in its original packaging, these baskets or crates are a perfect way to keep things, such as boxes of cereal, corraled in the pantry.

Using all of the Available Space

Vertical

Some of the items you don’t use often can go on a top shelf. Have a few stacking cubes or racks that make use of the space all the way to the ceiling. Or, use this area to store tall items. For example, we have our large drink dispenser as well as liquor bottles up on the top shelf (also keeping it out of reach of the kids!).

Back of the Door

The back of the door is often wasted space. Most pantries have room for something to be hung there. See if you have room for a built-in or over-the-top wire rack. Most of the time, these are skinny, but it’s the perfect size for spices and small containers like that.

Labeling Your Organized Pantry

There are a few ways to keep your pantry organized after the project. One of the best ways is to have labels. This way, anyone looking in your pantry should be able to find what they need. Labels also make it easier for you to remember where to place food as you restock the pantry.

I prefer to label in a way that can easily be wiped off and changed as I need to, such as dry erase markers and chalk. Of course, there are more permanent ways you can mark your containers, such as glass etching, vinyl (still plastic), and paint.

Dry Erase

I use dry erase markers for a lot of my labeling. They aren’t perfectly No Waste, since eventually I will have to trash the marker when it’s out. But, there are programs that will take back used markers, so I will keep them all to send in a big batch at once.

Chalk

Another option is to get a small jar of chalk paint and paint a strip on your containers. Then you can use a regular piece of chalk for your labels. The chalk will eventually wear down to nothing, so it won’t create any waste.

Your Turn

As I mentioned, having an organized pantry has been crucial to reducing the waste in our kitchen.

  • Do you have an organized pantry?
  • Have you ever gone through and taken everything out to organize?
  • What are your favorite ways to organize the pantry?
  • How about organizing the kitchen in general?
  • What would having an organized pantry help you solve in the kitchen?

20 thoughts on “How to have an Organized Pantry Without Plastic”

  1. MELANIE EDJOURIAN

    I’m looking to reduce plastic in the home as much as possible. I think glass containers are my favourite option as they are easy to find, store and clean. I reuse jars when the product in them finishes which works well for me.

    1. We reuse a lot of glass jars as well. I like them best, too, except when storing my kid’s snacks since they are likely to drop the containers.

    1. Isn’t it crazy how quickly the pantry can become unorganized again? I feel like I clean mine out every 3 months or so.

  2. An organized pantry makes me SO happy! I love being able to see all my foods in glass containers. I’ve used the really large mason jars for many items and it’s worked really well. We also use a lot of wire baskets to hold similar items. And you’re so right – the only way to organize it is to take EVERYTHING out.

    1. Girl, me too! I have a love/hate with my current pantry. It holds a lot, but it’s an odd shape which means things get lost in the corners. That’s part of the reason I always completely empty it when it’s time to reorganize!

  3. This post is perfect timing for me, I’m planning a huge de-clutter of my pantry this weekend! I never thought of the plastic passing on chemicals to my food. Definitely going to explore changing to glass from now on.

    1. So glad this came before you started, then! Glass is more expensive than plastic, but the benefits outweigh the cost for me. Hopefully you can at least get a start on the transition.

  4. Cleaning out the pantry is on my to-do list! I was recently gifted a bunch of glass containers and can’t wait to use them!

  5. I am struggling with expiry dates. It’s not something I usually check and it seems that everything in my house has expired this year… I can’t wait to have a pantry and when I do it’ll hopefully be plastic free!

    1. I know what you mean, it can be so hard! I hated not having much of a pantry in the apartments we lived in before having our house. It definitely makes you get creative!

    1. I am due for another reorganization for my pantry. Again. It’s a neverending battle, so hopefully these help the next time you are ready to organize yours again.

  6. Great tips!! It’s actually sorta crazy when you sit down and think about all the plastic not only on your kitchen, but in your home!

    1. Oh my gosh, yes, it’s so scary! I have been trying to minimize the plastic in our entire house, but the kitchen was by far our largest contributor of waste, which is why I focus there more than anywhere else.

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