How to organize a small pantry with tips and tricks about food storage, pantry bins, and pantry organization ideas.
My husband told me this weekend that he would marry me all over again…
For my pantry organization.
He’s a keeper.
Keeping a small pantry organized can be work. Our small, messy kitchen pantry got a major makeover, and now the space is super organized and efficient.
How To Organize a Small Pantry
One of my goals this year was to get the closets organized, tidy, and maybe a bit pretty. I hate, hate not being able to find something I need. We organized the linen closet here and you can see our laundry room makeover from earlier this year.
1. Prepping the pantry
Our pantry has several wood shelves with a coating on them. The coating is sort of rough and stains. After cleaning it thoroughly, I painted the shelves with 2 coats of enamel paint.
Enamel paint is more durable than latex and will stand up better to wear and scraping. I also laid shelf liners across each shelf to further protect against stains and scratching.
Pantry Organization Product source list is at the bottom of this post.
2. Use a Pantry Door Organizer
Doors are the best way to maximize small pantry organization. I love my door hanger. This one is budget friendly and has adjustable heights between shelves. Another option that goes through the entire door is this door organizer that you can adjust and includes different shelves.
Check out our 10 Clever Ideas for Cabinet Door Organizers.
3. Decide on a functional layout.
There are several methods to how you should organize a pantry for maximum effectiveness, and I have many considerations when planning a layout.
- Put heavier and larger items on lower shelves.
- Put healthy snacks at eye level or in easier reach than treats.
- Rarely used items or backups go up higher than eye level.
- Don’t put food on the floor, but you can add baskets under the bottom shelf that hang in the air.
- If you buy groceries in bulk, make sure you have a system for rotating to avoid food expiration.
In our house, my husband happens to be 15 inches taller than me. Of course, he always gets the top shelf since I can’t reach it 🙂
4. Buy appropriate containers
Oh, the fun stuff! I use a few different varieties of containers, but whichever you choose, food containers should always be:
- Easy to Clean (food grade plastic) – I generally avoid those cute hyacinth baskets. Wire baskets are ok for sealed items like canned goods.
- Buy a few extra bins – storage items regularly change so I get a few extra or try to get items that are continually available.
- Keep uniformity by using as few different types of containers as possible. I have a large basket type, a medium basket type, pourable containers for cereal, and large dry good storage containers. The more different containers you have, the more cluttered it will look.
- Label everything.
5. Don’t overfill containers
If you find that you have nearly filled a container, consider getting a second one. One month you may want to take advantage of a great sale or maybe you’re a big Costco buyer.
I don’t fill pantry bins more than 70% when organizing. In fact, I have two snack bins, 3 bins for canned goods, and 3 unlabeled bins for overflow.
6. Use sealed canisters or jars with lids for dry goods.
It took me a few years to fill my collection of canisters. I also have these large glass jars for grains and sugars.
List of Pantry Labels for Jars
- Baking Items (Cocoa Powder / Cornstarch / Baking soda)
- Flour (All- purpose / Bread Flour / Whole Wheat Flour / Oatmeal /Specialty Flours)
- Sugar (Granulated / Brown / Powdered)
- Rice (Brown / White)
- Pasta (Spaghetti / Penne / shells / macaroni)
- Dried Fruits and Nuts (Raisins / Cranberries / dry beans)
- Pre-made mixes (Cookie Mix / Pancake Mix / Soup Mix)
7. Consider Adding Pull Out Shelves
It doesn’t work well in this corner pantry, I admit. However, I added pull out shelves like these to my mother’s kitchen pantry which is more like a large cabinet. She loves them!
You can DIY this project or get a custom made system that has nice pull out shelves.
8. Lazy Susan in the corner
I used to use a lazy susan in the deep corners of the pantry for snacks. I didn’t include it this time around to create more room for bins, but it was a pretty great idea.
9. Invest in a decent fold-away step stool.
I am pretty short (just above 5 feet tall) so I can’t reach the top shelf. A sturdy but easily fold-able step stool like this one is a must have kitchen tool.
Good luck with your pantry project!
LOOKING TO GET YOUR PANTRY IN ORDER? More Ideas:
Frequently asked questions:
The pantry area can easily become overwhelming, especially if you haven’t organized it in a while. First start by pulling everything out and cleaning and lining the shelves. Go through all your items and take inventory, categorize items by what makes the most sense to you. Keeping it organized is much more attainable when it’s accessible to your own needs. Assess your available space and budget before choosing containers.
The age of technology comes in very handy here! There are so many apps out there to help keep you organized and on top of daily tasks. We like to use the Cozi app for groceries and lists. It’s one less thing I have to remember and is so convenient.
The biggest way to cut cost is by finding budget friendly containers. Look for sales, discount stores, and inexpensive containers like mason jars or IKEA bins. Some of the sturdier systems (OXO good grips or Elfa System) have been around for years so you can buy a little at a time.
>>Shop Pantry Storage<<
(click on photo for source)
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Penny Gross says
Great pantry storage ideas! My pantry is a mess and sometimes I just take out everything and I rearrange the stuff until the time it is mess again! I definitely need to add some storage containers and try to organize everything so good that it will just stay like this! The storage ideas are great! Thanks for sharing!
So many good ideas here. I love the over the door rack and labeling baskets and jars. That is so helpful when you are trying to find something. I always start with good intentions for our pantry, but I feel like it’s a wreck within a couple of months. I might have to try to reorganize again. Thanks for the tips!
Thanks, Kirsten! This is the first real pantry I have ever had so I definitely want to keep it organized. Now that I have lived with it a few months, I am happy to say it looks exactly the same (minus an extra can or two). It also helps me meal plan better because I see what I have and am more likely to use it. Good luck with your pantry project!
What a makeover! Pretty organized, I’m lovin’ it! Greetings, Storage Gunnersbury Ltd.
Thanks, Ruby! It is so nice to have it organized (and stay organized).
I love your organization skills and methods! You are no joke my hero. I wish I had more of you in me (okay that actually sounds super creepy but you know what I mean [I hope])
Can I just say how much I have been missing you! Life and the blog got me so stressin recently (well, that’s life on the big dirtball I guess). What is most surprising to me about this project is that it looks exactly the same today as it did when I took the pictures like 2 1/2 months ago. Now that is a perfect system!
Christine from So Domestically Challenged says
That looks great! I love those baskets! The colorful labels are such fun 🙂
Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai says
This is very nice. I love well-organized closets, and baskets and containers certainly help with that. Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty – we hope to see you again next week. 🙂 #TGIF
Life With Lorelai
Your organization looks great! The bins and can storage racks are such good ideas to use. I reorganized my pantry in January as part of my things to do this year, too, but I’m seeing some good ideas here that I might just have to go back and have a do over for mine.
Thanks so much, Beverly! One thing I was worried about was whether the organization would hold up over time and I am proud to say it has so far for the last few months. I’m glad you found some ideas but don’t work too hard! 🙂
Ow wow those are pretty and nicely organized! I have a cupboard, that is all and I need a pantry like this so badly. It’s on the hubs bucket list to do!
Nikki @ Growing Up Mom says
I never heard of dry erase storage bins before, I’m totally getting some the next time I go to Walmart. I do love canisters too, and still have the set my husband and I got (7 years ago) for our Wedding shower. I would add, that it’s a good idea to get chalkboard labels for canisters too, I love them because they wash off easily and you can purchase them right on Amazon. Also, if you have kitchen or pantry without a lot of shelving/cabinet space, it’s a great idea to get a hutch and use that for extra storage too! We had to do that with our first apartment and still have it!
Carrie @ curlycraftymom says
Love this! I need to get some of those can holders! Our cans are all stacked everywhere in our pantry and its a huge mess.
Mine were like that too. I originally had them in boxes like the other stuff until I found that organizer. I like this product because when I make my store list, I can pull it out a bit and see every can to know if I have it on hand. So nice! Have a great day!