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In this post: An organized pantry makes everything else in the kitchen so much easier. Get these pantry organization ideas and learn how to organize your pantry in 5 simple steps. 

*This post is sponsored by Valspar, which is exclusively available at Lowe’s Canada. 

An organized pantry can make all your kitchen chores easier. Whether it’s the everyday things like packing lunches (again!) or the Holidays when you have a houseful of extra people to feed. With these pantry organization ideas, you’ll be able to organize any size or type of pantry – from tiny little cupboards to full-size walk-in pantries! 

white pantry shelves looking back towards basement stairs and existing gray walls

Why You Should Organize Your Pantry

If your pantry – even a tiny one with little shelf space or wall space – is well planned and laid out, you can meal plan and grocery shop like a boss. And of course, when you have a meal plan, life, in general, is easier because you don’t have to think about what you’re going to feed your family constantly!

Plus, if your pantry is organized so that you can see what you do and don’t have, it’s so much easier to keep it well-stocked. Which has become more and more important as we see supply-chain issues and bad weather slowing down the shipment of foods (among other things), especially in the winter months.

Having an organized, well-stocked pantry contributes to peace of mind, knowing that you and your family will be well-fed no matter what. 

How do you organize your pantry with limited space? What do you do with a small pantry?

As much as we’d all like a walk-in pantry right in or next to the kitchen, not all of us are so lucky. Many houses just weren’t designed that way. This can make storing pantry items – and having them easily accessible at meal and snack times – a little bit tricky. 

Organized pantry storage with no pantry
Above: Our kitchen food cupboards.

If you have limited space in your kitchen, as many do, you may have to get creative. Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Make the most of the space in your kitchen with shelf risers, racks, lazy susans, and drawer pull-outs that maximize the space you do have. Use the back of your pantry door or cabinet doors to store narrow packages like spices. 
  • If you buy in bulk or large packages, decant those into smaller containers that actually fit in your kitchen cupboards. (I know our circa 1999 kitchen was definitely not designed with Costco shopping trips in mind!)
  • Keep the most frequently used foods in a cupboard in the kitchen, and store other foods in another space, like the basement, a spare closet, the laundry room, or even the garage
Caraway Home's sage green dutch oven and fry pan on induction stovetop

How do you organize a pantry on a budget?

Fortunately, it’s actually fairly easy to organize a pantry on a budget, because most pantry foods already come in stackable packaging. Cans, boxes, and even cartons can all be stacked and lined up in nice neat rows. 

And if you need to organize smaller things like spice packets or pasta, and money is too tight to go out and buy fancy organizers, you can:

  • Grab plastic bins at the dollar store
  • Use cheap mason jars as the perfect spice holders
  • Or you can even use one of my favorite pantry tricks cardboard boxes – wrapped in kraft or wrapping paper to make them look nicer! 

The other key to most well-organized pantries is to label everything that isn’t already clearly labeled. 

What is the best way to organize a food pantry? How do you group items in the pantry?

The best way to organize foods in a pantry is the way that works for you.

You want to make sure that you give easy access to the foods you use most while storing less-often used items up higher or a little more out of the way. 

You also want to store like with like. So all the cereal together, the snack food, the pasta, etc. This makes it so much easier to find things when you need them. 

diy rolling kitchen pantry shelves |
Above: The rolling pantry shelves we built for our old house’s kitchen.

Give Your Pantry Space a Makeover

A pretty pantry – or even just one that is light and bright – can make a huge difference in how you use your pantry. Especially if you’re a visual person like I am. If that’s you, a pantry makeover may be just what you need!

Dean and I have lived in many homes over the years, and not one had a dedicated pantry. We always made do with the kitchen cupboards we had. 

At this house, we had the opportunity to do a “cheap and cheerful” kitchen reno shortly after we moved in a few years ago. But even with our updated kitchen and our extra-large island, as a family of five, we need to store food outside of the kitchen. There just isn’t room for it all in the kitchen cupboards. 

So, Dean built some simple shelves from 1x3s and melamine shelving in a corner of our basement that we previously used as paint storage and a catchall for all sorts of things. But because he built it in mid-2020 and we just wanted to get it done already so we could use it, we didn’t paint or do anything else with the space. And it looked like this for over a year (no we did not choose those original paint colors!). Okay, there was food on the shelves, but you get the picture. It was not pretty to look at!

grey upright freezer in basement with rust orange wall on one side and lime green wall on the other
upright grey freezer in basement space with shelves and lime green paint on the walls
basement food storage shelves wood uprights and white melamine shelves lime green walls behind
basement storage shelves made from wood 1x3s and white melamine, lime green walls behind shelves

When we finally had some time this fall, we decided to give the space a bit of a refresh – tidying up and changing only the lighting and the paint. And the difference is INSANE! It’s so much brighter and more pleasant.

newly white painted basement pantry area makeover

(Schoolhouse light fixture from Amazon. Affiliate link.)

white painted basement pantry shelves with water bottles and food stacked

Now we can see everything, even in the corners.

white painted basement pantry shelves with water bottles and food stacked in the corner

And we added the art that used to be in our upstairs stairwell just for fun. Art makes every space nicer – even pantries, bathrooms, and kitchens!

white pantry shelves looking back towards basement stairs and existing gray walls and oversized wall art
oversized art in oak gray frames next to grey freezer in newly painted white basement pantry area

Since we’d used Valspar paints before in our guest room – and we were happy with the quality of the application, loved the color choice, and the durability, washability, and scuff resistance – we decided to pick up a few gallons at our local Lowe’s to use in the pantry.

white pantry shelves looking back towards basement stairs and existing gray walls

We used a color called Virtue 7001-15 in an eggshell finish. It’s a little on the pink side of white. But it works because the tile in the space and the carpet in the adjoining space are also on the pink side. 

grey fridge with nice bright walls

So now that the pantry is brighter and looks nicer, here’s how we organized it. 

How to Organize Your Pantry in 5 Simple Steps

Now, stick with me, friend. Your pantry is temporarily going to look like a bomb went off. It’s going to get a whole lot messier before we get to the other side. But it’s so worth it, I promise!

If you think you might become overwhelmed with the job, my favorite trick to avoid this is to break the pantry up into zones and only tackle purging and organizing one zone at a time. 

For example, follow the first three steps below for just the dry goods, then repeat them for the canned goods, the baking ingredients, salty snacks, and so on.

Before you know it you’ll be ready for steps four and five and you won’t feel overwhelmed at all. 

So, here are the steps to follow for an organized pantry:

1. Pull everything out of the pantry

Step one in organizing your pantry is to pull everything out and place it all on the countertops or the kitchen table for sorting. This makes a big mess, but it is truly necessary to get organized.

(Remember, if doing it all at once is too much, just do one type of pantry product at once.)

2. Purge expired and other items

Step two is to toss everything that is expired.

You don’t want to keep anything that is well past its best before date. Some foods will last a little longer than others, but if you’re in doubt, toss it. There’s a great list of how long pantry goods will last here

Other things to purge, and maybe you can donate these items, are things that your family no longer eats. Like if someone has developed a food sensitivity or food aversion right after you’ve stocked up. Ask me how I know about that! 🤦‍♀️

diy spice rack picture ledge canning jars

3. Sort like with like

Step three is to place like with like (on the table or counter, for now, you will move it all into the pantry shortly).

For example, put all the mac and cheese together, all the soups, the snacks, the pasta, etc. Another option is to put everything needed to make a meal together: taco shells, refried beans, salsa, taco seasoning, corn, etc., and spaghetti, sauce, garlic bread, etc. Remember to sort and store things for how you and your family actually use them. 

4. Use baskets, bins, and labels

Step four is to make use of baskets or other containers for corralling things like spices or packets of seasoning, etc. so they don’t spread all over the cupboard.

Whether you’ve been working on one section of the pantry at a time, or you’ve done the whole thing in one fell swoop and you’ve now removed, purged, and sorted everything, now is the time to figure out what (if any) new storage bins and baskets you need. 

Choosing the right baskets and bins to organize your pantry

To do this well, think about a few things before you go shopping for containers:

  • Do you always keep a certain thing stocked in multiples or in bulk? If so, you’ll need a bin or basket large enough to support that. 
  • Do you cook the same meals over and over again? If so, it may be easier for you to store all the pantry ingredients for that meal in one place, as suggested above in the sorting step. 
  • What size are your pantry shelves? Make sure you take measurements and have them on hand when you go looking for pantry storage containers. It’s so easy to misjudge the size of something in the store vs at home. 

Then make sure you label your baskets and bins so you can easily identify the items inside at a glance. You could use a label maker or even a piece of masking or washi tape, and a marker if money is tight. I created these free Silhouette Machine Pantry Organization labels (or you could use these ones from Amazon) to keep your pantry organized going forward!

It’s also important to note that you will want to put the things you use most on the easiest-to-reach shelves and the least-used items higher.

keep spices in canning jars

5. Restock your pantry

Step five is to stock your cupboard after you’ve purged and sorted. 

To do this get out your meal plan, and make a grocery list. Grab extra items that are on sale or even just a couple of extra of the pantry ingredients you use most often. 

Bonus Pantry Organization Tips

There are of course a few other things you could do to make your pantry function better or even just look prettier:

  • Add additional storage by adding small shelves or hooks over the top of the door. These are great for spices and food storage wraps and plastic bags. 
  • Cover up stained or well-used pantry shelves with contact paper. 
  • Paint the back wall of your pantry with a fun stencil, as we did with our small closet-turned-pantry at our old house
  • Add chalkboard to the inside of cupboard doors for jotting down notes. 
  • Cover wire shelves with wood to make the shelves more sturdy for cans and glass jars. 

That’s it. Five simple steps to organize and restock your pantry. Plus a few bonus tips to make it even more organized and lovely!

How often do you rejig your pantry? Do you find keeping an organized pantry simplifies everything else?

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  1. Love the photos! What an easy process that was- I love looking at the progress we made and having it all in a sensible place. Let the cooking begin:-)

  2. Where did you get the mason jar (stair-step) rack for your pantry? I use my FoodSaver attachment to vacuum pack my herbs and spices in mason jars. I want to store them exactly the way you have pictured, but have been unable to find a suitable ascending shelf that allows for multiple tiers of jar storage on one shelf.


    Kathleen Horton

  3. Great tips! Organizing my pantry is o my New Year’s Day to do list. Not too excited but a task way overdue. Visiting from Made By You Monday.

    1. I know, it’s not exciting while doing it. But it sure feels good when it’s finished!

    1. The dishes that are out get used almost daily. I also dust the shelves weekly with a Swiffer duster.

  4. Hey Shannon! This is so helpful. I’m definitely looking to stay more organized this year. You have been featured this week at Dishing It & Digging It. Thank you so much for sharing with us 🙂

  5. Love the article and the pics! The only thing I disagree with is putting spices into baskets or bins, because then you can’t easily and readily see what you have and you may buy more. Otherwise great advice can’t wait to try 😉

  6. Great tips! When storing items such as pasta or oats in a container, how do you save the instructions. I’ve tried cutting them off the box and taping to the container but it looks messy. Any suggestions?

    1. Ooh! Good question! We tend to use the same things over and over so I don’t keep them often. But when I do, I have a binder in the cupboard with my cookbooks that I keep things like that in. 🙂