Oy vey. How many times have you heard that before from your husband/kids/roommate/stranger living in your home? Okay, maybe its time for a grocery run or maybe you’re like me and don’t want any junk in the house and the healthy options don’t “sound” good. Or MAYBE there is plenty in the pantry and refrigerator but it is not organized in such a way as to allow a cursory inventory.

Pantries can easily get away from you due to the closed door and the frequent inflow and outflow of items. The only way to keep things organized is to establish homes for items and stick with it. If you’re thinking of adding a pantry in your next kitchen remodeling project, plan it thoroughly so you can maximize the storage area you’ll set aside for it.

Here is a pantry I did a while back without purchasing any organizing products.

A large pantry, before and after(First, let me apologize for the photo quality. I have a great eye for organizing space, not so much for photography. I shouldn’t have made this stupid collage, either and I no longer have the originals)

This huge pantry had become a free-for-all. There was simply no method to the madness. This pantry was a very quick re-do, taking about an hour of time.


In a pantry of this size, I start by assigning a broad category to each shelf: oils and vinegars, baking staples, canned goods, snack items, beverages, pet food and small appliances. On each of these shelves, I grouped “like with like” and check expiration dates.


This family has a wet bar to house more common spirits and the pantry was home for the less-popular items.  place hard liquor on the highest shelf behind the oils and vinegars because they are very rarely . Oils and vinegars were lined along the top shelf in alphabetical order. This is a way of assigning a “home” for every bottle, encouraging it to be returned to this spot.


All spices were corralled into a storage container and labeled on the lid. This allows the homeowner to view the contents of each bottle in a glance. I prefer keeping my spices in alphabetical order though it’s also appropriate to keep them in order of usage frequency.pantry storage bin


If we were to spend more time on this project, I would probably invest in a few simple bins though you can also accomplish this goal by up-cycling all those Amazon Prime boxes (am I the only one??), at least temporarily. Though not the prettiest, something like this is appropriate for pantries because they are easy to wash in case something spills and are pretty sturdy for heavier items.

Using this pantry as an example, I would corral all “extra” baking items like frosting, sprinkles, food coloring, etc into a bin. These bins are also great to FREE items from their boxes. You could have separate bins for snack items like chips, gummies, cereal bars, protein bars, etc. I cannot stress enough how much I love bins because you can take the entire thing out of the pantry to restock, clean, whatever.


I would also probably transfer the flours, sugars, etc into canisters. There are literally dozens of options out there for canisters so many, in fact, that I’m not going to post any photos or links. When choosing the correct canisters for you, don’t fall victim to the sets. Often, these sets include one or two appropriately sized and the rest are too small for most uses. Also, there are many “pretty” options that aren’t as functional as the boring plastic variety. Finally, square trumps round regarding optimal space usage.


If you can put together a casserole at a moments nopantry can feedertice because you always pantry tiered storagehave a half dozen cans of Cream of Chicken, you should consider some kind of can storage. If it’s a ton of THE SAME item, I like to use something like this (to the left). However, if you have a good number of cans of varying foods, this (to the right) is a better option.

Look, I’m not going to tell you how to live your life but keep the packaging and receipts and don’t be afraid to return items which do not work well for your life.

What are your biggest pantry woes? Share in the comments here or on our Facebook page.