An Organized Pantry - 7 Tips to Make Your Pantry Oh So Functional

Having an unorganized pantry can be the cause of many things from overspending and eating poorly to an overall stress in your life. It can make the seemingly easy trek to the grocery store a loathed chore and it can be the culprit to those extra jars of seasonings and pasta boxes that always seem to magically surface.

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pantries come in all sizes

“I want to start eating better.” “Why do I have 4 boxes of penne pasta in here?” “I need more space in my pantry!”


Do any of these sound familiar?

Having an unorganized pantry can be the cause of many things from overspending and eating poorly to an overall stress in your life. I mean, meal planning, cooking and all that comes with keeping yourself alive is enough as it is, amiright?! It can make the seemingly easy trek to the grocery store a loathed chore and it can be the culprit to those extra jars of seasonings and pasta boxes that always seem to magically surface when your searching desperately for a snack at 10:00pm.

Wouldn’t it be nice to breathe a sigh of relief and excitement when you open your pantry?

I totally hear you. I remember the kitchen pantry in my first home. It was a tall, deep and skinny cabinet. The kind where, when anything gets set back further than 5”, it’s lost in the back never to be seen again. Aren’t those the best?! (....said no one ever, haha!) A challenging space for sure, but not a hopeless one.

Pantries can be the skinny deep kind, full walk-in closets or simply the same upper cabinets used for your dishes.

Of course, having a luxurious walk-in pantry sounds oh so wonderful, but in reality, we work with what we have. In any scenario, there are many organizing systems you can use to make your pantry functional and I’ve got a fab list of them for you!

Below, I’m going to share with you 7 simple ideas and tons of products to make your pantry super functional. Do one or do them all and you’ll feel so much better the next time you open your pantry door.

Let’s dive in.  

Tip #1 - Out With The Old

Going through all of your pantry items and tossing foods no longer desired to be eaten and anything past it’s expiration date will spruce up your space in a jiffy. A simple concept I know, but many of us tend to let this go for years.

Hello 2010 ketchup! Where’d you come from? (Did you know ketchup turns brown when it gets old? Ew! Haha!)

Purging the pantry at least twice a year will keep you on top of the dates and help give you peace of mind. It will help you save money and, of course, make your pantry function better.

How can purging help save you money you ask? Getting rid of food that is out of date will create more space allowing you to see what you have eliminating the purchase of duplicate items. Also, just the process of going through it all will give you a better picture of your pantry items.

Quick tip: If you can’t see an expiration date on a spice/seasoning bottle, give it a shake test. If you hold the bottle upside down and shake it and it all sticks together, that’s a sign of it being old or it being exposed to air.

step 2: use risers for a lift

Risers are a wonderful way to save space and see what you have. Imagine a shelf with steps. They are known best for organizing canned goods, however, using them for other items such as condiments and oils, boxed soups, applesauce cups, spices etc... can really help maximize a space.

These fabulous space savers come with narrow steps as well as deep to accommodate different size items. Keep this in mind when you are purchasing them as a 24oz can of tomatoes is significantly larger than a can of Campbell’s Soup. Make sure the big guys have a home as well!

Most are expandable to fit a variety of spaces and come in different materials such as bamboo, acrylic and plastic.

In my pantry, I use one for surplus items such as extra ketchup, honey, etc.. and one for all of our canned goods. It’s always nice to have a replacement on hand before things run out, so don’t forget to give these surplus items a home as well.

As a side note, I find that keeping surplus items all together really helps with over buying. When I’m making a shopping list and wonder if we have mustard, rather than searching, I just check my surplus riser. Click here or the images above to check them out.

Tip #3 - Lazy Susan’s Aren’t So Lazy

A must-have staple of every pantry should be a Lazy Susan. These can be used for anything that stands up (or has a bottom): drinks, oils, cans, spices, etc.. They are a great way to utilize corners efficiently as well as keep straight shelf space tidy.

Lazy Susans are one of my absolute favorite products. They are clean, simple and have amazing functionality. Try using them in other areas of the home such as under the sink or in a laundry room as well. Different dimensions, multi and single tiers, and a variety of materials give you an array of possibilities.

Quick tip: Did you know that you can use Lazy Susans on other Lazy Susans? Corner cabinetry that has turntable shelving can be very awkward. Using Lazy Susans on these turn tables is an amazing way to maximize the space. See, they’re not so lazy after all!

Quiz: How many Lazy Susans do you see? Hahaha!

In this particular kitchen, they had a limited amount of cabinets and drawer space. It was quite a challenge! Having this corner cabinet was the best thing that happened to that design. I was able to fit so much in! Click on the images above to grab one!

Tip #4 - Contain The Beast

To contain or not to contain is always a question when organizing. It goes with personal preference and is not necessary all of the time, but bins and containers have so many pros, that I highly recommend using them.

When items are placed on a shelf un-contained, more often than not, items tend to get moved around making it more difficult to continue with the organized system you’ve put in place. In addition, keeping categories together and getting your loved ones to put things back in the proper spot can be especially challenging ….bless their hearts. Like Lazy Susan’s, bins keep the pantry tidy and make the space more visually appealing.

This is the fun part because there are so many great options. My go to bins for the pantry are these white plastic bins and multi-purpose bins. Both IKEA and The Container Store have these great bins. They allow easy access and come in a variety of sizes, they are also very affordable. The multi-purpose bins are really helpful for those deep pantries I talked about at the beginning (how do they expect us to find anything in those things anyway?). I also am in love with the water hyacinth bins. So versatile.

Tip #5 - Think Outside The Shelves

Do you have some blank wall space in your pantry? Is there a door? Free up your shelves and look for other spaces in the pantry. Utilizing areas other than just the shelves will open up a ton of opportunities to maximize your space.

Slender wall spaces may look unusable, but they can be used for a variety of items such as spice racks, plastic bag holders, and foil and ziploc bag holders. Organizers that are slim and small in size can be big in function.

If you have a door, installing a door hanging storage unit like I did in the image below will add yet another wonderful way to create storage and offer up your shelf space to larger items. Baskets of various sizes used in these systems can hold almost anything that you put in a pantry.

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I have used the Elfa System from The Container Store on the door of my pantry as well as for my clients and I love it! The bins can be easily moved to whatever height I want them and I can remove them for easy access on my counter. One of my bins is a drink station that I remove every morning and sit next to my Keurig. It’s so great to have all of my items in one easy accessible spot.

Tip #6 - Go Vertical

Look up! In many pantries, there are large spaces between the top shelf and the ceiling that is just waiting to be used.

You can stack items to go vertical, however, I only recommend stacking things if they are in lidded bins and house items used rarely or seasonally. If it’s difficult to access something or put it away, you will be less likely to keep the system in place. I don’t need extra shelving in my pantry, but I did utilize the top shelf for small appliances. Because they aren’t used all the time, it’s a perfect spot for them.

If you can’t afford to add shelving that matches your closet system, there are many different options you can explore. Shelf risers, expandable shelves, and even small furniture pieces will create more shelving space with little to no effort. Click the images above to check some of them out.

The expandable shown above (on the right) is awesome! I use one in my closet to add an additional shoe shelf and have one in the closet under my stairs as well. They are extremely useful because they can fit any space. It’s very similar to a tension rod, but in shelf form.

Tip #7 - Take It Off

Removing packaging from your pantry items not only makes your space look tidier, it allows for easy grab and go access and gives you more storage.

Examples of this would be:

  1. Emptying cereal boxes, pastas and flour/sugar into airtight containers.

  2. Removing granola bars, oatmeal’s, and other snacks from their boxes and placing them in containers with other like items.

I use airtight containers from Target (shown below on the right) for all of my pasta. I love being able to see how much pasta there is and they are very affordable. No more taping the pasta box lids closed! OXO has wonderful containers for this as well.

There are, of course, many options for clear food containers, but these are my faves.

Quick Tip: Check the sizes of your containers when purchasing to be sure they fit on your shelves!

As you can see, there are many things you can do to spruce up your pantry and make it work for you without spending a ton of money or time. Even by doing one or two of the above, you will be able to tidy up your pantry in a jiff.

How about a quick review:

  1. Out With the Old - Toss anything past expiration and no longer desired.

  2. Use Risers for a Lift - More than double your shelf space and see everything at a glance with stepped risers.

  3. Lazy Susan’s Aren’t So Lazy - Use these space savers to maximize corner spaces and create tidy straight shelf space.

  4. Contain the Beast - Use containers to corral like items and make it easy and effortless to access and put away your items.

  5. Think Outside the Shelves - Utilize extra wall space and door areas to add additional storage.

  6. Go Vertical - Don’t forget to look up and use that extra space up above by adding additional shelving with expandable shelves or even extra furniture pieces.

  7. Take It Off - Remove packaging from items to create more space and keep it looking clean and tidy.

I would like to challenge you to use one of these ideas or items in your pantry and would love to see what you come up with! Send me your photos and tell me all about it. You can post them in the comments below or visit me on Facebook. Can’t wait!


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I'm Melynda, a professional organizer who loves helping busy women and families eliminate their clutter and calm the chaos in their homes. You want to get organized? Let’s do the thing!

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