Organizing Your Pantry

Related Articles

An Organized Pantry

Pantry Potential

Keeping Track of Pantry Inventory

An Organized Pantry

I love to stock up on canned goods, but often have a hard time putting them away in our cavernous deep pantry, and finding them again!

I've seen pull out cabinet shelves, but they tend to be very expensive. Does anyone have suggestions for inexpensive ways to store and organize lots of different types of canned goods?

Pantry Organization: Label the Shelves

Try using a small label on the front of the shelf or on the inside of the pantry door that works as an "inventory" list. Put the kind of food and the number of cans of each type of food on the label and cross them off as you use them so that you'll know when it's time to restock.

Pantry Organization: Organize with Dishpans

I use simple and inexpensive plastic dishpans to organize a pantry. I label each one with the contents and then they simply slide in and out of the shelves with ease. The plastic dishpans I buy are around $1 each and last forever. They're also good for keeping track of children's toys and many other items around a home.

Pantry Organization: Consider Lazy Susans

Years ago, I bought plastic two tier lazy susans. I found them at lawn sales and thrift shops for about 50 cents each. I have eight in my pantry and organize my canned goods by groups, such as tomato products, green vegetables, canned meats, etc. When I buy new canned goods, I always put them at the back of the turn tables, where I made a small black mark. This way, I can see at a glance what I need to replenish.

I used to keep a list on the pantry door of the contents and then I tried marking the tops of cans with the date of purchase, but with the turntable system, there is no need. It's amazing how much two tiers can hold.

Check sale prices for Lazy Susans on Amazon.

Pantry Organization: Make Your Own "Rolling Shelves"

I created simple, inexpensive "rolling shelves." I can rotate my supply, using the oldest cans first.

To do this, buy the inexpensive, lightweight, ready to assemble, metal shelving units. The trick is how you assemble these shelves. Assemble the frame according to directions. Install the shelves upside down so the lip is facing up, and instead of placing them level, raise one end of each shelf to the next available hole, making a slanted shelf. Load your cans at the high end and they roll to the other end, and voila! You have a rotating supply. You can fit two to three can rows on each shelf, depending on the size of your cans.

Since there are only four to five shelves with each unit, there is a lot of wasted space between shelves. It might be worthwhile to buy two units and use all of the shelves in one frame. Since one of my sons does sheet metal work, he made extra sheet metal shelves for me with the lip.

Pantry Organization: Recycle Soda Packages

I use the 12-pack Coke packages to sort my canned goods. I also have deep pantry shelves. After I have used the carton that the sodas came in, I use the empty carton for my pantry. I have one carton for my soups, another for beans, and another for canned tomatoes, etc. I can see pretty quickly when I am running low on anything, and I do not have to hunt all over the pantry to find that one last can of corn.

Pantry Organization: Quick and Easy Organization

I have a similar problem and a friend of mine gave me a really quick and easy answer. My cabinets are deep enough for four cans of soup or veggies to be lined up back to front. After my rows are done, categorized by flavor or veggie, I take a piece of cardboard box that I cut to fit the cabinet and lay it across the top of the cans. Then I do another layer of the same type of foods. My cabinets are high enough that I can actually stack the layers three high without a problem. Once a month, I check to see what needs updating, and rotate the older stock to the top row. This worked for my baking supplies as well. Boxes go on one side of the cabinet, cans on the other, and bags on the top layer. As long as the doors are shut, no one can see it anyway, and I always know just what I have on hand.

Pantry Organization: Tame the Pantry Monster

Add lighting to the pantry so you can see what you have. There are battery operated lights that you can hang on a wall. You could also put a flashlight in the closet so you can readily scan what's in the back of the pantry.

Organize the food by types. For instance, all canned fruits should be on one shelf, with canned peaches in one row, canned pears in another, etc. Eat the foods on a first in/first out basis, putting newly bought food at the back of the shelf and pushing the previously purchased foods toward the front. Don't buy more than you can use before it expires, no matter how good the deal.

Consider whether food is the best item to store in your pantry. I have a narrow and fairly deep pantry and I had a difficult time sorting through everything. I ended up putting my baking supplies, cookware, and various electronic appliances in the pantry and putting most of our food in the under-counter cabinet where the cookware had been stored. The cabinet shelves let me spread the food out and both my daughter and I can more easily find the food that's actually in there.

Pantry Organization: Do a Yearly "Cleanout"

Here are my pantry organizing tips:

  1. I happen to have the pull-out shelves in my kitchen pantry, which does make finding things more convenient. But even when you pull out the shelf, the cans all look about the same from the top. When I get home after grocery shopping, I pull out all the cans, take a permanent marker (kept in a convenient nearby drawer) and mark the top of each can with a three-letter "code" so I can tell what's in it without picking it up. For example, "GBN" means green beans to me; "KID" means kidney beans; "GAR" is garbanzo beans; "BTS" is beets; "SPN" is spinach. Tomato products are simply "D" for diced and "S" for sauce. One of my husband's friends thinks I am a nut for "marking the tins," but it saves me a lot of aggravation. It only takes a few seconds per shopping trip. I can find what I want quickly and I can also quickly see how much I have of my staples.
  2. Doing at least a yearly "cleanout" is important. Once a year, I take everything out of the kitchen pantry and sort and organize it. I have a reminder that comes up on my computer (it's due this week in fact!).
  3. Shop home improvement for great prices at

  4. Finally, we keep the overflow in the garage on some regular shelves. You can make your own version of "pull-out" shelves by placing lighter items in shallow cardboard boxes, or heavier ones on plastic trays or even in crates if your shelves are tall enough. The shallow boxes are often available for carry-out at warehouse stores and some of them are quite heavy-duty if they are made to hold canned items or such. This also helps in keeping like items together so you can see/find what you have. For example, I have all my bulk-size containers of spices in one cardboard box out in the garage, and when I need to refill the kitchen-size bottle, it is simple to pull out the box. I have all my extra pasta in another box, which helps keep me from buying even more pasta since I know how much extra I already have.


Take the Next Step

  • Visit the TDS library for more great ideas on organizing your pantry.
  • Could spending 5 minutes reading a newsletter twice a week save you time and money every day? Dollar Stretcher Tips readers think so. Subscribe and find out how many ideas stretch your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.
  • An organized home can save you quite a bit. The Dollar Stretcher's Guide to an Organized Home can help you save both time and money getting organized and staying organized.

Stay Connected with TDS

Little Luxuries

to the Dollar Stretcher newsletter and get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt