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How to Organize a Small Pantry

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Our small closet pantry was in dire need of organizing! Having such a small space to work with means I need to make the most of every inch. I like to keep a stockpile of items on hand for quick meals, snacks for lunches, and extra canned goods that we regularly use, but the closet was becoming a mess! It needed help…

The Messy Before:

This small pantry has worked well for us for the past 2 years. Having a pantry in the kitchen was a must-have when we were house shopping. I can’t imaging living without one, even if it’s just a small pantry closet. Over the years it had become cluttered and needed some help. I finally took the time, tore it apart, and found a solution for this small pantry that is really working for us. In this post, I’ll walk you through the steps I took to organize the pantry. I hope you’re inspired to tackle that messy space in your home.

The After:

How to Organize a Small Pantry

Step 1: Empty Your Space

This is the messiest part but it’s also so eye-opening. I emptied everything out of our pantry so I could see exactly what I was working with. I placed everything on the dining table and cleaned out the pantry closet really well. I also covered my wire shelves, you can see how I did this for just a few dollars here: How to Cover Wire Shelving.

Step 2: Toss It

Once I had everything out, I went through the food items and discarded anything that was old or expired. I made sure that anything that was significantly out of date went in the trash. Things that were close to being expired I set aside so I could plan on using them over the next few days.

Step 3: Donate items you’re not going to use

While going through the pantry I came across several items that I bought with good intentions but knew our family would probably never use. Instead of wasting perfectly good food, consider bagging it up and donating it to your local food kitchen or homeless shelter.

Step 4: Plan and Categorize

Once the closet was empty I could easily see the space I had to work with and created a plan. Decide what you want to store in your pantry. Do you want to keep everyday food only or do you want to keep some extra items as a backup? Think about how you will store those items.

Next, consider how you want to categorize the food items. I like to keep all of my starches (pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous) in one area. I also like to keep my spaghetti sauces right beside the pasta. Cereal and breakfast items stay together on a shelf that our kids can easily reach as well as lunch-box snacks.

Think about how often you reach for items and make sure that you put those most-used items in a convenient place. If you have items that you rarely use, consider placing them up high or even in another area of the house that you can access when you need it. Don’t take up prime storage space with items that you rarely use!

Step 5: Contain

While it might be tempting to run out before you even start and buy all of the organizing bins and boxes, I highly recommend waiting until you have a plan. Once you’ve decided where to store your food items next you need to decide HOW you will store them. Take the time to measure your shelves so you buy the right size containers.

I prefer to store cereals, snacks, and meal staples in clear containers. This way I can keep an eye on our inventory and refill items as needed. Plus no one likes having 4 boxes of half-eaten cereal in their pantry. This limits what we have open and keeps it all fresh and contained.

These cereal containers look way better than mine and are usually on sale.

Shallow clear plastic bins are helpful to keep like items together. I prefer clear so I can see what’s inside but if you don’t mind taking the bins down when you need something you can always find a more aesthetic opaque bin. There are some pretty options below. I found these clear bins from Target.

I’ve been using a set of OXO pop containers for years and they are by far my favorite brand for food storage. I bought the 10 piece OXO set and it has been worth every penny! You can usually find a good assortment of sizes and shapes at Amazon or Target. This is another brand that seems to be high-quality and for a great price.

Small Pantry Organization

Items You’ll Need

This over the door organizer adds so much storage to your closet!
I use these hanging baskets in my pantry – I secure them with zip ties.
I love the style of this back of the door shelving.
This another great option if you need a
Hanging Basket.
This is the 3 drawer storage unit I use on the pantry floor.
I found a great deal for 4 clear plastic bins.
I have several of these bins I like that they have handles.
We’ve used these Airtight Food Storage Containers for years! – 5 piece set3 piece set
If you’re looking for nicer bins and baskets here are a few of my favorites: Seagrass wicker bins and this set of 3 Seagrass wicker bins with fabric lining.

I used some hanging wire baskets under some of the shelving to add even more space. One tip to keep the baskets stable was to use a zip tie to attach them to the wire shelving. No more droopy wire baskets!

Get Creative

When you are working with limited space you want to try to use every inch you can. Remember to use your vertical space and stack items on your top shelf if necessary. Using the pantry closet door is a must! I’ve had an over the door pantry storage for years and I really love it to add extra storage.

Use Drawers For More Storage

I added a wide, plastic, 3-drawer container to the floor under the bottom shelf to add even more storage. Our kitchen has very few drawers and I’m always struggling for more drawer storage. I LOVE how this turned out.

I’m able to store more snacks for the kid’s lunch in the top drawer. They can easily grab bags of chips or crackers and go!

The middle drawer holds our zip-lock baggies, reusable ziplock bags and kitchen wraps like parchment paper, foil and plastic wrap.

The bottom drawer might be my favorite because it solved one of my biggest kitchen headaches – water bottles and travel coffee mugs! These were always overflowing in our cabinet. They fit so well in the drawer and don’t make such a mess. I also keep our lunch containers. We love these EasyLunchbox Bento containers and have used them for over 5 years. They hold up well and allow the kids to use fewer baggies.

I haven’t found the right solution for our potatoes or onions yet. Currently, I keep them in a bin on the floor in the back corner. This keeps them in a dark cool spot, it works for now.

It has been 2 months since I reorganized our pantry and I’m surprised just how tidy it has stayed. I’m so glad I took the time to completely empty it out and find a system that works for our family. I hope you found this post helpful!

Organized closet pantry with clear containers for storage

Happy Organizing!

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  • Reply
    Sharalee J Klein
    January 3, 2021 at 6:24 pm

    What did you cover the wire shelves with?

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