I have had many pantries in the past. Pantries I thought I liked, but that actually frustrated me on a daily basis; pantries I was always trying to straighten up, or reorganize to make finding things easier; pantries with big, deep shelves that held a ton of boxes and jars and bags that I could somehow never seem to find.
It is said you have to kiss many frogs to find your prince: I built many pantries with luxuriously deep shelves before I learned two valuable lessons.
1. Go with shallow shelves.
If I had enough wall space, the ideal pantry would be made up of shelves that are only as deep as single bottles of oil, cans of tomatoes, and boxes of pasta and cereal. I would be able to see every single thing at a glance, nothing would ever get hidden, and nothing would ever get lost. My current pantry (above) comes very close to that.
2. Put them everywhere!
Not only are the main shelves in the pantry decently shallow, but I also use every bit of available wall space — including a funny turn in the wall that could only fit three-inch-deep shelves, where I have precious artisanal products like tiny bottles of aged balsamic we carried back from Italy, and an entire wall to the right of the door that might have otherwise been totally wasted.
From top to bottom, these little slivers of walls are outfitted with tiny shelves — exactly what's needed for bottles of oils and vinegars, jars of jams, and all kinds of syrups and honeys. These shelves hold dozens of bottles that would just clutter up some other space if they couldn't go here.
Why Shallow Pantry Shelves Are the Best
When I am in the midst of cooking, I can see at a glance every kind of vinegar I have on hand — and that very often inspires my creativity. I could argue that the shallow shelves save me money, as I don't run out and buy an ingredient I didn't realize I already had because it was hiding behind another jar.
I could also argue it helps save my marriage: I no longer feel that annoyance-turned-fury because someone didn't care about putting ingredients back where they belong and I have to take the time to straighten out the entire thing … again. (I save that for the attic now.) These shallow shelves make it so incredibly clear where ingredients belong, they practically organize themselves.
But really, it isn't about money or marriages saved — it's about a pantry that is always orderly, inspires my creativity, and makes me oh-so-happy.