The 30 Most Brilliant Pantry Organizing Hacks of All Time

updated Nov 4, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Whether you have a decently large walk-in pantry or a tiny cabinet situation (or something in between), chances are you have a hard time keeping it organized and under control. This story — filled with 30 of our best hacks, tips, and tricks — should change that. We’ve got ideas on how to store boxes of pasta, the best way to see all your oils and sauces, how to utilize wasted wall space, and more. Your pantry won’t know what hit it.

1. Label everything.

Labels are not just for leftovers in the fridge and freezer. By labeling your jars, you’ll be able to spot what you need in a glance. Oh, and labels go beyond pretty jars, too — if you have a basket of, say, snacks for the kids, put a label on it. This way, the kids will be able to help themselves and put stuff back where it belongs. You can buy cute sticker labels, pick up some hanging tags, invest in a label maker, or just use a grease pencil on your glass jars. So many options!

Related: 10 Surprising Ways to Use a Label Maker in the Kitchen

2. Hit the dollar store for bins and baskets.

We strongly believe that the dollar store should be your first stop once you decide to take pantry organization into your own hands. You’ll find so many baskets there, for such little money! Just check out the story linked below for proof that the dollar store (and IKEA) can help you make a huge difference.

Read more: This Pantry Got Totally Made Over with Cheap Supplies from IKEA and a Dollar Store

3. Get a lazy Susan.

Lazy Susans should be renamed to Hard-Working Susans! Because they really do so much to keep your pantry organized. Without one (or three!) it’ll be hard to see the bottles you have stashed toward the back of the shelf. With one, you can simply rotate everything and gain instant access. If you’re going to buy one thing for your panty, it should be a lazy Susan. We suggest this non-skid one from Copco.

Read more: This Is the Only Must-Have Organizer You Need in Your Kitchen, According to the Pros

4. Put the healthiest snacks at eye level.

See potato chips when you first open up the pantry and, chances are, you’re gonna want potato chips. Move the less virtuous stuff to another shelf and put things like applesauce cups, veggie straws, and granola onto that first shelf you’ll see.

5. Give the kids their own shelf.

Set up one lower shelf (or a basket on a shelf, if you have limited space) that’s stocked with pre-approved snacks for the kiddos. This way, they can help themselves when they get hungry and you don’t have to worry about anyone climbing on chairs to get something from a high-up shelf.

Related: 5 Tips for Organizing Healthy Snacks Kids Can Get Themselves

Credit: Faith Durand

6. Group like with like.

If you have a few ingredients that you almost always use together for certain dishes or styles of cooking, store them together either in a basket or on a sheet pan that you can easily pull out when you need it. (We vote for sheet pans here, actually, because they’re a great way to contain any inadvertent spills or leaks.)

See more: Pantry Organization Tip: Use Sheet Pans & Hotel Pans to Hold Ingredients

7. Follow the FIFO rule.

That’s “first in, first out.” Use the oldest things in the pantry up first. That’s all you need to know here.

Credit: Marge Perry

8. Install skinny shelves.

See that little wall all the way to the left in this photo above? It would usually be wasted space, but Marge Perry (our sage advice giver) added super-narrow shelves and now she uses it for special little bottles and jars that would otherwise get lost on a deeper shelf.

Read more: Why Shallow Pantry Shelves Are the Best Shelves

Credit: Faith Durand

9. Try to avoid buying anything you won’t be able to use in more than one recipe.

We call this The Pomegranate Molasses Problem and it’s the idea of buying an ingredient for one random recipe and then never having any use for it ever again. If a recipe calls for something that you don’t have or have never used before, make sure you can use it another dish, too. Otherwise, it’ll just take up valuable space in your pantry. See what you can sub or if you can leave it out. Or, gather up some other recipes and prepare to expand your horizons.

Read more: The Little Rule That Keeps My Budget in Check and My Pantry in Order

10. Get a system for your canned goods.

Ever send a stack of canned goods toppling to the ground? It’s not fun! That’s why we suggest getting some sort of system for your canned goods. Amazon sells a few different types that store cans on their sides and make it easy to pull one out without making a mess of the ones left behind.

Our favorite: Stackable Can Organizer, $37.99

11. Put small appliances on rolling plant stands.

Put small appliances on a rolling plant stand. Now, you can easily pull out what you need. This idea works for any large basket or crate that you want to store on the floor of your closet-style pantry. Just add wheels or put the whole thing on a rolling stand!

Read more: This $9 Plant Stand Is the Key to Organizing Your Small Appliances

12. Consider a rolling cart, too.

Here’s a similar idea. If you have the floor space in your pantry to stash a rolling cart (or even if you have room for it in a storage closet), load it up with, say, your baking supplies. Then, whenever you’re making a cake (or whatever), you can roll it out and park it next to your work station, eliminating a dozen trips back and forth to the pantry.

Read more: Our Most-Pinned Pantry of All Time Is Under the Stairs

Credit: Tess Wilson

13. Store boxes with their skinny sides facing out.

Your pantry is not the grocery store. You don’t need to have the name brand facing you. You just need to be able to tell what’s in a box and, usually, the skinny side is enough. Put boxes on the shelf this way and you’ll be able to store more boxes.

14. And stack bagged items.

Bags of rice and beans can get floppy (read: messy!). Store them flat and they’re easy to stack neatly, as this photo shows.

15. Hang baskets from the wall.

More support for shopping at the dollar store: Contributor Ashley Poskin got these baskets and removable hooks on the cheap and turned wasted wall space into produce storage. It’s easy to see what’s in each basket and the wire allows air to circulate around the produce.

Read more: I Hacked My Messy Pantry Using Only Stuff From the Dollar Store at Apartment Therapy

16. Put things on shelf risers.

Another way to see ingredients in the back (in addition to those lazy Susans we already mentioned) is to get shelf risers. You can get ones made just for your spices, but you can also get larger shelves that can hold boxes of pasta, jars of sauce, and more.

Go shopping: The most popular and best-reviewed shelf risers on Amazon

Credit: Joe Lingeman

17. Stock up on uniform containers.

This one is so far down on the list because we’re actually torn on it and it really depends on what works for you. Decanting things into uniform containers can help you save space AND give you that Insta-worthy pantry you’ve always dreamed of. But your food already comes in containers, so it might not be an expense that’s worth it to you. We’d actually love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Credit: Minette Hand

18. Add storage to the pantry door.

How smart is this pantry? Those custom shelves on the door add so much extra storage. If you’re not handy, consider hanging one of those over-the-door shoe racks or even just some hooks.

19. Shop your pantry before you meal plan.

Before you do your meal plan for the week, take a look to see what’s in your pantry and what you want to use up. Then, you can try to pick out meals that will include those ingredients. At the very least, try to do a pantry challenge (where you make dinner using only things in your pantry) at least once a month or so.

Related: Yes, a Pantry Challenge Can Save You Money. Here’s How.

20. Add at least one pretty thing.

A copper basket, wallpaper in the back, a strip of washi tape along the edge of the shelves … add at least one pretty thing. Not only will it help you crack a bit of a smile, but it’ll also inspire you to keep the space neat.

21. Put a shower cap over infrequently used dishes.

If you stash serving pieces in your pantry and don’t use them all that often, pick up a few cheap shower caps from the dollar store (again with the dollar store!) and put them to work as makeshift dust protectors. This way, when you need something, you won’t have to wash it first.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

22. Use a tension rod to organize baking sheets and cutting boards.

And if you’re currently storing baking sheets, cutting boards, and muffin tins in a pile on a pantry shelf, know there’s a better way. Set up some tension rods and store them vertically like books. Then, you can pull out one without causing an avalanche.

Read more: The Most Clever Solution for Storing Your Baking Sheets

23. Use a shower mat as a shelf liner.

Sure, you can buy a roll of shelf liner, but a non-slip shower mat might be cheaper at, you guessed it, the dollar store. Put it on a deep shelf with vases, serving bowls, and other fragile items.

24. Edit ruthlessly once in a while.

While we are not fans of wasting food, it’s imperative that you go through your pantry once in a while and clear out things that are past their prime. Keeping expired stuff on hand just clutters things up for you and invites pests.

Read more: 5 Things to Purge from Your Pantry Right Now

Credit: Cambria Bold

25. Store your honey and pepper grinder on a plate.

Your honey container and pepper mill are likely the two messiest things in your pantry. The sticky goo! The little pieces of pepper! Start storing those two things on a little plate or bowl in order to contain the mess and keep your shelves clean.

Read more:

The One Thing I Started Doing That Immediately Made This Kitchen Cabinet Neater

26. Turn to Instagram for some inspiration.

Sure, there’s a lot wrong with some of the pantries on Instagram. (Who has only red-colored packaged goods? Where are all the ingredients?) But Instagram might also have just the right amount of inspiration you need to declutter things.

Read more: 5 Instagrams That Will Help You Declutter Your Pantry ASAP at Apartment Therapy

Credit: Shutterstock/Design: Susanna Hopler

27. Play around with your shelf height.

Turns out, there are ideal measurements for pantry shelves. If you’ve just been using them as is since you moved in, consider playing around with the heights to make the space work better for you.

28. Steal some space to fake a pantry.

Don’t have an actual pantry? Out of room in the one you do have? Fake a pantry wherever you can! We love this kitchen and the fact that the clever home cooks inside it used a tiered dessert stand to hold spices.

29. Add a light.

Seeing is believing … and finding what you need. A too-dark pantry can be impossible to navigate. If you can’t rewire the space to add an overhead light, you can always hang a battery-powered option.

Buy: Battery Operated Puck Lights, $13 for three at Home Depot

Credit: Jill Chen/Stocksy

30. Take 10 minutes every day to reset your pantry.

Less of a hack and more of a habit, this is just a reminder that a little bit of regular maintenance goes a long way. Wipe up spills, turn packages so the labels face outward, put stuff back where it belongs, toss anything that’s expired, etc! Do a bit each day as it comes up and you won’t need to do any sort of massive overhaul.

Read more: 6 Steps to Tidy Your Pantry in 10 Minutes

Got any more tips or hacks to add? Leave them in the comments below.