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How I Organize My Own Pantry

Learn how to organize your small pantry like a professional organizer and get easy and cheap tips to get a Pinterest-worthy look for less than half the price.

Can I be real for a sec? This is my very first pantry of any house I’ve lived in since I was a kid. My first apartment had a weird water closet/pantry combo and it just felt dirty and humid so I didn’t use it. The next three houses after that had no pantry option at all, so I used a variety of rolling islands, bookshelves, freestanding cabinets, and kitchen upper cabinets.

I organize pantries for clients regularly, but there was just something extra special about organizing my own when we bought our forever house. It was also a little anxiety-inducing. I recently finished up the pantry closet, so I thought I’d share with you how I set it all up, the cheap knock-off products I used, and how I made my gorgeous labels that blew up on Instagram. With this information, you can copy the look in your own home. And don’t worry, I’ll link to everything in one big list at the bottom of this post.

small deep pantry organization

The Pantry: BEFORE

The pantry in this house is a small closet with very deep shelving. I’ve dealt with pantries like this in clients’ homes before and their number one complaint was that items get pushed back and either forgotten about or are impossible to get to.

organize pantry with baskets from HomeGoods

The trick I use for pantries like this is utilizing long baskets. I bought various baskets from HomeGoods (and I had a note saved on my phone of the pantry shelf measurements so I’d be sure they’d fit) and most ranged between $6 and $12. The ones from The Container Store are $20-$30 each, which is pretty silly if you ask me, especially since they’re the same type of baskets you can buy literally anywhere else.

The baskets span the length of the shelves but keep items contained, so when I need pasta I can just pull out the basket and grab what I need versus digging around and knocking things over. Nothing ever gets stuck in the back and it makes putting away groceries so easy!

I bought hanging shelving baskets for bread and other smushable items and tiered roller racks for canned goods from Walmart that ranged from $6 to $12, and I also bought a lazy Susan but I ended up not using it. I moved it to the bathroom instead.

maximize space in small pantry tips from Lela Burris, pro organizer

Another trick I used was the addition of a small cube shelving unit in the bottom. The shelves are fixed, so they can’t be adjusted, and it wasn’t in my budget to tear them out and buy new. To make use of the big gap between the floor and the first shelf, I bought a 6-cube organizer shelf from Target for $20. It wouldn’t fit through the door when assembled, so I crawled inside and built the shelf in there. Did I look ridiculous and end up with a backache? Yes. But did it give me a ton of extra storage space? Yes again. #worthit

Categories Are Key

Planning a pantry layout is the most important step of all when it comes to creating a functional food storage space. Before I put all the food in, I grouped them into categories in little clusters all over my kitchen counters so I could see just how much I actually have. (Big Tip: Go to the grocery store BEFORE you do this so you have a good idea of what your pantry usually looks like after a market haul.)

plan kitchen pantry organization

I added the food categories to baskets that best suited their sizing needs. For really small and random items, I added an over-the-door pocket shoe organizer from Walmart for just $5. It’s great for snacks, individually packaged foods, and miscellaneous ingredients.

I used the cube shelving for larger baskets and drink storage. I really wanted to use a rolling cart in the bottom instead of the cube shelving, because it would be even easier to get to, but the bottom shelf was too low for any rolling shelf on the market.

cheap good pantry containers

For dry ingredients, I bought these food storage containers for $32 per set, which are more than half the cost of the expensive OXO brand. I’ve used the OXO brand before, along with a few other alternatives from Walmart, Target, and Amazon, and this set is by far my favorite. They’re so easy to open and the airtight seal is just as tight as the expensive ones.

Label, Label, Label!

Think labels are more of a craft and less of a necessity?  Maybe, but hear me out. YOU are the one that’s organizing the pantry and YOU know where everything goes, but NO ONE ELSE in the house has a clue! Expecting your spouse and your kids to just magically remember what goes where is completely unrealistic, which is one of the main reasons why labels are extremely important.

pantry labels with Cricut Joy

I made my labels using my Cricut Joy. I measured all the containers and created labels to fit the sizes using the HEITI TC font in Cricut Design Space. You can use my exact sizing Design Space template if you end up buying these containers. I used black permanent Cricut Smart Vinyl, but you can use any type of vinyl you’d like.

Want another option for Cricut Joy Smart Labels? The machine has its own free app, so you can create simple labels, vinyl, Iron-On, and paper crafts. Learn how to use the app with my exact guide.

dry erase clip on labels

To label the baskets, I bought these clips from Target in the kid’s bedroom section. They’re actually dry erase labels for fabric cube bins, but they fit perfectly on my baskets and were a nice flat surface for more vinyl labels. You could totally use a dry erase marker instead if you wanted, just be aware that your labels may accidentally smudge or get erased by a sneaky kiddo.

The Finished Pantry!

pantry organization tips from Lela Burris, pro organizer

pantry organization tips from Lela Burris, professional organizer

small pantry organization

The Quick Scannable Version:

  1. Add shelving, containers, and baskets to maximize space.
  2. Group food items into categories.
  3. Organize pantry by category.
  4. Use airtight containers for dry ingredients.
  5. Add a hanging shoe pocket organizer to the door for small stuff.
  6. Label everything you possibly can.

The Total Cost:

Six Piece Wire Cabinet Organizer Set from Walmart Owned (Valued at $20)

Three Tier Can Organizer from Walmart Owned (Valued at $17)

2 Cereal Storage Containers from Walmart Owned (valued at $7 each)

Various Baskets From HomeGoods- $60

6 Cube Shelf From Target- $20

3 Sets of Food Storage Containers– $96

2 Packs of Dry Erase Labels From Target– $10

Black Permanent Smart Vinyl– Owned (Valued at $7)

Over The Door Shoe Organizer– Owned (Valued at $5)

+Various other baskets I had around the house 

Total: $186 Spent (total value $242)

Want To See A Video Tour Of My Pantry?

Make sure you’re following me on Instagram. I’ll be sharing an IGTV video soon that walks you through my whole process from start to finish. I’ll also be posting a second video of exactly how I created the labels with my Cricut Joy. Make sure you’re following me @lelaburris so you don’t miss it!

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