Small Pantry Organization Ideas

It's time to makeover that small pantry! Get small pantry organization ideas, like how to organize food into categories, tidy up the shelves, and make your kitchen pantry a functional and pretty space.

organized pantry with white, black, and gray plastic bins on shelves.

Welcome to a post that I've been looking forward to writing for years…finally, a tour of our organized small pantry!

We've really never had a dedicated pantry. Our home in Tuscaloosa didn't have one at all (so we used extra cabinet space)…same story with our second home in Mississippi.

When we first moved here, our little apartment had a small closet for the pantry, but I honestly think it offered about as much (if not less) storage than the other two homes we had. So, when we were planning this home, one of my priorities was designing a pantry space that was both large and functional for our family.

closed pantry door hidden in cabinets.

I mentioned in our empty home tour that we integrated our pantry into the cabinet flow of our kitchen, and we're still absolutely loving the concept. It makes the space look so streamlined and coordinated.

But, I'm going to be honest…it hasn't been organized and pretty since the day we moved in. Not even close.

unorganized food on pantry shelves.

This is a little embarrassing…but this was the state of our pantry just about a month ago. Organizing this space was one of those projects I said I'd get around to eventually. For the first month or two that we lived here, I was really just concerned with getting boxes unpacked and being able to find everything I needed in the house. But, once the new year rolled around, I felt the need to organize all the things – so we got going!

our pantry organization makeover.

Post contains affiliate links. Read more about my affiliate link usage here.

Step 1: Take out everything.

food on a kitchen island.

food on a kitchen counter.

I follow pretty much the same steps each time I take on an organization project. First, take absolutely everything out of the space you're organizing and sort into like items. This will give you a good idea of any duplicates/expired items you have and will let you know what categories are most relevant to your pantry.

empty pantry with white shelves.

Plus, it just feels good to start with a clean slate!

Step 2: Consolidate like items and throw away anything that's old/unnecessary.

similar foods grouped together on a counter.

Unbeknownst to me, we had a lot of duplicates (and just plain old junk) in our pantry. We ended up throwing out an embarrassing amount of expired/old foods and were able to consolidate a lot of containers. Remember – if consolidating, always use the oldest container or update the expiration date!

We also donated a lot of our unused kitchen appliances. We have an entire appliance locker in our cabinets, so I made a rule that if it didn't fit in there and we hadn't used it in more than 6 months, it was time to really evaluate whether we needed it or not. I think we donated 5-6 old appliances, which freed up a ton of space.

Once we pared down a lot and had everything sorted, it was time to fill her back up!

Step 3: Use containers to divide and organize your categories.

Guys – for some reason, the containers we used in our pantry were not easy to find. I originally wanted to use wicker, but have you priced wicker baskets lately? When you need to purchase 15-20 of them, they can get expensive. Plus, I really kind of wanted something that was easy to wipe down if needed. So that idea of wicker was out.

But I couldn't get past wanting the weaved look. I originally got a few baskets from the Dollar Tree, but if I'm being honest, they just kind of looked flimsy and cheap. So, I searched high and low for non-cheap-looking (but cheaply-priced) baskets that would be durable and easy to clean. Not a tall order, right? 😉

plastic bins on a pantry shelf.

Finally, I found these gorgeous Y-Weave Plastic Bins from Target and absolutely fell in love. They weren't super expensive (about half the price of the cheapest wicker baskets I could find) and they are really durable for the price. We're loving them so far! (I linked to the main page for the collection above, but we used just the medium-sized ones for this project.)

clear plastic canisters on a pantry shelf.

We also integrated a set of canisters for our more commonly-used ingredients. I've been buying the Ikea 365 Dry Food Jars little by little over the past year and finally have all I need. They're not incredibly expensive and so super durable. (If you missed my post from Tuesday, this is how I labeled them!)

Here's how we divided the items in our pantry:

  • Snacks
  • Chips
  • Veggies
  • Fruit
  • Bags/Disposable Items (3 bins total, plus vertical storage I'll show in a second)
  • Dry Goods (1 bin plus items in the canisters)
  • Baking
  • Drinks
  • Sauces
  • Canned Goods
  • Bread
  • Sweets
  • Candy (2 bins total)

So, 16 bins and 8 canisters were required for our pantry. Of course, this is going to vary for everyone – I recommend sorting your items into categories before ordering your bins because you never really know how many containers you'll need!

Step 4: Sort for success.

Once my items were in containers, it was time to find their place! I very intentionally sorted my bins.

plastic bins on a shelf, holding food. banana hanger.

plastic bins on a shelf, holding food.

The bottom shelf holds snacks, fruit, and veggies. I wanted these at eye-level for the kids…before we organized, I found them wanting sweets and candy way too often because they could see it as soon as they opened the pantry. Since sorting this way, they have been so much more likely to ask for fruit or a healthier snack!

clear plastic canisters on a pantry shelf.

plastic bins on a pantry shelf.

The next shelf holds the items I use the most; drink mixes and baking items. I also have a few bags on this shelf that we use often.

plastic bins on a pantry shelf.

Continuing on up, we have sweets, bread, canned goods…

shelf of a pantry, with plastic bins and food boxes.

…sauces, and larger boxes. I honestly didn't see the point of putting a bunch of big boxes in a container, so those are in the corner together (things like cereal and crackers).

black and white plastic bins on a shelf.

Finally, the things we use/need the least are on top…candy and disposable items. I try to keep the candy out of our line of vision so we think about eating it less, and we honestly just don't use disposable dishes a lot (even though we do need them around occasionally).

I didn't photograph this, but up top I have an appliance or two that is rarely used. I also keep things like my seasonal cookie cutters up there, and I have an overflow area for unopened packages that aren't needed yet.

Step 5: Don't ignore vertical storage.

If you guys have read any of my other organization posts, you know I'm a huge fan of utilizing vertical storage space. We have a couple of smaller wall spaces on either side of the pantry, so of course I had to fill those up.

plastic bag holder.

I try to recycle plastic bags for use around the house whenever possible (we use grocery pickup, so we really don't have the option to use reusable bags). I love this little bag dispenser for corralling all of those bags. It takes up much less space than storing them inside each other and makes grabbing one super easy!

plastic pegs holding cooking aprons.

Just below that, I have our aprons hanging on command hooks. This way, Emmie can grab one if she needs it in the kitchen.

rack holding aluminum foil and plastic wrap on a wall.

On the other wall, I have this wrap/foil organizer next to our bags…I love this thing! It's ridiculously inexpensive, easy to install, and is such a great way to utilize vertical space on a wall (rather than the boxes falling all over the place each time you need them).

Step 6: Make it fun!

This is probably my favorite step of the process…making your space your own! Just because it's a pantry doesn't mean it has to be boring.

sweets chalkboard tag on a gray plastic bin.

I used these cute little chalkboard tags (with this wet-erase chalk pen) to label each of our containers. (I know, don't even tell me…I have some work to do in hand-lettering.)  I think actually writing them out (rather than using all printable tags) really added a personal, fun touch!

clear canisters in a pantry.

Then, of course, I labeled with a complementary font on my clear bin labels.

pantry with black, white, gray plastic bins on shelves.

We couldn't be more pleased with how this project turned out. We've had this space organized for a few weeks now, and so far the system is working incredibly well! It's much easier to tell what items are needed (or not needed) at a glance, and everyone in our family has quickly gotten used to the organization system.

Of course, there's a little bit of maintenance to do. I have pantry organization built into my cleaning schedule each week, so that's something I've been used to doing for awhile now. By simply taking 5 minutes to throw out old food and to organize the food you have, you can really maintain such an organized area!

We've also had to work on everyone putting food back where it goes (which can be a little bit of a challenge with kids), but we're getting there – so far everybody's doing a great job. The key to a clean pantry is keeping it clean. By doing the maintenance little by little, you don't necessarily have to worry about doing some big overhaul in the future. So far, so good!

xo, Leslie; signature at end of the blog post.

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  1. Wow! Great job, Leslie 🙂 Really great links to the materials in this post…I want them too! <3 Corinne in Idaho

  2. Thank you for all of your tips in organization! I’ll be doing my daughter in law cabinets in a couple of weeks love your ideas! I’ll let you know how I did! We’re did you find the chalk labels? Can’t wait to do it for her !

    1. Oh I can’t wait to hear Gail! They’re from Amazon – there’s a link to them in the post.