I love so many things about my new home, and one of those things is the fact that I have a walk-in pantry. This is the first time in my adult life that I have space dedicated to nothing but a pantry. I can’t tell you how much I love it. As you may know, I'm an organizer. In all areas in my life, I always like to be organized and create an efficient system that works for me. One thing that I was so excited to organize in my new kitchen was my pantry.
Even though I have more space in my new home than I did in the apartment, my pantry isn't massive. I have a corner, walk-in pantry. When I lived in my apartment, I learned some strategies to utilize a small amount of space best. The experience allowed me to understand and use not only cabinets but also drawers for pantry space, and how to arrange and organize based upon my needs.
I want to share with you how you can organize your pantry on a budget. You can do everything you need to do, not spend a penny more than you have to, and enjoy a pantry that serves you and your family’s needs.
Focus on efficiency
When I organize, whether it is a space in my home, my office, my business, or my finances, the first thing I always focus on is efficiency. When you start to organize your pantry, it is easy to travel down a rabbit hole. It's really easy to get caught up in all of the different cute bins, baskets, and jars. Do yourself — and your wallet — a favor. Do not get caught up in purchasing every cute little thing because it can get spendy.
Remember, guests to your home do not usually spend time in the pantry. This is why I say you should focus on efficiency over looks. Now, we all want our homes, even if it is just the pantry, to look nice. We might also want it to look like a designer space. When I say focus on efficiency over looks, I am saying you can get a nice looking pantry on a budget. You do not have to spend a lot of money on fancy bins or other containers.
I want to share with you some guidelines as you organize your pantry. The goal is to add value to your life. Make sure the organization of the pantry, along with cabinets and drawers you use for food, spices, and seasonings, works for you and makes your life a little easier.
Because we are talking about the pantry, you want to give the organization some thought, so when you cook, it is easy to find and get everything you need.
Bins, bins and more bins
You will use a lot of different bins in your pantry. Some bins are like baskets, which can be made out of wicker, cloth, plastic, or acrylic.
Other bins will hold bulk food, like rice, pasta, flour, sugar, and cereal (though I use a specially designed cereal dispenser, which I will talk about a little later in this post).
It is nice to have wicker baskets, but they are spendy. I know they are beautiful, but a set of three wicker baskets to use as bins in your pantry will set you back about $50 to $75. That said, I gravitated towards cloth. I purchased more of these cloth bins on Amazon for around $40.
When you are looking for basket-type bins, do yourself a favor and go with cloth. They are a lot easier on a budget. This is why even though I have the money, I went with the cloth ones over the wicker bins.
Now, with the large bins used to store bulk foods, plastic is fine. However, make sure the plastic is specifically designed for food storage. The same holds true for when you use plastic bags. Make sure what you use is food-grade plastic.
Also, use bins that are clear so you can instantly see how much you have left. When you can immediately see how much pancake mix is left, then you will know if you are making pancakes for breakfast. This makes meal prep more efficient because you will not be getting out a box, only to discover you don’t have enough to cook a meal.
Before we leave bins and move on to glass jars, let me give you this bit of advice: Do not underestimate Dollar Tree. Regular readers of my blog (and viewers of my videos) know I love Dollar Tree. I bought some wire shelving units that help me stack more foods, as well as supplies to build a lazy Susan.
I also bought some plastic bins at Dollar Tree designed to hold a bunch of cans. Being able to stack and store a lot of cans safely allows you to utilize your space better. These work well, but let’s face it, they are only a buck. So, I ended up supplementing the storage of my canned goods with a can rack organizer that is heavy-duty (I bought it on Amazon).
I already talked about how you can end up going down a rabbit hole when organizing your pantry because you want to buy all this cute stuff to make it look beautiful and perfect. When organizing your pantry, you will want glass jars for safe, sufficient food storage. However, you can spend a lot of money on glass jars.
My secret to getting glass jars “free”
I have a secret to getting beautiful glass jars nearly free or at least very inexpensive to me. When I purchase foods that come in glass jars, I look for ones that are sturdy and good looking. For example, my son and I enjoy Kirkland peaches from Costco. They come in beautiful jars. When we finish up a jar of peaches, I take the adhesive label off, and I wash it out thoroughly.
By doing so, I have a glass jar to use as a storage container, and I didn’t pay anything extra for it.
Repurpose those glass jars
I will let you in on another little secret: I can be a little bit of a glass hoarder. When I prepared to move out of my apartment to my new home, I started stocking up on glass jars because I knew I needed them for my new walk-in pantry. And, yes, I do have space dedicated in the new pantry solely for storing glass jars I plan on using.
Think about how expensive Mason-style glass jars can be. If you have food in your kitchen like pickles, pasta sauce, jelly, or other items in these Mason jars, don’t throw them away when they're empty. Instead, clean them out to use them in your pantry.
Here are just a handful of pantry items I store in glass jars:
- Cocoa powder
- Chocolate chips
- M&M candies
When you use this secret, you will have great glass jars without having to spend additional money or making an additional purchase. From now on, pay extra attention to food in glass jars and see if it makes sense to buy them and then reuse and repurpose the jars for your pantry.
I use (food-grade) plastic, air-tight containers to store my pasta. And, whenever I share a photo or people see a video on Instagram with my pasta jars, I always get questions about what kind I use. You can find these BPA-free plastic food containers on Amazon. Of course, they can be used for more than just pasta.
I also use air-tight glass containers/food storage jars that I bought from Amazon. These are different from the glass jars I mentioned. They have wider openings, so it is easier to get a measuring cup in there, especially for flour, granulated sugar, natural, and brown sugar.
When I moved into the new house, one change I made in the pantry involved how I store cereal for my son. I purchased a cereal dispenser. It might seem like a frivolous purchase; however, I implemented the cereal dispenser because I am trying to teach my son to be more self-sufficient. In the old pantry, the boxes used to be too high for him to reach.
With the cereal dispenser, it sits lower. He can easily reach it, and because of how this device works, he is learning portion control. When you turn the knob, food comes out. He knows three twists of the knob will deliver the right amount of cereal for his breakfast.
Whether I am talking about developing a plan for financial freedom or organizing a pantry, I always stress it has to work for you. It seems too often gurus say, “Follow my plan or else …” You know that is not how I am. I tried so many different budgeting methods, but none of them worked for me. Make sure when you organize your pantry, it serves your needs. A cereal dispenser might not make sense in your family, but it did mine. And, as my son gets older and the dispenser is no longer needed for cereal, I can use it for other dry goods.
Labels, labels, labels
You know I love labeling things. It’s just a part of being organized and efficient. To me, when I see labels, it sends a message that things are just a bit more organized.
The labels might seem excessive because you can see what is inside your glass and plastic bins. However, it is easy to mix up baking soda for baking powder, or cornstarch for flour. This is why I say labels are worth it.
Also, as many of you know I am on a baking journey right now. I have so many different kinds of flour. Can you eyeball a container and determine if it holds all-purpose, bread, pastry, cake, or self-rising flour? Just another reason why these labels are so beneficial for me.
I found a nice, affordable set of chalkboard label stickers on Amazon with a free pen. These are affordable and will last a long time. There’s a lot of different cute shapes and sizes. With the chalkboard-style labels, if you switch out contents in the container, you can easily rework the label.
The layout has to make sense for you, so when you go into your pantry, you know where everything is. Your pantry needs to serve your needs and make your life easier, which means more efficient.
I organize my pantry by category. I have areas designated for:
- Canned goods
- Baking supplies
- Pasta & rice
- Large cans
- Oils & vinegars
In my YouTube video about organizing my pantry, I talked about how it was challenging to maximize the corner spaces fully. I use the space to store larger cans and larger bags of rice. Another great option for maximizing corner space is to use a lazy susan.
Make it easy on yourself
The items you use all the time should be easy to reach so you can just “grab-and-go.” As much as possible, try to avoid tucking things behind your containers. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but you can lose a lot of time and efficiency if you continuously have to move containers in the front out of the way to grab something in the back. After you are done, you have to put everything back in its place.
If you do have to store things behind containers in the front, then make sure it is easy to read the label or see what is behind. It will minimize how many containers you have to touch or move.
Utilizing the floor space
Before I move on to mention cabinets and drawers briefly, I want to talk about how to use the floor. This is where I have onion and potato keepers. It is best to store onions and potatoes in a dark space. I found a nice onion keeper and potato keeper on Amazon.
In my new home, the laundry room is not on the same level. This is why I keep a basket on the floor of the pantry. When I am done with a kitchen towel, I can just toss it into the basket. This makes it easy to retrieve when I do laundry, and it keeps me from making unnecessary trips to the laundry room. (Remember: We want to focus on efficiency.)
Cabinets and drawers
I wanted to focus on organizing your pantry, but the cabinets and drawers play a part in this. I store my honey, jams, spices, soups, sauces, vinegars, hot sauces, oils, and sprays in the cabinet next to the stove. These are very easy to grab while I am cooking.
I use drawers near the stove to hold my back stock of baking supplies, sugars, and flour.
The idea is to make all of this work for you to make your life easier, and to have a designated space that makes sense for each different food category
Tips to remember when organizing your pantry
- Don’t go out and buy a ton of glass containers, save the ones you come across when shopping
- Focus on cloth bins (or plastic)
- If you order diapers and do it a lot, those boxes can be cut and used as bins (you can wrap the boxes in wrapping paper or paint with chalkboard paint)
- Be sure to check the Dollar Tree first – you may be surprised at what you can find for a buck
- Keep items in plain sight
- Use your entire space – top to bottom
- Categorize your items
- Label items
- Store in transparent containers
- Do what works best for you