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Pantry Refresh (Tutorial)

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

What's the best way to organize YOUR pantry? Have you Google'd "How to Organize My Pantry?" and scrolled through a bunch of Pinterest photos? The truth is that every pantry is unique. Each is a different size used by different people. There is no one right way to organize a pantry. But take heart, there are tips and tricks for any situation! I'll share these with you as we walk step-by-step through this pantry transformation. See AFTER photo below for end results!

How do you use your pantry? Is it mostly baking supplies or more of a snack station? Do you have lots of breakfast cereal, canned goods, or macaroni and cheese? Does anyone in your home have special dietary needs or food allergies? These are questions to ask yourself before making zones in your pantry.


As you begin to plan out your dream pantry, you will likely want to organize each shelf for a specific category or purpose. Make a list of categories and draw a sketch on paper of what you might put where. For extra bonus points measure your space and draw it to scale on graph paper both front facing and a bird's eye view of each shelf! The photo below is one I did for a craft closet, but you get the idea!

This gives you the opportunity to plan out how many containers you will need to buy and how much it will cost. A lot of products can be purchased online and will have size dimensions listed or you can bring a tape measure with you to the store. But don't buy them yet! This is a common temptation which can cause a lot of return-to-store headaches if you skip the next step.

Take Inventory

What needs to happen beforehand is a thorough inventory of what you actually have and what you actually use. You know what this means! That's right... hauling EVERYTHING out of the pantry and onto the kitchen counters. You may need to bring in card table or use your dining table, too!

It's scary, I know, there's a LOT of stuff in there! So be sure to set aside a good amount of time for this project. Also, remember to tidy up your kitchen and dining area so you have room to work without getting stressed out. If this seems overwhelming, you're not alone, many people feel anxiety about organizing. There are a lot of decisions to be made, but I have confidence in you!

The end result will be worth the effort. You will feel more peace and calm instead of stressed out every time you go to feed yourself and your family. Making a system for things that you deal with after every grocery trip will save you time in the long run!

So now that we have some blank space in which to work, we will commence with the hauling out! As you're doing this, loosely categorize things. Placing like with like will allow you to see just exactly how many boxes of noodles, spaghetti sauce, and chocolate chips you actually have!

Ready the Space

Congratulations - You emptied out your shelves! Look at all this potential, the blank canvas for your dream pantry. Quickly wipe down all the shelves and the floor while we're here, crumbs happen! Another good opportunity to measure, if you haven't already, is presented right now. Also, take a few sheets of computer paper or post-it notes and write out your categories and play around with them in your empty space. Move them here or there and see what makes sense given what you noticed from the food you hauled out.

This particular pantry happens to be rather dark and deep, so you'll notice we brightened it up a bit! This was super easy with some adhesive strip lights. They are motion-activated and battery-powered. It's pretty cool to walk up to this door and all the lights go on just for you! It's really helpful to actually be able to see your food. Similar to how an oven light or fridge light turns on when you open the door.


There was a good amount of produce in this pantry to declutter and bring out in the open. We wanted to do this without cluttering up the countertop. You may consider organizing in a vertical way which only takes up a small footprint of floor space. This 3-tier fruit stand was an excellent choice for this scenario. This product particularly helpful if you are a visual person and tend to forget what you have when it is out of sight! We want to eat our fruit fresh, not save it for the fruit flies!


So if you've decided to go with canisters for your pantry, be sure to buy several sets in a variety of sizes. Here is an example of air-tight containers which can be used for nuts, dry beans, pasta, raisins, cookies, crackers, etc. Some people prefer to empty their packaged products into clear containers so they can quickly identify food and how much of it is left. This is a personal preference, so do what suits you, or just try a few and see how you like them.

I do recommend putting your heavier items on the floor. This usually means drinks like flavored water or pop. Also, if you're short, be sure to include a large toe-kick step stool so you can see and reach the upper shelves!

The very top shelf received a lovely decorative fern to add visual interest and that peaceful vibe we were going for! Lesser-used bulkier cooking pans and appliances found a home up here. We have a pancake griddle and waffle iron in the bin to the left. On the right is a roast pan and muffin tins.

The bins I used for holding drinks have sides tall enough to keep the bottles from tipping, yet are narrow to leave room for the step stool. The larger shallow bin was perfect for the upper shelf to be able to reach over and grab those awkward items.

Sometimes people prefer to not look at canned goods and so we hid them in these baskets! The cans were categorized loosely into groups such as soup, fruit, and sauce. There was also room in the back for popcorn, beans, noodles, and rice.

Next down is snacks for the grown-ups in the household. This includes potato chips, tortilla chips, bars, cereal, nuts, pretzels, etc.

The lowest shelf to the ground was reserved for the children of the house. You will see cereal, crackers, cookies, bars, and more snack-type items since most of the meals are coming from the fridge.

Look for shallow containers like this wicker basket for the cans and clear trays for the snacks. You want your food to be accessible, nobody likes being hungry!

I would also encourage you to add a few fake plants if you can make a space for them. It may seem unusual, but it really does make a difference having a little greenery in your life. Not real ones, those will just die in such a place. Unless you have a giant walk-in pantry complete with window and skylight, then go for it!

Here is an example of how to do grab-and-go snacks. When you open up a new package of goldfish, portion out the ENTIRE package into snack bags immediately. This is front-loading, just doing the work up front that you would normally do at the end. The part where you throw the box away now happens sooner rather than later. The best part? These goodies are all ready to go when you need to pack a lunch!


Last, but not least, don't forget to label! Labeling reinforces where things belong so that it stays that way longer! Pantries can quickly fall into disrepair especially if there are different people in that space unloading groceries or whatnot. As for label colors, black on white is the easiest to read, but they also make black on clear and other variations. You can even just use your own handwriting on blank labels if you don't have a label maker handy.

Another great option is chalkboard stickers or these mini hanging chalkboards with cute little strings for tying a bow! You'll want to grab some chalk pens and practice your penmanship before embarking on this endeavor.


Well, there you have it! A picture-perfect pantry that is beautiful, functional, and organized! Do keep in mind that this home had extra space in the cellar for bulk purchases and the like. So you may consider that an option if you have additional real estate space in your home, too. You've got this, you can do it!

Thank you for reading this pantry tutorial, I hope you found it helpful! Please comment and share if you would recommend this post to others. As a professional organizer I enjoy helping others with their homes. Call 269.815.8218 to schedule an assessment of your space!

There are links to products in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support!

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Dan Acton
Dan Acton

I'm Impressed!!! I've been studying pantries, and I'm completely awestruck with yours!!! I'm so happy you're willing to share this. I'm hoping to have an impressive pantry too....this will definitely start me on the right path!!! Thanks Lisa A.

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