Pantry organization with baskets and clear containers

October 18, 2013

When I decluttered the kitchen a couple weeks back this space was on the list. I joked that it was scary but honestly…it wasn’t bad. That’s when I knew I had really, finally come up with a system for this space that works. 

See, years ago this is what it looked like most of the time:
Actually, that wasn’t too bad. :)
Over the years I realized something BIG about myself that kind of changed my pantry-world. I always felt like we needed to have a TON of food, just in case. That just in case ranged from a natural disaster (which I do still think you should have a stash for) to financial insecurity to Armageddon. Take your pick.

I knew exactly why I did it too – it stemmed from my childhood. The desire to never have to worry about having food in the pantry ever again. So I hoarded food. And it was a bit ridiculous, as you can see. Ridiculous because: 1. three people can’t possibly eat that much 2. we eat out a lot 3. Armageddon is not coming. Probably. At least not in my lifetime. I hope. 

So early last year I completely made over this space (took out the wire shelves, painted, installed melamine shelves), took a hard look at how we eat and changed how I bought food. Now when I cook I either plan ahead and make sure to have what we need, or I go out that day and get what I’m missing. I don’t keep food in here that I might need for that one recipe that I make every six months. I just go buy it. Because I can make the time – again this is what works for me.

When I cleaned out the pantry this time I still felt like a horrible, no good person (because of the wasted food) – but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. Because we can see what we’re eating now:
organized pantry
Last time I wrote about our pantry many were like, no, seriously, where’s the food? There’s a good foot of space on each side that you can’t see straight on. I do still have SOME food.
Sooooo, here’s the thing. Don’t hate me. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to blog after confessing this. Last year I loved the whole idea of the plastic containers for things like crackers, baking supplies, etc. It was kind of the thing. I liked that I could see the food and I thought we’d eat it if we could see it. Something like that?

Anyway…the thing is…I don’t use them anymore. I KNOW. Will I be banished from blogland?
Over time I realized that we were wasting food when it was in clear containers. I would try to mark the expiration on the bottom but then when you’re almost out of, say, crackers, and you go to get more, what do you do? Dump the ones that are left but still good? Put the new ones on top and mix up expiration dates? Keep the new ones in the box until the old ones in the container were gone?
See. THESE are what you call first world problems.

I mean, it wasn’t all that dramatic, but you get what I’m laying down here. It just didn’t work. And I used quite a few of them for dry cereal but my boy doesn’t like cereal (I KNOW!) and I don’t eat it like I used to so we don’t really buy much anymore.

SO. I got rid of most of the containers (in here, I’m using most of them elsewhere). The flour and sugar and all is now out on the counters where I can easily access them (in these glass containers) and the rest (for the most part) stays in the boxes.

Did I just rock your world? I have BOXES. :)

I do still use a few plastic containers for a few baking things like candy chocolate, brown sugar and my beloved popcorn:
organizing the pantry
You can find similar shelves like those above here. They allow you to store twice the stuff in one spot! And these flip top containers are my absolute favorites!

And you can barely see it here but I use them for pasta (because I use it a lot and it doesn’t go bad as fast):
pantry organization

These are the tiered shelves I use for the canned goods -- couldn't live without those in here! (I also added this small lazy Susan for spices.)

I do still use baskets in the pantry – I find them helpful to corral the smaller items like packets and mixes and such:
organized pantry with baskets
Last year I was able to clear out so much that I had one free shelf. I love having some mixing and serving bowls in here – they’re easy to grab when I need them:
organizing pantry
That’s the popcorn bowls up front. Where they belong.

So there you go. The cleaned out pantry – and there’s no horrible before photo because it actually stayed pretty darn cleaned out. It’s a MIRACLE. Because we have the glass door that’s a good thing:
    glass pantry door  
For years I felt like the pantry was SO tiny and just not big enough for our needs, but now I think it’s just fine. Keep in mind it’s usually just three of us in this house though, so what works for us may not work for a larger family. But it does feel good to let go of that need to have it packed full of food constantly.

Do you use the plastic containers for your food? Love them or no? Any tricks for keeping your pantry organized?

To see more about the door that I used for the pantry go here.
To see how I made the windows private and make the inside glow at night, go here.

Anyone planning on cleaning out their pantry now? You’re welcome.

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  1. Here again we are on the same page ;) yesterday I was updating the shelves in my pantry, today I'm organizing all that stuff in there! I found a Apr 2010 can in there, scary I know :/ I was thinking on buying clear jars to store the food, but I got your point, I think I don't need them, thanks! Have a great weekend :)

  2. I don't use plastic containers much, I love repurposing glass jars and am working tirelessly on my collection. ;-) Do you have a plan for all your "old" food that is still good? I've donated some of my unexpired items to the local soup kitchen here in Greenfield. And as a single mom I tend to keep my pantry overstocked becuase of reasons 1 and 2 that you mentioned. I lived in Colorado so it's a habit to have things on hand in case of being snowed in. Plus financial insecurity is at my doorstep lol. Unfortunately my pantry consists of a corner of my garage and luckily my landlords left a wire rack or the previous tenants did that I use for my pantry.

  3. I LOVE your pantry door, BTW. I have 4 kids ages 9, 12, 12, and 14--and a husband. Food literally flies off my pantry shelves, its crazy. I'll stock it after a trip to costco or the grocery store and a few days later I'm pulling empty boxes and bags out because the kids never throw away the box when they take the last thing.

    1. I sympathize with you! My two sons never throw away the box when they take the last thing, either.

  4. I use the containers from Costco that nuts come in. As far as the wastage, I say do whatever works best for you to avoid that, because I CAN'T STAND wastage! We eat 99% of our meals at home and go through the food at a fast enough rate that we don't have wastage. I know, I know, we have no life, lol! Oh, and a p.s. to your last point...Armageddon is quite real, as explained in Revelation, and based upon events that have already taken place in the world, all foretold in Scripture, and although no one knows the exact time, my household will be going in the Rapture anyway, and will avoid Armageddon, whoo! hoo!

  5. LOVE it. I just redid my pantry, took out the wire, replaced with melamine, and I did get a lot of containers. So far I like them, but I get what you're saying about replacing. I often have a new unopened box sitting beside a big plastic container that is almost empty. I do have 3 kids though, and snack all the time, so we manage to go thru stuff PRETTY quickly! :-) Love your update. And Glad to know you found a system that's working for you!

  6. Love a well organized pantry too! I have a love affair with pantry spaces. If you don't mind me asking where did you get the cute wreath on your door?

  7. I love your pantry. I have a corner pantry that I fight with, I feel like to keep it organized. It isn't a total mess, just needs a little straightening. I have some things in clear containers and some things stay in their boxes. But I find my tall IKEA oval containers don't like wire shelving. It is the tighter meshed shelving too, so there are lots of little wires close together.. and they still fall. And my crockpot feet always are getting stuck in between the wires. Plus I hate cleaning them. I want melamine. Hubby is fine with that but wants to put the track system up so it is adjustable. While a goo idea... do you realize how much each of those brackets are to hook into the track?!! At around $8/bracket, needing 20 brackets... eek! Our pantry is like Shelley's (House of Smith's). I don't need shelves to be adjustable, as the pantry isn't that big. There's got to be a cheaper way...

  8. I just cleaned mine. The thing is I have....well four. I live way out in the country and you don't just run to the store. But I have the one in the back of my laundry room.....for the electric things I don't use very the meat grinder. Then there is the canning pantry where all my home canned jars go, plus the extras, plus all my canning supplies and my lightbulbs. Then there is the one in the hall that has all my baking pans in it where I can actually see them and my paper towels and toilet paper.....because those two things you don't want to run out of out here. THEN there is the pantry in my kitchen that holds my canned goods and cereal. Canned goods....took me two years after my husband to not just buy two cans of green beans. We try and find them on sale and buy a couple of cases. So, really it depends on where you live what kind of pantry storage you need. Then what you cook....thus all the different shaped baking pans. And the meat grinder....sure comes in handy when my husband or son in law shoots a deer.

    1. ****two years after MARRYING my husband

    2. Beth,
      I too live in a rural area and having a well stocked pantry is a must. Especially since, after we moved in two years ago, we discovered that we may be stranded on our property for a week or more due to flooding or heavy snow. I am fortunate to have a large pantry in the kitchen and a large cabinet I was able to convert to store all my small appliances. We had an extra room in the basement with a large closet that I converted into a pantry to hold all the staples - flour, sugar, coffee, canned goods, etc. I also do most of our cooking from scratch so having a well stocked pantry is a must.
      This year my husband is trying to get an elk and deer, any suggestions on cooking them?


  9. HI, Sarah
    Beautiful pantry! It feels so great to be organized, doesn't it. I love that I am lucky enough to have a party/dish pantry separate from my food, but I really wish I had that glass door. Lovely blog!

  10. Yours looks amazing. The only thing I hoard is canned goods. The veggies that I use all the time I buy in bulk when they go on sale so I usually have at least 8 to 10 of each one. Same thing with tomato sauce and such. Everything else maybe on 2 of, I don't do the plastic containers, I keep them in the boxes too. I try to shop just once a week, so I like to have a well stocked panty, but not too much. Great job on yours. Hugs, Marty

  11. That is one thing that ALWAYS drives me nuts about organizing on blogs. The matching containers where you have to remove the food to put in. Nope. Not going to do it. ;)

    I will put stuff in jars that I buy in bulk but other than that, I love the idea of using baskets to store things that don't stand up well. Organized doesn't mean matchy, matchy. It means real and maintainable.

    Love this post!

  12. I say whatever works for you.... It looks beautiful. Inspiring. I am working on adding a new shelf to my pantry/laundry room. It won't be more beautiful, I'm not painting or anything, just adding a new shelf, but it will allow me to be a bit more organized.

  13. I never understood the plastic containers either, for your reason exactly! Ok so you can see it's low, and you buy a new box, then the new box sits next to your container until its empty!? Boxes lay nicely together so I am a-ok with that :)

  14. As a northern Minnesotan, I tend to want to stock up in case of that big snow storm! It's something I constantly fight with. My pantry staples stay in their boxes, but I do keep flour, sugar, etc, in repurposed protein powder jars. They work great. I also do the basket thing for envelopes, small baking supplies, etc. Right now my pantry could use a freshening up!

  15. So much better, I've been organizing ours too and using a lot of gold spray paint to unify everything! Love the wreath on the door as well!

  16. We have a floor to ceiling cupboard "pantry" with roll out shelves that holds a fair amount of food. The top section is actually a regular cupboard and holds the coffee pot, blender, mixer, and some serving dishes rarely used. Now...we do have a large shelving system (plastic with beadboard panels thrown down for a flat surface) that is tucked behind the door in our laundry room. I am NOT a food hoarder but we do have food stocked up! Why?? Because if I can get cereal for 2/$5 you bet I am going to stock up! Juice--save $1.50 per bottle--stock up! That is where we end up with alot of extras and they are kept downstairs. And we have an extra freezer. Boneless/skinless chicken for $1.89/lb--yep. Stockin' up! And my husband is more to blame than me!

  17. OMG! You just blew my mind. My oldest (and biggest eater) joined the Navy last year but I still shop like he's here. There's only 3 of us now and I feel like the pantry is over flowing with food but nothing to eat, cause I'm shopping for someone who doesn't eat here any more. I will be doing much more pondering on this one. Thanks for the inspiration!

  18. I just cleaned and organized my pantry recently, too. I have a basket for the smaller items and for items that need collating, like bread. I use glass jars for the kids snacks that come in boxes. It's not that I hate boxes, but the kids would always leave the boxes open and I was forever throwing out food. I wondered what to do at first when I bought refills for the jars too, lol. I just don't refill it until it's super low and the box goes on the bottom shelf until I need it. My problem is that my husband doesn't get the system and just throws cookies in the pantry instead of refilling the jars. Drives me crazy!

  19. You inspired me! I have a small cupboard I use for a pantry. After reading your blog, I went and found some large trays I was storing over the fridge, went to the cupboard and pulled stuff out. Organized all my soups on one tray, all my dessert items, mixes, cans of fruit, etc on the other. Now I can pull the tray out and find what I want! I am so excited. Now I will watch for trays when I'm hitting garage sales for my other categories. I know they make special pullouts for shelves, but I needed to use what I have and I'm really happy I thought of the trays. Thanks for your motivation. Now I'm going to read some of your other blogs!

  20. My Mom is living with us until May when her house will be built. She is a big help but our pantry has gone to the pits because she is constantly buying stuff. She is going to visit my sister for 3 weeks and figuring out a system for my pantry is on my to do list!! I would love to get rid of the wire shelves and put in shelves that fit the whole depth of the pantry.

  21. I just cleaned out my pantry too! I feel so much better about it now!

  22. This has been on my "To Do list" all summer and still haven't got to it. Waiting till a school vacation/holidays and I'll get my 15 yr. old granddaughter over here to help me pull stuff out and reorganize. My daughter is real good at organizing, so I will see if she can help too. I have problems getting up/down.

  23. Well ... you buy the new box of crackers and put them on the shelf and then when the container of crackers is empty you wash the container and put the new box of crackers in there..... I know .... simple.... but that's an Aussie for ya.

    1. Yes but you're using double the space -- those containers are usually bigger than the box. So you've got a container with a few in it and a box next to it. Believe me, simple is always my goal and those weren't it for me!

  24. we have a glass door on our pantry as well and as much as I love it, I curse it when company comes over! our shelving looks the same as yours and I feel like I never have enough space!!!

  25. I have 2 pantries :D, and too much food that I bought for that one special recipe and haven't used because I forgot what recipe it was for. We live in the country and I definitely do stock up on food and I always like to be prepared if I'm not able to go to the grocery store if guests come by our place.

    Lately I had this brainstorm to reorganize all my kitchen cupboards and for my pantries I would like to make one of them like a caterers pantry where the various dishes I have would be easily accessible and the other one to hold food. I do a lot of large group meals quite often so I have plenty of fun stuff in this department.

    Organizing is fun for me so I'm always looking at things wondering how to do them differently if I'm not completely satisfied.

  26. I recently worked on my pantry, too! I have a ridiculously large walk-in pantry, which I think requires even more organization than a smaller one because all the stuff can get so out of hand. I'm not a fan of the plastic containers, either. I like your method of just keeping the food that you really use, though. I'm trying not to hoard canned goods, etc. Your stenciling just makes yours look so pretty!

  27. This is why I visit your blog...HONESTY! (ok...and you have great decor ideas!) But...I feel the same way about plastic containers. Yes, they look great but the whole extra step of unpacking your groceries and then opening them to dump them in containers doesn't work for me. I appreciate an organized pantry as much as the next girl....but I don't need any extra steps in my busy life. I also agree about the shopping. We've been on a tight budget for a few years (Dave Ramsey-ing here too) and I find a little bit of satisfaction seeing an empty refrigerator because we've actually eaten all the food I've purchased! I plan meals and snacks and buy only what we need for the week. If I decided to make something I didn't plan for...I simply head to the store and pick it up. It makes my life very simple right now since I'm at the stage where my busy day starts at 3:30 when both kids kick the activities into high gear. Thanks again for your honesty!

  28. Love your pantry! It is so pretty. I have a pretty big wall pantry and I hope that one day I can get it to be nice and totally functional like yours. I only use the plastic containers for my baking stuff because I always buy it in bulk. But I cook and bake all the time so it is cheaper to buy that way and than easier to get out of the smaller containers. I think it is nice to organize stuff but am a minimalist when it comes to cute containers:) I also love to stock up food storage but have had to learn how to just buy stuff that will really get used. That has helped with not wasting food or having to give it all away at the end of the year. Thanks for the inspiration!

  29. I'm totally with you. And most of Europe too with tiny fridges and more frequent fresh market trips. I've got my flour, one cereal (because my kids always lose SO much cereal down the sides of the box) and my sugar. The rest are boxes and so much easier to store. We keep a minimal pantry that is precisely the same size as yours.

    Also, I'm not preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse or any of those other parties with iodine for my water and mirrors for flagging down aircraft- if the world is that bad, what are we holding on for anyway? A large case of bottled water and some energy bars for the 5 minutes the Walmart might be closed during a blizzard. That doesn't happen in the South anyway!


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