How to (realistically) Organize Your Pantry

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My friend Cindy sent me this Pin of a dream pantry…
Dream PantryI decided to build it.
“All we need to do….” I started saying to Mr. Matrimony,
He said “no”
(before I was done asking)
Actually, it was okay becauseI really was joking. The only place we’d have room is the bathroom. Then we’d need to rent a port-potty, permanently (would that be a perma-potty?), and we would have to shower in the rain.
Ya know, it may be a hassle after all.

Truly though, when a person is trying to save money on groceries (even if they do not use coupons), they must have a pantry. A “storehouse” is integral to being able to purchase discount, sale, and bulk groceries. Our 100+ year-old house did not have a pantry. Not a big cabinet in the kitchen, not a closet in the hall, nothing. I needed something that would do until I become a famous blogger known for not spending money. Then I will make some money and can have a pantry. Until that day arrives, we did this….

Pantry ExteriorHere’s an interior shot….

DSC02363

This is just a simple freestanding wardrobe closet. The rod has been removed and two shelves added with “L” brackets. I painted the boards (simple plywood) black. In some of the pictures, the black boards look a little saggy. They really aren’t. It must be an effect of the camera. The cabinet next to the pantry is simply a base cabinet I removed to make room for our big nice refrigerator. Sadly, the upper cabinets were still in the way. Now worries! I can still have a dishwasher installed where the cabinet was… yay me! Now to wait for Mr. Matrimony to install the dishwasher. Until that time, here is our current dishwasher…

Zach the Dishwasher

I have seen many posts that show beautiful pantries, with matchy-match colors, perfectly poised boxes (whose colors miraculously match as well), and a lot of leftover space! That just isn’t realistic to me. Those of us who buy in bulk, don’t color match our macaroni and cheese with our jars of jelly, and who generally… have a life are not going to achieve such pantry beautification.

Not.

Gonna.

Happen.

In fact, before this blog, my pantry had become a piled-in-as-soon-as-we-got-the-groceries-home mess. It was clean about 2 or so months ago. There’s just been a lot going on. Like sales. On Rice-A-Roni. Here’s the “before” of our pantry….

Pantry Before

Now that I take a closer look, it isn’t really that bad. I mean, the doors closed all the way. It just needed a little bit more attention…. and color.

So here is my take on how to realistically organize a pantry….

Gather Supplies~

  1. Containers… I use everything from plastic drawers to old milk jugs, mason jars to plastic shoe boxes. You can use flower pots, decoupaged cereal boxes, dollar store baskets, or vintage refrigerator bins. I even used a cardboard flat that was with a case of beans we bought! Be creative. Make this fun!
  2. Spray paint. Those matchy-match people actually have a great idea in adding color to their pantries. I love color. Seriously… when I open my pantry doors, I feel kinda happy! Is that weird? I dunno. The bright orange and blues just feel good.
  3. Markers. If you don’t like your handwriting, use your printer and some labels. Really though, practice writing. Just a thought…
  4. Ideas. Surf the web, google pantry ideas, and gather up your Pins. If you like an organizational idea, use it! Even if it’s a huge idea and you have a tiny pantry. Find a way to incorporate ideas you are attracted to. There’s no reason you shouldn’t actually enjoy looking inside your pantry!
  5. A Plan. Make a plan. Are your canned goods all going together, or will you separate fruit from meat and veggies from sauces? Will all of your boxed items go together, or will some of them go in a big basket? Decide what you want together, and which shelf it will go on.

DISCLAIMER~ We have another, industrial style shelving unit, in the dungeon basement. On it, we keep our survival storage (I used to feel kinda weird saying that, but now it seems, everyone has one. Thank you everyone.), our bulk overflow, and our case lots. I also keep things down there that I have no business partaking of on a regular basis (ie: soda… What can I say, it keeps me accountable.) I just thought I should make it clear that I have other space, but still I think “realistic” fits within this post.

Here’s how the sections in our pantry are set up…

  • Exterior Top ~ Baskets with snacks, muffin mix, and drink mixes
  • Interior Top Shelf ~ Most of the canned goods.
  • 2nd Shelf ~ Boxed mixes, dried beans, rice, other grains
  • 3rd Shelf ~ Popcorn, gelatin, pudding, jelly
  • 4th Shelf ~ Pasta, canned meats & cheeses, individual snacks,
  • Bottom Shelf ~ Overflow sauces, marinades, dressings

Now for some pictures and explanations….

Top of Pantry ~

Pantry Top

These baskets are quite large. One is a locker basket I got for free before anyone realized they would be vintage someday! For the baskets (there is one for snacks in the back, out of view) you can’t see through, I used tags I had in my scrapbooking stuff.

Top Interior Shelf~

Pantry 1st Shelf

I mix (almost) all of our canned goods together. I have a rack that can’s roll into. I like it very much. Honestly though, if space is an issue, and you need every little last miniscule bit of it, you may not want something like this. The cans are organized in type. The ones without labels were in a canning plant sample sale. Things I have on hand at all times (like Mr. Awesome’s favorite spaghetti sauce) are in the back. I know automatically what is back there, so no need to search. Things that are a little more rare, I keep in front. This way, I remember to use them up.

2nd Shelf~

Pantry 2nd Shelf

I spray painted the lids of the plastic shoe boxes some fun happy colors. The black with whit polka-dots bin is from the dollar store. There are bags of soup mix in that. I lay my boxed foods down, and stack them. They are easier to see and you can fill every inch of space this way. By putting the bins in front, I can easily remove them to reach the items in the back. That Prego was like .50 cents. I never ever buy stuff like that. That’s why it’s in the front. That’s the same reason I have these items so close to the top. We just don’t “normally” have cake mix, Hamburger Helper, etc. on hand. I don’t want to forget about them! That does happen. Nothing worse, pantry-wise, than throwing away .25 cent boxes of quick fixes.

3rd Shelf ~

Pantry 3rd Shelp

These are also things I’ll forget about if they aren’t easily seen. Things like béarnaise sauce and almond paste. They aren’t normally on hand, but I pick them up when they are on clearance. Again, in the front, are items I use on a regular basis that are easily removed. Isn’t it surprising how okay looking a painted milk jug tote can be?

4th Shelf ~

Pantry 4th Shelf

I spray painted the casing of plastic drawers to keep canned meats and cheeses, and snacks (Do you like how I put the individual snacks right under sardines? My hope is Mr. Awesome will stop at “sardines” and quit looking!). I also keep a big container of pasta on this shelf. We really don’t eat that much pasta, but it’s great to have on hand for pot-lucks and when a friend might need a meal. We also have quite a bit of Asian pastas that are a little healthier. Plus, the crunchy fun they add to salad is stellar 🙂

Bottom Shelf ~

DSC02377

This is really my regular items overflow shelf. Multiples of dressings, sauces we regularly use, and Rice-A-Roni I bought for a quarter each. That Coca-Cola container was in the .08 cents pile I’ve told you about before. That Orange tray is a simple cardboard shipping flat we bought canned goods in. I spray painted it bright orange and it’s one of my happy things!

Doors ~

DSC02353DSC02352I think the idea for the magazine racks in my pantry came from http://athriftymom.com/. She has sooooooo many wonderful ideas! I discovered her when I started couponing. She has a lot of great thoughts on storing things, crafts, menus, ideas for kids… a great conglomeration of inspirational ideas. Anyways, I use the magazine racks (which were free, I don’t remember from where) on the doors for storing seasoning packages, spice mixes, and other mixes. We also have an inventory list of large items from downstairs in the pantry and a pad of paper to use for menu ideas and grocery lists.

Whether you have a pantry or not, I hope you will  be able to incorporate some of my ideas. As always, please feel free to share what you come up with!

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8 thoughts on “How to (realistically) Organize Your Pantry

    Lynda said:
    April 8, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    wish you were close enough to rearrange my pantry, its like a dark hole

      Dumpster Diving Darling responded:
      April 8, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Awwww…. I wish I was too. Didn’t I do it last time I was there???
      And, I think you mean black hole…. but you did make me chuckle out loud ❤

    HomeforNow said:
    April 8, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Love the magazine rack idea! I totally need to organize my pantry. It’s been on my to-do list for about a year!

      Dumpster Diving Darling responded:
      April 8, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      Thanks! I wish I could take credit for it, but it just wasn’t my idea. It’s crazy how bad a pantry can get when a person isn’t looking. I think the food is having a little party in there 🙂

    Melissa said:
    April 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Love what you did! And so glad you don’t have to use a permapotty!

      Dumpster Diving Darling responded:
      April 10, 2014 at 12:16 am

      Thank you!
      Really though, wouldn’t it a little bit fun to be able to use the word “perma-potty” on regular basis 😀

    pinknurse09 said:
    April 11, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    LOVE.

    It!

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