Shelf cooking can be hard if you can never find what you need in your pantry. Use these simple and smart pantry organization tips to make the most of your space, regardless of size!

Pantry organization containers, from Shelf Cooking

We've lived in a lot of different houses during our married life, so we've had a lot of practice organizing different shapes and sizes of pantries. Through trial and error, we've found a pantry organization system that works for our family, regardless of the pantry's size.

Let these tried and true pantry organization ideas and tips give you some inspiration for YOUR space. They can be applied to any storage or pantry space, big or little. And the bonus? Shelf cooking becomes that much easier since you can easily see what you have and what you need to use.

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Are you ready to learn all of our pantry organization tips so you can use your space to the best of its abilities? Let's get to it!


We're all about shelf care (pun intended). Start your pantry organization off by lining your shelves. We like to use lots of baskets and containers in our pantry. They're so great for organizing things! But they're also great at scratching up your pantry shelves from everyday wear and tear.

Buy some cute shelf-liner paper and cover all of your pantry shelves with it. It's great because you can just take it off and add some new liner paper when it gets worn down. Use a heavy-duty liner that's self-adhesive. It'll hold up really well on it's own, so you won't have to replace it for a long time!

Pro Tip: You can also stick little felt pads to the bottom corners of any wire baskets. It really helps to keep them from cutting into the liner paper! And bonus, they slide out super easily. That's a win-win in our book!


Food items on a shelf, from Shelf Cooking

Wouldn't it be nice if all of those beautiful pantries that you see on Pinterest were actually practical? Seriously, who wants the kids' food on the top shelf where they can't reach it? Having to constantly help them get it down is no fun. You want the food in there based on what is used most, not what looks the best. As you're organizing your pantry and food, focus on that and start there!

Group all of your foods together that you use the most. Put them where it would be most convenient for you to grab them. Usually, that's at eye-level, in the front. Put all the foods your kids use the most lower at their eye level so they can easily reach them. We're looking out for you and your sanity!

As you're working on your pantry organization, really think about what makes the most sense. Put those items you don't use as much in the back and at the top and bottom of the pantry.


Using storage baskets for pantry organization has really changed our world. Before baskets, we tried really hard to keep everything organized, but it never failed that something would get put at the back of the shelf. It's so hard to keep track of what's old and needed to be used first, or even what you have. We love baskets because you can:

  • Organize each basket by category, which keeps like things together. It also helps you to rotate your food. You'll love how much it'll help cut down on waste. Score!
  • Stack things higher, so you're really able to use up ALL of the space in your pantry instead of letting it go to waste.
  • Keep your pantry looking clean, while organizing the big, bulky items. They're also great for organizing the smaller items that can sometimes get lost or have boxes that take up way too much space (we're talking about you, lunch and snack foods)!
  • Store small things like packets of seasonings, dressing mixes, sauce mixes, and soup mixes.

Pro Tip: You can use multiple gallon storage bags to hold all of the smaller things together within a basket. It helps to keep the baskets organized so you don't have to dig through all of that small stuff.


Pantry organization items from Shelf Cooking

You can use any kind of basket that works for you — wire, mesh, plastic, sturdy cardboard, or even wicker. Metal baskets obviously last forever. However, they can scratch up your shelf (if you don’t use shelf liners and felt pads). They can also look messy, since you can see into them. 

We use some metal baskets, but we also use sturdy plastic baskets. Baskets with lids are awesome because they can be stacked. Just make sure they aren't too cheap because they WILL break! 

Baskets are definitely an investment, but they're totally worth it! Take your time to find good deals. Pace yourself and buy however many a week your budget will allow. We found ours anywhere between $8 to $15 from Target, Home Goods, TJ Maxx, and Ross. Amazon is obviously a good choice to shop for them, too!


While we love baskets, it can be difficult to know what's in them. Label baskets to keep everything straight and from constantly pulling every basket out to see what's in it, even the wire ones!

  • Gift labels on a string are really convenient. You can find them pretty cheap at Walmart, Target, or Amazon. Write on both the front AND the back of the label since they can get turned over easily. You can tie them on to the handle of the basket and they won't come off! #Winning
  • Sticky labels are another option, though they don't always stick well to wire or plastic baskets. You can even make your own: write on a small card, then stick your label to the container by placing clear Contact Paper over the top with just enough overlap to adhere.

No matter how you label your baskets, labels help everyone know exactly where to find things without making a mess — and we love that!


Cereal containers organizing food, from Shelf Cooking

Containers are another great way to organize your pantry. Cereal containers are perfect for organizing the food that comes in large bags or boxes. We use them for crackers, chips, cereal, snacks, nuts, and baking goods. They really help keep the food fresh for longer, too! You can find them in pretty much any store, but Amazon is always a good choice.


Finally, we're at the last step of your pantry organization! Create a space where you put the items you use every day. Our mom essentials include:

  • The kids' hair supplies, since we often do their hair while they eat breakfast.
  • Three-ring binders to help organize all the important paperwork and manuals for the house.
  • Stickers for chores.
  • Files for school assignments or forms.
  • A drawer filled with things to help keep the kids busy and happy while we're cooking dinner.

Of course, not all pantries have a shelf or drawer area like ours does. Don't worry about it! We've used a hanging file folder over the pantry door before. We've even used a basket system that hangs on the wall (just be sure to use Command Hooks so you don't have to worry about nail holes).

The key to all of this organization is for everything to have a place. The last thing you want is for items to end up all over your kitchen counters. If you have a different spot to put all of this in your house, then go for it! Keeping it organized is key.


Pantry inventory checklist printable on a counter, from Shelf Cooking

Now that your pantry is organized, make sure you keep track of what you've got! It's the best way to save money since it'll keep you from buying items you already have. Keep your pantry inventory up to date and be sure to add and remove items as you buy and use them.

Alright, go get started on your pantry organization! When you're done, make sure you check out our kitchen organization post so you can be organized and ready to shelf cook like a champ!

Do you have a favorite way that you organize things in your pantry? Let us know in the comments!

Image with text that reads "pantry organization for any size space" from Shelf Cooking

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Go get your organizing on!