Eat Well, Spend Less: Extreme Pantry Makeover

Kitchen Tips & Tricks | 25 comments

Well this is a little embarrassing. It seems like I just posted about Organizing A Well Stocked Spice Cabinet not too long ago. And here I am today sharing with you my Extreme Pantry Makeover. What have I done?

pantry make over how to

Truth is, I go through periods of being really organized in the kitchen and others where I’m too busy to a.) care and b.) deal with it. Or maybe even c.) not motivated.

I wish I could keep an organized kitchen all the time, but it just never happens. The dishes are either done or it’s a total disaster. I can find things in the pantry or I can’t. The kitchen is clean or it’s a nightmare. I think you get the picture. One extreme or the other.

More often than not, the pantry is a jumbled mess. It’s small, not even a full sized door, and certainly not a walk in. And I just have more food than really fits inside it well, “well” being the key word.

I decided to take a look at it and see what things I could do to maximize the space and make it a bit easier to organize. How about some pictures now?

pantry makeover before and after

I’ve been wanting an over the door rack for our small pantry for quite some time and finally bit the bullet to order one. It’s not here yet, but I can’t wait to utilize the space on the back of the door for storage. I also purchased a can rack for my canned goods, mostly beans and tomatoes.

Another area that is a bit of a mess is under the kitchen sink. Again, more wasted space. I added a double under the sink shelf to use some of the vertical storage and added one of those Grocery Bag Holders that you stuff all your plastic bags inside.

can rack pantry makeover

5 Steps to an Extreme Pantry Makeover:

1. Take everything out of the pantry. Wipe down the shelves.

  • Toss anything old, empty or stuff you simply don’t know what it is anymore.
  • Consolidate anything you have duplicates of. Do you have 2 of the same cereal, both open? Combine into one, toss the empty.

2. Start putting things away.

  • Make sure to keep like categories together. i.e. Store all canned goods together.
  • Keep items used most often in an easily accessible area.
  • Keep heavy items on lower shelves.

3. Assess. Are there tools that can help you organize?

  • I mentioned a can rack and an over the door shelf that will help increase my storage area.
  • Months ago, I also purchased some Snapware cereal containers for the types of cereal we regularly buy. They fit neatly on the shelves.

4. Take an Inventory.

  • As you’re reloading your pantry, take note of any items that you notice you are low on or out of.
  • Additionally, it might help to keep a pantry checklist like the one I did for my Spice Cabinet Inventory pasted inside.

5. Rotate and Reorganize your food.

  • When you purchase new items, add them to the back so the older foods get used up first.
  • When restocking shelves, put any out of place items back into their proper space.

What does this have to do with Eat Well, Spend Less?

It has everything to do with the Eating Well and Spending Less. If I’m not organized, it isn’t easy to see what I have and what I might be running low on. I might buy duplicates when it’s not necessary or I might forget to buy items that I truly need. If I am running low on something I can keep my eyes open for a sale to restock.

pantry eating and grocery shopping

Having an organized pantry also helps with meal prep. I can see the potential in the pantry when it’s all organized and neat instead of a jumbled up mess. And that helps when I have to cook on the fly if I haven’t made a meal plan.

More Eat Well, Spend Less Posts:

Do you have a hard time keeping organized in the kitchen? What are your tips and tricks for keeping things neat and tidy to help you Eat Well, Spend Less?

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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  • 1
    cynthia - May 17, 2011 @ 7:01 am

    I found the door rack to be a HUGE help!! I keep all the spices and the canned soups in the rack making everything visually accessable. I also have one cabinet (the only one that holds food, actually) that is just for baking. It holds all the flour, sugar, molasses, cocoa, etc and the drawer above holds measuring stuff, candy thermometer, et al. Contains the baking stuff in one place/one mess.
    Now if I could figure out under the sink and plastic storage containers…


  • 2
    spiceblogger - May 17, 2011 @ 7:03 am

    Good info. Organizing (or TRYING to organize) canned goods is always my achille’s heel. I like the idea of this rack, so think I”ll have to try that. THanks for the idea!


  • 3
    BarefeetInTheKitchen - May 17, 2011 @ 7:47 am

    Keeping my pantry organized to the key to being able to function in the kitchen. When my pantry is organized, it is easier to meal plan and that in turn makes it easier to actually feed my family!


  • 4
    Lynette - May 17, 2011 @ 8:31 am

    I just bought 4 of those shelving units that rotate through your cans (a nice priced sale, encouraged me to bit the bullet and buy all 4 now!) They arrived today, and I’m so excited to get them set up and installed and to get in control of my cans!
    For Passover each year, the idea is to clean out all the crumbs in the kitchen – Passover was the end of April this year – so beginning of April that’s what I did. Starting at the top of the kitchen cabinets, I wiped down everything, vacuumed up dust, Mrs Meyer’s awayed – working my way down all the way to the bottom cabinets. Behind stove and fridge, even wipping down and scrubbing the baseboards. The last phase was to get to painting the pantry area. The last few years, can leaks had chipped and pealed paint in the pantry – plus moving them all around left dirty scuffy marks all over it. Plus we moved in 7 years ago and it hadn’t been done again since than! That pantry is sparkling white now and was over-hauled in the organizing department! I LOVE looking at my pantry now!


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — May 17th, 2011 @ 9:31 AM

      I would love to repaint my pantry shelves. They are dingy looking too! Sounds like you got a lot done!

  • 5
    Aimee @ Simple Bites - May 17, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

    Awesome job, Katie!! I totally need a rack for my cans – love how it looks.

    My organizing comes and goes in ebbs, too. The fact that we’ve had five straight days of rain helped me turn my attention to my cupboards!


  • 6
    Jenn@eatcakefordinner - May 17, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    I am the same way. I will organize my pantry and do good for a few weeks, then it slowly starts to get cluttered again. Did you ever announce the winner of the Kitchen Aid?


  • 7
    nopinkhere - May 17, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

    I love my over the door rack! (It’s actually a shoe holder.) It has all my spices and small boxes of things, like food coloring and sprinkles.


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — May 18th, 2011 @ 7:30 AM

      I had thought about a shoe holder but I have several glass items and that worried me…that it wouldn’t be stable enough or the kids would knock them out. I do love that idea though!

  • 8
    Michelle (What's Cooking with Kids) - May 17, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

    Oooh, I am digging that can rack. I wonder if it would fit in the space that I have…good stuff!


    • Anne replied: — June 12th, 2011 @ 4:04 PM

      I know! I want that!

  • 9
    Barbara | Creative Culinary - May 18, 2011 @ 10:21 am

    My home is 30 years old so finding what would be considered adequate storage today has been a challenge. My kitchen is probably considered mid size but I never seemed to have enough storage; maybe part of that could be blamed on Costco though!

    I find that the Container Store is my friend. I have metal bars with hooks that are affixed to the side of my end cabinet near the stove that holds all of my whisks, measuring spoons and microplane graters. I’ve invested in some inside the door shelves to increase places for storage and I’ve got some of the items you mentioned.

    But the single biggest thing I did that has made my life simpler? I bought a kitchen cart with a butcher block top that is on rolling wheels. It now stores all of my spices and the deeper bottom drawer has my most used bakeware. If I’m baking, the spices roll over to the counter with me now plus I’ve got almost 4 more square feet of counter space with the butcher block top.

    I love this thing…and I’ve got a dozen friends who have purchased one after my recommendation; wait til their annual Elfa sale and it’s 30% less. I was able to configure mine differently with an in-store purchase and have 4 shallow drawers and 2 deep ones and their size options (width) are greater too.


  • 10
    Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates - May 18, 2011 @ 10:58 am

    So many good ideas! I do need to organize my pantry cupboard – the shelves are deep so I can’t see what’s in back. It gets messy and I end up buying items I don’t need. I need to look into what kinds of slide-out shelves, etc. might work.


  • 11
    Amy @ A Little Nosh - May 18, 2011 @ 11:52 am

    I would think the can organizer, while helping to keep track of what you have and what you don’t have, takes up more space than just the cans alone. There’s a lot of wasted space there, in my opinion.


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — May 18th, 2011 @ 12:08 PM

      Yes, it does take up width wise a few more inches, however I can’t stack 3 cans vertically on top of one another because the spaces between shelves is just barely too short. And being able to see what I have and how much of each is more worth it to me than a couple inches. Otherwise, no one else in the family puts things back in the right spot and I’m stuck digging through rows of canned goods to find anything.

  • 12
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction - May 18, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

    Reading this makes me want to go organize my kitchen… And, it sure does need it!


  • 13
    Jamie | My Baking Addiction - May 18, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    I need to make kitchen organization a priority this summer. My pantry is in a constant state of disarray. Thanks for the tips!


  • 14
    Pam - May 18, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    Uh oh. I thought the “before” photo was a pretty darned well organized pantry. I guess that kinda lets you know what my cupboards look like… :-)

    But seriously, though, thanks for the guidance on how to tidy things up and make the kitchen more efficient. Worthy goal for all of us!


  • 15
    aesh came - May 19, 2011 @ 4:25 am

    Great tips! just love that cute little rack you placed the cans.. can use some tips here myself to organize my messed up my storage..


  • 16
    Kristen @ Joyfullythriving - May 21, 2011 @ 5:50 am

    What a nice can rack! I’ve been pondering buying one for quite so time and this looks like a nice sturdy one. I hope it serves you well! Maybe, it’s time to go buy one myself…


  • 17
    TheGourmetCoffeeGuy - May 22, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

    Yes, time to organize and plan a better pantry. Amazing how easy it is to end up with a messy pantry when our hectic lives make this a low priority.
    Your post makes great points about why an extreme pantry makeover is a good idea and a beneficial one for the long term. You have certainly provided motivation to have pantry organization!


  • 18
    Anne - June 12, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    So where did you get the can rack? Container Store?


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — June 12th, 2011 @ 5:46 PM

      From Amazon. It is linked in the post to the product page.

  • 19
    Hilary @ KatrinkaJane - January 04, 2012 @ 9:44 pm

    Our back-of-the-door shoe holder on the pantry door holds all the long boxes (foil, wrap, etc.) and fasteners (Twixits, rubber bands, bulldog clips, twist-ties) and non-dangerous office supplies (duct tape, masking tape, pliers) and rolled-up plastic bags. I also put the boys’ flashlights in one of the lowest pockets. There are still pockets left, too! We also have one on the back of the tiny half bath door, for extra hand towels, a trash bag roll, and miscellaneous supplies. A friend keeps her cleaning supplies in hers — in the up-high pockets. They’re awesome for toys, too!


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