The pantry is one of those zones in the kitchen that can easily become disorganized. In my experience the shelves are rarely a perfect depth. They are either too narrow or too deep that is unless you have a customized pantry. This makes maintaining the organization challenging. There are though some basic guidelines to follow which make organizing a pantry easier. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to use so you know how to organize a deep pantry.
The biggest problem with deep shelves in the pantry is that it’s hard to see what’s at the back of the shelves. When you can’t easily see what’s at the back of the shelf, you don’t know what you have, so non-perishable food gets wasted because it lingers so long that it becomes expired. And you waste money buying ingredients you probably have but can’t easily find.
Steps to follow to organize a deep pantry
Start by identifying the categories of food you keep in your pantry.
Think along the lines of grocery store aisles. Group like items together.
Typical categories are
- baking supplies (flour, sugar, vanilla, chocolate, chips, nuts, raisins, baking soda, baking powder, etc.)
- Canned goods: create separate groupings for canned vegetables, canned fruits, soups
- Breakfast cereal, oatmeal
- Snack food
There are a few different ways to provide better access to organize a deep pantry.
You can use baskets or bins to corral and contain different types of food. This makes it easier to see what you have. You can easily pull out the basket with the category of food you’re looking for and find the item.
Here are some examples from The Container Store.
A second option is to install pull out shelves. There is a company called Shelf Genie that provides a free consultation. An associate will come, measure the pantry, and give you a quote to install custom designed pull-out shelves.
There are also a wide variety of do-it-yourself pull-out shelves. These you buy and install yourself. Most of them do not reach the full depth of the shelf if your pantry is very deep. Having said that, these are a great option.
You can install these at the front of the shelf and then have extra supplies in that category sitting behind the newly installed pull-out shelf.
Here are a few options I found at The Container Store.
Think about what you use most often. What do you want to be able to grab quickly? If you have very young children, you may want to have foods for them on the easiest to access shelf and front and center.
Create zones within your pantry and decide on a shelf or shelves for each zone.
You may have a category of food that takes up several shelves. This is particularly true if your shelves are narrow. When the shelves are very deep, it’s easier to keep everything belonging to one category together.
If your children are old enough, you may want to have a few baskets of snacks within their reach so they can help themselves when the time is right.
When my children were little, I had a basket such as the one I’m suggesting you also create. There were only enough snacks for one day at a time in the basket. I restocked it every evening before I went to bed. This is because I knew my boys and left to their own devises, they would not have had the self-control to limit the number of snacks they had before dinner.
Keep the remainder of the snacks at adult height and maybe at the back of the shelf.
If your pantry is very large, consider keeping some of the small kitchen appliances here. If they are light weight store them on the upper shelves but if they are heavy store them on lower shelves.
As you finish up organizing these deep pantry shelves take a moment to admire your work. Acknowledge that it will become disorganized from time to time, particularly around the holidays when we tend to bring in lots of extra food and ingredients we don’t normally use in our everyday cooking.
Having said that, it is possible to maintain the organization by mindfully putting away groceries.
Earlier in this post I said to think about the aisles in a grocery store. These are labeled by broad categories. It will help you and your other family members if you also have labels on your deep pantry shelves. These labels will remind you of what goes where. This is helpful when you are in a hurry. Aren’t we always on our way to doing something else when we are putting away groceries?
Another little tip is to put newer canned food items under or behind older canned foods. This reduces the chance of food expiring before it is used.
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Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.
I found that the pantries I had in the past were too deep, so when we designed the pantry in our new kitchen, I used an 18-inch deep cabinet. It was customized; it was something the cabinet company offered for pantries. It works perfectly. Twenty-four-inch cabinets are just too deep for anyone to keep organized.
I like that you mentioned pull-out shelves. I installed a few myself, and they worked pretty well. Great tips, Diane!
Thank you, Sabrina!
These are always challenging. Your solutions great. Anybody who has this situation and can afford Shelf Genie should go for it. In fact, this would make a terrific holiday gift!!!
Yes! I love Shelf Genie and have recommended them to many clients.
Perfect timing for a post like this–many of our pantries are in holiday-upheaval. All of the extra Halloween candy, Thanksgiving sale items, and holiday time food products are enough clog up our pantries! But, your tips and product recommendations will enable your readers to break down the tasks necessary to keep their pantries organized without running in the other direction.
I, too advise people to put newer foods behind older foods. It takes a few extra minutes (and two free hands) but it’s a future time and money saver.
Thank you, Stacey
Pantry organizing is so satisfying…grouping like with like, lining things up, and containing items that don’t do well standing on a shelf. I love all of your suggestions for bins, baskets, and pullout shelves. Accessibility and organization can help keep us from wasting money from over purchased or overlooked goods.
Thank you, Linda
So many excellent tips! I think the only way 24″ deep (non-roll-out) pantry shelves can work is if you use *ad hoc* tools to make it like shelving. For example, you can put your smaller baskets or those Linus bins on long baking sheets, and slide them out toward you when you want something in a bin at the back. The other alternative is to use large containers I like rubber/plastic dishpans to store seasonal-only pantry items (rolling pins, cookie cutters) and rarely-used, long-live ingredients in them. That way, you only have to remove the items in front to reach in easy and slide the dishpans to the front (and out, if necessary). Otherwise, I think aftermarket rolling shelf DIY shelves are the only affordable answer for most people.
Long before Shelf Genie or similar build-ins were popular, back in 1971 when we were building our house, my mother had the kitchen build with pull-out shelves in various areas of the kitchen. They weren’t fancy or deep like you see nowadays; they weren’t much different from thick wooden cutting boards-as-shelves, but it made it so much easier not to have to bend, stretch, and crawl into low areas.
One suggestion for a deep pantry that I’ve never seen anywhere but in my mom’s kitchen. She had a pantry that was shaped and measured much like a phone booth, but instead of having regular shelves or walking into the pantry space, there was a central vertical pole and five copper circular shelves with small (maybe 3/4″) lips to keep anything from sliding off. Basically, it was a person-sized Lazy Susan, and the depth of the pantry didn’t matter because each of the copper shelves turned, so you only had to be able to reach halfway into the space. (She had another two-shelf, hip-height Lazy Susan system with the same round copper shelves built into the corner next to the stove, where two counters came together to create a wide, deep space that otherwise would have been wasted.
Wow, Julie! Your mother’s pantry was ahead of its time. I love the idea of a person-sized lazy susan. I think it’s a great idea!
This is such a helpful post. Deep pantries are wonderful to have the room but sometimes it’s hard to find things you’ve put in the back because they easily get overwhelmed and full.
So true, Janet!