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Small Pantry Organization

Small Pantry Organization

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Need some help organizing your small pantry? Try these genius inexpensive small pantry organization ideas to refresh your space…

small pantry organization
Anyone else move into their ‘starter’ home, only to discover they’d be living in it for more than a few years?

Such is true for our family.

My husband and I purchased our home together in 2013 and thought for sure we’d have moved by 2015.

It’s now 2018 and we are still here.

After a hip replacement, adding a new baby to the mix, and several jobs and career changes for both Chris and I, it’s easy to see why we haven’t moved just yet and how busy life has kept us.

But that’s all changing.

As we are currently trying for baby #3 and attempting to get our home organized to house three little ones, Chris and I have decided that we want to change things up in our home, and are going to be doing a lot of home projects this year.

Our pantry is one of the areas that needs some help. Not only is it a small kitchen pantry, it lacks imagination, design, and organization.

My small pantry with brown shelves, mustard yellow walls, and mess everywhere

A side view of my messy pantry with brown shelves, tan curtains, and yellow walls

I actually can’t stand it, and maybe that’s why I’ve neglected it so much.

It is dark, dirty, dingy, and plain ugly.

We had beige curtains hung up to serve as the pantry door, random items scattered across the shelves, and everything was either a shade of brown or a shade of yellow.


The brown and yellow was just gross feeling.

We also had things we haven’t used in years like puppy training pads, wine bottles, fabric, dog food canisters, and other random items.

Looking at our shelves, it seems as though the previous owner either built them herself, or she simply stacked two strangely-made bookshelves on top of one another.

I can’t be sure, but I will say that I thought about tearing them off of the wall completely and starting fresh.

Unfortunately, I would have needed four burly lumberjack men and a few crowbars to remove these shelves, so my little remodeling project would need to include them.

Did I also mention the oddly placed water pipe in the middle of our pantry? 

Odd, just odd.

Small Walk In Pantry Ideas

For my Pantry Refresh, I collaborated with a local interior designer, Orna Fathers of Grace This Space Interiors.

She has a real knack for organizing and also has the cutest Australian accent ever.

I sent Orna a photo of my pantry as it was (in all of its eyesore glory) and told her my design plans and how I wanted to transform it.

We both agreed that it needed a brighter feel.

After a deep pantry organization, here’s what my pantry looks like now:

My finished pantry with white walls, contact paper wallpaper, and dry goods organized in labeled bins and baskets

In this post, I’ll share all of the organizational supplies I used, as well as some cheaper alternatives so you can accomplish this same look for less!

*This post contains affiliate links, however, all opinions are my own, as always. 

Small Pantry Organization Ideas

I always love turning to Pinterest to gather inspiration for a project – here’s one of my boards for Pantry Organization that you can follow and get some great ideas for cleaning, organizing, and labeling your small pantry…

Small Pantry Ideas

When it comes to your pantry organizers, consider the items you will be storing.

Will you be storing tons of cans, boxes, fruits, vegetables, dried goods, or maybe all of the above?

Before purchasing pantry organization items, think about where you’d like to store certain foods if you’d like to label foods and your budget.

While everything on Pinterest looks gorgeous and dreamy, it may be put together using a budget that is larger than the one you have.

Work with what you have!

Also, think about the items you already have.

Perhaps you have ten extra Easter baskets that your children no longer use – you can cut the handles off those baskets and use to store pouches, sauce packets, etc.

What To Use For Pantry Organization Bins

My favorite items to use when organizing a pantry are:

If you are on a tighter budget, you may want to keep the original packaging on most of your dry goods (like pasta, flour, sugar, etc.)

This can help save you money because you won’t need to buy dozens of glass jars or containers to transport food into.

DIY Pantry Organization

Over The Door Pantry Organization

If your pantry has doors, grab an over-the-door organizer to maximize the space in your small pantry!

With a pantry door organizer you can store cans, spices, lunch bags, trash bags, paper towels, and any other extras you might have in these organizers.

These organizers often feature 5+ shelves and can be purchased for around $20 or less.

Pantry Shelving

If you have a lot of space between your shelves, consider using an expandable shelf insert.

They divide your shelf’s vertical space in half so you can pack more pantry necessities while using all of your available space.

What I Used To Organize My Pantry

Organization supplies I picked up to complete this project - contact paper, baskets, airtight containers, and a wooden turn table from Target

If you look at my before picture again, I had no organization system in place.

I have no baskets, containers, or labels.

Everything was in disarray, placed randomly on shelves where it would fit.

In order to get my small pantry organized and decent looking, I picked up a few items to help store my pantry items:

I planned to use my new turntable for cans, the baskets for snacks for our boys, and the OXO containers for our dry goods and pasta.

If you’re attempting this same project on a tighter budget, here are some cheaper alternatives:

Airtight containers


What I Used To Refresh My Pantry

To give my pantry a lighter, brighter feel, it was time to get rid of all the brown and yucky yellow.

Because I couldn’t rip out the hand-built shelves, I had to make it work, and decided that painting was the best way to go!

Here’s what I used to transform our pantry:

For the shelves, I purchased some plain white contact paper so I could easily slide my baskets, containers, and cans without worrying about chipping the paint.

I already had some leftover white paint from painting the boys’ dresser earlier this week, so I didn’t need to purchase paint for this project.

Before you buy paint for this project, if you decide you need to at all, look through your old paint cans and see if there’s a color you wouldn’t mind using to brighten up your pantry!

If you have enough, and it’s a pretty enough color for your liking, it might be the right choice for you and can save you some money.

How To Organize A Small Pantry

Remove Everything and Toss Expired Food Items

To start with my pantry refresh, I removed everything from the shelves and wire racks.

I got up close and personal with my pantry shelves – and was really happy that I chose this to be my first project towards organizing my home.

My pantry desperately needed attention and a facelift.

I went through all of the items in my pantry and organized them into groups.

I also took note of expiration dates and threw out all of our expired food.

I was holding onto so many expired cans and boxes that I had no clue were even there!

Cleared shelves in my pantry, plastic covering the carpeted basement floor

Closeup of our dark brown pantry shelves before painting

You can see with this close up that my shelves really needed some paint!

After removing everything from the shelves, I ran a microfiber cloth with all-purpose cleaner over the shelves to remove any dust that had formed on the shelves so I could paint.

Using Contact Paper As Wallpaper

Our painted shelves with adhesive contact paper as wallpaper and white shelf liner applied

I painted all of the shelves, walls, and shelf supports white using a paintbrush and roller.

Now, it was time for paint and faux wallpaper!

Because wallpaper can cost more, I decided to go with contact paper for our pantry refresh.

At around $5.99 a roll (18″ x 20′), it was the perfect solution for us.

I used plain white contact paper for the shelves and printed contact paper for the walls of the shelves.

I applied the contact paper to the walls of the shelves, cutting away the excess material with a razor.

*I originally thought I would be fine just applying the white contact paper without having to paint the actual shelves white – but the brown wood could be seen through the thin contact paper.

If you are tackling this same type of project, I highly recommend painting the wood white before applying the paper because it is very thin.*

After painting and applying the contact paper, our pantry looked ten times better and was ready to store food!

Covering Our Water Pipe

For the water pipe that sticks out in our pantry, my husband Chris spray painted a foam pool noodle with white spray paint, cut a line down the middle vertically, and fit the noodle around the pipe.

Luckily, this pipe is not a hot water pipe and only works to provide cool water to the water hose on the side of our home.

If it was a hot water pipe, we wouldn’t be able to get away with this…

Our pantry's water pipe covered with a spray painted foam noodle

This was probably the most fun pantry organization DIY we did!

Organizing Our Small Pantry

Storing Dry Good In Airtight Containers

I transported all of our dry goods (pasta, snacks, beans, cereal, sugar, flour, crackers, etc) into airtight containers.

Then I organized the kids’ snacks into the baskets and placed our cans on the turntable on one of the shelves.

Orna from Grace This Space Interiors came over and graciously helped me organize my containers, food items, and kids snacks into an easily accessible organization system that works for my family.

The OXO POP Containers look clean (especially with Orna’s custom labels she crafted for me), and help give my pantry that beautiful farmhouse feel I was going for.

Our finished pantry, painted with white paint, and organized with airight containers and baskets

I also discovered a skylight adjacent to our pantry that my husband had blocked with some pillows for his basement theatre.

Look how much light I have downstairs now!

Dry goods stored in airtight containers and liquids stored in glass bottles

pantry organization containers with labels and pantry can organizer

Creating A Kid-Friendly Snack Shelf

Our kids easily grabbing snacks from our snack shelf in our newly renovated pantry!

For the kids, the four baskets (here’s a cheaper alternative) on the bottom shelf contain all of their snacks for easy access!

My boys can reach into one of their baskets and grab a treat whenever they like.

The sweeter treats are kept up on the top shelf to discourage them from wanting those as much.

Labeling Items In Our small Pantry

finished small pantry organization vertical with pool noodle

My labels were custom-crafted by Orna and her Cricut – aren’t they gorgeous?

I love the ways labels make a pantry look and feel so organized!

You don’t need to spend tons of money on a Cricut to craft your own custom labels, however.

Here are some cheaper options that work with any budget:

chalkboard labels

sticker labels

clear sticker paper (print your own labels onto clear sticker paper, cut them out, and apply to your containers!)

custom vinyl stickers (these cost more, but you can find some customizable pantry labels for sale on Etsy).

Related: How To Clean And Organize Your Fridge + FREE Printable Fridge Labels

small pantry organization ideas: airtight containers with labels

Pantry Refresh Vlog

If you’re more of a visual person, check out the vlog I created that shows just how I transformed our pantry into a bright and organized space!

I love my new pantry, and was so happy to collaborate with Orna from Grace This Space Interiors!

If you are in the Metro Detroit area and need a helping hand or a special eye for design that you might not have, I highly recommend Orna.

She made the process so easy and even shopped for some of my organization and decor items pictured here.

She also has experience working with OXO Containers and uses them in many of her pantry designs, as they are great airtight containers.

I hope that this deep dive into small pantry ideas and pantry organization hacks inspires you. Take the small pantry organization ideas and make them work for you! Happy organizing!

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Sunday 10th of February 2019

Beautiful! It's AMAZING what a little white paint will do! :)


Sunday 15th of July 2018

That’s the pantry of my OCD dreams!!! So organized and so beautiful!


Tuesday 17th of July 2018

Thank you!


Sunday 15th of July 2018

I love this pantry!! So organized, now I am motivated to get mine done!

Amber @ xoxo, Am

Saturday 14th of July 2018

I love how bright it looks! I really need to reorganize my kitchen!


Tuesday 17th of July 2018

Thank you! I love the extra sanity I get from being more organized!


Friday 13th of July 2018

I love all the amazing pictures!! ❤️ It was so lovely to work with you! You have the sweetest family! ❤️


Tuesday 17th of July 2018

Thanks, love - you did an incredible job tying everything together for me!

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