9 Ways to Organize Deep Pantry Shelves for Clutter-Free Storage

Easily find everything you need and avoid food waste by keeping your pantry tidy.

An oversized kitchen pantry can be helpful if you’re an avid cook, tend to buy in bulk, or need to feed a large household. However, deep pantry shelves can quickly become a clutter pitfall filled with expired food and forgotten ingredients. Items can easily be shoved to the back of a shelf, where they're forgotten until your next pantry clean-out.

white pantry with wicker baskets

Joyelle West

Not only does this cause food waste, but you'll often end up spending more on groceries than you actually need to. If you can't see the half-dozen cans of tomato sauce hidden behind the boxes of cereal, you'll add unnecessary items to your cart on your next grocery run.

If this sounds familiar, take comfort in knowing that your pantry space can become functional, no matter its size. We're sharing our best storage ideas for deep pantry shelves so you can conquer clutter once and for all.

1. Establish a Zoning System

Any time you're arranging a pantry, think about which items to store and where. This is even more important when organizing deep pantry shelves. Dedicate each shelf or section to a specific pantry zone, such as baking supplies or breakfast ingredients. The most-used zones should be toward the front and at eye level of whoever is reaching for them. For example, if you want kids to grab their own snacks, place a container on a lower shelf so they can do so without help.

Items that aren't used as often (like the peppermint extract you only use for Christmas cookies) should be placed towards the back of the shelves. If you have several containers of the same item, such as canned vegetables or soup, copy the method used on aisles at the grocery store. Line multiples of the same items in a row, with the oldest expiration date in the front. It might take an extra second to scoot everything up as you replenish, but it will help ensure you’re using or eating things before they go bad.

2. Use Clear, Deep Containers

Clear bins keep your items orderly and allow you to see everything inside. If you can, snag a set of bins that’s almost as long as your pantry is deep and arrange them with the shorter side out. Divide your pantry into zones, keeping like items together, so that it's easier to find exactly what you need while you're cooking. When looking for containers, opt for a style with handles so you can pull them forward for a quick scan.

built in pantry sliding drawers

3. Install Drawers

If you don’t have them already, pull-out drawers are by far the best way to access everything you have stored in the pantry. This can be done one of two ways: Either replace static shelves with gliding drawers, or attach them to the top of the shelves that are currently in place. Both methods require accurate measurements, a bit of handiwork (or hiring a helper), and a small investment. If you consider the time and money saved in the long run, this project can be well worth it.

Drawers slide forward so you can see and reach everything inside, all at once. Gone will be the days of fishing around the back shelves for that bag of cookies you hid from the kids last week.

4. Line Items in Height Order

Whether you have drawers or shelves, always organize items by height. If you like to store your baking supplies in matching storage containers, place the shorter ones filled with nuts or chocolate chips in the front and line the taller containers of sugar and flour behind them. That way, you can see everything on the shelf at once. If you're storing products with similar heights (such as canned goods), use a deep riser with at least three rows. Think of it like stadium seating at a game or a concert: All of the cans should be visible despite being the same size.

5. Use a Lazy Susan

The beauty of the lazy Susan is that it comes in every size imaginable and can be used to organize almost any space in your home. For deep pantry shelves, look for one with a large diameter. Stick to storing round items on the turntable, as that will maximize the storage space. Bottles of oils, vinegars, and condiments are ideal, as are cans and jars if you don’t want to use a riser. Once it's set up, you can simply spin the lazy Susan in place to locate what you need, rather than reaching for items in the back and potentially knocking things over in the process.

6. Take Advantage of Pantry Doors

Pantry doors are often overlooked storage spaces. So long as they’re not bifold or pocket styles, consider adding an over-the-door organizer to hold small items that can easily get lost in a sea of deep shelves. Spices or packets of seasonings or grab-and-go snacks such as granola bars can sit comfortably (and within clear sight) in shallow baskets on the back of the pantry door.

clear containers labeled with baking ingredients

Marty Baldwin

7. Label Everything

Everything from containers to food storage jars (and even the shelves themselves!) should be labeled. Pantry labels will help everyone in the house know exactly where to find (and return) what they're looking for. Stick to general labels or broad categories so you don’t have to change them out often. Or, use dry erase labels so you can be more specific.

8. Maximize Pantry Storage Space

If you’re prone to forgetting what’s in the pantry, resist the urge to fill it as full as possible. Just because you have a lot of space on the shelves doesn’t mean you need to stuff them with an excess of products that will eventually expire. Instead, consider using excess pantry space to store small appliances or bulk items, like paper towels.

9. Declutter Regularly

The key to keeping deep pantry shelves organized is to declutter them regularly. Make a commitment to go through them on a regular basis, with weekly decluttering as the goal. Before you head to the store or place your online grocery order, take a few minutes to scan the pantry to see what you actually need—and what you definitely don’t need more of. If you’ve implemented a few of these ideas already, this process should be quick and effortless.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles