three black plastic baskets lined up on a wood shelf with pantry food in them

5 Tips to Organize Your Pantry Like a Pro On a Budget

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Ready to organize your pantry on a budget? 

This blog post is all about how I transformed a casual food storage area in our garage into an intentional pantry. The space was small and so was my budget, but it turned out to be a fun, easy and cheap pantry organization project. I found five considerations super helpful as I was going through the process. I hope these help you as you organize your pantry! 

Know the Purpose

The purpose of a pantry seems obvious, but I think we could agree everyone’s pantry looks a little different due to life circumstances, and thus, when you go to organize your pantry, you need to think about your specific needs. Do you have little kids? How often do you shop? How do you want the pantry to function and what do you wish was different from the current setup? This is similar to the process I went through when organizing and making over my laundry area.

Organize your pantry on a budget

For me, I created this garage pantry as an “overflow” pantry. Amazingly, even in a 1,000 square foot home, we actually have a small pantry in our kitchen (one of many things which sold me on this house). However, I shop on a two-week cycle and I intentionally stock up on staple items when I’m shopping, so when I come home from one of my big shopping trips, it’s hard to find a place for everything in our regular kitchen pantry. As a result, I designated these garage shelves as an overflow pantry many months ago, but I soon became tired of shoving things onto the shelves and not being able to see clearly what I had on hand.  

Recognize the Pitfalls

When I began to declutter and organize this pantry area, I realized I had several things stuffed onto the shelves which did not belong there and it was shrinking my food storage space. A cake carrier, a large popcorn bowl, a food mill…these are all kitchen-related things, but they’re not food, and I needed this space for food storage only.

pantry organization on a budget

Additionally, we had another shelf stuck in between two of the shelves which really didn’t need to be there. It only served to limit what I could store in the space (due to height restrictions), so I had my husband remove it and I suddenly felt like I’d gained a bunch of square footage. 

What are the pitfalls in your pantry? As you organize, are you noticing certain tendencies you’ve had or trouble areas where food clutter (or other unrelated clutter) build up and make the space less functional? In order to improve things as you organize your pantry, you need to tackle what pitfalls have made it a problem area to begin with. How can you eliminate these as you organize your pantry and keep a more well-ordered space moving forward? 

Evaluate the Products

Okay, one of my pet peeves with blog posts or YouTube videos teaching you to organize your pantry is the impression they give that unless you go out and buy a bunch of fancy organization products, you can’t have an organized pantry. Wrong, wrong, wrong! I organized this pantry for ten dollars.

Ten. Dollars. 

The black baskets you see are from Dollar Tree and I used eight of them. I absolutely love these baskets and have used them in a bunch of different places in our home. I use them in our regular pantry, the kids’ bedroom…you get the idea. I like them a lot. They’re versatile, they come in a bunch of different colors, they’re not too deep, and the base is wide enough to allow the basket to hold quite a bit. 

organize your pantry ideas

I also spent a couple bucks on the white risers on the middle shelf. Anytime you can create different levels in your pantry to better see your stock, it’s a win. These are also from the Dollar Tree and, you guessed it, I also use them in multiple places throughout the house. There’s a third white riser on that shelf I already had on hand, so counting everything up, I organized this pantry for ten bucks. 

Now, when you organize your pantry, you may want to go with fancier baskets or a different motif or whatever, and that’s totally fine! I just want to encourage you not to let Pinterest or anything else discourage you from going simple and getting it done. Having an organized pantry will lessen your stress and even save you money (I can’t tell you how often I bought double of something on accident because I couldn’t see that I already had it on the shelf!). 

Optimize for Performance

Once things are organized, give it a week or so to see how it’s going, where you’re running into snags and what you want to adjust. In optimizing your pantry for great performance, there may be some things you want to add or take away to get it functioning just how you want. 

For instance, you’ll notice I do not have any labels on these baskets. In my kitchen pantry, every basket is labeled with different categories, but out in the garage, I’m not going to waste time with that. I know right out of the gate I would keep things categorized for about two seconds before starting to just chuck stuff into baskets. My garage pantry is not for daily use. It’s to keep overflow items that will be going into categorized baskets in my kitchen pantry. The priority out here is for things to be tidy and visible. Period. 

Enjoy Pantry Perfection

You may be rolling your eyes at this subhead, but let me explain what I mean. Those who know me will tell you I am NOT a perfectionist, and one look around my house would confirm that to be the case. “Good enough” is one of my life mottos. By perfection, I don’t mean your pantry looks perfect all the time from now on. I mean after going through this process, you’ve developed a system that works for you and your family and is sustainable.

The pantry will always need a little tidying, a little adjusting, etc. but you won’t be needing to do major overhauls every six months (unless you want to change things up, and then of course, by all means, knock yourself out). To me, perfection means a basic system you can sustain over a long period of time, even when life is busy and things get hectic.  As I’ve talked about before, one of the primary goals of this blog is to teach moms to organize their spaces in a way that is simple, sustainable and affordable. This fits right in with that line of thinking.

Conclusion

I hope this post has encouraged you that you can have an organized pantry on a budget. It doesn’t have to look Pinterest perfect (all though you don’t have to break the bank to achieve a more elegant look, either!). You can tailor it to be just what you and your family need for the season of life you’re in. 

Evaluate your needs, recognize your problem areas, pick up a few great products to use, then tweak until you have pantry perfection (and yes, by perfection, I mean the food ends up in the baskets when I put it away…most of the time :). 

Take care until next time, and happy pantry organizing! 

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