Super close up of the center section of an organized pantry with food on the left and dishes and small appliances on the right

How To Best Organize a Walk In Pantry

Is your pantry overflowing? Here’s how to best organize your walk in pantry so you, and everyone else, can quickly find AND return items!

Simply put, walk in pantries are the best partners in a kitchen!

Are you with me on this one?

The problem is, they’re really good at storing all the kitchen paraphernalia, accoutrements and food itself.

Yes, that’s a problem!

Because they are so good at what they do, we take it for granted. We become complacent about our part of this partnership. We toss all the residue in, and close the door right as the guests arrive. We buy a second 4 lb. box of baking soda because it was a “great deal”. We put a bunch of cute bins on the shelves and expect the rest of the family to know what goes in them.

Before picture of the South and West walls of a walk in pantry in a mess
A before image of the West and North side of Walk in Pantry in a mess.

We abuse this super power of walk ins. They are so good at hiding our excesses behind closed doors, that before long they are no longer walk ins, but rather a dark vortex of “stuff”.

Our’s got to the point where the door could swing open partially and if you had to really stretch to reach anything on the shelves. Soooo sad!

Basic Walk In Pantry Organization:

Pull everything out. Eliminate duplicates, expired items, and anything broken or missing parts. Dump everything you don’t need.

If it’s a non-food item that still has some life to it, drop it off at a local thrift store. You know, that coffee maker you replaced with the latest must-have.

If it’s a food item, you just have too much of (thank you, Costco) or you don’t think you’ll use, donate it to an area food bank.

Just like the toy room, just like your desk, just like the garage (only cleaner and tastier), start by grouping like things together.

The before, overflowing walk in pantry that you can't actually walk in. Areas of the worst problems are outlined

In the pantry, start with broad categories like food vs. non-food items.

Then break those down into smaller categories. Food could be baking ingredients, canned goods, cereals, snacks, beverages, fresh perishables, seasonings, etc.

The non-food items could be small appliances. extra dishware, cookware, medicine and first aid, baskets, plastic to-go boxes, cooking tools, baking tools, etc.

Your piles will probably be similar to mine, but certainly not the exact same.

The more you can break them down, the better your organization will be.

I started out with a solid plan for our pantry when we had the house remodeled and we moved in. Notice the North wall (on the left) and just a bit of the West wall (straight ahead) is all dishes, cookware, small appliances and kitchen tools. No food there! It just needed a little cleaning and straightening. I did eliminate one coffee maker and the large dehydrator that I have not used since the move.

Pantry Organization Bins:

Now that you have eliminated the extras, the broken and the expired, and your items are grouped, you can easily see how much storage space and what kind of storage space each of these needs.

A stack of dishes, just needs the shelf space, but the cookie cutters need to be contained in something. It doesn’t have to be fancy. My cookie cutters are in a ziplock bag sitting on the stack of cake pans.

For food bins, I suggest solid bases and easy clean for most items. If the bag of basmati is in a woven basket type bin, any spilt rice will fall through the woven bottom all over the shelf and then onto the floor or into the bins below. I like to keep potential messes confined.

So those really cute mesh wire galvanized steel bins? They’re cute. You love them. so use them for napkins, for K-cups, for non-granular items.

You may notice I have one set of woven basket bins. Those were the first I purchased, and they will be the last. I love the look of them. I keep bottled items in three of them and onions and potatoes in the others. But the bottles don’t stay standing straight and the woven whicker is rough sliding in and out on the painted shelves. I may replace them if I find an option that:

  • has a smooth solid base
  • open weave sides for air circulation around the onions and potatoes
  • the right size

Pantry Shelving Ideas:

What’s the point of having shelves if they are not accessible, right?

closeup of canisters with black lettering identifying the different flours and sugars contained in each.

If you are planning a pantry layout, please do NOT let your contractor build shelves like these. Look closely and you’ll see the corners are lost behind solid vertical panels, rather than open corner shelves. But I am stuck with them for now anyway.

The more shelves the better!

The before, overflowing walk in pantry that you can't actually walk in. Areas of the worst problems are outlined

I am embarrassed to show this picture. But in the spirit of being real and authentic, I’m here sharing honestly how I analyzed what was working and what wasn’t.

I don’t even need to tell you what’s wrong here. You can see it.

I knew that with the addition of a shelf in both of these locations I would be able to separate the categories better making organization much easier to maintain.

Wood pantry shelves can be easy to make and install depending on how your pantry is constructed. Ours was easy, mainly because we had the right tools for the job.

And while we are talking shelves for storage, check out these conveyor-belt-esque shelves I designed for our garage (my studio). And how I hacked some cabinets to gain extra depth.

Make and Install Additional Pantry Shelves:

Measure and Cut-

Yes, the old adage applies. Measure twice, cut once! Or measure 3 or 4 times.

The easiest installation is using furring strips around the three walls of each shelf. We used simple 1 x 2’s. And I found an eight foot pre-painted shelf at our local Menards and it was 11-3/8 inches wide. Exactly what we needed.

A woman's arms are using a Ryobu compound miter saw to cut furring strips to the right length

This compound miter saw from Ryobi is a dream to work with! It’s bigger than we needed for the furring strips but exactly what we needed to cut the wide shelf. Because our original board was so long, it took two to handle it so no pictures of that one in action. But it is so empowering!!!

Paint, Stain or Seal Your Walk In Pantry Shelves-

Stating the obvious here, I painted our furring strips white to match the rest of the pantry.

I just sprayed them rather than breaking out the enamel from the shelves. The furring strips have an important job, but do not get a lot of wear and tear.

Rustoleum Spray Paint can with a pistol grip adapter attached in front of a plastic drop cloth hanging from the ceilng.

HINT: For the first time, I used a pistol grip on the spray paint. Oh My!!!! Total game changer. Why did it take me so long to try one out. Now I’m spoiled and won’t go back. This is the one I used. Best price is when you buy a set of six.

Install-

First we installed the furring strips.

Since we have everything grouped and binned at this point, we double checked the placement of the shelves.

Our two bottom shelves are becoming four shelves. So we placed the tallest item that will be on the two bottom shelves on those shelves. Then with a sample board on top of those we held the tallest item for each of the new shelves in place. This verified the placement of the shelves. We marked on the wall where we want the bottom of the new shelves to be.

That mark now tells us the top of the furring strips. With a level in hand we attached them with our Ryobi nail gun.

A man's hands are holding a Ryobi nail gun right against a furring strip attaching it to the inside of the pantry back wall.

This project would NOT have happened without that nail gun! I’ve been talking about doing this for a couple of years, but we both knew with the terrible dead corners we had to work with, it would not be possible with just a drill or screwdriver or hammer. Once we had the nail gun, game on!

Oh, and that light! So much better than one of us leaning over the other holding their phone flashlight at just the right angle.

The long shelf for the west wall had to be cut in two, but we were able to cut it at the 12-inch mark so the larger piece is still supported at all 4 corner (that North wall shelves at 15-inches deep)

This is not a solid wood shelf so if when it starts to sag in the center, I am prepared to add to support between the two bins on the bottom shelf.

Pantry Labels, a MUST for your Pantry Makeover:

For the final step of our general walk in pantry organization, is of course labels!

closeup of canisters with black lettering identifying the different flours and sugars contained in each.

I can’t stress this enough. Every bin, every basket, even the rows on the shelf for canned goods should be labeled. And right here I am sharing how I labeled all the spice jars in our under counter pullout cabinet right next to the cooktop.

Look back at my before pictures, I had all the bins, and all the baskets, and all the tubs I needed. They weren’t effective because they were not labeled.

Pantry shelves loaded with clear plastic boxes labeled "Baking: Nuts & Such", Baking: wrappers, Straws, Etc", "Seasoning Packets' etc. And on two lower shelves are woven baskets with chalkboard labels of "oils", Vinegars". "Potatoes", "Onions" and "Daily Meds"

I used my Cricut for all the lettering on my labels and bins. I’m crazy about that South Australia is the font I used.

Image of white plastic bins with black labels of "Rice" "Grains" "Pasta" "Pasta" and more "Pasta" on white shelves

More Walk In Pantry Ideas:

Organize Up — Use the Walls in Your Pantry

End of the wood shelving on the food side shows hooks on the side holding skewers on one, BBQ fork on another, reuseable grocery bags hanging from another

It’s a fundamental of storage and organizing. Think vertically!

Be sure to use ALL that wall space!

1) Behind the Pantry Door-

If your walk in pantry door swings in, you can use behind the door for flat items. I hang my baskets and trays there and the aprons are on the back of the door.

You might need more canned goods storage. You can probably create a wall of canned goods, one can deep! Talk about easy to them it all at a glance!

2) On the Side of Your Shelving-

On the side of my pantry shelving, I added a few hooks for those hard to stack items. Our long bbq fork, our skewers that we use surprisingly often when it’s fire pit season, our wine picnic bag and our re-useable grocery bags.

3) Think Outside the Box In Tight Spaces — Pan Lid Holders

Two plastic pan lid holders installed on a white wall holding discs from a food processor

I can’t use this sidewall for things that stick out much because the items on this shelf get used frequently.

Sidenote: Those discs and blades that come with the food processor have been driving me crazy. They fall all over the shelf behind the food processor. Not anymore.

These were a GREAT find. They are actually pan lid holders. But I bought them for our food processor discs. And am thrilled at how well they work for this! You can find them here.

It’s really quite sad what can make me giddy.

NOTE: I hung them low so they were right by the food processor. If I had little ones around, I would hang them high above the light switch. I have them in the holder so the sharp edge is against the wall, but knowing they may not always be put back like that, I made sure they were well away from the light switch so no one would grab a blade when searching for the light.

4) The Wall Within the Shelves — Lip for Platters

The North side of the pantry is where almost all of the non-food items reside. Those shelves are 15-inches deep. Surprisingly, there is a remarkable amount of space behind the bottom row of small appliances that is not used.

I have several large melamine platters that I use for summer fun on the patio and docks. It’s a perfect spot to store them behind the Instant Pot and standing mixer. But when you take one of those off the shelf the trays slide all over.

Woman's hand operating a Ryobi drill pre-drilling a hole in the L-shaped trim that will hold the platters in place
Woman's hand operating a Ryobi hand drill with a Phillips head bit, driving a screw into the Platter lip, attaching it to the lowest pantry shelf

To solve this, I added a lip behind the Instant Pot to hold the platters upright. I used a short piece of scrap L-shaped wood corner trim. It is held in place by two wood screws. Be sure to pre-drill your hole so as not to split the trim piece.

HINT: I LOVE having a drill and a hammer drill, both from Ryobi. I disable the hammer function and use it with a drill bit to pre-drill al holes, then the regular drill is set with a phillips head drill bit and it acts as a driver. No need to switch bits back and forth in the middle of a project. Saves oodles of time and keeps my projects moving forward.

view of the melamine platters standing upright at the back of the pantry shelf
Large Melamine Platters sitting upright and held m place by a short piece of L-shaped wood trim. The Instant Pot sits in front on the lowest pantry shelf

Also on that wall, I added a couple of nails behind the food processor to hold its lid and extra processing blade (both of which, to date, we have never used). For now they are up and out of the way.

So going back to thinking vertically and using wall space, think also about the walls within the shelves.

Full height view of the walk in pantry after its makeover

And now! Ta Da!!!

What a difference. My husband was actually excited to make dinner last night. That’s how happy this Walk In Pantry Makeover makes us.

Been dreaming of adding a walk in pantry or making over yours?

Be sure to save this for when that day comes. Save it to your

Kitchen Board

your Organizing Board

your Dream Pantry Board

wherever it makes sense for you.

Pinterest Pin showing a before picture and an after picture of the walk in pantry with titles: "Disaster" and "Dream".

I hope this has inspired you! It’s amazing what two shelves and lots of labels can do!!! And don’t miss how I organized the spice jars right here

And while we’re into organizing, how about this conveyor belt-type storage for your garage? And this decorative and function storage for your bounty of faux florals and greens?

If you’ve been hanging out here, you know I am all about creative problem solving and joy-filled living. Having our pantry organized makes it function with less stress, saves us money by not buying what we already have, but just can’t find, and saves tons of time.

To me, more time, less stress and saving money is the perfect recipe for joy-filled living.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase anything using these links, you pay no extra, but I may receive a small commission. Know that I will never recommend a product I do not believe in! I truly appreciate your support when you use my links so I can keep this blog up and running!

Here are some of the items I used. I hope it helps, and I so appreciate you using an affiliate link if possible.

Not the exact tags I used, but great price. 48 tags for less than $12

This is closer to mine. A bit more expensive at $11 for 24.

These are the pan lid holders I used.

This is the spray paint can pistol grip I used, and will not be without going forward!

My favorite drill with two batteries, always a charged battery waiting in the wings.

This is our nail gun. Great price because you don’t need to buy a battery and charger if you already have a Ryobi tool.

This is a newer version of my Cricut at a great price including starter tools. Everything you need to get going.

This is the same cannister that I am using – and highly recommend. The set may be different. But you can find a whole assortment of sizes to make your own set.

Here's to Joy-Filled Living, Diane

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