How I Organized My Pantry for Less Than $20

Updated January 2020

Another new year is here, and once again, I feel the urge to clean out and organize. I am happy to say this pantry organization is still working for us almost a year later. Netflix dropped Marie Kondo’s show Tidying Up on January 1, 2019. I’m sure it was no coincidence that they chose the first day of a new year to release the show, and it was quickly everywhere on social media.

Honestly, I enjoyed several episodes, and she inspired me to clean up my mess. I reorganized and cleaned out our master closet and did the same in the kitchen. The pantry has been such an improvement and easy for us to continue using, so I wanted to share how I did it on a budget. I’ll be sharing step-by-step on how to get your pantry organized for less than $20!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

pantry organization 1

I thought this would be the perfect time to share some organization tips since the kids are heading back to school and back to routines.

We moved into the house in October of 2018, and I am still trying to finish things up and find where things should go. It’s a process, or it is for me, but we use the kitchen so much organizing became a priority for that area.

Now, so that you know, what I call a pantry is cabinets. We don’t have a walk-in room where we keep things. Everything is in cabinets-floor to ceiling cabinets. I’m short, we have a toddler, so I needed a way to keep things within my reach and out of hers. You can have an organized space, no matter how big or small. Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: The fun step. Shop for bins, containers, and labels.

Yes, do this first. You will be excited about organizing once you have containers to fill. Here’s where you can save money or spend a lot. If you haven’t looked at containers lately, I got sticker shock when I started shopping for my pantry. WOAH. If you want to go all out with the budget, by all means, do it, but if you don’t want to spend a lot, like me, start at Dollar Tree.

If you don’t have time to head to the store, I have included links throughout to the Dollar Tree items I used. I also created an Amazon list for you if you’d rather shop on Amazon.

I bought all of my containers from Dollar Tree, and a year later, everything is still working well. Ross also has great deals on home items, which is where I bought the plate holder that holds my sheet pans.

The white bins are dishpans from Dollar Tree. The green baskets are from Dollar Tree as well. Here’s my total cost break down for the pantry. I spent $12 on containers at Dollar Tree, and about $6 on the plate holder at Ross, for a total of $18!!! YAY!

pantry organization 2

Before you jump in the car, take some measurements. Try to guess how many bins or baskets you need. Maybe you know you want a container for kid snacks or a bin for daily dinner items. Write it all down and keep your receipts. You can always take things back or exchange them.

There are specialty organizers as well. Like to organize your canned goods if you have a lot of those. Gather some inspiration from Pinterest as well if you have more room in your pantry to use specific organizers.

Since my pantry is small, I knew I would be limited with what I could use because I also wanted to access everything without a step stool. I needed containers for flour and sugar as well. (I want to replace the plastic ones with glass eventually, but until then, these are great.)

For labels, I went simple as well. I used a permanent marker to write directly on the bins. It worked well for me, but you can also buy cute labels or make them yourself.

Once you finish shopping, or at least with most of it, it’s time to clean the place up.

Join my email list, so you don’t miss my next DIY project! Time to move on to Step 2!

Success! You're on the list.

Step 2: Start with a clean pantry.

I will admit it was easy for me to start with a clean pantry because I purged lots of things when we moved. If you haven’t cleaned out in a while, plan a day to take out everything. You will have some stuff to trash. Get rid of those spices that expired in 2008 too. Haha. You will probably be shocked and slightly embarrassed by what you find. Below is what my pantry cabinet looked like before.

It was so frustrating trying to find what I needed, and when you cannot find what you need, you don’t know what you have, which results in overspending at the grocery store. I should know.

pantry before

As you are removing items, checking expiration dates, and throwing away old things, keep a list of what you need to restock. Keeping a list at this stage will be easier than going back later and trying to remember what all you had to trash. This step is also a good time to separate items by category. Keeping things categorized in your pantry will help keep it organized later.

Once your cabinet or closet is empty, clean it! Wipe that place from top to bottom. Replace or add shelf liners if you need those as well. Now, it’s time for my favorite part-bringing it all together.

Step 3: Find a spot for everything.

If you have a large pantry, you may want to keep appliances and other items in your pantry. When deciding where to put these items, think about how often you will need them. If it’s something you use daily, maybe your counter would be a better spot to keep it. However, if it’s the pressure cooker you got last Christmas that you still haven’t used, find a spot on the top shelf out of the way. Since my space is small, I had to find other places in cabinets to store appliances.

I used the same mindset of use with where I put things in my pantry, and I also kept my toddler in mind. We didn’t want to put child locks on the cabinets, so I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t readily have access to anything harmful or messy. Here’s where I put my items and why.

pantry organization 3

On the very top shelf, I put my flour and sugar. These canisters I can reach when I stand on my tiptoes. I didn’t want to put anything up there that I couldn’t reach easily. Behind the canisters are large round cake pans that I rarely use. These pans also keep my canisters from getting pushed too far back into the cabinet.

The next shelf holds my baking items and condiments, yes I have a lot of sauces and bottles of vinegar. These items also aren’t used daily. When I do need something from these bins, I take the whole container down and get what I need. Then, when I’m finished cooking or baking, I load the bin back up and put it on the shelf.

After cleaning out the pantry in step 2, I rearranged the shelves as well. I wanted one thin shelf to hold my plastic baggies and food saving wraps. These items were always getting lost or stuffed somewhere, and I was sick of it. Now they have a separate shelf, and it’s so easy to find what I need.

pantry organization 4

Then, you will see the bins that usually have more items in them — the grains and cans. I also wanted to be able to see inside these bins without taking them off the shelf because they can get heavy when they’re full. Something I do that helps keep our small pantry organized and reduces waste overall is I shop weekly for groceries.

We go through a lot of fresh produce, so weekly shopping is a must anyway. Going once per week helps me to make sure I’m using what we have. If you haven’t tried grocery pickup yet, you must. It is SOOO convenient.

We have tried Walmart and Kroger, but I prefer Kroger. They offer coupons through the app, exclusive deals for pickup only, and mail me paper coupons for items I buy frequently. You also earn fuel points when you shop. I usually get one fill-up per month where I save thirty cents per gallon.

pantry organization 5

The rest of the shelves Elia can reach, so that’s where I put our snacks and her snacks. The green baskets hold onions, potatoes, and bread. Then, my big stock pot would not fit anywhere else, so it’s here in the bottom of the pantry. I used the plate organizer to hold my muffin pans and sheet pans. I like having them standing up, so it’s a lot easier to get which one I need.

I’m happy to report that after a year, the pantry still looks this way most of the time. I thought I might end up rearranging it after this original post, but the placement of everything is still working well for us. In fact, after all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the pantry was in disarray. It took me about ten minutes to keep it back under control because everything has a place. Cleaning isn’t my favorite, but I can handle ten minutes.

Like I said, having a small space helped me get it organized quickly in the beginning. I wanted something clean to look at and efficient to use, but I couldn’t stop there. I had to clean the cabinets and drawers as well. And, would you believe that I found lots of items at Dollar Tree to help me accomplish that too? I’ll show you.

Cabinet and drawer organization.

For the first time, my stovetop and oven are separate. I love it, especially having a toddler so she can’t reach the oven. When organizing my drawers, I kept this in mind. I wanted my cooking utensils to be right there when I needed them, and what I’ve done works well for us. I’ll show you.

All of the drawers below are in our island where the cooktop is located. I love being able to grab what I need quickly to continue cooking. The island drawers are where I store all of my utensils, measuring cups and spoons, and cooking oils. Keeping cooking utensil storage off the counter keeps everything looking clean.

kitchen drawer organization 1

To organize the drawers, I used long drawer organizers and the square drawer organizers from Dollar Tree. Most of them have non-slip bottoms as well.

All of the containers you see in my drawers and holding the spices are from Dollar Tree. You will not believe the options they have. If you visit a small store, there may not be as many options. I like traveling a little farther to go to a larger store with more items in stock.

I wanted my spices to be close by while I cooked, but Elia ruined it. I bought cute glass containers from Hobby Lobby to hold my spices. I labeled each bottle and had the drawer so neat. A week later, spices covered the floor, and she was playing in them. The spices were not put back in the drawer. Now I keep them in a bin in a top cabinet. I’m not chancing that happening again!

If you want to beautify your spice organization too, here’s a great spice organizing kit I found for you, which is a better price than what I did myself.

Here’s my gorgeous spice drawer before disaster hit. I loved it.

spice drawer organization

She got them everywhere!!! I could not believe what a mess she made in a matter of minutes.

In our other cabinets, I purged plastic, lids, and cups we didn’t need. Keeping less has helped us have the containers when we need them because we know where the tops are! The cabinet shelves helped create more room for storing items as well, and I use them in most of our cabinets.

I used these plastic drawer organizers to store the lids and to store the tops for her cups.

Getting organized takes some preparation and work up front, but once everything has a place, I find it’s easier to clean up. I have done the same throughout our home, slowly, and it helps make cleaning go faster. And, in case you didn’t know, I hate cleaning!!! UGH! So, getting organized has been a must for our home.

If this post was helpful, pin it or share it with someone else who needs help getting organized. Our pantry and cabinets have maintained the organization with little effort too.

I also have a Pinterest board with organizing inspiration from others. You can follow it below.

15 thoughts on “How I Organized My Pantry for Less Than $20

  1. You are so organized! I love this AND feel like I’m going to go organize now! Have you ever watched Marie Kondo on Netflix!?

  2. Thanks for such great ideas! I love Dollar Tree, so I can’t wait to take some of your tips and put them to great use in my kitchen!

  3. Thanks for sharing these great ideas! I love Dollar Tree, and can’t wait to put these great tips to good use in my kitchen!

    1. Dollar Tree has such great stuff! I love walking around and looking at everything. I’m glad this post was inspiring.

  4. Thank you very much for sharing how you organized your pantry. I am making it a goal to better organize mine by the end of August. You have inspired me!

  5. Great article. I am going to do this soon as my son leaving for college. I will not have much stuff in my pantry and it will be easy to organize.

    1. I hope your son has a great year! It is easier to organize with less. I hope this is post helps you reach your goal.

  6. The Dollar Tree is FANTASTIC for this kind of thing! I organized my spices with long skinny baskets, kind of like the ones you used in your drawer (without the benefit of nonstick – I will have to check those out!). I love the idea of having the bins labeled so you don’t have to dig around. Neat post!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: