My REAL, Usable, Organized, Unpretty Pantry

posted by Andrea | 03/1/2013

nora in the pantry

I’ve been reading a lot about pantry organization lately — and seeing loads of glamorous “designer pantries” {as I call them} plastered all over Pinterest.

And while they are gorgeously adorned with wallpaper, stenciled accent walls, brightly colored labels, chalkboard paint, matching (and very expensive) clear plastic storage containers, cute baskets, and color-coordinated canned-goods, I have to wonder how USABLE and REALISTIC they actually are.

Yes, they look absolutely fabulous; yes I’ve caught myself drooling over these images more than once; and yes, there was a brief moment when I thought about trying to make our pantry cabinet look more like all these fancy photos… but then I snapped out of my funk and “got real”.

I realized that although these picturesque designer pantries would be fun to have in my own home, I’m personally not willing to make the time to decorate the inside of a cabinet — especially since Dave and I are the only ones who ever open the doors (until now I guess!)

full pantry

So, for those of you who might be feeling a little guilty or sheepish about the mess hiding behind your pantry doors, I hope the pictures below will not only motivate you to make time for a mini pantry organizing project, but also show you that an organized pantry doesn’t require an interior decorator, a fancy vinyl cutting machine, expensive containers, or even a label maker.

In fact, it might not require anything but a little elbow grease (and a large trash bag!)

A Look at my REAL, Usable, Organized, Unpretty Pantry

First of all, I should just point out that I’m SO thankful we even have a pantry cabinet. Our old kitchen hardly had any storage space for food so we actually had a bookcase sitting against one wall in our kitchen to provide storage for food and other small appliances. Now, in our new kitchen, we have a huge, fabulous pantry cabinet with tons of concealed storage — we are so fortunate!

We’ve actually rearranged our pantry cabinet a couple of times since our kitchen renovation this summer — but I think we’ve found the arrangement that works the best for us.

It’s not necessarily pretty or “decorated,” but it stores our food — which is what a pantry should do :)

Here’s an over-all shot of our entire pantry cabinet area.

pantry area

We only keep food in the large floor-to-ceiling cabinet. You can see the appliances, etc. inside our other cabinets here.

All the shelves are adjustable and we actually have 2 more shelves that we could install — so that definitely made the organizing process easier. I tried to put similarly sized items on the same shelf so we could maximize the height between shelves.

Here’s a closer look at the top of the pantry cabinet:

top pantry

Top Shelf = extra serving platters that I don’t use that often but wanted to have somewhat easy access to

Second Shelf = Extra chips, Rice, Pasta

Third Shelf = Pretzels, Chips, Granola, Pop-Tarts, Oatmeal Packets (behind the granola), Cereal

Here’s a look at the bottom pantry cabinet:

bottom pantry

Top Shelf = baked goods (cookies, cake, bread, muffins), baby food

Second Shelf = Crackers, nuts, peanut butter, fruit leather, other pre-packaged snacks, lunch packing supplies

Third Shelf = Bread, Buns, Microwave (we recently changed to a smaller microwave that would fit in our pantry)

Fourth Shelf = Canned goods (I keep almost all my home-canned food on shelves in the basement)

Fifth Shelf = Coolers and reusable lunch bags

Bottom Shelf = Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and  toaster oven

As you’ll notice, there are no fancy organizing containers, no sparkly labels, no chalkboard paint, and no pretty baskets or crates. Just food :)

However, it’s still organized, it doesn’t look totally trashed (at least not in my opinion), and we can quickly and easily find everything we need.

The main thing I wanted to achieve when I organized our pantry was to keep “like” items together.  I also tried to keep the items we use on a daily basis at eye level — which is why the breakfast stuff, snacks, and lunch packing supplies are all either at the top of the bottom cabinet or the bottom of the top cabinet. That’s the easiest place for us to reach!


As you can see, the only organizing containers I use in our pantry are a couple plastic shoe boxes I had lying around (cardboard boxes would work as well) and a small lazy susan (which I also already had). I spent $0.00 to organize this space, and it’s 100% functional and practical.

It’s also one of Nora’s favorite play places :)

Hopefully you all don’t think less of me now that you know what the inside of our pantry looks like!

DISCLAIMERI honestly have nothing against anyone with a fabulous “designer pantry”. I think they are awesome and if I had a little more craftiness in me, I might give it a try {maybe!} But for now, I’m satisfied with (and so thankful for) my unpretty, real-life, organized pantry :)

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  2. Kristine


    I LOVE it! The best part of the whole deal, is that you shut the doors and you have the MOST beautiful white cabinets and you see NO clutter! That is my kind of project, hide it all, not showcase it!


  3. Amy


    I recently visited a site where the girl featured a GORGEOUS pantry makeover. I, too, did alot of drooling over it! Then I got back to reality and and figured there are better things, things we actually see, in our home that we can spend that money on improving. All those fancy bins and baskets can get pretty pricey!


  4. Amy U


    I’m with you, Amy. Only more in terms of the cost of time. I wouldn’t spend the $ on it (my husband would croak for one thing) and I don’t wanna spend precious time making pretty things and then shut the door. Although I do drool over the perfection and symmetry of the pretty ones. And get the feeling that I should tackle mine. So, Andrea, thanks for making me feel adequate again. ;-)


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