If you love a trip to the dollar store as much as I do, get ready for this pantry organization. This is a low budget project you can pull off in one afternoon. No fuss, just results!
Although I’m an addict and a big fan of beautifully organized spaces, sometimes I can’t seem to find a reason to spend hundreds of dollars on simple projects. This is not the picture-perfect pantry organization you are probably used to see on other blogs or magazines. But it’s real! So, if you’re hoping to find matchy-matchy labels on crystal clear containers, you won’t find them here. Maybe one day, but not today.
This is your regular mom, with an average size pantry cabinet, who on a lazy Sunday morning decided to tackle the stockpile with a very short time and a low budget. And when I say low budget, I mean dollar store organization at its best!
dollar store Pantry Organization
That Sunday, I was going to make my bolognese sauce. Love me some Italian dinners on Sundays! The smell of tomato sauce simmering on the stove takes me to my childhood. And this is how the pantry looked like.
It was screaming for help. I could hear the bag of Goldfish, upside down, stuffed in a Ziploc bag screaming too. Granted, I let it go for a few months, but my son getting snacks in and out of it every day didn’t help either.
But the problem wasn’t me being lazy, because hello? I love to organize! The problem was:
I was lazy the system. I kept putting it off because I wanted to install pull out drawers and beautiful airtight matching containers. Forget it; it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
So that same morning, I grabbed my bag and went to my closest dollar store. I stopped waiting for the right time and the right budget to tackle something that didn’t necessarily have to be beautiful, just practical.
Today, I’m sharing my easy, no fuss and low budget dollar store pantry organization.
Pantry Organization With Inexpensive Baskets
Who doesn’t love a dollar store shopping trip? Really, for only $1, you can get so many baskets that can help you contain loose items that otherwise would be scattered everywhere. The reason I love baskets is simple: they help me define limits. And that is a pillar of organization that we all must follow. You can learn more about the pillars of organization in my article The Secret to Home Organization Success.
Sunday wasn’t probably a good day to go to the dollar store because the shelves were empty, and they had very few white baskets, so I also grabbed some blue baskets. The grand total for this trip to the Dollar Tree was $8. The smallest baskets are 3 per $1.
The baskets above, I purchased at Walmart a while ago. They are more sturdy than the dollar store ones, and I paid 97 cents!
The System to an Organized Pantry
To start my pantry organization with my new dollar store baskets, I did the obvious. I emptied the shelves, sorted the food, checked expiration dates, threw away a few things (ok, maybe a lot!), and minimized cardboard boxes. Half of the bulk was boxes.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Empty the entire pantry and place contents on kitchen counters or a table.
- Clean every shelf.
- Discard any expired / old items.
- Discard as many boxes as possible.
- Sort food into groups (explained below)
How to Organize the Food in Your Pantry
It all depends on your lifestyle. This is not a sorting system I follow down to a T. Sometimes, I have to play with the space I have, but it should give you an idea of organizing the pantry so you can find food easily.
Update: I did a similar pantry organization (with dollar store baskets, too!) at my friends’ house.
For example, I use 5 deep shelves (and a separate cabinet) and sort food like this:
- Pastas, and sauces
- Grains, and canned goods
- Oils, dressings, other bottled goods
- Baking goods such as powdered sugar, flour, chocolate chips, honey, syrups, cocoa powder, even cookie sheets and muffin tins. I keep all of these in a separate cabinet. This system actually works good for me, because even though I am not a big baker, I like to have it all in one place, near the counter area where I do my baking. You can see this cabinet organization in my post The Easiest Way to Organize Kitchen Cabinets.
Tips for a Low Budget Pantry Organization
I am an impulsive organizer. Sometimes I jump into projects out of desperation. Sad, but true. That is what happened that Sunday with the pantry. On the bright side, when you jump into projects quickly as that, you also have to work with what you have, which saves you time and money.
I did not solve the storage issue in one afternoon with only $8. I have a few airtight containers that I have purchased throughout the years. So, the chances are that you might own a few sets too. Those come in handy if you know how to put them to work along with a combination of baskets.
I put together a list of those airtight containers I own and how I use them. The following are affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure page.
- Snapware 17 Cups capacity: because of its big capacity, I use one to store up to 4 lbs of rice (discard bag) and a second one to store small unopened bags of grains (beans, barley, lentils, quinoa, etc.)
- Bormioli Rocco Fido Clear Jars: good for ground coffee, leftover lentils or quinoa, orzo, ditalini, or any other small pasta.
- Better Homes & Gardens Flip Tite Acrylic Food Storage: I use these for powdered sugar, cornmeal. Use for anything, really!
- Snapware Airtight Flip 15.3 Cup Capacity: because of the easy pour flip top, I used this one for pet food (when I had one) and refined sugar.
- Cereal Dispensers: perfect for pouring out cereal. And when we have more cereal boxes than containers, we pour the cereal in a Ziploc bag, and a basket helps contain the bags in place.
Needless to say, as a mom and a housewife you may know that Ziploc bags are your best friend when it comes to storage.
Baskets Are Good For
Everything! I am a basket freak. I solved my master’s bathroom closet hot mess with baskets only—such an easy organization project.
The big baskets from the dollar store, help me contain:
- Unopened bags of chips or any other bulky snack bag.
- Loose Ziploc bags that hold crackers, cereal, chips, etc.
- Bottles of oil and vinegar. This is particularly good to keep oil spills from happening directly on the shelf.
The small baskets are great to contain:
- Quick oatmeal packets
- Small, individually wrapped snacks such as graham crackers, mini muffins, fruit snacks, protein bars, granola bars, peanut butter cups, etc.
- Juice boxes, fruit pouches, etc.
This project definitely proves that you don’t need to spend a fortune to be organized.