A Simple Pantry Makeover

I actually did this “pantry makeover”, with the help of my handsome and talented son Kell, several weeks ago…but for some reason I have been “dragging my heels” over posting it!

Kell keeps asking me, “Have you posted the pantry pics yet Mom?”, and I keep coming up with an excuse as to why I haven’t done it yet.

But the truth is…I think I’ve been a bit reticent to post them because they really aren’t anything SPECTACULAR. Well, to ME it was/is spectacular! My pantry is SOOOOOOO much nicer to look at and the functionality has improved immensely!

BUT, I have seem some pretty impressive pantry makeovers online that have involved painting, wallpaper, stenciling, new shelving, new flooring and even LIGHTING. It was pictures like these that actually INSPIRED me to finally tackle mine.

Honey and Fitz
I Like It, I Love It
The House of Smiths
Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust

So at the risk of under-inspiring some of you….here are my “BEFORE and AFTERS” for your information, inspiration…or just entertainment. :-)

OK…first of all…no comments on WHAT FOOD IS IN MY PANTRY!  This is not a social commentary on what I feed my family….this is about how I ORGANIZE what I feed my family.  If you don’t agree with some of the “food stuffs” found here….feel free to keep it to yourself. :-)

Obvious problems….no organization and TOO many boxes and bags!!!!  You can see from the middle shelf I have made weak attempts in the past to START organizing with a few clear containers…but that’s about all it amounted to.

Again….TOO TOO much packaging in the form of boxes and bags. Goal: to eliminate as many as possible and replace with baskets and clear containers.

One of my “trouble spots”insulin pump supplies. They are always in the dreaded BOXES that take up way more space than necessary….and they are just NOT HANDY to get at when needed. (We usually have quite a bit more than this on hand…we must have been running low.)

Another annoying spot….the pasta/popcorn/marshmallows/packets of stuff area. Completely disorganized and almost impossible to find anything! Definitely in need of attention.

Boxes, boxes and more boxes (and bags).  Enough said.

I don’t think this needs explanation. It’s just a mess. :-)

I utilized our local thrift store and Walmart a great deal for this makeover.  Almost all the canisters (glass and otherwise) are from Walmart.  Their prices on such stuff are VERY reasonable. Especially when you pick up a few each time you go shopping there (which is what I did). It’s a little less painful on your wallet that way. I think all the baskets are from the thrift store. Thrift stores are terrific sources for baskets! Look for square or rectangle shaped baskets…less wasted space.  Also, don’t discount the ones with big “handles” on them.  Several of the baskets I used I simply snipped the handles off with wire cutters. Much more functional that way.

The little wire shelves also came from Walmart and were super inexpensive…but make a world of difference! They basically doubled my space for cans.
Another thing you might notice….the lack of BOXES! I did everything I could think of to get rid of the space-wasting boxes! About the only boxes that “survived” were cereal boxes….and now that I think about it…I’m going to get rid of those too. I really LOATHE boxes in the pantry!
These plastic and glass containers (most from Walmart, some from the thrift store) have been such a huge improvement!  I love being able to see exactly what I have and in what quantity. How many times have I grabbed a box of something thinking there was plenty in there for what I needed and realized….WRONG…it’s practically empty!  grrrrr…..pet peeve #39!  This way if something is getting “low” it’s obvious every time I open the pantry door.

Also…the little labels? At first I put them on merely for decorative purposes…just to give the whole makeover thing a little more credibility. :-)  But I had no idea how much I would LIKE them!  It’s so nice to be able to immediately identify what’s in the container without playing the “guess the ingredient” game!  I mean something like POPCORN is a no-brainer…but have you ever tried to figure out which container was cornstarch and which one was powdered sugar??? Yep…not so easy!!  Oh…by the way…the labels are free printables from bhg.com.

Notice the rectangular baskets on the right and bottom left. All from the thrift store. All had big handles on them that I snipped off.  The one on the far right works perfectly for corraling insulin pump supplies now that I’ve taken them out of the darn boxes! What a space waster all those cardboard culprits were!

And I LOVE these bins from Walmart. Super cheap and great for holding stuff that doesn’t really “fit” anywhere else. Things like trash bags, crackers, etc. (that have been taken out of their boxes. Sorry, I’m starting to sound like a broken record! lol)
The wire bin on the bottom left was another thrift store find and helps contain the myriad of chip bags. The middle bin is one like the 3 white ones above…just covered with a plastic garbage bag and is used as a can collector. When this little bin gets full…one of my boys will take it out into the garage crush them with the wall-mounted can crusher and transfer them to a much bigger box.  Yeah…we drink too much soda…but hey…at least we’re recycling! ;-)

Well, there you have it….my “less than spectacular” (but not too shabby) pantry makeover. As usual, it’s my hope someone will find something that will be of value.

And once again I would like to thank my “assistant” Kell for all his hard work on this project!  He actually did all the “dirty work” (taking everything off the shelves, putting in the new shelf liners, etc.), and I got to do the more fun “organizing” part. I think there might be a new cell phone, that he’s been wanting forEVER, in his future. ;-)



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  1. Carol aka Big Mama says

    I love it! You should have posted it long ago MOM! ;) I especially love bins! I use bins in that totally wasted space in the under counter cabinets that are in the corner of the kitchen. I found a rubbermaid/sterlite bin that just barely fits in the double door cabinets on either side of my sink. One bin goes in with rarely used stuff you *need* (and then you push it into the back corner under the counter top) and the second bin goes right inside the doors with everyday stuff. You have to completely take the first bin out to get anything out of the second bin but it beats the heck out of taking 30 random things out and sitting them on the floor to just get ONE thing out of the back corner!

  2. Andrea says

    Love the makeover. And I actually find it more inspiring than the really pretty ones. They are lovely to look at but never gunna happen. Your gives bang for the buck and is something I can accomplish.

  3. Elizabeth says

    I think that is a great makeover and shows that you don't have to have a fancy space to be organized. It's all about being practical and doing what works for you and your family. Great idea about going to the thrift store for containers!

  4. Lauren says

    Looks great! Our pantry has pretty deep, wire shelves, and those little half shelves would be great for the shorter things, but I'm sure they wouldn't work with wire shelves without falling through. Seen anything that might work as a substitute? I have one double lazy susan, but since it's round, I'm wasting a bunch of corner space…

    Another idea for pantries that aren't well lit is rope light around the inside of the door frame if there's room. We did that & tied it into an outlet on the other side of one of the walls, and it made all the difference! (along with replacing the plain wooden shelves w/ wire ones bc of aforementioned depth issue. :)

    • Pat says

      You could place a piece of thin board (such as luan board) on top of the wire shelf where you want to place the little half shelves. This would prevent the little shelves from falling through. Maybe even some thick cardboard might work.

    • Moira says

      Have you tried the stackable wire shelves? I don’t know what else to call them. Rather than having 4 individual legs, each side has what amounts to connected legs so they can connect or lock onto the top of one another. I have some hanging from the wire shelves in my closet. My description stinks, sorry.

  5. Anonymous says

    I know you said this wasn't a social commentary on the contents of your pantry, but…

    We have the same food in my pantry. Except we don't have Dr. Pepper, and we have a giant box of Goldfish and a giant box of fruit snacks. That's pretty much the only difference. :)


  6. Anonymous says

    Jill, Thanks for sharing what a "normal" pantry make-over can look like! Yes, I drool over many of the same pics online. But my pantry is far from glamorous and fairly-well organized thanks to the installation of wire shelving. Yet you've highlighted some very practical things that save space AND improve function. This is truly more inspiring than the ultra-glam, huge walk-in pantries that most of us just don't <> have.

  7. The Rusty Ranch says

    Looks great! We have 2 pumpers in my family so I know exactly how much space those supplies take up. I'll be making over my hall closet soon to turn it into a proper pantry. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Shantelle Vye says

    Love the organization ideas! I plan to implement some of those myself very soon! I'm just curious about something though…

    I seriously cringed when you said you crush your soda cans. I'm guessing they aren't returnable in your state? Or do they have different rules where you live than here in Maine? We aren't supposed to crush our cans… the redemption centers around here won't accept them that way. We make a regular bi-monthly run there, and put the $0.06 they give us per bottle/can/juice jug into our rainy day fund. It's less than bi-monthly now that we cut soda from our diet though. But yeah… I was just wondering. :-) Love your blog!

    - Shantelle
    Geek + Music + Food = Blog

    • Kathy says

      We crush our cans, too. But, cans are not returnable in VA. So, we crush them, and then once the garbage bag is full, we take them up to the firestation and they taken them to a recycling center and donate the money to the burned children’s fund. I figure it’s win/win that way! :)


  9. Jerianne says

    Awesome. Thank you for sharing. This is one I could afford to do and enjoy the results. It is amazing how much room the boxes take up. FYI my pantry has no door and no possibility of having one.

  10. lauren says

    I am so happy that you did post this. It's funny how the things we drag our heels about can make the most impact on some. I have loved EVERY email I get every day that links to your blog. I can't imagine a day without my One Good Thing! And this one has inspired me to get organizing my life better. I sort of already started, but this gives me inspiration to keep going and get even better. (And honestly, those "major" redo jobs to me are not practical, and quite frankly, overwhelming. If I see a project like this, but on a larger scale, I usually chalk it up to "oh, that's nice, but it wouldn't fit my life EVER." So your "not so big" redo is HUGE in my book: because I know I can replicate it. You are a REAL person with REAL living space. Just like me!! :-) THANKSSS!!!!!!! (I feel like we're friends even though we've never met. Your blog is so personal and great! So thank you!!)

    My blogs: LaurensLymeLife.blogspot.com

  11. Jill Nystul says

    Ahhh…leave it to you guys to make me feel SO much better about my humble makeover attempt. :-) Thank you!!!

    Nicole…your "social commentary" is welcome. ;-) Upon re-reading this…I realize I might have sounded a bit harsh when I told people to keep their thoughts about the food in my pantry to themselves. I once pinned a picture of a coupon stockpiling trip I'd made and created a firestorm of sorts on Pinterest. lol. People arguing about what we should and shouldn't feed our families. It's obvious people are quite passionate about such things. :-)

    Shantelle…that shows what a newbie I am when it comes to recycling. I thought crushing the cans was a GOOD idea for recycling?? I guess I'd better look into that further. But thanks for the heads up!

  12. Charity says

    Love it! I would say most people don't get to have the "fancier" pantries we see on pinterest. It's nice to see a makeover I can relate to. I am ready to hit the thrift store and wal-mart:) Thanks for sharing!

  13. Anonymous says

    Thanks for the inspiration! I have been wanting to do this for some time but got stuck in figuring out the best way to go about it. Thanks to you I just went out to Walmart and am 75 percent of the way through. ( cleaned out 2 store's stock on jars and containers but still need some more.) I came across 2 problems.. I find that I don't always have the same stuff in my pantry to permanently affix a label. I wish there was some way to make a clear pocket where I can easily insert a label and be able to later change it out easily. Secondly, I don't know how you got rid of all the boxes. I found that a bunch of stuff needed to be kept in its original container if I was going to be able to have the cooking instructions later!

      • J.Moebius says

        You could buy a pack of the ‘baseball card’ clear holders, snip one off and use double sided tape to fix it to your container. Then you could easily slide each label you need in there.
        For the stuff you need the cooking instructions for, you could cut them off and tape them to a page of a notebook that you keep just for these instructions.

    • Victoria says

      I store several things that are not common items and I cut the cooking instructions out as well and place them in a cellophane pocket on the outside of the container…(1) for the label, and (1) for the instructions.
      LOVE your site Jillee. Thanks for all your hard work, and thanks for sharing and making my life easier.

    • Susie Q says

      I found if I cut the entire top off the box, dump the contents into a zip bag (I prefer the ones with the slider at the top, marking the side of the bag that is the closed side with a piece of red vinyl tape) and return the bagged contents into the box I get to keep the product’s instructions and the contents are not a temptation to the bugs. But being low on something without knowing it can happen. I do try to put things on the shopping list when they are getting low.

  14. Melissa Coffman says

    You have inspired me to work on my pantry. I just started still have a ways to go. Crazy me forgot to take a before picture. I got some of the large plastic jar containers at Wal-Mart they are great. I wish now I would have gotten more. But I did find a bunch of Mason jars I already had and was able to use them for some of the pasta. They look pretty too. Since I am doing Weight Watchers I attached a label on the back side of the jars with serving size and the points. Just wanted to say thanks for this blog. Its great!!

  15. Jill Nystul says

    Anony…as far as getting rid of boxes…what I usually do with things that I need the cooking instructions for is cut out the section of the box with the instructions and tape it to the inside of my kitchen cupboard. I read that other people keep a clipboard on the inside of their pantry door that they clip such things to. There are lots of options. Keep the instructions…throw the box! :-)

    Melissa…good call on the Mason jars with labels attached. Great idea for W.W. point watchers!

  16. Shantelle Vye says

    Haha, that's ok. My father had a small self run garbage removal business for over 20 years (he was the only employee, and hauled for over 80 customers), and he implemented the recycling program in our town. He also volunteered at my elementary school (before him and my mom started homeschooling me in 4th grade), where he taught the "Waste Away" program, teaching children in all grades about recycling and garbage's effect to the Earth. So I learned the rules starting at 4 or 5 years old… I'm 26 now. Lots of years of practice under my belt, haha. ;-)

    - Shantelle
    Geek + Music + Food = Blog

  17. Melisa says

    Next time your in SL can I offer you a DC to come help me with mine??? This is AMAZINGLY beautiful. Ahh… makes me want to tackle it myself and soon. I can probably click on the photo and make it bigger but wondering what items you put in your big plastic jars, I caught popcorn, corn starch, powdered sugar, I guess I'm wondering if you used bread crumbs or panko crumbs if you would put these into a jar to get rid of the box or if you think they would go stale. That might be the beauty and magic of the jars though… please enlighten me :)

    Also, A+ on the disclaimer at the top. I don't blame you one bit for putting that there. Its your blog and you'll post what you want I would do the same thing. I didn't think it was harsh at all I was getting out my pompoms to give you a cheer for great job!

  18. Ayshela says

    Shantelle – I used to live in NW Washington, and up there the recycling centers almost wouldn't take them if they *weren't* crushed because it reduced their efficiency in transporting them. Definitely something to check the local preferences.

    Lauren – I agree with ocdmama, putting a small piece of wood or hard plastic either across the shelf, or across the legs of the shelf you want to add will keep it from falling through. If the upper shelf you want to add has just post legs you can glue a small plastic cap to a piece of wood or hard plastic, so each leg on one side could sit down in it. That would give you stability across each side of the shelf without cutting short the storage space across the middle. =)

  19. Ila East says

    I know why you wanted until now, because I have been thinking about taking everything out of my pantry and organizing it. This may very well be the push I need to get it done. Thanks for the ideas.

  20. Catherine's not naturally crafty says

    Jilley: Walmart has the completely fabulous plastic cereal containers that are retangular and come in normal and jumbo. I have made the switch and won't ever go back. The thing is, they are great for more than just cereal. Snack mix, cheez-its, my son's favorite chocolate animal crackers. They all go great in them. My mom got me a fancy shmancy one from the Container Store but it isn't as good as the Walmart ones. You can see what's inside so no labels are needed and you can tell when the cereal is running low. No picking up the box only to find out that someone (not naming names here) put it back on the shelf with only crumbs left. Love your site.

  21. Heather Jean says

    Glass containers: You can use window crayons, dry/wet erase markers, and even permanent marker to label them, right on the glass! If it doesn't come off in the dishwasher (window crayon won't), then wash off with rubbing alcohol (the only thing that works for Sharpie), or window cleaner.

    The plastic ones you can do dry erase which comes off pretty easily.

    I just hate putting stickers on things. I don't always refill with the same item, so it's important to have things that can go through the dishwasher and still look nice.

  22. Anonymous says

    To the anon poster that claimed they wish they had a way to label containers w/o them being permanent, I use super bright post its and a piece of scotch tape. Whenever that jar's empty and going to be used for something else, I just change the post it. As for the cooking instructions, I try to condense into my own shorthand on how to cook and tape it on OR cut out the instructions and stick in into the container so I can pull it out as needed.

    Jillee – btw I LOVE bhg for their labels! I just printed some out on plain paper (vs label sheets) and scotched taped them onto the baskets of my upright freezer.

  23. says

    Love the pantry redo. Newly organized spaces make me giddy. A little detail I noticed – your broom (maybe it’s a mop?) hanging on a hook on the wall. I had mine hanging the same way and was always frustrated trying to take it down because I had to swing the bottom of the broom all the way out to get the top up and off the hook. Simple solution: an expensive loose leaf binder ring from any office supply store. Clip it through the hole on your broom handle and hang it on the hook. Then hang the ring back on your hook. Problem solved.

  24. Tracey says

    Awesome job! Wanted to say thanks…for all the things you share with everyone. I started following your posts. I have tried many of your DIY recipes..including the homemade laundry soap (just switched from the cook method to the mix with Dawn method). You have truly been an inspiration, and I look forward to all the new things you share!

  25. Erica says

    I’ve been scouring the web today looking for ideas for my pantry. Mine is much like yours. except mine is 22 inches deep by 23 wide…who thought of THAT brilliant plan?! A square pantry? really?

    so with some modifications….to my super unusable deep shelves..I’m going all in! I’m dragging all my stuff out today and going to cut my shelves down to a more reasonable depth…and organize it. I have tons of the modular containers from tupperware that are just empty sitting on my “plastics shelf” (…a task for another day!) and because I’m a “container person” I have tons of big plastic jars, storage crates, baskets and the like…just sitting empty in the garage in the “storage closet” (again…project for another day. LOL).

    Thank you for posting. Yours is the ONLY pantry I found that was even close to mine in shape/design.

    My natural instinct is to just take a sledgehammer to the wall of it..and open it up completely, hubby would have a stroke and I’m hardly a neat person when it comes to the pantry so I need it to have a door i can close when I’m not so tidy….so your makeover is an inspiration and I’m sure hubby thanks you as well because he won’t be coming home to a giant hole in the wall and me covered in plaster!

  26. Susie says

    3M now makes post-it notes that are completely sticky on the back that you could use as labels on canisters. Easily removable and you don’t have to use the tape with a regular post-it note!

  27. judy mainord malone says

    love that yours are realistic. We don’t eat the best (although we try to balance some things), we are on budgets, we have kids, grandkids, and pets and family issues, but we keep on going. We aren’t going to win
    some contest where you have a room completely redecorated, much less a total house.
    So, thanks for keeping it REAL and easy enough we don’t get overwhelmed.

  28. Nan says

    You have inspired me to finish the ret of my pantry. I have gotten rid of a lot of boxes, but need to complete the job and I also use the wire racks for cans. Thanks for the pictures, they will help me finish my pantry!

  29. Jodi D says

    Very nice makeover….glad to know I’m not the only one with insulin pump supplies taking up valuable space! Love those glass containers….must look for them next time I am near Wal-Mart!

  30. Comet says

    The same people that make the Mason Jars (BALL CO) also now make a label that DISSOLVES when it goes thru the dishwasher or in the sink! They are cute enough for pantry use and can be found at Walmart in the canning section or you can get them on line.

    Thanks for the “real life” mention of pump supplies! I actually bought a book case for mine when somehow I ended up with way too many boxes of STUFF. And a tote with the “extras” and manuals etc. Something to think about tho–if the box is open and you need to return them due to a recall or if you have to switch the infusion set type—the Medtronic Co (our brand) will NOT take them back. What I do now is store all but the open box in use on the book case and then the open ones go in a small tote I keep on the table with my meter etc. My grand daughter is “in charge” (at age 5!) of keeping these “topped up” for me and actually does the ENTIRE procedure of filling and testing FOR me!

    I too have the small but–how can this even BE???!!!–annoyingly deep pantry. We made deep shelves to fit as the space was just built as an open==closet? In the kitchen? Who knows. But recently I have been thinking of taking out the first foot or so to make it more accessible and to prevent the loss of things that get shoved to the back and forgotten about. I used to have a pantry about the same size with the shelves in a “U” shape but no taller boxes or wide jars could fit!

    Another idea I use is to have a metal “utility shelf” (I was lucky enough to find some in pale blue) that I put in the “dead end” area of my back hall. This whole space is oddly shaped because it was meant to be one room and instead the people who bought the modular house decided to put a basement under there and kinda butchered the design. So—I use the on the side of the stairs area as shelving and the metal shelf for canned goods etc with the wire shelves and can-stackers—which are kinda a waste of space because the base is closed–but I have seen newer ones where the base is open for storage. I also added a pair of the nice chrome wire shelves for storage of bird and cat food and driveway salt and other household bulky items; a stacking bin for guinea pig and one dogs food, and a tall narrow tote box for the other dog food! And it is still a mess! I never sem to be able to get ALL of the items organized so they STAY that way!

    The wire shelves that slide OVER the shelf and hang UNDER the shelf are genius! I use them for baking pans–my glass ones!- and small things like cup cake wrappers etc. (Also in the linen closet for odd stuff)

    IKEA has a metal shelf “set” that has a BAR FOOT and can sit on the wire shelves and not fall thru. This has a set-back top shelf and the base is open so you can put say that double can of peaches under there and then move it up when you use the first one. I have these on my counter for my spices and soy sauce etc next to my stove. Since the one side is open I can store other small things under there like matches and little used spices and dupes and the kitchen timer. If you don’t have the space to use both of these at once you can use them seperatly. They are enameled so they wipe clean in a sec. Love IKEA– wish I lived closer!!!

    Thanks for inspiration—I was wondering what to do with the clear plastic bottles my bird food comes in (cockatiel food) and since they have nice wide tops I have been saving them–now I know what to DO with them! I also had the idea to be able to dump several packages of say pasta into one big jar—and measure in CUPS how much is in one POUND and put THAT measurement on the jar. So when the recipe says “Boil one pound of penne” all you would have to do is scoop out of your beautiful clear container!

    The other project I have in mind is some form of rolling bins for the BOTTOM (floor) for pots and pans. I am handicapped and getting things up off the floor–and leaning in that cramped space!- is a problem. I have seen these bins pre-made but they cost a bunch—my idea is to get some castors and put them on the bottom of some vintage crates. That way I can have the huge pots at the back where they can hang out until needed and the everyday large pots at my finger tips.

  31. Jessica says

    I think the best thing that ever happened to my pantry was hanging one of those shoe storage things onto the door. All the pockets are the perfect size for bags of beans, rice, popcorn, and all those different tiny little bags of gluten free flour I use, with out the expense of jars. Its really easy to see them all this way, and gives me loads more shelf space for cans.

  32. says

    okay 1st.. You said not to make mention but i have to My Family Would DIE to Have a pantry with the Food you have there!! (since i am in a very strict Diet Not for loosing weight but for my Health I dont normally purchase anything besides fruits and vegetables to snack on.. they hate it lol)
    I especially love it because thats exactly the things i would have in my pantry about 2 months ago.
    2nd Thank you i had recently seen a blog where they had a Pantry makeover… and though i was very exited to start it i was getting very discouraged because even though I did think about doing it slowly I honestly thought just Taking the plunge and spending all the money upfront was better.
    Also it was scary to think how MUCH they actually spend versus how much I ACTUALLY WANTED TO SPEND on it.. They paid like $5-8 for a single container!!!! and brand new baskets from Hobby Lobby!!! I was seriously discouraged bc that was not in the budget.
    SO Thank You Thank You THANK YOU for re-encouraging me knowing that i could still make over my pantry for efficiency and looks i could also gradually and financially do this..

  33. Trish says

    hello- just wanted to say that YOU ARE A ROCK STAR for coming up with this. I used your blog as my “redo pantry bible” this weekend and am almost done. YOUR ideas just make sense and are so doable. THANK YOU for sharing!


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