Maximizing Cupboard Space


I posted this picture on Instagram last week, and had a number of people ask to see pictures of my cupboards to see how I store food if I’m not using the packaging in which it came.

My general rule of thumb is that if an item’s contents will be opened and used entirely at once, then I store it in it’s packaging (i.e. spaghetti noodles).  If the box is opened and not emptied in one use, then the packaging is tossed, and I find a place for the contents in my “pantry” (I’m not really sure what constitutes a “pantry”.  We have one wall cabinet and 3 drawers that I call our pantry, which is basically dry food storage.  Pantry just sounds so much better.)  Also, if the contents are individually wrapped items (i.e. granola bars, go-gurts, etc.), then I throw the packaging.

So, here are pictures of my pantry.  You can see how I’ve stored all the food whose packaging gets tossed when I put groceries away.

I’ve mentioned these containers before and love them.  They come in three sizes, and I use all three.  The uniformity of their size makes them stackable, which is really nice.  As you can see, I have them stacked two deep, but that means to get to a container in the back and on the bottom, I only have to move two items, which is super easy and quick.

It’s also very easy and quick to change their contents, which I do often.  I don’t always have the same thing in my cupboard, so their contents get shifted frequently.  They are dishwasher safe, so when a container is emptied, I stick it in the dishwasher and it’s ready for the next item whenever that comes.  I use these labels because they’re also easy to change.  Even if my labels were permanent, I probably would still just hand-write them, but especially because they get changed all the time, I just use a sharpie and slap the label on there.  The entire back of these labels is adhesive, but they’re post-it’s, so they come off easily and don’t leave any residue.

I bought this 3-tied, expandable shelf for our canned goods.  As you can see, we don’t have a ton of canned food, so this shelf provides all the space we need.  The fact that this is expandable (from side to side) is the game changer because it essentially makes your cupboard storage customized to the size you have and maximizes every inch.  If there were one organizing tool that I think every kitchen should have, this is it.  It’s the most impact for your money.

I can barely reach our top shelf, so it houses the items that I don’t need access to frequently – or the things that are large enough for me to barely grab in order to get them down (the cereal containers).  As you can see, I store baking mixes in their boxes because I will use the entire box when I open it.

Our pantry cupboard from top to bottom.

This is the top drawer in our pantry.  As you can see, it is mostly our individually wrapped products.  My 3-year old calls the snack drawer, but I call it the ‘anything individually wrapped that is shallow’ drawer.  That doesn’t have the same ring to it.  The drawer dividers that I use in this drawer are a mix of these gray containers rom Target and these white containers from Ikea.

Our middle pantry drawer is a lot deeper, so houses our individually wrapped stuff that is a little large and our non-refrigerated produce.  The tangerines are stored in a leftover container, and the apples, pears & bananas (of which I did not buy enough of this week…. Oops), are stored in this container.  The hodgepodge of snacks on the right side are stored using another one of the Target containers.

The bottom drawer is even deeper than the middle, and is perfect for bulkier items.  We put cereal that doesn’t fit in the cupboard, along with bread, bagels, and chips.  As you can see, it also houses our toaster because I don’t like things on my counter, and, if you’re bending down to grab a bagel, it doesn’t take any more effort to grab the toaster with it.

The refrigerator in our old house didn’t have one of these drawers, and I hated it.  When we went fridge shopping for the new house, this was on my must list.  I hate that the manufacturers call this a Party Tray drawer, because I don’t know a single person who uses this drawer for party trays.  Or who has a need for that.  I’m sure there are people who do, but I’m going to guess that they are in the minority.  This is our ‘stuff that’s flat and small’ drawer, which, as you can see, is mostly meats and cheeses.  I’ve thought about getting something to contain the string cheese and go-gurts, but haven’t found anything that fits perfectly and wouldn’t waste space, so, for now, they just sit there.  And it works fine.  If you use this drawer space well in your fridge, you can store A LOT of stuff in here.


So, there it is.  Our not-at-all fancy, but efficient food storage.  When you look at these pictures or read my explanations as to why I did what I did, what made you think “This will never work in my house” and why?  I’d be curious to know – and maybe even help you think through a solution for that.

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