Is your stockpile of canned goods totally disorganized? Here are great ways to organize cans in a small pantry so you’ll have plenty of room for the rest of your food.
When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, canned food was a staple in our pantry.
If I wanted to eat peaches in the winter, popping open a can was the only choice because either there weren’t any fresh in the grocery store or they were too expensive.
Now that I’m a mom with plenty of access to fresh fruits and veggies (under normal circumstances), our pantry doesn’t have many cans beyond soup, and fixings for chili.
But as I’m writing this right now, circumstances aren’t normal.
Social distancing rules mean we can’t shop for groceries as often as we did before, and when we do, fresh produce is frequently sold out.
Like us, you may be using more non-perishable food than ever before – and wondering how to organize canned goods so you can fit more in your small pantry.
I’m passionate about finding simple ways to declutter and organize our home, so that’s why I researched the best ways to organize cans and storage containers that make it quick and easy for you to find what you need.
What You Should Do Before Organizing Canned Goods
Never, ever organize canned food (or anything else for that matter!) until you declutter them first.
Our April Decluttering Challenge is all about the pantry because it’s important to throw away expired or stale food. Do you want to feed your family beans that are seven years old?
Nope, I didn’t think so.
How to Start Organizing Cans in the Pantry
There are easy steps you should take before buying anyingthing to keep your canned foods organized. Trust me, you’ll thank me later when you haven’t wasted money on things you don’t need!
First, group your canned goods by category, such as soups, veggies, fruits, and sauces.
2. Sort by expiration date.
Put the canned goods set to expire soonest at the front so you’re more likely to use them first.
3. Decide what to donate
Food pantries are desperate for donations, and there are families who may love the food that your family doesn’t like.
Whether you bought more cans of beans than you needed for that chili recipe, or if your kids made it clear that they hate beans, bring them to your local food pantry.
Never donate expired food! If you wouldn’t serve if to your family because it expired, don’t donate it.
I’ve volunteered at a food pantry and was shocked at the age of some of the donated food. We had to throw it all away because it wasn’t safe to eat.
Quick tip: Never donate expired food. If you wouldn’t feed it to your family, other moms won’t either.
4. Throw it out
If you need to throw away the food, do it responsibly: Open the can and discard the contents, then wash and recycle the can.
Tips for Buying the Right Storage for Cans
After decluttering your pantry, it’s time to find the best storage for cans that will maximize the space in your small pantry.
Avoid wasting time and money by spending a few minutes to:
- Measure your shelf space: width, depth, and distance between shelves
- Count how many cans you have now. Is this the typical amount, or do you usually keep more in stock?
- What size are most of your cans? A large can of whole tomatoes may need a different organizer than small cans of tomato paste.
Now that you’ve done all that, it’s time to go shopping for can organizers and whip your pantry into shape!
10 Ways to Organize Cans In a Small Pantry That Will Maximize Space
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Overdoor Shoe Pocket Organizer
Overdoor Basket System
A metal overdoor basket system is another great way to organize cans in a small pantry, and it’s helpful for lots of other pantry items, too. Our Elfa system from The Container Store is a serious space-saver that holds bottles, cans, dry goods, and loads more.
Bins or Baskets to Sort Cans by Category
Organize canned food by category in clear plastic bins or any kind of basket to make it easy to find what you need. The Dollar Tree has a great selection of plastic bins that are perfect for storing cans anything else in your pantry.
Tiered Shelf Organizer
Don’t you just hate not being able to see what’s in the back of the shelf? A tiered shelf organizer makes it easy to see which canned foods you already have.
Quick tip: Put cans that expire first in the front row!
An expandable shelf organizer like ours (from The Container Store, here’s a similar one) is easy to adjust for the width of your pantry. Be sure to measure the depth of your shelves, too, to ensure a proper fit.
Under-shelf Storage Basket
An under-shelf storage basket is a simple and fast way to organize cans if your pantry shelves are spaced far apart. No more wasted space!
Another option is to add stackable shelves in your small pantry to create more storage for cans.
Two-tiered Lazy Susan in Blind Corners
Does your pantry have a blind spot or an awkward corner? Try a small two-tiered lazy susan for cans and spices.
Sliding Basket Drawers
Try organizing small cans (like tomato paste and chilies) in sliding pull-out basket drawers.
Wide Can Dispenser
A wide can dispenser like this one will organize your whole shelf.
Slim Can Dispenser
Maximize a skinny space in your pantry with a slim can dispenser like this one. You could even try using a magazine organizer for a similar storage option.
Canned Food Storage Ideas That Work for Your Pantry
If you have more canned food in your pantry now than you usually do, don’t over-invest in storage containers. Otherwise, when life gets back to normal, those containers will turn into clutter!
And remember: before you organize all those cans, declutter them responsibly, first.
More Kitchen Organization Ideas
- 9 Clever Cookbook Storage Ideas to Try In Your Kitchen
- 5 Smart Ways to Organize Cleaning Supplies Under the Kitchen Sink
- 5 Broom Closet Organization Ideas to Simplify Your Cleaning Routine
- How to Organize Loose Recipes with 5 Simple But Brilliant Ideas