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Tips and Tricks for Organizing a Small Pantry (Or No Pantry!)

Having a small pantry, or worse no pantry, is the pits… Trust me, I live with it every day — but I’ve got some tips for organizing a small pantry to share that definitely will help make it more manageable!

pantry ingredients organized in Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE food storage containers

This post has been sponsored by Rubbermaid. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but our house doesn’t have a pantry. It is truly the bane of my existence. I mean, why would any architect design a house of this size without one? Where am I supposed to put our weekly groceries, let alone anything I might want to stockpile? Especially when I’m trying to feed a family of seven…

I’ve learned to make do with a heavy-duty set of shelves in our laundry room, plus the lazy Susan near my stove and a couple of cabinets in my kitchen that I’ve designated as my “baking pantry”. It’s FAR from my ideal, but until we save up for a major kitchen renovation, it’s my reality.

disorganized baking pantry before image

My baking pantry is where I store all of my favorite ingredients for baking cookies, cakes, quick breads (and other bread loaves), and desserts. To be fair, my girls do the bulk of my baking these days, but I try to keep pretty good tabs on the ingredients so that we’re always well stocked.

Keeping it well organized? Well, that’s another story… It’s not completely out of control, but my current storage system is SO not user-friendly. A few years ago, after trolling Pinterest (of course!), I got it in my head that my baking pantry NEEDED some of those gorgeous flip-top French glass jars to store my ingredients.

trying to measure sugar out of a large Le Parfait ja

So on a whim, I spent a small fortune on a few of the largest jars and sold my large glass canisters in a garage sale. And every. single. day. I kick myself for being so impulsive. I knew I was flinging my 3-step organization process (more on this in a moment) out the window, but I didn’t care — because I figured all of these Pinterest people couldn’t be wrong. Right?

Yeah, I quickly discovered that, while very beautiful, these jars are flat out awkward and inconvenient. These people clearly do not bake — or perhaps they have a hidden stash of other containers where they keep their working ingredients. Or maybe they’re just willing to overlook the negatives to keep all the pretty. BUT I’M NOT!

One of the biggest pain points is that my measuring cups don’t fit down into them, making measuring ingredients difficult at best. Bummer! My girls end up scattering sugar and flour everywhere when they bake. The mess is totally NOT worth the aesthetic beauty. AND when I pulled one of them out to shoot the image above, I noticed a large chip on the rim. My girls don’t recall doing it, and I couldn’t find the broken piece anywhere, so I had to throw out the contents and the jar. So there’s that, too…


Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE food storage containers in packaging

I knew it was time to look for a better solution, and did I ever find one! Have you seen the new Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE™ pantry line, yet? This stuff is drool-worthy! My photos definitely do not do it justice. We’re talking crystal-clear BPA-free acrylic food storage containers with airtight (and leak proof!) lids that lock into place. It was totally love at first sight!

Rubbermaid has quite the range of sizes in the BRILLIANCE™ line. They basically offer the perfect size for just about any ingredient you might need to store, keeping everything fresh and accessible. You can find the Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ containers at your local Meijer, Walmart, or Bed Bath & Beyond, or order them on Amazon!

transferring baking ingredients to new Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE food storage containers

Most of the containers come with suggested uses on the labels. However, I’m not one to follow convention, so you’ll find chocolate chips in my “grains” container, cornmeal in my “spaghetti’ container, and all-purpose flour in my “cereal” container. No worries — the system is completely flexible!

The designated BRILLIANCE™ Pantry set comes with four containers of various sizes: one 3.2-cups container, one 7.8-cups “brown sugar” container, one 12-cups “sugar” container, and one 16-cups “flour” container. These four containers stack together perfectly, and when you add the three other containers I mentioned above, plus a small 1.3-cups container, you end up with a complete set that lines up just right. You type-A folks will be pleased to note that I actually did put my brown sugar in the “brown sugar” container — but then I changed the rest up, mainly based on the quantities I had on hand for each ingredient.

baking ingredients organized in Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE food storage containers

3 Steps To An Organized Pantry (Or Cabinet)

I’m no organizing expert, but I have learned a few things over the years, including that it’s perfectly okay to use items other than for their intended purpose (see above). Beyond that, there are three steps I try to stick to when organizing anything.

1| Pull everything out. Yes, I mean everything! Just set it all on the counter for now. Resist the temptation to pick through it as you’re removing it — it just slows down the process.

2| Don’t even think about shopping for an organizational system without a plan. You work hard for your money, right? So don’t waste it on items that are unnecessary or that are a less than ideal size. Chances are you’ll just be stuck trying to force your space to work with a system that’s not the best fit.

3| Return the items to their homes, making sure to arrange everything where you can see it. Being able to see everything at a glance prevents you from buying items you already have on hand, and it allows you to easily see when it’s time to stock back up again.

brown sugar in a Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE food storage container with a terra cotta brown sugar saver

I know these steps probably seem pretty basic, but I often find organization projects overwhelming. Simplifying the process in this manner really helps me dive in and get the job done.

P.S. If you don’t have one of these terra cotta brown sugar savers, you NEED one! Your brown sugar will never be rock hard again, especially when you pair it with a BRILLIANCE™ container.

small pantry organization tips and tricks

Small Pantry Organization Tips & Tricks

If you have a small pantry (or just a cabinet like me!), there are a surprising number of ways you can really maximize your space. I wasn’t able to implement them all in this area, but you can pick and choose what works for you.

1| Baskets and bins are great for corralling random items that will otherwise just get knocked around. One has all of my sprinkles, another baking bars and cocoa powder, and the last has cupcake liners and a lone stick of shortening. We actually used these as Easter baskets for the kids one year, and then I collected them to use in the kitchen.

2| Risers, like this bamboo shelf are perfect for smaller items that are used frequently. I keep my baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, honey, etc. on mine so I can see everything at a glance. If you have more space, they also make extendable riser shelves that you can expand to fit.

3| If you have adjustable shelves in your pantry, adjust their height to fit your organization system. I’m always surprised to see how much more I can fit when I make the space work for me, instead of trying to make my system fit the space.

4| My cabinets are fairly shallow, but if you have deeper shelves, consider organizing your items in a U-shape with the largest items in the back. You’ll be able to see everything at once, instead of finding three bags of sugar you didn’t know you already had on hand hiding in the back a year later.

5| Look for ways to capitalize on unused space. If you have empty wall space, you could hang small organizing bins for spices and other small items. Or think about adding bins or hooks to the inside of pantry or cabinet doors. I’ve even seen others make use of shoe organizers on the inside of pantry doors. Get creative!

RELATED: How To Make DIY Cupcake Liners & Muffin Cups With Parchment Paper


organized pantry cabinet with Rubbermaid BRILLIANCE food storage containers and plastic baskets

Ahh, much better… And I’m pleased to say that my measuring cups fit the BRILLIANCE™ containers, well, brilliantly! It’s always fun to start the new year with a successful organizing project. I just need to pick up a couple more containers for my self-rising and white whole wheat flours, and then I can move on to another cabinet in need of an overhaul. Which leads to my final tip, my friends — one space at a time is the way to do it!

where to buy Rubbermaid Brilliance products

Do you have any additional tips or tricks for organizing a small pantry (or no pantry)? Share the wealth in the comments below!

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Thursday 23rd of January 2020

A tip that I have. If you don’t have the brown sugar saver, which I love, put in one slice of bread.


Saturday 20th of January 2018

Tara, I love your organization tips!!! A couple of tips that I have. If you don't have the brown sugar saver, which I love, put in one slice of bread. The bread will get rock hard and your brown sugar with be nice and soft. This year I took my shoe rack and hung it inside the door of our coat closet. In each pocket is a pair of gloves, scarves or hats. Everyone knows where to look and we no longer have to hunt for them. Especially at the bottom of the closet!! One more tip would be for your spices, which I created, and absolutely love to pieces. You can see it here!