Deep Shelf Chaos in the Pantry, Get Organized!

The key to organizing deep pantry shelves is deciding how you're going to get to the back of the shelf.  By using a system of layering, sub-dividing space, and using smart pantry accessories, order can come out of chaos. Use the following techniques to create a plan to access your deep pantry space.

How to organize deep pantry shelves, spaces, and cabinets

Twenty-four inch deep base cabinets might be OK for your kitchen, but deep shelves are a disaster in a pantry.  Deep pantry shelves mean big, empty spaces to make sense of.  The best approach is to use these organization strategies:

Solution 1:  Layered pantry storage

Pantry shelf organizers are commonly 12"-14" deep.  This doesn't seem to solve the problem of organizing a 24" deep cabinet. 

The answer is layering:  one organizer is placed in the front and another in the back.  The front organizer is removed to gain access to the back food items.  Ideally, the back items would be less frequently used and the front organizer would be easy to remove.

Hey! Don't miss the opportunity to find more pantry space, just by being more efficient with your pantry shelf spacing. If you think this is part of your problem, check out the shelf spacing examples and guides included in our "Pantry Shelf Planning Bundle!"

No time to read this article? Grab the "Ultimate Pantry Shelf Planning Bundle" and start planning and finding more space in your pantry today!

Examples of pantry layering strategies

  • open basket bin in the front, stepped shelves in the back
  • Lazy Susan in the front
  • cookbooks placed in back, storage containers in front
  • confine bulky items to back layer (woks, bread machines, roasters, crockpots, and slow cookers)
  • use a cabinet with wheels to roll out of the way to access back storage on the floor
Examples of layering storage organzers on deep pantry shelves.

Examples of layering storage organzers on deep pantry shelves.

Solution 2: Long and narrow pantry storage

Compare the length of your arm to the depth of a deep pantry shelf.  This is a very inconvenient reach!  Long baskets/containers are useful to pull out and off of a pantry shelf, bringing food items closer. They're a great way to fully utilize shelves with longer depths. It's important when using long storage that it is not too wide. A narrow depth limits storage in a good way, preventing the container from being too heavy.

Narrow pantry storage idea for deep shelves

Sixteen inch long pantry baskets and containers nicely fill deep shelves. Often, there is extra space and a small bin can be added in the front. Less-used, larger cans and bottles can be put behind the baskets, maximizing every inch of storage.

Examples of long pantry storage containers for deep shelves.

Examples of long pantry storage containers for deep shelves.

Other narrow storage solutions

Besides long pantry containers, there aren't many solutions that are manufactured for deep and narrow pantry organization. A resourceful pantry owner can get creative! Plant trays from window boxes or garden tins can reach greater depths. Narrow plant trays can be placed side-by-side, two to a shelf.

Clever crafters on Etsy will even create custom-size tins to fit your specific needs. The picture below shows a lid from a narrow tote turned over and put into use. A serving tray works just as well. Look around your home and you're likely to find more options.

Deep shelf pantry helpers

Deep shelf pantry helpers.

Solution 3:  Pull out/roll shelves and drawers glide food items to you

Install a pull-out or roll-out shelving kit and access back items more easily on stationary shelves. A 24" stationary deep shelf would be too deep for a pull out drawer.  If you have a 16"-20" deep drawer, consider installing a pull out drawer like Rev-a-Shelf.

Installed shelf kit for deep pantry shelves.

Installed shelf kit for deep pantry shelves.

Solution 4:  Sub-divide pantry space

A successful strategy is to add smaller baskets/containers to break up large areas of space, as demonstrated in the photos below.

There are all kinds of pantry shelf organizers: containers, roll out drawers, lazy susans, and rolling cabinets that are designed to make pantry life better.

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No time to read this article? Grab the "Ultimate Pantry Shelf Planning Bundle" and start planning and finding more space in your pantry today!

Special mention:  deep pantry roll-out shelves in cabinets

Deep pantry roll out shelves already come with amazing (but deep) pull out drawers with shallow sides. They pull out, allowing the homeowner to see everything. Deep pantry cabinets will often crop up along either side of a refrigerator of the same depth.  It makes perfect sense to locate dry food goods next to cool food storage for ultimate convenience.  From a design standpoint, this arrangement effectively minimizes the large and ominous presence of a 29 cubic foot refrigerator. The illusion is quickly shattered when the first load of groceries ends up in a hopeless pile inside the cabinet.

Roll-out pantry shelves with subdivided space.

Roll-out pantry shelves with subdivided space.

Pantries that grace the size of refrigerators (typically 24" deep) are equipped with strong, heavy-duty slides to bear the load of the drawer contents. Many pantry owners enjoy rolling out the long drawers and glancing over a a food selection; it's figuring out how to stop the food items from "swimming" around that is vexing.

Embrace the space! 

Anything that can be done to get pantry goods more easily out of deep spaces will make life easier.  Don't forget that adequate lighting is just as an important factor as good organization is. Proper lighting will nicely light up those dark corners and recesses of a deep pantry.  

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. Years of being a stay-at-home mom and supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

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