How to Organize a Pantry With Wire Shelves

Get the help you need to organize a pantry with wire shelves. Just because you have wires doesn’t mean all is lost. I have a few tips that might help you to organize your pantry into one you love. One that will streamline your kitchen into one you love to cook in.

This is just one pantry organization tip that will help you finally streamline how you store your food.

how to organize a pantry with wire shelving

You know the old saying, “Waste not, Want not”?

I think that was started in the kitchen, and over the years, that saying has become so ingrained in my head that I find it almost painful to throw anything food-related away.

Back when my family was still young and living at home, and we were “eating” paycheck to paycheck, I learned to be pretty frugal. And that meant I found some crazy ways to repurpose our food. Things like less-than-optimal produce or random leftovers were no match for me. I could turn those into an amazing soup or a delicious casserole in no time flat.

woman cooking soup from an organized pantry

Dry food, on the other hand….now, that was another story.

I tried hard to be organized with our food, but things magically got lost in those back, dark corners of my cabinets. Time after time, without realizing it, I was wasting money on food long past the sell-by date.

That is when I told my hubby I needed a pantry. A place to hold all of my food in one location so I could keep a better eye on things. This would then help me to use up those canned and packeted food items before they expired.

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This request took a few years to fill, but finally, when we were forced to relocate my laundry room to the basement, he offered that area as my new walk-in pantry.

Needless to say, I jumped at the offer, and within a week I had wire shelving units purchased and set into place. New rugs were put down on the floors, and the walls were freshly painted.

Never once during my new pantry setup did I think about how the setup I was creating would work. To be honest, I had no idea that storing cans on wire shelving would be something that would annoy me to no end.

falled cans in a messy pantry

For a long time, I fought with domino-falling soup cans. If I would grab a can of beans, 7 more cans would topple over, leaving a mess and risking a broken toe. But it was more than those cans that were giving me headaches, the same issues were happening with cereal boxes falling over with one small bump. And don’t even get me started on the soup and seasoning packets.

They would constantly fall through the rungs all the way down to the floor.

Walking into my pantry was a balancing act that I worked hard to perfect so I would not accidentally bump into anything, causing a cascade of cans and boxes around my feet.

empty boxes on a pantry floor

Unfortunately, replacing the shelving was not in the budget, so I had to find another way to keep things in their place.

At first, it was all trial and error.

I tried many different solutions, and some worked better than others. Thankfully what I have now is my top winner’s list, my fast and easy way to systemize a food pantry so you can stop wasting money on outdated food.

woman putting cans in a basket in a pantry

How to Organize a Pantry with Wire Shelves

As you can imagine, the biggest issue with wire shelving is the uneven surface. If you can solve that issue, you are on your way to becoming organized and streamlined. I have a few ideas that have worked for me over the years.

Find the ones that work best for you and get another step closer to a pantry that is neat and easy to keep that way.

Pantry Solution #1.  Plexiglass

This is the best way, in my opinion, to give a more stable surface to wire shelving. You can purchase plexiglass at any hardware store or online. Look for sheets that fit the shelf, so you are not faced with the job of cutting larger pieces to fit. A good size of plexiglass is 8×10 or 8×12. 

cans on plexiglass in a pantry

Pros: Plexiglass is easy to keep clean, lightweight to use, and in most cases, inexpensive to buy. Just a few sheets on each shelf and you will create a more stable surface that will more easily hold just about anything. 

Cons: It can be tricky to categorize things. Labeling isn’t the easiest on flat shelving, and you might struggle to keep things in place, remembering what belongs where. Why is this important?

Having specific areas for different categories of food will make list-making easier and dinner prep a breeze. 

Pantry Solution #2.  Baskets

Baskets can work well in a pantry with wire shelving; before buying, look to see if you have any on hand that you can use. Wicker baskets can catch on the wire shelving, so the flatter the bottom of the basket, the better it will do.

Another thing to keep in mind is the strength of the basket. Food can be quite heavy, so a sturdy basket will help you and last the longest, holding up better to constant use. 

baskets with soup cans on a pantry shelf

Pros: Baskets are a great way to contain cans and small boxes. You can also organize easier by keeping like items together in each basket and labeling them by category. A few ideas are:

  • Pasta
  • Soup/Broth
  • Rice/Potatoes
  • Snacks

The best way to label a basket made of wicker, use a card and tie it on with a bit of string. Labels are your friend with any system you put into place. They remind not only you but your entire family as to what belongs where.

Cons: Baskets can be hard to slide on the wire shelving, making them easier to snag, catch, and possibly snap if you are not careful. Baskets, especially wicker ones, may not be hardy enough to handle many cans.

The weight can weaken the frame causing the basket to crack or break. Not a deal-breaker, but something to keep in mind if you choose to use them in your pantry. 

Pantry Solution #3.  Boxes

If you want to save money on pantry organizers, do what you can to use what you already have. Boxes are a great option, especially if you are just trying something out. When I first tried boxes in my pantry, I used extra shoe boxes I had lying around. I found they were not quite sturdy enough for heavy items such as large cans.

Later I switched up to photo boxes that I found empty in my attic. Photo boxes are a bit sturdier and did better, lasting longer. If you are looking for a quick fix that is free, then boxes will be a great option to try out. 

Pros: I am sure most of us have a collection of boxes in our homes, making this another affordable organizing solution. Another plus is the different sizes available which will help you to more easily find a box that fits the size of shelving you have to organize. Another plus is that you can label boxes more easily using tags or stickers. Too much? Just label by writing directly on the box itself.

If brown boxes are all you have, you can take it one step further and cover your boxes in contact paper that will pretty things up. The paper will also add a bit of reinforcement to the box, and the paper is easy to wipe down and keep clean. 

Cons: Cardboard boxes are not the sturdiest option around. Boxes can get damaged quickly, especially if they are being slid in and out often. Also, most boxes come without handles. Yes, you can add some but this may weaken them even more.

How to Organize a Pantry Floor 

Pantry Solution #4.  Plastic Bins

Plastic bins and baskets are my favorite organizers to use not only in a pantry but just about anywhere in a home. Not only are bins sturdy and easy to slide in and out they are many styles and options on the market, meaning you can find just about any style, color, or size.

This allows your personality to show, and you can liven up a dull pantry in no time.

using bins to organize a pantry with wire shelves

Pros: Plastic bins are a much sturdier option to use, but this all depends on the thickness of the bin itself. Bins will hold up well even when filled with heavy soup cans or large sauce jars.

By getting bins with high sides, you can trust that even those glass jars will not topple out. Most bins come with handles, making them easy to slide in and out so you can easily reach what you need. This can be done without the risk of snagging on the wire shelf since plastic bins have smooth bottoms. 

Labels can be added easily either with a sticker label or tied on with a string. This again will help you to know exactly what is inside without having to look every time you need something.

Cons: These bins can be a cost investment ranging from $3-$10 each. What you spend all depends on what you are looking for. The bins I use in my pantry were $3 for the small size and $5 for the larger size.

This made the total cost of my pantry organizing project close to $75+. However, the look of the bins is something I love, and for me, the cost was totally worth it. Remember, I started out using free boxes, and yes, it took me some time to save up the money to invest in this much sturdier option. 

organize a pantry with wire shelves

Pantry Solution #5. Lazy Susans

Not only do lazy susans work well on wire shelves they also do great in a corner. Corners are tricky, let’s face it, so if you can find a simple and affordable way to streamline that spot, that’s a win in my book. 

lazy susan soup pantry

A lazy Susan can be a great way to hold jars of baby food, cans of veggies or fruit, spices, and so much more. 

D/M Pro Tip: If you do not want to purchase a lazy Susan, you can make one. Put a round cake pan in another cake pan separated by a few marbles. The marbles will let the top pan move so you can spin and see what you have stored in the top pan. This is a great way to test this organizer before you invest in buying one that fits your style, as they can get a bit pricey. 

Pantry Solution #6. Shelving Risers

I never was a big fan of shelving risers or “stadium shelving” until I tried them myself, and let me say they are a great way to add more space to a shelf or counter. Risers are also perfect for wire shelving giving you the stability you are looking for along with more storage.

The shelves raise up with each section a bit higher than the one in front. This helps you to see all the items you have without having to move and shuffle things around. 

Labels are your friend no matter what option you use to organize your pantry shelves.

There are many different styles of labels that you can use to map out your shelves, bins, and baskets. The type that you chose will all depend on what you like. If simple is a good fit for you, then stick-on labels from a label maker may be the best way to go. 

If pretty helps you to keep things put away, then special labels with scalloped edges may be a better option. 

Why are labels so important in a pantry?

To know the answer to that question, let’s recap why we organize in the first place. We organize so it is easy for us to find what we need quickly and put those items away just as easily when we are done using them. 

When things are put away, clutter is eliminated. Organizing is our way of creating a home for all of our things. Labels are an added trick we use to ensure we are always putting out stuff all the way away. Remembering what belongs where can be tricky, especially at the beginning of a new setup. Labels will make it easier to quickly put your things away. 


What style works best for you?

When setting your pantry up, it is important to remember what your organizing mentality is.

Option #1. If you require a few steps, you will want to choose tools that help you quickly get what you need.

Option #2. If pretty is more your speed, then looks should be first on your list when choosing an organizer.

woman using a pantry paper towels

Don’t overlook this part of organizing no matter what the size of your project is. If you do not take into account your organizing mentality, you may find your new setup too hard to stick to. And if you don’t stick with it you will find your pantry a mess in no time.

Now that you have some simple tips on organizing a pantry with wire shelves, you are on your way to a streamlined pantry. This also means you are ready to move on to another decluttering project. So, let’s dive into that kitchen.

Head on over and get ready to clean out your kitchen. The most important room in the home and a great place to begin creating a home you love.

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2 Comments

  1. I definitely love the plexiglass for the wire shelving
    I also purchased the plastic bins in the same color you showed
    I can’t believe the difference these 2 suggestions made in my pantry

    Now I have to get the labels done
    Thanks for all your ideas
    They are amazing

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