How to Organize Cans in a Pantry

Get tips on how to organize cans in a pantry so you can ensure you are using things up before they expire. These tips are meant to be easy so you can start using them today.

A great tip to use on your journey full pantry organization so you can love this area in your home.

The Trick to Organizing Cans in a pantry

Canned goods can be quite heavy so much so that I remember when I was little, my mom would use soup cans as arm weights. She would stand there with a family-sized can of chicken noodle soup in each hand pumping away to a workout show on our small black and white television in the kitchen.

Another memory is one of checkout clerks putting a dozen cans of sauce in one bag leaving you alone to lug it to your car and then into your house. Then hoping that the bag would not tear crushing your toe under a pound of tomato sauce. 

Yes, cans are heavy but they are also pretty amazing. To have food in your pantry that can last years without spoiling is something my great-grandparents could only dream off. 

Storing cans may not seem like a project worth your attention but actually, it is. Even though can goods have a long shelf life, they do still have an expiration date and there is nothing quite as frustrating to me (and maybe to you as well) as throwing out expired food. 

Having an organized pantry is the secret behind an organized kitchen. This is true in a restaurant and in the family kitchen. Knowing exactly what food you have will help you to cook meals more easily and keep that grocery budget in check at the same time. 

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How to Organize Cans in a Pantry

Working on a cluttered area can be a bit overwhelming and that is why I like to break things down into small tasks. Work on these one at a time and watch your pantry evolve as you go along.

Step #1. Gather Up What you Have

Before we can get to organizing you will first need to know what you have and how much you have of it. Arm with a sturdy tote go into your pantry and remove the canned items that you have. You will want to get everything out, jars too if you see them. Cans and jars are best sorted together as they are very similar in both size and weight. 

Step #2. Sort

Find a good workspace that gives you enough room to really spread out. A kitchen table of large counter will work well for this step. Begin removing the cans from the tote one at a time sorting as you go. How you sort will all depend on you and your family’s dietary likes and needs. A few ideas are: 

  • Soups/Broth
  • Sauces
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Beans
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Sugar-Free

As you set up a new pile, use a post-it note as a label. This will help you to remember what you have where, in case you need to leave in the middle. 

cans sorted out on a kitchen table with post it notes labeling each pile

Step #3. Look at what you have

Depending on the type of pantry you have, will determine the best way to organize the canned goods you plan to store there. If you have solid shelving you can get away with simply stacking your cans, using a riser, or keeping things in a single layer organized into rows.

If you have wire shelving, however, you may need to use bins to keep them all from tipping over like dominos each time you are there grabbing a can for tonight’s dinner. If you are not a fan of bins you can use plexiglass to give you a more solid surface. 

toppled cans lying on a pantry shelf


Step #4. Choose appropriate containers

No matter what you choose to hold your canned goods, you will want to have sturdy containers. This will better allow you to slide the container out without risk of damage. A few options are: 

  • Metal bins
  • Stackable rack
  • Risers
  • Heavy wicker baskets
  • Plastic totes

Step #5. Location does matter

When choosing a spot in your kitchen pantry to keep your canned goods, the location actually does matter. Since these items are something you will want to keep within easy reach, I suggest using your prime real estate. What is prime real estate? It is the area that is easiest for you to access. Think from chest to thigh. That is your best zone to house items, especially heavier ones like canned goods. 

Go into your pantry now and take a look at the setup. What do you have stored in your prime real estate? Are they items you use often? Or items you use a few times a month at best? if the latter you may want to consider moving these things to a different shelf so you can free up enough space to house your canned goods containers. 

Step #6. Label each container

In the beginning, you want to be sure you label each container thoroughly. I like to use index cards for this part so they really stand out. This will be not only helpful to you but to your entire family as well. 

You want loud big labels at first to help everyone acclimate to the new setup. Don’t worry, once you do you will be able to make new labels that you like better. 

Step #7. Let it Ride

It is important with any newly organized system that you give it time to set in. This is especially true in the pantry since most, if not all, of your family will be using this space. The goal of organizing is to help everyone find what it is they are looking for without having to turn an area upside down in the process. 

Once you have everything set, let it sit for a few weeks to a few months. If you see a neat and tidy pantry after that time then you know you have a setup that works. If, however, you see food items on the floor or in the wrong containers, then that is your clue that your setup is not making sense to everyone that is using it. Before you go and change things, have a family meeting to explain what goes where. Sometimes this is all you need to do to ensure everyone is on board. 

If you do not have room in your pantry you can try out a few of these options to see if they will work for your setup. 

woman putting a roll of paper towels onto a pantry shelf

Organizers that help to keep cans tidy

Shelf risers are a great option if you are short on space. Be sure to find risers that will fit in the area you have and also be sure it is sturdy to hold up under the weight of the cans.

Corner shelving is another option to look into. Corners can be tricky to streamline and this option will work well giving extra storage space if you are needing more. 

Wall organizers are a great option if you are really tight on storage space. I just love this option as it will work well for cans and jars. 

When it comes to streamlining your food setup remember three things. Location is crucial, especially with heavy items, sort things in a way that makes sense to your family, and use big bold labels during the test period to make sure everyone understands your new setup. 

Give things a try and let them ride tweaking if you see clutter showing up in your pantry. This is always the first sign that there is a problem with your setup. 

Once you find the best way how to organize cans in a pantry you will streamline another section in your kitchen making this room one you love to be in. 

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