When it comes to functional essentials for every room, budget, and décor style, there's one Scandinavian retailer that manages to reign supreme. We consistently find ourselves pointing to IKEA for everything from affordable furniture for starter abodes to expensive-looking décor for first apartments.
Blame it on our social media feeds—where we're constantly double-tapping images of pristinely-lined canned beans and sleek jars of pasta and cereals—but one organization overhaul we're finding ourselves embarking on involves our kitchen shelves. It's a daunting undertaking if you're starting from scratch, which is why we tapped expert Jen Robin to share her top IKEA pantry storage ideas.
Meet the Expert
Jen Robin is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer and founder of Life in Jeneral.
"Every space is different," Robin says. "We really like to focus on our clients' personal needs, and how we can set up a space where function and aesthetics cohesively meet and make sense for their lifestyle."
Whether you're trying new jars and containers or getting new IKEA cabinet organizers, a clean pantry makes the kitchen more enjoyable for everyone in your household.
"When embarking on a pantry overhaul, think about your routine: what is grabbed most often and least often?" Robin notes. "Keep everyone in the household in mind, too. The goal is to create a functional flow and systems that are easily maintainable, making sure everything is visible, and that everything has a home."
Robin shares her guide to reorganizing your entire kitchen storage, as well as her top products for getting those sundries sorted—your 'grammable pantry awaits. Read on to learn her tips for organizing your pantry with her favorite picks from IKEA.
Make a Game Plan
Nobody ever said that a complete kitchen pantry overhaul would be easy—or quick, for that matter. You may already have all of your favorite pantry designs pinned, but first, you'll need to have a concrete concept of the actual space you'll be working with.
"Measure your space to help decide what bins will work for your area," Robin says. "And don't forget to measure the depth and height of each shelf as well as the overall space."
Before you can start choosing new containers to display your favorite foods, you'll need to know what sizes will fit (and how many you can store at a time). Once you've got an idea of how many jars and bins can be comfortably organized in your pantry, you can start narrowing down the items you want to keep on hand.
Edit Your Pantry
Just as you would "KonMari your closet," it's also important to edit down your pantry to the ingredients and items you'll actually use. It can be difficult to decide what you really want to keep, but that expired box of oatmeal you can't seem to throw out is probably a good place to start. "Categorize all like items together, and toss expired items," Robin says.
If you're tight on storage space, give away or donate any canned goods and other foods that you either don't use or have too many of. While it's reasonable (and encouraged) to keep an extra stock of items you use every week, it's okay to keep singles of other ingredients that rarely see the light of your kitchen.
Put Everything in Its Place
Once you've cleared off and measured your shelves, it's time to get your pantry in order—but don't start restocking just yet. Robin recommends labeling sticky notes to represent each category, then placing them on shelves so you can get a better idea of where everything will go. Also, count how many extra bins or containers you'll need, and make note of other organizational accessories you plan to incorporate. When you've narrowed down your list, one trip to IKEA can have you ready to organize.
As you're planning the placement of pantry items, Robin explains that "most-used items should be at eye level," while least-used items can be stored higher up or down low. Keep in mind that large or heavy baskets should be lower, and glass jars or less bulky items should be higher up.
Don't forget to consider the height of everyone in your household when planning the placement of pantry items. If you have small children or taller family members, they'll be glad to have their favorite foods easily within reach.
Label, Label, Label
You've got all of your organizing bins, your spice rack is in order, and your favorite breakfast munchies are perfectly displayed in a row—so what's next? Among Robin's top IKEA kitchen pantry organization tips is to "label bins, jars, and anything that can be labeled. This will help everyone know where things belong, and be easier to maintain," she says.
Robin recommends using the same jars to elevate your spices to the next level. Rather than keeping them in their oddly-shaped original containers, having a uniform set of spice jars makes the area clear and easy to navigate when you're cooking up your favorite meals.
Using bins to hold small items of varying shapes is a great way to put all of those well-loved snacks in one clean, organized place.
"This bin is great for categorizing snacks, breakfast, grains, and more," Robin says. "We love a simple bin that makes everything really accessible." You can also use a dry erase marker to label straight on the bin, which can easily be cleaned off if you change your ingredients or snacks in different seasons.
These IKEA whiteboard markers are "great for labeling," Robin says, especially when you want to write directly on a plastic bin or glass container. Since our favorite ingredients and daily items can change regularly, dry erase markers (like sticky notes) are a simple way to label your containers without committing to permanent contents for each one.
This compact mesh basket offers the right amount of ventilation for storing fruits and veggies outside of the fridge. Rather than sacrificing your favorite mixing bowl to hold fruits on the kitchen island, a breathable basket is an effective—and stylish—place to keep these ingredients fresh longer.
Ditch Bulky Packaging
Robin also suggests taking items out of bulky packaging. "This will save on space and be more aesthetically pleasing," she says.
Not only will your attractive pantry be easier to access, but ditching the cardboard boxes will also give you a better visual idea of which foods and ingredients are in need of a restock.
Now is a great time to combine those three half-used boxes of linguini pasta into one tall jar. With more space for storage and a clear view of what's running low, your grocery lists will be easier to write as it's easy to see the levels of each item. Clear jars also make navigating the shelves a breeze—no more finding old cans of food in the back that you never knew you had.
When it comes to her favorite containers, Robin recommends IKEA's dry food jars with easy-open lids. "These jars make nuts and snacks accessible, keep food fresh, and [make it] easy to see when it needs to be refilled," she says.
Other items like canned goods (which need the most airtight seals) can be stored in locking jars. Robin suggests IKEA's Korken jar to organize those ingredients in clear containers that won't block your view of other items in the pantry.
When organizing clear containers in the pantry, place short items in the front for a clear line of sight to taller jars in the back.
Use Every Corner
You don't have to stuff every inch of your kitchen pantry with a mason jar—but you should think about how to organize your space as efficiently as possible. Remember, the goal is to make it easier to reach for ingredients and supplies, not clutter your shelves with unnecessary bins and containers (or play a game of pantry Jenga in the process).
If you're working with a particularly small pantry, Robin suggests incorporating a lazy susan to easily reach items without wasting room on your shelves. Place it in the corner of your cabinets for holding oils or cans in hard-to-reach areas.
For pantries with taller shelving, adding inserts can create more room without the need to place items on top of each other. "These are great at maximizing vertical space and eliminates stacking," Robin says. Use shelf inserts for cans, bins, plates, bowls, and cups.
Light It Up
Pantries have a way of looking dark and cavelike—that's thanks to the fact that almost none of them have windows—and how are you supposed to get your snack on if you can't even see what you have? Install some lighting in your closet, like these under-the-shelf LEDs, to instantly elevate the look of your pantry.
Before you go hiring an electrician, take comfort in knowing these light strips are easy to install on your own, no experience needed. And even better than overhead lights with incandescent bulbs, LEDs consume up to 85% less energy and last 20 times longer.
Consider All Avenues
When it comes to getting utterly organized (especially in a place like the pantry that houses supplies of all shapes and sizes), it's important to consider all storage solutions. Shelves may work for some items, while cubby-style boxes work for others. And in this case, drawers make an excellent place to tuck away even more pantry staples.
Adding drawers to a space can feel daunting, but investing in cabinets that come with an existing drawer setup can be the easiest way to update your space. Just be sure to measure everything so you're positive it'll fit before you purchase.
Make Way For Gadgets
It's impossible to cook when your kitchen counter is cluttered with appliances. But when your cabinets are filled with dishes, it could feel like you're out of options. Instead, create a designated area in your pantry closet to keep everything from your toaster to your pressure cooker together in a single place, and out of the way.
Lay Your Bottles To Rest
Not only do wine bottles take up more space standing straight up, they're actually best stored on their side. Keeping the wine in constant contact with the cork maintains the seal and protects the wine.
Since few homes come equipped with their own wine cellars for perfect storage, a great alternative is to make way in your pantry for a wine rack. If you don't have space for a full wine rack, you can even designate a single shelf in your existing setup.
Bring In a Bookcase
If you're lacking built-in cabinets and shelves, take matters into your own hands and slide a bookcase into an empty corner of your kitchen.
The famous IKEA Billy bookshelf with glass doors is perfect for recreating this exact look. This chic addition will give you plenty of space for additional pantry storage, dishes, and your favorite cookbooks.
Bring In the Add-Ons
If you currently have dead space hanging above your cups, plates or pantry staples, utilize every inch of it by adding shelves and customizing them to the perfect heights for all your dishes. You'd be surprised how much extra space you're wasting.
If you're currently storing your snacks and pantry staples in the multifunctional Billy Bookcase, chances are you could benefit from a few extra shelves. Luckily, IKEA sells extra shelf inserts to double your storage space using the unused peg holes in your unit.
Create Extra Pantry Space
No matter how much you need extra space for pantry items, you can't just create needed storage from thin air. Or can you? We love this use of shelves on the exterior of the current pantry doubles storage space. Install a couple shelves and rods, then make space for baskets to house your overflowing items.
Choose See-Through Containers
You don't want to go through the trouble of organizing, only to have all your kitchen and pantry items lost in big baskets. Choose wire or mesh baskets you can see through and clear bins to make finding your favorite snacks in a snap.
Utilize Your Pantry Door
Behind the door storage is an excellent choice anywhere, including your pantry. Add shallow shelves to the inside of your door so you can store extra spices and use up every inch of available space.
DIY a Walk-In Pantry
If your home doesn't have a built-in pantry, consider taking matters into your own home. Transform a mudroom, linen or utility closet, or a hallway nook into a pantry with the help of DIY shelving units that can be customized to fit your space.
A free weekend, some shelves, and a drill later, you can have yourself your own walk-in pantry.