Pantry Goals

Why Haven't We Been Storing Canned Food Like This All Along?

8 clever ways for organizing your cans—so you can actually see them.

April  9, 2020
Photo by RiOrganize

Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.

With the world being the way it is right now, most people (myself included) find themselves having overstocked on canned food. Although is there such a thing? I’ve discovered you can make a surprisingly delicious chili with canned tomatoes and beans, an onion, and a few chicken breasts, but that’s a story for another day.

If you’ve found yourself with more canned goods than usual, you might be struggling to find a place to store them all. While stacking is one obvious solution, one wrong move and you end up dodging a tower of toppling cans—and trust me, they seriously hurt if they catch your toe.

Instead of risking a pantry avalanche, we’d recommend trying one of these can storage hacks instead. A lot of them can be achieved using items you have lying around the house—like soda boxes and wire baskets—and there are also a few fun DIY projects in there, in case you need something to keep your hands busy.

DIY Can Dispenser

How smart is this? We’re absolutely obsessed with this DIY can dispenser—it’s the perfect solution to mount in your pantry or garage. It’s fairly easy and affordable to make, thanks to the instructions provided by Ana White, and we love that the clear glass front lets you see exactly what’s inside.

Reversed Wire Shelves

If you have adjustable wire shelves in your pantry, you’ve got to try this cool hack. All you do is flip the shelves over so the little lip is facing up, then adjust the brackets or pegs so each shelf slants downward. BAM! A super-simple can dispenser.

Wire Baskets

Not big on DIY? No worries. There are plenty of ways you can store cans without breaking out the toolkit. For instance, check out these neat stackable wire baskets—they’re the perfect size to store cans, and they slip right into your existing cupboards or pantry. There are also super-affordable can racks that you can buy.

Upcycled Soda Boxes

Wait, don’t recycle those soda boxes just yet! These long, skinny boxes are the perfect size to store soup and canned vegetables. All you have to do is cover soda boxes in pretty paper, and voila—they become lovely upcycled can dispensers. Extra points if you add cute labels to each box to keep things organized.

Slide-Out Pantry

It’s no secret that we love a good sneaky sliding pantry, and these skinny storage solutions are the perfect place to store your cans. The slim shelves are an ideal width for canned goods, and they’ll let you see everything with one glance. You can purchase a pre-made pull-out pantry to slide into the gap beside your fridge, or if you’re handy, it could be a fun DIY project—check out this tutorial from Classy Clutter for guidance.

Good Ol’ Pantry Steps

Sometimes you just have to keep things simple, and there’s no easier way to organize your canned goods than with a classic tiered-shelf organizer. These inexpensive products look like a set of stairs, and they allow you to stagger cans so you can see what’s going on in the back. Just make sure to get one that’s wide enough for bigger cans—certain organizers are designed for spices, and their steps might be too skinny.

Old Magazine Holders

Cleaning out your office? Hold onto those old magazine holders—they’re the Holy Grail of pantry organization! (If you don’t have any, keep an eye out at the Dollar Store—you can usually score them for cheap.) Ones that are wide enough can be used to store canned goods, but we’ve also seen them used to hold produce like onions and potatoes, paper goods like napkins, or reusable water bottles.

Corner Lazy Susans

The far corners of pantries or kitchen cabinets often become no-man’s-land, filling up with forgotten ingredients. You can make use of this underappreciated space with oversized lazy susans, which you can load up with all you must-have canned goods. You can get 18-inch lazy susans from the store, but if you need something bigger, you can easily make your own—all you really need is a set of lazy susan bearings.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I can appreciate how pretty this pantry is, love the image. ”
— Lynne

Which clever storage idea is your favorite? Let us know below!

This article originally appeared in January 2019. We’re re-running it because we are always looking for clever ways to store our canned goods.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Janis on the Farmette
    Janis on the Farmette
  • Lynn Hedani
    Lynn Hedani
  • Lynne
  • Diane Vierra
    Diane Vierra
  • Steven Williamson
    Steven Williamson
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


Janis O. February 13, 2021
Pre-pandemic comments from folks questioning why anyone would stock so much in their pantry seem almost quaint now. Those tiers look great and the visibility they provide may almost make it worthwhile not being able to stack cans (if you have enough space).
Lynn H. May 26, 2020
If you use something like the magazine holders or soda can boxes, you need to make sure to rotate your cans each time you make a purchase so that newer ones are at the bottom/back and older cans are on top/front where they can be used first.
Lynne April 12, 2020
For me, this system doesn't work. This individual has sacrificed valuable storage space by using risers. I stack cans on top of the other to maintain adequate supplies. A pantry design depends on how much space you have. I have a dedicated pantry that I converted from a water tank closet. Albeit smaller than this pantry, it does a great job. We use the entire backside of the door for spices. I can appreciate how pretty this pantry is, love the image.
Diane V. February 13, 2019
The most versatile is the pull-out storage next to the fridge I think.
I also like the upside down wire shelving idea, if you have a space that accommodates that idea (with the a wall at each end), assuming you have a storage closet available to begin with. Great for like a coat closet!
Steven W. February 10, 2019
I don't have that many canned products! Not a problem!
Matt February 10, 2019
Food52's top 10 must haves if you're the cook for a doomsday cult.
Dani February 6, 2019
This is going to transform my pantry, and my mom's pantry, and my neighbor's pantry, and my best friend's pantry, etc. We all take advantage of case lot sales whenever possible. We end up with 6-months-worth of black beans, tomato sauce, and cream of chicken soup at a time. And we get bulk canned goods through our church, so we have several #10 cans full of dehydrated fruit, rice, pasta, flour, and sugar. #10 cans take up a lot of space, and these solutions will help maximize what's left! To those being judgmental about "processed" food and canned goods: may we all, one day, have the time, energy, money, and access to fresh, locally grown and raised food stuffs that you do. May you never know the limits of feeding yourself or your family on a fixed income, or with a disability that makes it near-impossible to replenish your energy levels, or while living in the middle of a food desert, or in a constant state of food insecurity, or while working multiple jobs to put food on the table that you aren't home to cook. Your lifestyle is the exception in this world, not the rule. Have some compassion.
Athena P. February 13, 2019
Very well put, thank you so much. Those who judge others by the foods they eat are every bit as bigoted as those who judge others by their clothing, or their religion, or by whom they love.
Claudia T. February 5, 2019
Nowadays I really don't keep a lot of canned goods around but I do keep coconut milk (that's not really a thing I can buy fresh) and a few things. I think I ate a lot more canned goods as a kid because my mom worked two jobs and while she made us dinner from scratch almost every night, my brother and I were just really into canned clam chowder I guess. I had it again as an adult and didn't understand my fascination 😂 I never understood needing this much canned food storage until I moved to Montana- I lived in a medium sized town with a 24-hr supermarket, but plenty of people I knew lived out on farms or more rural towns and they make like one grocery store run a month, stocking up so they can save on gas (especially in the winter, when you want to avoid getting on the roads if you can). I don't know why there are such judgemental comments on this post. If you don't need the tips here, great for you, close the tab and move on to another article.
Dani February 6, 2019
I know you can't see me, but I'm giving you a standing ovation right now. A lot of folks don't have access to fresh food, or the time or ability to prepare and use it. People deserve to eat. Canned goods literally save lives.
Beehive A. February 3, 2019
For me, the biggest game-changer was companies starting to redesign cans so that the bottoms are molded to fit nicely into the top of the can below it, making stacking really safe and convenient. Like others have mentioned, although I have quite a few cans, I don't stock more than one or two of any particular item.
Dani February 6, 2019
I had a friend who did baskets by general theme, or by meal-component. So, cans of things that would be sides went in one basket. Cans of things that were part of a sauce or the main dish went in another. Another friend did a roll-out pantry where she kept not just canned goods (she doesn't have many) but boxes of pasta and rice, unopened sauces/jams, and jars from her home canning as well. So many ways to expand these beyond just having 10 cans of the same item!
bellw67 February 25, 2019
Yes about the can stacking. The worst cans to try and stack are tomato paste. And I have dodged runaway cans trying to mangle my toes more than once.
mdelgatty April 28, 2020
The only drawback to the nesting cans is that they're harder to flatten for recycling. The regular ones I remove both ends...
janet February 3, 2019
here is a thought, eat less processed food - no need to organize your cans
Bec L. February 1, 2019
Love the instructable link for slide out storage, but are these people all from some survivalist cult? I cook for four or five people every night and it would take me months to get through so many tins of ingredients...
Maria February 1, 2019
these people must cook for an army!
Kristi April 11, 2020
When we had 4 teenage vet athletic boys in our home, it was indeed like cooking for an army!
Yvonne January 29, 2019
I love the ideal of reversing wire shelf and soda can boxes
carswell January 29, 2019
The efficacy of the roll out can solutions depends on having numerous cans containing the same thing. I might have a couple of cans of some particular thing in my pantry - diced tomatoes, coconut milk, chick peas - but not enough of any type to make that idea practical.
Jeffrey B. February 3, 2019
I had the same thought.