Pantry Goals

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

Six clever ways for organizing your cans, once and for all.

January 29, 2019
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Welcome to Pantry Goals, your destination for all the practical tips and need-to-know tricks to get your space in tip-top shape (and keep it that way).

Raise your hand if you simply shove canned goods in a drawer or on a shelf in your pantry. (Our hands are up.)

Now raise your hand if you never actually know what canned goods you have in the house because your storage system is inefficient. (Yup, still up.)

With so many products designed to help you organize your cupboard, there’s really no excuse to have a haphazard can situation in your kitchen. Since 2019 is going to be the year of the clean pantry, here are some ingenious DIY and ready-made solutions to keep your cans neat and organized.

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 Wilker Do's, and we love that you can customize the number of slots AND the paint color to match your decor.

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 slip right into your existing cupboards or pantries. 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. Then She Made offers an easy tutorial on how to cover soda boxes in pretty paper so they become lovely upcycled can dispensers. Smart and eco-friendly.

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 install in your kitchen, or if you’re handy, it could be a fun DIY project.

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. Simple, yet effective.

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

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Diane Vierra
    Diane Vierra
  • Steven Williamson
    Steven Williamson
  • Matt Hermenau
    Matt Hermenau
  • Dani
  • Claudia T
    Claudia T
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


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 H. 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!
suzybel63 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.
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!
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.