When you've passed the stage when food stores amount to leftover pizza and a six-pack of beer in the fridge, you may start to eyeball that closet near the kitchen with a plan to convert it to a pantry. Stocking it with canned goods and food staples is expensive enough, so the pantry itself doesn't have to cost a fortune.
If you're handy with some basic tools, you can attach strips of 1-by-2-inch lumber horizontally to the back and sides of a narrow closet to support 3/4-inch wood shelves. Screw the strips of lumber directly into studs where possible, and use drywall anchors when it's not. Don't go crazy on depth because cans can get heavy. Keep shelves about 12 to 14 inches deep to handle three rows of 28-ounce cans. Shelves wider than 30 inches may need additional central support, such as an L-bracket.
Customizing bulk wire rack shelving is affordable if you can manage a hacksaw and screwdrivers. There's no need to paint bare wood for a finished look, and support options make longer shelf widths possible. Coated wire gives a contemporary effect that wears well, allows good airflow and requires little maintenance. Depending on your budget, you may be able to spurge on custom pieces such as pull-out shelves or beverage-can racks to really trick out your storage space.
Make a visit to a closet organizing store, but leave your wallet at home. Look around, get some ideas, then head to the dollar store. Inexpensive plastic trays will keep your new shelves organized, perhaps with a splash of color, if you desire. Consider mason jars instead of expensive canister sets. You can see the contents and match the size to what you need to store. Avoid hiding cans in the back row by rigging a stair system made with a piece of 1-by-6 lumber under a 1-by-4 piece, cut to the width of your shelf.
Whatever your shelving solution, pack your pantry from the ground up with a few basic rules in mind. Heaviest items, like sacks of flour and rice, should go on the bottom. Next up should be large cans, like tomatoes and beans. Spices and baking supplies go up top. Keep the eye-level, central section for your everyday items, the things you use most often. Not only will these be easy to access, you'll know when it's time to go shopping.
A full-time content creation freelancer for over 12 years, Scott Shpak is a writer, photographer and musician, with a past career in business with Kodak.