I Hacked My Messy Pantry Using Only Stuff From the Dollar Store

I’m pretty lucky. My rental apartment has a large, cavernous pantry, which is a boon in the kitchen storage department. However, what it has in size, it lacks in efficiency. For all that space, there are only a few shelves (which tend to overflow with canned goods and foodstuffs) and the full-size refrigerator prevents me from adding in more. In an effort to boost my pantry’s usefulness, I headed straight to the dollar store.

I was tempted to buy the beautiful pantry organizational items from other stores, but just couldn’t bite the bullet and spend the extra cash. In the end, I spent roughly $30 at the dollar store (which could have ended up being close to $200 at more expensive stores).

Hacks & Space Savers

It’s no secret that dollar stores are an excellent source for organizational supplies. They’ve got baskets aplenty, stacked high as the sky, just waiting to come home with you to fulfill all your storage dreams. But look a little further down the aisle and you’ll find some not-so-obvious items in the automotive, office supply, and beauty sections—all of which you can also use to whip your pantry into shape. Here are a few suggestions:

Add in Wall-Mounted Storage: Since we live in an apartment, I really didn’t couldn’t drill a bunch of holes into the wall, so I was thrilled to see adhesive hooks in the automotive section. I easily removed the handles from these wire baskets, hung them vertically on the wall, and now use them to store loose things like onions, garlic, and potatoes. This frees up valuable square footage on the limited shelves, and keeps them out of reach from my curious toddler. I can stick one or two or 10 of these on the walls in the awkward unused between the fridge and the existing shelving.

Similarly, I also used temporary adhesive hooks for brooms and other stuff. Instead of clogging up corners, and getting underfoot, these cleaning tools are both easily accessible and hung up out of the way.

Use Rubber Bands to Condense Reusable Shopping Bags: Here’s a simple tip. Roll up your reusable bags as tight as possible and wrap them with rubber bands. It buys back so much space. I now store mine in a hanging basket that holds all the bags, and keep a little container nearby for extra rubber bands.

Adapt Items for a Different Purpose: The plastic bins you see above were designed to keep cans of soda in the fridge, but I decided to try them out for my canned goods instead. They are a little wider than the average can of tomatoes but ended up working out great. Each bin holds about six cans.

Something else you might not expect to find in a pantry: a non-slip shower mat. I could have picked up one of the many rolls of shelf liner I saw, but this one was wider and a better fit for the deep shelf where I store all my flower vases: no cutting and piecing necessary. I’m never not knocking one vase over while trying to grab another, so here’s to hoping it cuts down on the number of accidents.

And now I leave you with my proudest moment, which happened in the health and beauty aisle. I bought a set of shower caps to repurpose as dust savers for rarely-used dishes. You know that soup tureen set you only pull out of the pantry once, maybe twice, a year for your grandma’s French onion soup recipe? You’ll save yourself a few minutes of deep cleaning if they are protected by handy-dandy shower caps. Our store sold these one-time-use jobbers in eight packs. At that price I could literally cover every dish in my pantry.

Label Bins for Easy Organization: After bringing home the larger dotted baskets and lining them up on my shelves, I found it was difficult to see the contents, so I decided to label them. I found these great adhesive label holders with blank inserts in the office supply section (then grabbed a pack of glue dots to ensure they actually stuck to the bins). The label holders are made for three-ring binders, and you can easily swap out the paper tags. They’re perfect for bins whose contents will change by the season.

If you’re interested in doing something similar, here are few tips for pulling it off:

Make a Plan: Measure twice and buy once so you don’t end up with a bunch of stuff that won’t fit in your pantry. The dollar store will not issue a cash refund if you happen to buy 10 bins too many. They will, however, let you exchange your items for 10 other things in the store. It really isn’t that big of a deal, just don’t go in the store and buy willy-nilly, expecting to return what you don’t use.

Keep it Simple: To make everything look as cohesive and organized as possible, I bought all the same color bins. I am a huge fan of color, but I wanted my pantry to be simple and calm. The cute mint green and turquoise plastic bins might be calling your name, but deciding on something minimal like grey or white is so much less distracting. It also helps with continuity if you end up needing to mix and match various sizes and styles of bins.

Shop Multiple Locations: Things quickly fly off the shelves at dollar stores, so you may have a difficult time finding everything you need all in one place, like 12 baskets matching in color, shape, and size. You have two options: buy different styles of bins in the same color, or, shop around at other locations to find exactly what you need. You can also ask the store manager when their next shipment arrives, and check back to see if they’ve received more of the product you’re looking for.

Use What You Own: I did end up using a few things that I already had, namely some large glass canisters from the kitchen makeover at our old house. If you’ve got something in another part of the house that will work, why buy it again?

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