Adding Extra Shelves And A Microwave To The Pantry

There’s a party in my pantry. And everyone’s invited. Although, it’s not really a party. And the pantry is far too small to host any sort of gathering. Hmmm. This invitation is going over just about as smoothly as Brick Tambland’s.

But back to the pantry. See it there, hiding in the back of the kitchen by the fridge?

This is the only “before” I could find of it with the door open. By all the wallpaper and brown trim I could’ve sworn this was from before we moved in, but something about it being stocked with our mess of food tells me this is post-move. #sherlocking

Regardless of when the photo was snapped, you can see that it was – how should I put it? – lacking in any sort of order and organization. Except for maybe the artfully jumbled pile of bags on the floor. I’ll wait while you pin it.

Our initial treatment of that space was not at all indicative of our excitement to finally have a legit pantry. In our first house we just stocked food in some upper cabinets, and in our last one we had a pretty intense pantry-cabinet contraption that was equally functional and frustrating. So having a standard pantry closet (like the ones we both had growing up) is a welcome change for us.

And thankfully, over the last eight months of living with it (and getting increasingly frustrated by our lack of function), we’ve come up with a few ideas to make it work a lot better for us. First off, we wanted to move our microwave in there. I know it’s not your usual placement for a microwave, but since removing our hulking over-the-range microwave, we wanted a better spot than on the counter – and we’ve had luck with a microwave that was hidden behind a cabinet door in our last kitchen (we don’t use it very often, and we really liked that setup).

So because we had a good experience concealing our last microwave, relocating this one to our nice deep pantry felt like the way to go. There would be ample room for ventilation on the sides and back of it – and we’d keep the door open while it’s in use. The only hitch was that there was no outlet in the pantry. Until recently…

We actually got this done about a month or so ago (you may have noticed that the microwave has been MIA for a little while). Right before Christmas we had our go-to electricians swing by one morning and add an outlet right where we wanted it, to the tune of $110. And with that, the microwave had a spot to plug-in, our counter was clearer, and the pantry felt one step closer to being more functional for us.

We’ve been using it that way for over a month now and it has worked out well. Except that to make room for the microwave, we had to lose one of the existing shelves. Simple solution: reposition the shelves to capitalize on that unused space. But sometimes the simplest solutions take weeks to make it to the top of our to-do list.

Yesterday we finally emptied the pantry (a fun task full of exciting discoveries like “I didn’t know we still had cookies back here!”) and went to work adjusting the shelves. Our original plan had been to lower the bottom shelf (with the microwave on it) so that the shelf above it could go back in the same spot. But we’ve since moved our trash can in there too, so we couldn’t go any lower without obstructing the can from opening.

Trash can sidenote: we moved that into the pantry over a month ago on a trial basis with the worry that it could stink up the whole space or otherwise annoy us, but sort of like how a trash can under the sink doesn’t seem to be an issue – especially when it has a lid to seal it – this one has been fine in there. Even with a pregnant wife who currently has a werewolf-like sense of smell. 

Instead of lowering the microwave shelf to make room for another shelf above it, we opted to put the missing shelf back in above the microwave shelf. But by hanging that one a little higher, it would create sort of a half-shelf that’s perfect for cans and smaller pantry items. So I, very technically, used a pasta sauce jar to mark how much space we’d want.

The next part was really easy. I used my crowbar to pry off the existing braces (which were just nailed in) and marked level lines where they needed to be re-installed.

Then using my level to double-check myself, I screwed them back into place where we wanted them.

The whole thing took about an hour, and most of that was spent emptying the pantry, taking pictures for you guys, and eating back-of-the-pantry discoveries. Once it was completed we were inordinately excited to test out our new small-things shelf. It’s really nice to have a “bonus shelf” for those shorter items that used to get shoved to the back or clutter up the other shelves.

We didn’t bother to restock the whole pantry yet because (as you can probably tell) there’s still more to be done. Primarily: priming, painting, and further organizing those shelves. We’re planning to add a few more systems to keep things organized on those bigger shelves, and might even hang some added storage on the door. Sherry has also been thinking about using some cheery wipeable shelf paper or something, so this pantry party is best described as half-baked.

After we’re done painting and everything’s dry we can actually organize it so it looks a bit more appetizing and less like a grocery store mid-looting. And then we’ll be back with the end result.

Man, it looks so nice empty and clean like that. Then again, the rest of the kitchen looks like this, so I guess it’s not really a long term solution.

How do you guys have your pantry organized? Do you have certain bins and systems that you love? Have you drooled over those amazing room-like pantries on Pinterest? Sometimes I catch Sherry just gazing at them and muttering things like “magical unicorn pantry.”

Also, let me know if anyone is throwing a pantry party anytime soon. I’ll bring my friend Brick. He’s a hoot.


  1. betty says

    i have wire racks in my pantry, but it seems like its about the same size as yours. i’d love to replaced the whole shelving system with wood shelves and put a fresh coat of paint on! I love the trash can in the pantry.. my dog learned how to step on the trash can to open the lid, so we needed another solution. never had a problem with it stinking up the pantry either.

    • says

      So glad to hear that! I kept worrying it was gross to put the garbage can in there or something, but we take our garbage out pretty regularly, and with the lid it has been awesome so far!


    • KiTX says

      We do the trash can in pantry, too (we also have big dogs who can nose into the trash can too easily). Our is a bit grosser since the lid didn’t fit on it in the pantry and we haven’t gotten around to replacing the can, but very rarely do we have a smell issue at all- and when we do, thats when trash bags go to the garage to await their garbage day fate. =)

    • says

      We just switched to trash cans with the step to open the lid, and I’m just waiting until the day they figure out how to step on it. I ended up buying two Simple Human ones that were on sale which also have a lock to the top (it’s a “Pet Lock”). Short of them chewing the trashcan up they wouldn’t be able to unlock it.

      They’re masterminds at sneakiness though…it’s only a matter of time until they use what I swear are hidden opposable thumbs…

    • Koliti says

      Hey I’ve heard that the garbage can is cleaner than our mouths – my dental hygienist verified it – she said “Yep our mouths are SCARY” – (in general, not mine in particular), and I’ve heard that a dog’s mouth is cleaner that ours – she confirmed that, too.

    • Bren says

      We have wire shelves, too. I just can’t take the plunge in deciding if I’d like wood ones or not. I’m so used to looking up through them when I’m looking for something.

  2. says

    I just recently posted about cleaning out my pantry! Unfortunately there were no back of the pantry cookies to be found. But I did get a craving seeing all the s’mores supplies we had. Need to get our fireplace going so I can make some.

  3. Krista says

    “I’ll wait while you pin it” made me laugh SO hard. We just cleaned out a friends pantry and it was equally wonderful as it was horrifying, the back recesses were like an archeology dig!

  4. Jess says

    Man, I could NOT stop laughing when reading this!! I initially lost it over “I’ll wait while you pin it.” but the fun continued with “werewolf-like sense of smell” and the fact that you were eating your back-of-the-pantry discoveries. I thought I had made a full recovery when you threw in the comparison to a grocery store mid-looting.

    Fabulous post! Both freaking hilarious & pretty darn educational, too! Loved it :)

    • Carol says

      Those three were my favorites, too! All I found while cleaning our pantry recently was that I have a spaghetti sauce-buying problem. Seriously, 12 jars. For the two of us. I guess it’s my go-to “we probably need it” item…only now we don’t need it for a year.

  5. Emily says

    Actually, we’re about to start a pantry project. We’re going to relocate our washer and dryer from a utility closet in our kitchen to the garage, and then install floor to ceiling shelves in the utility closet to convert it into a pantry. I’m ecstatic about it. It will be nice to finally be able to see exactly what we have grocery-wise, rather than buying something only to find we already have six cans of said item shoved in the back out of sight.

  6. MB says

    Love the pantry project. Single biggest improvement I made in my last house, which ended up very similar to yours. One thing I did that you might consider is removing one of the shelf boards. (Looks like yours are made up of 2 boards like mine were). The extra depth, while nice, made me lose things in the back constantly. So I took out a board on each shelf and put stuff on the sides of the pantry instead. Spice rack on one side and a broom on the other. Happy organizing! And cookie finding!

    • Stefani says

      I actually had this exact same thought. Deep pantry shelves would be infuriating for me. I also like the microwave being hidden but I’m not sure I’d be able to sacrifice so much pantry space for it. Can’t wait to see what yall do with it!

    • Marcy says

      I have a mix of shallow shelves and ‘stadium-style’ shelves (fancy – made of 2x4s stacked behind the first row of cans) – I like my various glass bottle things like olive oil and vinegar to be in a single or double row at most, but canned goods I have on ever increasing stacks of 2x4s so I can see at a glance what i have and still store a lot of them – have you noticed very few of today’s cans stack anymore? Just tuna, lol.

    • Colette says

      We did that too. It was very effective because not only did it resolve “losing” stuff due to the shelves being so deep, it turned the pantry into a walk in. I’d send you a pic, but not sure how to do that on here?

  7. Totes says

    We used a rev-a-shelf from lowes to convert a small cabinet to a pull-pout trash drawer. It is much better than having the trash in the pantry, which is what we used to have. Now we have two trashcans hidden behind a cabinet drawer that pulls out. We use the back can for recycling and the front for trash. It is fantastic and was super cheap!

    • Kathy G says

      US too! My dad says I could be a Rev-A-Shelf spokesperson b/c I brag about it so much! (I’m not, I just love mine) Be sure to put that on your “permanent kitchen” list!

    • says

      We did the same thing and love it. Been super happy with our rev-a-shelf, and have no regrets about using a lower cabinet to install it. I’m not a fan of lower cabinets and how hard they are to organize anyway, and the stuff end up moving to the pantry where it makes more sense anyway.

    • Michelle says

      I second rev-a-shelf. We have them on every shelf in our pantry and love them. They allow you to utilize every inch of the shelf. We have deep shelves in our pantry and the rev-a-shelf allows you to look at everything at once. Just pull out the drawer and there it all is. No need to get food lost in the back of the pantry. They can be pricey at about $30-50 per shelf however they are well worth it. We are slowly adding to our collection. In my dream kitchen all the lower cabinets would be outfitted with a rev-a-shelf; it just allows maximum use of the space.

  8. Michelle says

    Love the microwave idea– I too am all about maximizing counter space. The only way we’ve been able to keep our pantry from looking like a bomb went off is to organize it with bins. A bin for canned goods, bin for pasta, etc. That way, we can easily do an inventory before hitting the grocery store for what staples we might need for the week, and we know right where to look to see if we have a certain ingredient. I bought about 10 matching bins from Home Goods, so it was a really cheap and immediately effective solution.

  9. LMN says

    I just have to say, John is hilarious, in a not outright funny kind of way. It makes me snort laugh. I’m off to pin the artfully jumbled pile of bags on the floor. ;-)

  10. says

    I had the same problem with relocating stuff to my pantry and needing to remove a shelf. I was planning on just doing sorta the same thing and making a shorter shelf but there is a big silver round thing (super technical right?) right in the middle where that shelf would go. You’ve inspired me to finally do some rearranging with all the shelves to make it work though!

    • says

      Good luck Kristyn! I’ve been looking at other pantry ideas on sites like The Container Store and even just on google images to see what other ideas come up. Hope you find something that works perfectly!


  11. says

    Pretty ingenious to put the microwave in there! That wouldn’t work for us (we are heavy-duty microwavers (?) but I like the out-of-sight clutter-free aspect of that.

    We’re lucky in that our kitchen came with a custom built-in pantry wall that is very functional. It’s got big cabinets with slide-out drawers that are great for storing all sorts of foodstuffs and other things. We are planning to renovate the kitchen next year, but we will definitely be keeping the pantry cabinets – probably just going to paint them and change out the hardware.

  12. says

    Are you planning to put a set of narrow shelves or drawers at the bottom? i.e. bin could move left or right and then they could come in in the remaining space.

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