Introduction: Super Easy Canned Food Organizer

About: My first name is Joel; my Profile name is Joe Seven. As a very young boy, I wrote a thank-you note to my beloved Grandmother for one of her frequent handcrafted gifts, but I penned the last letter of my name …

Every time I go to the pantry for a can of something, I seem to spend lots of time picking through lots of cans before finding the one I want. The trial-and-error method of lifting a can to see what it is then replacing it and trying another can was too much. The shelf of canned goods took up lots of space and wasn't convenient at all. I looked at fancy "can dispenser" organizers that roll a can at a time, lazy Susan's, and the like, but none offered the solution I sought.

This super easy solution involves modifying existing shelving to give a slight pitch forward and a stop along the front edge to keep contents from rolling off. Cans lay flat on their side so you can read all the labels at a glance. And it only takes a short while to make the changes, so let's get started.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Utility knife, box opener, or other sharp blade

Wall patch, spackling, or putty

Pair of pliers


Screw driver (with flat blade)

Drill, awl, or some way of making hole in wall

Step 2: Empty the Shelves

This can prove to be a very interesting part of the project. You undoubtedly will find surprises, things you thought you had lost, stuff you didn't know you had, and things you really don't need. For example, I was surprised at how many cans of peas I had and since I no longer make Italian sauce from scratch, I really don't need all those canned tomatoes.

Emptying the shelves can also help you decide what things you need "up front" ands handy and what is an "infrequent" item and can be pushed to the outside. It a real good time to clean, too! Yuck - couldn't believe all the old bits of cereal, crackers, and occasional peanut - gross!

Step 3: Remove Shelving

I have vinyl-coated wire shelving like lots of folks, but this will work for most types of shelving. Since I was dealing with wire shelving, all I had to do is "pop" it out of the little hook brackets at the rear of the shelf and it lifted straight up from the wall brackets at the front. Other shelving systems will involve similar brackets and wood shelves most likely have cleats or pieces of molding underneath the shelf and along the walls.

Wire shelving brackets are similar to plastic anchors (that spread as a screw is driven into them.) As with a plastic anchor, the screw (or nail) must be removed first to relax the hidden section of anchor before they can be neatly removed. DO NOT ATTEPT TO REMOVE BRACKET WITHOUT REMOVING SCREW OR NAIL FIRST. To do so will tear a large hole around the anchor site.

Wire shelving brackets use a nail to set the anchor; carefully pry the nail out using a flat blade screwdriver or knife blade. Once the nail head is exposed, the nail easily removes with a pliers. Once the nail is completely removed, a firm but gentle jiggle motion will allow you to pull the bracket from the wall. The rear brackets are small plastic hooks and usually have a single nail. The side brackets are larger and typically have two nails,

Solid shelving of wood is normally tacked in place with finishing nails, but often screws are used. You may even run into a shelf that has been glued and tacked into place. Removal will involve some patience, gentle prying, some hammering from beneath, or unscrewing depending on construction. Try to be as gentle as possible while accomplishing the removal because it will minimize any repairs needed when finished.

Once the shelving is removed, consider how you want to install a can stop. Wire shelves simply need to be flipped upside-down with the front edge pointing up instead of down. Wood and other solid shelving will require a strip to be securely fastened across the full width of the shelf so that 3/4" to 1" extends above the surface of the shelf. This will provide a stop for the cans so they stay on the shelf.

Step 4: Dry Fit New Shelf and Drill Holes

Fit your shelf back into position, but incline it slightly back-to-front. Your canned goods will roll forward as you remove cans - how much "roll" you like will determine how much incline you give to the shelf. About 1 1/2" to 2" above the old mounting hole in the rear is about right.

Whatever incline you choose, make sure to mark the exact same distance above each of the old bracket holes. Drill or make the new holes before you patch the old holes to make the old holes easy to reference. Avoid using a spackling trowel or plastering blade to patch the old holes - it is best to dab a fingertipful (is that even a word?) into the hole as it will make the patch less noticeable and easier to clean up.

The front brackets should not need to be relocated, but they may have to be modified. The way my wire shelves were cut required me to trim a notch out of the bracket to receive the shelf. Alternatively, you can relocate the shelf brackets (following the same procedure described above) and lower them enough that the shelf front rests on top of each of the front brackets.

Step 5: Reinstall Shelving

Once the brackets are in place and old holes filled. it is time to install the newly-inclined shelf. Remember to install with the front edge forward and pointing up.

Shelves should "pop" onto the rear hook brackets and slip into the forward brackets. If the shelf doesn't seat securely into the forward brackets, additional trimming may be necessary - if so, it is helpful to mark with a pencil where additional trimming is needed. This is best done with the new shelf dry-fitted into place.

If necessary, it is at this point you should remove brackets and modify them.

Once any adjustments have been made and the shelves are securely seated in the brackets, reinstall the shelving.

Step 6: Fill 'er Up!

The fun part of this project comes when it is time to put all your canned goods onto their new shelf. It is a time to organize (veggies over here, beans over there, soups down here) and face all the labels where you can read them. Finally - you can see everything at a glance . . . no more scavenger hunts at mealtime!

Step 7: Final Thoughts

I love the convenience of the new canned food shelving, but our little pantry is still dark, so I am thinking of adding an inexpensive LED light bar. With a 10' ceiling, our pantry has lots of room up top, but no light (yet!)

And about those holes from the previous bracket locations: by minimizing the amount of patch material, they should be hardly noticeable. Once the shelving is in place, they are completely hidden, so don't fret about repairing the old holes - they will never be seen.

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