9 Great Ideas for Storing Bulk Buys

If you have a habit of going overboard at the warehouse club, here’s how to keep bulk items from taking up more than their fair share of space.
Organized Pantry

Organized Pantry

1. Start With a Clean Slate. Empty your entire pantry, and thoroughly clean it before you begin the organization process. Starting fresh will help keep things organized longer. 2. Take Inventory. Make a list of your pantry staples and update it regularly. When it's time to go grocery shopping, take your list with you. You can download pantry inventory lists online for free.

Buying in bulk can be a boon for the busy and budget-minded, but there’s a catch. "If you don’t have the space for it, it’s not worth the supposed money you’ll save," says professional organizer Beth Levin of Miami’s The Closet Queen.

Even those with plenty of storage aren’t safe from overdoing it, whether it’s a dozen massive jars of spaghetti sauce or a lifetime’s supply of trash bags. And everybody’s heard this wholesale-store refrain: "I came here to buy dishwasher soap and spent $500!"

That doesn’t mean you should toss out your warehouse club membership card. "Just don’t buy a million rolls of toilet paper if you live in a tiny apartment," says Levin. 

We’ve got tips for shopping smart and wrangling bulk buys, no matter what your space situation. 

  • Make a list and stick to it. Temptation lurks in every aisle at warehouse clubs such as Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s, and we’re not even talking about the free food samples. Avoid impulse and duplicate purchases by knowing what you need before you step foot in the store. 
  • Do the math, starting with the expiration date. Will your family really eat 24 cartons of yogurt by the end of the month? Also, be sure to check the per-unit pricing — just because something comes in a huge container doesn’t mean it’s cheaper.
  • Divide and conquer. Next time you shop, bring a friend and split up the spoils — especially the ones that really will spoil, like dairy and produce. That way, you both can take advantage of discount prices without worrying about finishing or finding room for everything.
  • Designate storage spots. "Garage shelving is a great place for paper goods," says Levin. "If you have space for extra TP and paper towels, you’ll get the most bang for your buck." No garage? No worries — break down bulk buys into individual units and tuck beneath sinks or in an empty corner of a cabinet. You could even install a shelf above a door for extra storage in a petite powder room. Tip: Not surprisingly, you’ll find real deals on shelving and other storage at warehouse stores.
  • Take advantage of unused pantry space. "Big things can be kept on the floor if they’re covered in plastic," says Levin. "You wouldn’t want to put food in a room that’s not climate-controlled, but the pantry floor works just fine."
  • Contain it. Transfer bulk dry goods to clear plastic containers that fit the dimensions of your storage space. For liquids like dish soap or shampoo, transfer what you need to a smaller bottle and store the rest for future use.
  • Chill out in the basement (or garage). An extra fridge or freezer makes sense if you can spare the space. It’s an ideal way to stock up for future meals, especially since many foods — even some meats — can be kept in the freezer for up to a year. (Label expiration dates with a permanent marker.) But be realistic. Just because you have somewhere to put a gallon jug of half and half doesn’t mean you’ll use it.
  • Invest in a vacuum sealer. Exposure to air makes food go bad quickly, but sealing up a big block of cheese will guarantee a longer shelf life in the fridge. If you go overboard on fresh fruits or veggies, seal and stash them in the freezer. Just flash-freeze individual pieces on a cookie tray first so they don’t stick together. Tip: Buy vacuum bags in bulk for the best value.
  • Use it or lose it. Instead of cursing at that case of canned tomatoes that just won’t fit anywhere, grab a pot and cook up a big batch of sauce. You’ll have dinner ready, plus a few containers of sauce to freeze and use another time with all that dried pasta you bought.

7 Best Pantry Organizers

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Snappy Storage

Stackable containers let you store everything from crackers to oats to pasta in plain sight. Designed for modular stacking, the square and rectangular shapes make storage a snap. Speaking of "snap," sealing them couldn't be easier — just push the button for an airtight seal. To open, push the button again. It pops up and becomes the handle. Genius. Tip: Use these anywhere in the house you need storage, from wrangling hair bands in the bathroom to corralling those unruly binder clips in your desk drawer.

Easy View

Easy View Cabinet Organizers make all your cans and bottles visible, eliminating the eternal question, "Where did I put that can of tomato sauce?" The organizer also takes the frustration out of creating a shopping list. By making your food visible, you know instantly what you need and avoid duplicating items you already have. The expandable version lets you adjust the size to fit your needs. Bonus: Keeps smaller items like extract bottles from getting lost in cabinets or falling through wire shelves.

Portable Storage

Steel manufactured storage equipment has been used by the commercial cooking industry for years, but your home could benefit from these sturdy storage options as well. Rolling kitchen carts let you take the storage where you need it. Perfect for holding big items like your stand mixer, extra paper towels or cases of water, it gives your kitchen an industrial edge that says, "I cook like a pro" even if you don't know a chinois from a chiffonadeTip: If you're low on cabinet storage, Metro also makes baker's racks that come with hooks, letting you hang your utensils and pots.

Shelves That Slide

With sliding pantry shelves, gone are the days of shuffling food to reach the one ingredient you need at the back of the pantry. These gliding shelves from the ShelfGenie Classic Series are made of eco-friendly Baltic birch wood and can hold up to 100 pounds when fully extended.

Photo By: ShelfGenie

Pocket Organizers

Pocket Organizers started life as a shoe holder; but hang it on a pantry door and you can achieve instant organization nirvana. Store boxes of tea, envelopes of gravy mix or anything else that piles up in the corners of your cabinet (or falls through your wire shelves). The vinyl is easy to clean by wiping with a damp cloth. Tip: Hang another in your hall closet to tame mittens, dog leashes and kids' clutter.

Maxed Out Cabinets

Make the most of your cabinets with base pantry organizers. These organizers slide on rails, which can be fitted to right- and left-hand doors. Basket positions let you further customize your storage, making space for bottles and jars or giving you a place to store foil and plastic wrap. Finally, you can get to the items at the back of the cabinet without having to pull out everything in front of them.

Industrial Chic

Usually found in commercial kitchens to house everything from bulk foods to appliances, the InterMetro Kitchen Shelves from The Container Store will lend an industrial appeal to your pantry. Whether you store these steel shelves inside a closet or out, you'll have plenty of space for all your pantry staples. Each shelf supports up to 300 pounds and is adjustable.

Photo By: The Container Store

An Uber-Pantry

Whether you're building or renovating, or just want a fully customizable pantry, consider a full panty organization system. They have full-extension drawers in solid beech so you can access every dish towel, root veggie or can of stock. Mullion doors hide less display-worthy items without completely blocking the view.

See Through Storage

Have high pantry shelves or just crave a more organized appearance for your foodstuffs? These Linus Pantry Binz from The Container Store do the trick. Translucent containers with built-in handles neatly store everything from packaged goods to produce.

Photo By: The Container Store

Wowed With Wicker

We're going wild for this super organized butler's pantry by Emily Dinwiddie of Eleven Gables. Wicker baskets in various shapes and sizes conceal everything from boxes to bags to beverages. The rest of this room functions as a laundry room, craft center and wrapping station, so functional and pretty storage is paramount for Emily's large family.

Photo By: Emily Dinwiddie

Family Function

Not into wicker? Monochromatic woven baskets lend a tidy elegance to this pantry. Chalkboard stickers organize food into functions: snacks, baking supplies and school lunches. It's a pantry fit for Sara Wellensiek, the blogger behind Mom Endeavors, and her family.

Photo By: Sara Wellensiek

The Lazy Susan Solution

Wish you had a better solution for the dead-end space in the corner of your pantry? Lazy Susans to the rescue! This do-it-yourself pantry organization project by Emily Allison of Decorchick has us spinning with pantry envy. The circular discs are mounted to existing shelves to transform every inch into usable space.

Photo By: Emily Allison

Good Looking Glass

If you're not a fan of plastic, give glass containers a go in the pantry. Emily of Decorchick found hers at IKEA and Walmart, then gave them an organized upgrade with vinyl adhesive labels and chalk pens.

Photo By: Emily Allison

Box It Up

Wooden boxes with press-on labels are excellent for storing multiple spices jars, condiments and even individual packets of oatmeal. Even though these items on are the top shelf of a pantry, they're easy to access thanks to great thinking by Blogger Angela Lerew of Unexpected Elegance.

Photo By: Angela Lerew

Sneaky Snack Bins

Aluminum beverage tubs get a second life as clever containers for snacks. Open wall space in a pantry serves as the perfect place for these metal bins. Simply drill holes in the tub and attach with screws to the wall. Blogger Ashley Hackshaw of Little Blue Boo is the mastermind behind this project that keeps snacks accessible for little ones.

Photo By: Ashley Hackshaw

Make Room for Measuring

Increase the usefulness of food storage containers by adding measuring cups for scooping out what's inside. A readily available 1/3-cup scoop takes the guesswork out of portion control for your morning bowl of oats. Hang the cups from tiny adhesive hooks. Try this trick from blogger Jen Morris for other food stuffs, such as dog food containers, coffee beans or any frequently used pantry staple.

Photo By: Jen Morris

Wire Baskets for Produce

The humble wire basket gets a modern upgrade with these Bronze York Open Stack Baskets from The Container Store. Storing onions, potatoes, squash and more, these bulk bins also stack so you can maximize space inside the pantry. Pro pantry tip: Unlike this photo, keep your onions and potatoes away from each other because onion gasses can cause potatoes to sprout and spoil quicker.

Photo By: The Container Store

Cupcake Liner Containment

Will Mason jars ever run out of clever new uses? Keep cupcake liners clean and accessible in the pantry by popping them inside the jars. Cookbook author Julie Wampler of Table for Two came up with this efficient storage solution.

Photo By: Julie Wampler

Corral Cans

If you buy canned goods in bulk, investing in a can rack will make your pantry much tidier. By storing cans on their sides, you can easily grab what you need while the next-in-line can rolls to the front. Home storage company Atlantic makes canned food racks in many different shapes and sizes, such as the Three Shelf Can Rack shown here.

Photo By: Wayfair

Flatware Storage

It's Thanksgiving at 10:00 a.m. Your whole family is coming for lunch in less than two hours. And what are you doing? Frantically polishing flatware. If this isn't your idea of fun, store your silver and silver-plated flatware in silver flatware storage rolls. The fabric absorbs the gases that tarnish silver and reduces (or even eliminates) the need for polishing. The compact size lets you get more flatware in a smaller space, taking up less room in your pantry or china cabinet. The storage roll pictured here is from Reed & Barton.

Photo By: Bed Bath & Beyond

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