Tired of organizing, re-organizing, packaging, containerizing and re-containerizing your pantry?  I was, and I did all of those things – several times – over the years.  I finally bit the bullet and decided I was going to DIY a pantry makeover that *should keep things neat and organized from now on.

If video is your preferred viewing format, I’ve included the YouTube video to the bottom of this post which will hopefully flesh out the procedure even more.

This was my pantry:

disorganized pantry with wire shelving

and I had tried everything to get it neat and organized.  I bought all of the matching Tupperware containers, decanted most of my dry goods into them, brought in baskets and a lazy susan, built a door-mounted spice rack

Messy pantry with wire shelving

but with every grocery day the mess would creep back and build and build and build.

disorganized pantry with wire shelving

The problem, besides lazy-me and lazy-teens, was that the shelves were too deep, the lower lip of each shelf blocked certain-height objects, and the spacer bars were just plain annoying.  The floor space became a dumping ground for too large items and the upper shelves were full of small appliances.

disorganized pantry

I dreamed of an organized space with clear containers, baskets, plenty of shelves and a counter.

Why a counter?  I don’t know, I just really like the look and felt having one would make my life happier. lol

So I got to drafting up building plans for my “Pinterest-worthy Dream-Pantry”.

If you watched the process unfold over on Instagram, then you’ll know that my plans were way off (what was I thinking?!!)  My lower cabinets were too low, my appliance cabinet fell short, and the drawers wouldn’t open because they bumped into the door frame. ‍(facepalm)

What I did know was that this cut list:

pantry cut list

was almost impossible to do by myself with 4×8 sheets of ¾” plywood, on my little job site table saw.

I also knew the guys at the home improvement store would not be impressed if I asked them to cut this for me (and they are rarely accurate in my experience).

I approached my bestie at WORX and asked if he could set me up with a circular saw; the NITRO 20V POWER SHARE 7.25″ CORDLESS CIRCULAR SAW WITH BRUSHLESS MOTOR to be exact.


This is going to sound bogus, and yes, this is a sponsored post, but this saw is a GAME CHANGER for anyone used to using table saws.

It’s cordless, it’s light, the battery is a beast (I finished my entire pantry makeover without having to charge once), and it’s so ridiculously easy to use!

If you are thinking about making over your pantry – DO IT!  I love mine so much now, and it took 1 week – start to finish (while still working) – to get it done.


First up, rip out the wire shelving and send it to your brother’s house for him to deal with.

empty wire shelving in a pantry

Most of the shelving brackets were attached with drywall plugs into drywall – so ripping them out made a huge mess of my walls.

pantry makeover

I used the butt-end of my putty knife to push the ripped drywall back into the wall and then filled all the holes with drywall filler.  This stuff goes on pink and turns white as it dries.

filling holes with drywall putty

You are very likely going to need two coats of putty to level the walls out, so don’t worry if it isn’t perfect after the first coat.

Start building

While that is drying, head out the workshop and get cutting your ¾” plywood.

Along with my WORX NITRO 20V POWER SHARE 7.25″ CORDLESS CIRCULAR SAW WITH BRUSHLESS MOTOR, (Amazon affiliate link) I also bought a sheet of 2″ solid foam insulation and a track.  The foam is/was to support the plywood while cutting and to ensure the blade didn’t cut through to the garage floor.


The track just kept me on the straight and narrow, so my cuts were 100% accurate.


This saw only weighs 6.2lbs so it isn’t heavy or cumbersome to manoeuvre, and my arm didn’t get tired part way through a cut – or even through the entire 3-day project!

Everyone’s pantry is going to be different, so I can’t really share measurements or cut lists here, but I can give you tips for your DIY pantry makeover…

Measure your small appliances.  Cut the top and bottom of your small appliance cabinet to the width of the largest appliance PLUS at least 1 ½” (for the plywood sides)

small appliance cabinet for pantry makeover

You’ll probably want a central-ish permanent shelf to give your unit stability, but I HIGHLY recommend using a shelf-pin jig to drill adjustable shelf holes everywhere else.  I started my shelf-pin holes 10″ from the bottom of the unit, to 10″ from the top.


Head back into your pantry to sand the drywall patching and apply a second coat.

We gotta keep all the balls moving here!

I cut 2×4’s to act as bases for my cabinets and set them in place.

priming pantry walls

Let that dry and head back out to the workshop to build your base cabinets.

Base cabinets

If you want to bring a counter into your DIY pantry makeover, then you need to know what counter height you want.  Standard counter height is usually 36″.  Counters themselves are usually 1 ½” thick, and the 2×4 base actually measures in at 3 ½” tall.

36 – 1.5 – 3.5 = 31.5″. My base cabinets needed to finish out at 31 ½” tall.

I knew I wanted drawers in my DIY pantry makeover to hide messier items and water bottles.  To do that, I measured the width of a case of water, added 2″ for extra space, added 1 ½” to account for the thickness of the plywood sides, and added another ½” to account for the drawer slides.

So, if your case of water (or whatever you want to put in the drawer) is 14″ wide:

14″ + 1″ + 1″ + ¾” + ¾” + ¼” + ¼” = 18″

Build your base cabinet so that the walls that will hold the drawers are 18″ apart.  Measure from the edge of the plywood, not the centre – it’s the space between plywood verticals that needs to be 18″. 

DIY pantry makeover

You don’t need to completely enclose the drawer cabinets with plywood – which will save you a bit on your DIY budget.  All you really need is a solid base, solid sides and then strapping (I used 4″ wide boards) at the bottom and top of the back of the cabinet and at the front of the top.  This is enough to hold everything square.

With my drawer box cabinet in place (and making sure I’d be able to fully open the drawers – ask how I learned that tip )‍♀️, I was able to determine another counter-height unit that would fill the space in between the drawer section and the appliance shelving.  You can’t see in the photo above, but I did use my shelf-pin jig to add the adjustable shelf option to that corner unit as well.

Back inside; time to sand the second coat of drywall patching and apply primer to the walls.


You can bring your units in now and set them in place.  Attach to the 2×4 base with 2 ½” wood screws and attach to each other with 1 ¼” wood screws.

Lightly mark your walls where the studs are.  You can buy 1×2″ lumber to use as shelf braces, or you can do what I did, and rip down 2×4’s to ¾” thicknesses.  (I find the 1×2’s in-store are always so warped).  Attach the shelf braces to your walls at the stud locations with construction screws.  Check for level – a LOT.

It’s also a good idea to have an idea of what you want where in your DIY pantry makeover… like most-used items at eye-level.

My shelves are 12 ¾” deep – deep enough to hold a family-size box of cereal with 3 ½” to spare.  I could have gone narrower I guess, but my wire shelves were 15″ deep, so I’m still ahead of the game on spacing.

When attaching your shelf braces to the walls, keep in mind that a ¾” piece of plywood will be resting on top of the brace.  If you are trimming out your shelves, then you are likely to have a ¾” lip hanging down from the shelf above.  The spacing should take into account your box of cereal, plus at least another 1 ½” .  I left 3″ of spacing to be on the safe side.

DIY pantry makeover

Attach one shelf brace to all three walls (back and two sides), place your proposed food or container in place and then determine your next shelf brace placement.  SO much easier than guesstimating.

test fitting food in my DIY pantry makeover



It’s time to build your drawer boxes!

You can use ½” plywood for these, but because I was going with heavier items in some of my drawers, I went with ¾” ply.

adding drawer boxes to DIY pantry makeover

Drawers are a beast.  I’m not good at them, they rarely work on the first try, and I get SO FRICKING FRUSTRATED!

The key is to make them absolutely perfectly square.  PERFECTLY.  Measure from corner to corner, because the same-sized pieces can glue up bent by 1/8″ and screw up your installation.  Your drawer boxes for your DIY pantry makeover should be measured and built individually.  If your vertical cabinet walls are out of square by the tiniest amount, then your drawers won’t install properly.  Most drawer glides require 1/8 – ¼” clearance (please read your package instructions), so when you build your drawer boxes, you need to take into account that spacing.  

*Side note: drawer glides at my local home improvement stores ran $24-$42 per pair!  That’s mental!  I found this set of 6 on Amazon.ca for $57.

I installed my drawers so that the faces of the drawer boxes were flush with the front edge of the cabinet.  I didn’t trim out my drawer cabinet, so I wanted the drawer faces to rest flush against the edges of the cabinet and hide some of the plywood edges.

You can trim out your drawer unit if you want – it will certainly look more professional – I just didn’t think my potatoes would really care. lol

adding drawers to your diy pantry makeover

Some of my photos seem out of sequence, but I was trying to keep things moving so there was no down-time while paint or putty dried.


The trim for my DIY pantry makeover was all ripped down from standard framing 2×4’s.  You can buy pre-milled trim at most home improvement stores, so don’t feel like you have to do this extra bit of work.  I enjoy puttering in my workshop, so ripping down wood is actually fun for me, and I find sanding cathartic, so it was a no-brainer that I’d make my own trim.  

Trim pieces are generally ¼” thick and 1 ½” wide, then cut to length to fit your shelves.  Attach to your cabinet fronts with a bit of wood glue and finishing nails.  Attach the shelves themselves to the shelf braces with finishing nails.

Shelf sag?

Did you know that the strongest shelves you can build (according to my cabinet-making teacher) are from ¾” plywood?  Stronger than solid wood, stronger than MDF or melamine.  In fact, when you attach your shelves to the shelf braces on the wall, and then finish out the fronts with the ¼” thick trim pieces, your shelves should not sag over time.  Well, the real measurement is that my shelves will sag 0.027″ (27/1000ths of an inch) per linear foot or 0.05″ over 48″.  Check out the Sagulator here.

The reason this matters?  Well, I didn’t want my shelves to sag over time, but I also didn’t want to have dividers or braces throughout my pantry.  It makes spacing food less-than-pretty, and pretty really is the point of this project right?


I kept my DIY pantry makeover moving by priming and puttying the shelves and screw holes etc before I went to installing drawers.

DIY pantry makeover

You can putty before priming, but I find that priming first makes the holes and nicks and scratches etc easier to see.

trimming out my DIY pantry makeover

While all of that is drying it’s time to head back out and get to work on the countertop…

I had planned on buying a countertop – they rang in around $200 CDN for the length I needed and the wood/laminate I wanted.  Then I remembered that I went to cabinet-making school and decided it was worth trying to make my own.

Guys, it’s SO EASY!  

Cheater counter

Run your WORX Nitro circular saw (Amazon affiliate link) at a 45° bevel along the length of your plywood.  Yup, you can bevel this dream-machine and run it along the track for a much easier cut than running it over a table saw.  Move your saw in 1 ½” and rip your plywood again at an opposite 45° bevel.  This will give you a triangular piece of plywood that is 1 ½” wide on its widest face.

Set your saw back to perpendicular (0°), and cut the remaining plywood to the depth your want your counter to be.  In my case, 15″ from the outer tip of the angle.

Maybe this photo will help?

building a fake counter

The goal is to create a mitred edge so that the narrow triangular piece can be glued to the front of the counter edge so that it looks like a solid piece of wood.

building a fake counter


Don’t worry about the small gaps… run the edge of a screwdriver handle along the seam and it will crush the wood fibres into each other so that it looks seamless.

Cut your counter to length with your WORX Nitro (it will cut through the surface and face ply no problem) and dry-fit into your pantry. You will need a filler piece of ¾” ply to set the counter on.  It can be scrap bits, it won’t be seen.

adding drawer boxes to DIY pantry makeover

You wouldn’t know that isn’t a solid piece of wood right?!

Man I was chuffed after my plan worked!

The rest of your DIY pantry makeover is all the details – which are the most time consuming really.

Stain and seal

Pull your counter and drawers out then stain and seal them in the workshop.  I went with a custom stain that matches my dining room floors and then 3 coats of triple-thick because I know they will see a lot of traffic. I stained and sealed the inside of the drawer boxes as well because spills are inevitable and sealing will make for an easy clean-up with no damage to the wood.

I went with the notched drawers to cut down on hardware costs, but also to allow air flow through the drawers – particularly where produce will be stored.

drawer faces for pantry makeover

Sand your primer and puttied areas, and re-apply wood filler where necessary.  You’ll also want to caulk all of the trim and anyplace that wood meets the walls.  Keep a damp rag close by, it’s easier to wipe off excess caulk while it’s wet than trying to remove it by sanding later.

Once all of the caulk has dried, and the second coat of wood filler has been sanded off, it’s time to paint.

DIY pantry makeover

Three coats of Benjamin Moore’s Advance formula (super-durable paint) in an un-tinted white, with 16 hours of dry-time and 320 grit sanding in-between coats.

Bring your counter in and attach to your cabinet bases by drilling up into the underside with 1 ¼” wood screws through the cabinet braces.

DIY pantry makeover

Bring in your adjustable shelves and set them in place with shelf pins.

DIY pantry makeover


It’s so ridiculously beautiful I can barely stand it!

The only containers I bought for my DIY pantry makeover were the cereal candy dispensers you see on the counter.  (I actually scored them at auction for about $15!)

DIY pantry makeover

I had all of those containers in the pantry before, but they were “diluted” with the messiness of cans and boxes and spacing.

The narrow space at the right edge of the photo is perfect for paper towels – and as a dog/puppy foster, we go through A LOT.

DIY pantry makeover

The drawers were perfectly sized for my onion and potato Tupperware and my water stash.

*I tried selling Tupperware once, unfortunately I was my best customer lol.  If memory serves though, this Modular Mate set usually goes on sale come January.

pantry drawers

Next drawer up holds all the zip-locks and garbage and recycling bags that always seemed to be sprawled out on the floor.

pantry drawers

The trop drawer is for refills of Saran Wrap, tin foil and parchment paper, then our much-needed “goodie drawer”.

pantry drawers

The grey baskets that I had in the old pantry are still there, just tucked under the corner shelf, but easily accessible.  These hold paper plates, napkins and cutlery and the other – further back – holds mason jars.

The canned food also has a new home – still on display and easily reachable – but less chaotic and in-your-face.

DIY pantry makeover

I didn’t stage this DIY pantry makeover for you; these are all of the food items (less the few that had expired) that were in the pantry before.

I did get rid of my chocolate-making molds and the giant chocolate fondue, but everything else is still here.

DIY pantry makeover

I’d say this pantry actually has less storage shelving than the wired shelves – especially because I’d like to leave the counter section fairly clear (that toaster oven is getting donated) – BUT because the shelves are narrower, spaced more appropriately for our food, and the dividing brackets are gone, I can actually fit as much in a much prettier space.

DIY pantry makeover

DIY pantry makeover

DIY pantry makeover

So the big question is “but how much did all of this cost Shelly?”

Costs – Pantry Supplies

DIY Pantry Makeover  = $437.86 CDN

(approximately $320 US or €295)

before and after of DIY pantry makeover


Watch it on YouTube!



DIY pantry makeover