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How to Make a First In First Out Can Organizer

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This weekend I shared a photo of myself constructing a First In First Out can organizer on my Facebook page.  I am happy to say that it is complete and working as I hoped it would.  Do you need a new organization system for your canned goods as well?

How to Make a First In First Out Can Organizer

First In First Out DIY Can Organizer

I’ve been wanting a FIFO (first in first out) can organizer for years.  After doing some extensive online searching I decided that I didn’t want to pay upwards of $40 for an organizer that only holds up to 54 cans so I set out to make my own. It turned out to be not so difficult, and very inexpensive as well.

My first attempt at a cardboard can organizer was {ahem} less than successful (see below) 😀 .  I decided wood would create the cleanest edges and would be more sturdy.

The can organizer that I made will hold well over 100 cans and it cost me around $25.00 for the materials. Woohoo!  It measures 42.5″ wide, 14″ deep and 16″ tall.

First In First Out Can Organizer Materials:

  • (2) 4 x 8 boards of 1/4″ plywood
  • (2) tubes of construction glue (and a caulking gun if you don’t have one)
  • table saw
  • measuring tape
  • sharpie

With my organizer I made (8) compartments that will each hold between 16-20 cans (depending on can size). You can do (6) or (4) compartments or how ever many to fit your needs, but you will have to adjust the back and bottom shelf length to accommodate.  The first thing you’ll need to do is measure your plywood.  If you have never worked with a table saw before, remember to account for your blade width while measuring.  Just measure from the BOTTOM of your line instead of from the top or middle of your line.

I went ahead and wrote a description of the different pieces after I cut them.  You won’t be able to see the writing after the construction process.

For my (8) compartment can organizer I cut:

  • (1) 42.5″ x 16″ (back)
  • (1) 42.0″ x 14.25″ (bottom shelf)
  • (9) 16″ x 14″ (dividers)
  • (1) 4″ x 42.5″ (middle can stopper)
  • (1) 1.5″ x 42.5″ (bottom can stopper)
  • (3) 5.5″ x 10″ (soup can shelves)
  • (6) 4.25″ x 10″ (condensed soup can shelves)
  • (15) 5.25″ x 10″ (vegetable can shelves)

You will want to cut the bottom of  seven of the 16″ x 14″ dividers at an angle.  You will attach the bottom shelf to the completed project at the very end of the construction process.  The two that you do not cut at an angle will be your outside boards.  The angled bottom edge will allow space for the bottom shelf to be attached.


Grab your construction glue and the appropriate can size for the specific compartment (ie: shelf width).   In the picture below, the top of the organizer is on the right, the bottom is on the left.  The cans will roll down each shelf and onto the next.

Angle your shelves so that the cans will roll independently.  In the image above I was constructing a vegetable can compartment.  It is very important to make sure that the can will fit between the first and second shelves, the second and third shelves and the third and bottom shelf!!

Use a paper towel to wipe away excess glue.   It will also help the cans roll along smoother after finished.

I’ll be honest: I eyeballed the placement of the shelves.  You might measure and mark each to make sure they are all uniform.  Below is a picture of one compartment after applying the glue.  You’ll end up with (8) of these if you make the same size that I did.

After all eight compartments have dried, it’s time to start gluing them together.  I used cans to weigh them down (instead of clamps) until they were dry enough to continue.  Keep stacking them on top of each other after gluing, make sure you are putting them on as straight as possible.  After you have all compartments glued together, it’s time to attach the final side (16″ x 14″).

After all glue is dry lay the organizer upside down to attach the bottom.  We cut the bottom shelf 1/2 inch shorter than the back piece because it will fit inside the two end pieces.  When attached it will sit at an angle, not flush from front to back.  This will allow that bottom row of cans to roll forward. 😉

After the glue on the bottom shelf is dry, lay the organizer on it’s front. Attach the back with glue and carefully flip it over (you’ll need two people for a large organizer) to attach the middle stopper and the bottom stopper.  Again I used cans to weigh it down until the glue dried.

Note: You will have some wood left over.  I used mine to make another {smaller} organizer that holds an additional 50 cans!

Will you be making a First In First Out can organizer? It’s easier than it looks, frees up oodles of space in your pantry and cheaper than you can purchase online!

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  1. Part of both. :) I didn't have a pattern and the shelve width and height vary depending on the size of the can. I did eyeball them though too.
    1. Gotcha. Any recommendations on cuts if I just want to fit several types of vegetable cans and no other sized cans?
      1. I would measure the distance from the top back to the back of the first shelf, the angle, distance to the next shelf etc, and make identical lines on each divider to make sure they are uniform.