When we rented our last home, we did not have a specific "pantry." I tried putting the food in a big cabinet above the oven (which was in the wall), but it got too hot. My parents gave us a cabinet that we put in the office to use as a pantry. That was where I decided to designate jobs for each shelf (remember my #2 rule for organizing?).
When we bought our new home, one of the things I was unsure of was the size of the pantry. It looked so tiny that I thought I was going to have to use some of my other cabinets for food storage, too.
Since I generally keep only the food I need on hand and do not stock up on much in advance, it actually works out pretty well. I have one other cabinet for my tea bags/vinegar/spices/honey/etc that I need to reorganize, but other than that, here is my food storage:
I save the top shelf for chips because they take up so much space and get crushed so easily. I also currently have a graham cracker pie crust because it is very fragile. I have hot chocolate mix and chamomile tea bags up there, too.
The second shelf holds the cereal and snack foods.
The third shelf holds canned foods and random staples that don't really belong anywhere else.
The fourth shelf holds my cooking staples: pasta, bread crumbs, rice, and corn flakes (for crunchy breading and toppings).
The fifth shelf holds baking staples: brown sugar, powdered sugar, baking powder, shortening, chopped nuts, oats, self-rising flour, cocoa, and corn starch.
I use the floor for potatoes, onions, and extra food items. I have a honey mustard open but almost empty in the refrigerator, so the replacement is waiting on the pantry floor. Same for the sugar that will go in a canister and the chicken broth.
The main idea I keep in mind when organizing my pantry is to group similar items together so I know exactly where to find them!