How to Maximize Space in a Small Pantry

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Feeling bummed because you’ve got a small pantry? Don’t be. While luxurious open shelving and decanted everything with space to breathe may not be in your pantry’s cards, small pantries have their benefits and can be just as effective as large ones. Let’s dive into some benefits of small pantries and strategies for maximizing the space you’ve got.

7 Ideas for maximizing space in a small pantry

When you have a small pantry, you need to be a bit more creative about your storage and organization, but once you get a system in place, it can be quite nice to have a small pantry to upkeep.

Benefits of Small Pantries

  1. You can bling it out with bins without breaking the bank. Large pantries have more storage space, which equals more baskets, which equals more money. Smaller pantries need to work hard, but you can splurge a bit on bins to help it be more effective without feeling too guilty about how much you’re spending.
  2. You can resist temptation. It’s easy to get lured into purchasing an excessive amount of food when it’s on sale. With a small pantry, it’s much easier to grab one or two sale items and then continue with your shopping, knowing that you’ve got enough.
  3. Not only do you save money by skipping sales, you save money by not wasting food. While you’ll probably still find a few expired items when looking through your food storage, you shouldn’t find too much in a small pantry — there’s not a lot of room for the food to hide.
  4. Regardless of how large or small your pantry is, pantries are such hard working spaces they need to be reset often. It’s a much simpler project to give a small pantry an overhaul than to reset a large pantry. The less you have, the less you have to clean, right?
  5. You can get creative. Think outside the box and have some fun. Can you add hooks on open wall space? Can you add a rack to the door? There are a lot of great ways to maximize space in a small pantry which can be quite fun. Not your idea of fun? Consult with a professional and see if they can help.

You can find step-by-step directions for organizing your pantry here, but before jumping into pantry organization, you’ll want to take a hard look at your space.

Evaluate Your Pantry Space

Not enough pantry space? Look around for spaces you aren't using.

Look at your shelves — is there any wasted space between them?

Look up. How much space is there above the top shelf?

Look at your pantry walls. Is there any space to add hooks or a basket?

Look at your door. Can it be used?

Now that you’ve taken a thorough look around your space, it’s time to get started.

Maximize Your Pantry Space

Using Pantry Doors for Storage

Don't forget the door when organizing your small pantry. Door space can be used efficiently with an Elfa rack.

Doors are one of the most underutilized spaces in homes. While I don’t suggest cluttering up every door in your home with racks and belongings, door racks can be very useful when space is scarce.

My favorite door rack: Elfa brand from The Container Store. You can mount the racks can onto the doors with screws or clamped onto the top and bottom — creating storage, but not holes.

Affix baskets onto the racks and you can add a ton of storage to your pantry. Door racks are perfect for cans, jars, spices, and grab-and-go snacks.

Using Pantry Floors for Storage

Use your floor — carefully. Do not stack 100 cans on the ground—in fact, avoid putting small individual items on the floor altogether.

Store large items such as bottles of juice and paper towels, or get one or two large baskets and use them for smaller items. You can keep bags of chips, onions, potatoes, or rolls of paper towels in the baskets. Using large baskets easily allows you to store smaller items, plus they can easily slide in and out so you can access what you need and sweep out the dust. When basket shopping, choose one that’s durable and washable, like this large basket.

If you’ve got extra space, you can get bins that stack. That will help you maximize your vertical space.

My Favorite Stacking Bins: These black wire bins are useful when they’re stacked and when they’re not. They even come with a large metal label you can write on or add vinyl to.

Use the floor in a small pantry intentionally. Add a few large bins for small items or store larger items like juice or paper towels.

Add a Shelf or two

If you’ve got large chunks of wall showing anywhere in your small pantry, that probably means you aren’t using your vertical space effectively.

Add a shelf wherever you can. Many pantries have extra space under the bottom shelf and above the top shelf. The bottom shelf is a perfect spot for kids’ snacks.

A top shelf won’t be easy to access, but it is a great spot to store extra backstock such as boxes of cereal or extra sugar.

Use Space Between Shelves

If you’re unable to add any additional shelves, consider getting open-front bins that stack on top of one another or bins that attach to the bottom of shelves.

More favorite stacking bins: Above, I shared a great option for stacking bins on the floor, I also love these wooden stacking bins. They look great on a shelf and are nice and sturdy — which is important if you’re working with wire shelving.

My favorite under-shelf basket: Unfortunately, when you’ve got wire shelving, it’s hard to use under-shelf baskets, but if you’ve got wood shelves, they work well. They give you a few extra inches of storage in a space that might otherwise be wasted. They also work well within cabinets and desk areas.

Use Bins on Pantry Shelves

Finally – the gem of any pantry: the bins. Not everyone is on team “bins in the pantry”, but when you’ve got a small space, they’re quite useful.

Why Use Bins to Organize Your Pantry

Using bins in a small pantry helps you access items on the back of the shelf and sets limits so you don't overbuy.

Use bins as drawers. Nothing will get lost in the back of the pantry when it’s in a bin and can easily be pulled out and looked through. Group like items together (ex: pasta, snacks, breakfast…). If you’re going to use bins, make sure they’re appropriately sized for the shelf. Bins that are too big or too small will waste space and make a mess. Label the bins so everyone knows just where to locate their favorite foods.

Let your bins be your limit. Shop for how much food your space allows. No room for 7 boxes of cereal? Grab two and be okay with that. Limits can be helpful in keeping your shopping and your space in check.

My favorite pantry bins: The Container Store White Plastic Bins. They’re basic, affordable, durable, easy to clean, look great, and take a label nicely. Additionally, they come in a variety of sizes so you can use them for different purposes but maintain a consistent look.

Remove Packaging & Decant

Taking snacks out of boxes can help save space when organizing a small pantry.

When you use bins, removing items like cereal and crackers from their boxes can be a great space-saver. Leave items in their bags and use a clip to keep your food fresh. Tossing the box saves a ton of space, especially when there’s not much left in the package.

Decant *some* items. Decanting everything in your small pantry probably won’t be practical, but it can be helpful in certain situations. Decanting items that come in large packages, such as rice or quinoa, can help you use space effectively.

My favorite jars: Simple Mason Jars. I bet you have some in your kitchen already.

Turntables also work nicely and make quite a statement. They can be helpful in an awkward corner.

Hang Hooks or Baskets

Hang hooks or baskets on open wall space. Hooks can hold aprons, lunch boxes, grill utensils, broom, reusable shopping bags, and so much more. If you’ve got room for baskets, these can be great for snacks, ziplock bags, packets of oatmeal and other small items.

My favorite hooks: My favorite hooks are always Command Hooks. They work well, hold up, and are removable. They also come in a variety of sizes. One of their recent additions to their lineup is a Command Hook Gripper that holds mops and brooms.

Maximizing Storage Space in a Small Pantry

Small pantries can be a challenge, but by implementing creative storage solutions and adjusting your shopping habits, you can take advantage of every inch and have plenty of space for food for your family. Is there anything else you would add to this list?

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