Tips to Maximize Your Tiny Pantry

Having a small kitchen can feel like you have to wear shoes that are a little too tight. Sure, they will work in a pinch (literally), but you probably try to avoid using them too much because they’re just so darn uncomfortable and cramped.

Tips to Maximize Your Tiny Pantry

(Pixabay / ErikaWittlieb)

Small kitchens – and small pantries in particular – can make you almost feel like it’s not worth it to bust out those culinary skills because you know you’re going to run into problems juggling space. Believe it or not, there are some fairly easy ways that you can add square inches to make your pantry more useable.
If you’re finding your home storage options to be tight in your Seattle home or apartment, here are a few of our best tips for expanding your pantry’s capacity:

Add shelving

“Shelving makes the world go round.” – Someone Famous (Probably)

“BUT WHERE?!?” You’re probably screaming at your computer screen. To which I answer: you need to get creative. There are just tons of cool shelving hacks out there to make the most out of every inch of your pantry – both horizontally and vertically. The first thing that you should do is adjust your existing shelving so that similarly sized containers are all tucked in on the same shelf. Doing that right from the beginning will help you consolidate your bulk items so that you can help identify some white space. If you notice a few inches of space underneath one of your shelves, hang an under-shelf rack to hold your potatoes, other cellar vegetables, or bags of pasta or beans. You can also find stackable wire racks to help you divvy up the vertical space and squeeze more cans onto each shelve.

Now what can you do with the door? You can screw a metal magazine holder sideways to the door to hold your plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and install a dowel or paper towel holder to hang your rolls of garbage bags. Those little metal drawer dividers are excellent options for corralling smaller cans (chiles, olives, etc.) and small dishes like ramekins. You can also utilize the blank space on the inside of your door and free up some shelf space by hanging a shoe organizer to hold spices, seasoning packets, small utensils, and seldom-used, shelf-stable condiments.

Two last suggestions for shelving: you know that little four-inch space next to your fridge that you don’t know what to do with? Look for a roll-out shelving unit to fit into that opening. Not only will it free up your pantry space, but it will keep canned goods close to the prep station without their being in the way. And lastly, Lazy Susans. Especially if your pantry is a “U” or “L” shape, a Lazy Susan will help you use every inch of space in those corners while keeping track of all of your cans (nobody puts pickled beets in the corner!)


Did you know that they have whole stores devoted to providing the perfect container to fit any occasion? It’s true! Those stores will probably have the most variety, but you can do just as well by saving old containers or reusing glass jars. You can even reuse creamer containers or baby food jars for small amounts of seeds or nuts. The important thing is to make sure that your containers are clear (makes your pantry feel larger) and airtight (so that your food stays fresh and bug-free).

When you’re labeling, you have a lot of options. Here are just a few:

  • Plain Jane white label
  • Sharpie marker directly on the container (if the containers are plastic or glass, you can rub a dry-erase marker over the top to remove the permanent marker)
  • Vinyl lettering
  • Chalkboard stickers or chalkboard contact paper

Whatever method you use, be sure to write the expiration date on the bottom of the container and clean it whenever you’re ready to add in new food.

You’ll find that you save a lot of space by getting rid of all of the extra packaging. Try to buy in bulk and store your food in large containers or baskets. Group like foods together and keep the things you use a lot in an easy-to-access location. Also, look into getting some can organizers – those plastic contraptions where your cans lay on their sides and seamlessly rotate. This will help you keep track of expiration dates.

Rethink Your Spice Space

Spices are necessary, but they can take up a disproportionate amount of space in your tiny pantry. If you have a little bit of counter space, consider getting a free-standing spice rack to display your stash instead of squirreling it away. For small spice containers, hot glue a magnet on the bottom and stick them on your fridge, or invest in some fancy pants magnetic spice tins. You could also look into getting a tiered spice shelf so you can find your spices easily while using some of that ever-important vertical space.

Freestanding Pantry

Your house or apartment might not have a built-in pantry at all, so what are you supposed to do? Of course, you could go the wire shelving route, but that would expose all of your pantry items and could make your kitchen seem even more cluttered and small than it did before. Instead, consider investing in a bookshelf or tall entertainment center with doors. The doors allow you to hide your foodstuffs, and if you adhere some chalkboard contact paper or cheap corkboard to the inside of the door, you have a place for your grocery list, weekly menu, and calendar events.


Last, but not least, the miscellaneous section. If you have maxed out your space with the perfect containers, shelving, and organizational components, here are just a few more final touches that can make your pantry feel more spacious. Firstly, use white shelves whenever possible, but wire shelves will do. You could also consider adding some brightly colored or patterned removable wallpaper to the walls to help liven things up, and when all else fails, add in a light! You don’t have to rewire the electrical because even one of those little touch-button lights can help brighten up your space.

Making your tiny pantry feel like the palace larder might not be within your grasp, but there are some little things that you can do to help make it more organized and efficient.