18 Small Pantries Big on Smart Storage Solutions

Because great things can come in small packages.

July  1, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Why is it that all the super-satisfying pantry makeovers seem to have one thing in common? That one thing being space, and lots of it? Every time I “ooh” and “aah” over a freshly decluttered and rearranged pantry, it’s a space probably five times the size of mine—and I’m truly not exaggerating. It’s easier, presumably, to make things look neater and cleaner when there’s more space for breathing room, but it’s harder to find functional (and attractive) solutions when you’re low on space.

While it’s always fun to ogle expansive homes with walk-in pantries and such, the reality is that most of us don’t have a ton of storage, especially in the kitchen. In fact, a lot of homes and apartments—my own included—are fairly sparse in the food storage department, which forces us to get crafty if we want to keep everything organized and out of sight.

If you’re ready to transform your more minimal pantry from messy and cluttered to neat and methodical, consider these small-pantry hacks, which will help you maximize your space. Get ready to say: "Now, why didn't I think of that?"

1. Tuck Away a Slide-Out Pantry

If you have a few inches of space beside your fridge, you have enough room to slip in one of these skinny slide-out pantries. Sure, you can only store narrow items in them, but they’re an easy and affordable way to make the most of every inch.

2. Reimagine Freestanding Pantry Space

No built-in? No worries. This freestanding pantry is an epic IKEA hack if there ever was one. We love the idea of using a Billy bookcase with glass doors as a stand-in pantry, and of course, who can resist those impeccably organized containers?

3. Share Unused Space

How awesome is this idea? This IGer had space to spare in her little laundry room, so she installed several shelves to turn part of the area into a makeshift pantry. Perfect for storing overflow from the kitchen.

4. Make the Most of Every Inch

This cabinet is a perfect example of how to use every inch of space in your space-deprived kitchen. There are small spice racks on the back of each door, as well as extra vertical cubbies for storing baking sheets, platters, and more.

5. Hide a Pantry Under the Stairs

Harry Potter got his humble beginnings in a cabinet under the stairs, and now your food essentials can live there, too. Honestly, that space is typically just wasted, so why not transform it into your very own pantry? We sense a DIY in your future.

6. Embrace Stacking Bins

You can fit twice as much stuff in your limited storage space when you use stacking bins. They’re perfect for cans, snacks, and even produce that like cool, dark places (hello, potatoes). Oh, and don’t forget to break out your label maker to give every bin a name tag.

7. Hide Food Behind the Basement Door

Who says you can only store food in kitchen cabinets? A lot of homes have an entry to the basement from the kitchen, and the back of this door is a great spot to stash overflow pantry items. There are even behind-the-door racks with adjustable shelving to perfectly fit your storage needs.

8. Invest in Uniform Containers

Because food packaging comes in all shapes and sizes, putting away groceries can feel a little like Tetris—that’s why so many organization experts recommend switching to uniformly sized containers, which are easier to stack and fit nicely in smaller spaces. We love how the height of the round containers is staggered in this mini pantry, allowing you to see what’s in the back!

9. Built-in Pantry Organizers

If regular shelves just aren’t cutting it, you can always get creative and make your own pantry built-in. This unique design features compartments with steps to stagger spices and condiments, as well as an X-shaped section that would be ideal for storing paper towels or bottled drinks.

10. Add Sneaky, Stylish Storage

This cute locker looks like a piece of decor, but it also does double-duty as an extra storage spot in an undersized kitchen. This IGer uses it to stash items like paper towels and other paper goods, but we can see it being useful for overflow pantry items or even as a snack station.

11. Put Inexpensive Drawers on the Floor

Wondering what to do with half-full bags of food and other pantry items that don’t have a home? You can keep them organized and accessible in a few stacks of plastic drawers placed at the bottom of your closet. These drawers are typically inexpensive, and they’ll help to maximize your storage space in this often-wasted area.

12. Install Slide-Out Baskets

If you have deep, skinny cabinets, slide-out baskets will help you to access items way in the back—without knocking everything over in the process. These baskets are perfect for storing all your pantry essentials, and there are even two-tier models that would work perfectly on taller shelves.

13. Embrace Drawer Dividers

This before-and-after shot shows how useful expanding drawer dividers can be in a small pantry space. In this cabinet, the dividers were used to create rows on pull-out shelves, which makes organizing canned goods, condiments, and food packets much easier—it’s so satisfying to toggle between the before-and-after pictures.

14. Don’t Forget Under-Shelf Organizers

Here’s another mind-blowing pantry transformation! We particularly love how they incorporated under-shelf baskets to make the most of their small closet space. The hanging containers fit perfectly over short organization baskets, taking up space that would otherwise be wasted.

15. Get Crafty with Empty Drawers

If you have an empty drawer in your kitchen, you can use it to store baking supplies (or other loose ingredients). Naturally, this poses the issue of how you’ll identify containers if you can’t see into them, but the simple solution is to put labels on top of the jars. That way, you can quickly and easily find the ingredient you need, and as an added bonus, your pantry staples will be safe from bugs in airtight containers.

16. Lean Into Unconventional Solutions

No two pantries are the same, so if you have an idea that works for your needs, we say go for it—even if it’s unconventional. For example, this pantry uses a behind-the-door shoe organizer as a spice holder! It’s an inexpensive hack, and it’s ideal if you have spice jars that don’t fit onto a standard rack.

17. Add… A Ladder?

Okay, okay, this one is simply not in the cards for most people (especially those of us with tiny little cabinets or closets where we store all our dry goods). But how cool would it be to reach the top shelf of spare snacks and extra coffee by wheeling a ladder over like an old-timey librarian? For pantries that are taller than they are wide, this might actually be a helpful add.

18. Use What You’ve Got

We’ve seen clear bins, jars, and baskets used in pantry re-organizations ad nauseam, but what about the packages that things already come in? Sure, not everyone wants a bunch of unsightly boxes and bags cluttering up their pristine pantry, but sometimes it’s easier and less wasteful to just leave things in their original packaging. This hack bridges the divide by sweetly rolling and folding bags of cereal (outside of their bright, screaming boxes!) and tucks them away into a basket until they’re all done. No need for getting the exact right proportions of a container, and no need to suffer through color chaos.

What's your favorite small pantry storage solution? Let us know below!

This post contains products that are independently selected by our editors, and Food52 may earn an affiliate commission.

This post was updated in July 2021 to add even more pantry storage ideas.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • 2tattered
  • Liz Summers
    Liz Summers
  • j7n
  • AntoniaJames
  • Delanie Anne Miller
    Delanie Anne Miller
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


2tattered July 22, 2021
Where can I get the spaghetti container with the hole in the lid?💕
Liz S. July 1, 2021
I have a good amount of adjustable space in my kitchen, but I try to keep very well stocked as I live rurally: 40 mi round trip to grocery, etc. So, I am always reading these articles for new ideas. I also have a motorhome and it has the sliding pantry units (#1 type of thing) that I really love for how much I can store and easily find. I've always thought that if I redid my kitchen, I would have lots of those in various widths. I never thought to look and see if there were stand alone rolling options! Thanks for that link! The linked unit is plastic but there are nicer units once I knew to look. And I DO have some space next to my frig as well as some in my laundry closet (although I'm thinking laundry items there ... still, efficient storage!). Another personal favorite is various bins that corral items and are easy to pull out and view: baking ingredients, backup spices (I buy spices I use a lot of in 4-8 oz bags), sauce/condiments. Actually, little by little, not just in the kitchen, I have various bins and baskets to make closet shelf storage neater and easier.
j7n May 18, 2021
A clear glass door is less than ideal. Most food is better kept out of sunlight.
AntoniaJames September 18, 2020
I used to live in a 100 year old house with a tiny "maid's kitchen" - very small relative to the size of the house! We did a moderate makeover, which included two clever storage solutions in spaces that otherwise are not efficiently used, both recommended by our wonderful cabinetmaker. They were featured in this article on Food52 a few years ago: Scroll down to see the pull out cabinet between the sink and the outer cabinet facing, for storing dish brushes, etc., and a large pullout cabinet that makes perfect use of a large space above the refrigerator, where we stored bulky items like baskets and oversized holiday serving platters, etc. ;o) P.S. Incidentally, many of the ideas suggested above hold true as well for making the best use of much larger spaces. I now have a huge walk-in pantry, in addition to a truly ridiculous amount of other storage in the kitchen itself, but I find that many techniques for organizing smaller spaces keeps everything tidy conceptually, which is quite helpful.
Delanie A. January 25, 2019
Most of these are clever, but a laundry/pantry combo?!?
catherine C. July 18, 2021
Our utility room accommodates both our washer and dryer and two large pantry shelving units. Works just great. Our kitchen is quite small and this is actually a very good solution.
Abigail H. January 25, 2019
But where can I buy the canisters in the cover photo? They're adorable!
Lydia R. January 28, 2019
Wondering the same - kind of sad when you click on the article link for the original image and those products aren't even mentioned!
Cynthia September 24, 2020
As you scroll through the article the link for the stackable Jars is there (Next to the metal rack with small pull out canisters.
Kathryn January 15, 2019
Growing up our pantry was under the stairs and referred to as "Harry Potter's Cupboard" so I love that one- Harry would have never have starved living in our cupboard! Would be awesome if you could also do an article for those of us who are renting and unable to renovate the tiny kitchens we have. We already use some of the ideas in this article but I would love some more renters hacks!
Kim S. September 24, 2020
Expanding on that renter-friendly thought... all but the built-ins on the list could be renter-friendly. A photo collection of products representing a renter's interest (and how to style attractively and potentially reverse a semi-permanent installation) would be nice. I'm sure there are plenty of examples out there! For me, I keep my "solutions" products on a smaller scale and a lower price point so they repurpose across several different rental units where cabinet, shelf and closet dimensions are different in each space. And if I do drill a hole or two or dozen in a cabinet interior or closet/cupboard door, I don't stress too much. Spackle, paint and shelf-liners hide a multitude of sins!
ELLE January 15, 2019
Some of us dinosaurs don't subscribe to the likes of Facebook, Instagram, etc. It would be nice if Food52 could add sources other than these of the products mentioned in an article like this.
Kathryn January 15, 2019
you can still view Instagram posts without logging in but I feel you- FB doesn't allow this.