Small pantry ideas – ways to design a pantry in the tiniest of spaces


Having a small pantry can be challenging when it comes to storing all your food items and cooking supplies efficiently. However, with some clever small pantry ideas and solutions, you can make the most of the tiniest of spaces.

A well-organized and functional small pantry doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. All it takes is planning, being ruthless about what you store, and making smart design choices. With a mix of specialized storage ideas, racks, baskets, and other organizing tools, even the tiniest closet or awkward nook can be converted into a highly efficient pantry.

This article will provide a variety of tips, tricks and small pantry ideas to help you design a compact, uncluttered and user-friendly pantry no matter how tiny the area.

Take Stock of What You Need to Store

Before designing your small pantry, take a full inventory of what you need to store. This will help you understand the kinds of storage solutions you need and prevent clutter from unused items.

  • Make a list of all your dry goods like spices, oils, condiments, baking ingredients etc. along with quantities.
  • Note down appliances like mixer, blender etc. that take up countertop space if you don’t have room to keep them separately.
  • Look at the types of food packaging – cans, jars, boxes, bags etc. – you stock up on frequently.
  • Check if you have appliances with attachments like food processors or immersion blenders that can be stored away separately.
  • See if you tend to buy certain items in bulk that take up a lot of space.

Once you know exactly what you need to store, it will be easier to choose the right organizational systems, bins, racks and other small pantry storage ideas.

Categorize and Prioritize

Figure out which items you use most frequently, and which ones can be kept in harder to access areas. Place everyday staples and foods you use a lot within easy reach on shelves/racks closest to you. Less frequently used items can be stored higher up or deeper inside the pantry.

Split your pantry into zones like:

  • Frequently used items zone
  • Appliances zone
  • Canned/jarred goods zone
  • Baking ingredients zone

Keep foods of similar types together and allocate space by category. For instance, keep all baking items on a shelf, oils/vinegars together in a caddy.

Optimize the Layout

Carefully considering the layout is key to maximizing every inch of your small pantry.

  • Install floor to ceiling shelving on the back wall. Having vertical space to stack items is a priority in a tiny pantry.
  • Use hanging wire racks on the interior door to store packaged foods, condiments etc.
  • Install a tension rod across the width of the pantry to utilize the often wasted space between shelves. Use S-hooks to hang utensils and pans from the tension rod.
  • Use furniture like narrow rolling carts or utility carts in a tight pantry instead of permanent built-ins. You can roll them out conveniently to access items.

Figure out wasted areas between fixed shelves or awkward gaps and nooks. Use hanging racks, extra shelves or freestanding racks to take advantage of every bit of space.

Use Clear Storage Bins

Plastic bins are must-have items for any small pantry. They instantly create neat zones to organize ingredients and supplies.

  • Stackable clear plastic bins allow you to see contents at a glance. Use labels to organize items into categories – snacks, canned goods, pasta, grains etc.
  • Look for narrow bins that can neatly fit on shelves without occupying too much precious horizontal space.
  • Tilt bins at an angle so you can easily grab items in the front row.
  • Use drink crates or food storage bins to neatly corral awkwardly shaped items like oil bottles.

Store Items Vertically

Storing ingredients and jars vertically helps optimize every inch of shelf space in a small pantry. You can stack far more items in a vertical position.

  • Use extra tall cereal dispensers for storing pasta, rice etc. These allow you to neatly arrange different types of grains and dry goods upright.
  • Install divided vertical racks or holders to neatly organize spice jars, condiments, oils etc. in a vertical position.
  • Use wall mounted racks with dividers to store baking sheets, pans and trays vertically above the countertop or non-used spaces.
  • Look for over the door racks with pockets to hang lightweight items like baking cups, utensils etc vertically.

Multitask Your Shelves

When dealing with a tiny pantry, a single shelf should serve multiple purposes. Avoid wasting any shelf real estate and make smart use of all the surfaces.

  • Use a shelf insert to create an extra shelf for small items within an existing shelf. Inserts also work well over the fridge or microwave.
  • Install extra shelves inside cabinet doors using sturdy brackets. Use them to hold smaller condiment bottles, spices etc.
  • Opt for cabinets with pull out drawers to fully utilize all the space from top to bottom for storage.
  • Use a vertical spice rack that mounts over a shelf to double your storage space.

Use Baskets and Dividers

Baskets are simple and versatile storage solutions ideal for a cramped small pantry. They instantly add compartments to corral similar ingredients without taking up much space.

  • Use hanging wire baskets under shelves for fruit, onions and other fresh produce. They utilize vertical space efficiently.
  • Keep a jumbo basket on the floor for bulkier items like potatoes, large packages.
  • Wire shelf dividers or acrylic inserts can create neat sections within a shelf. Use them to group similar jarred goods or break up a deep shelf.
  • Pretty woven baskets add style and keep items like snacks, cereals tidy. Just be sure to label the front so you know what’s inside.

Take Advantage of Wall Space

Don’t restrict yourself to just the pantry closet. Make use of walls, inside of doors, the back of doors etc. to maximize storage.

  • Use over the door clear pouches to store items like baking cups, utensils neatly.
  • Install hanging wall racks for taller items like brooms, mops to free up floor space.
  • Screw sturdy wall hooks to hang coffee mugs or utensils.
  • Use magnetic strips to hold knives and garage pegboard to neatly hang pots and pans.

Store Appliances Elsewhere

One of the biggest space hogs in a tiny pantry are small appliances like stand mixers, blenders, toasters etc. Try to store them outside the pantry if possible.

  • Store appliances you rarely use in low traffic zones like overhead cabinets, or closet top shelves. Use skinnier items to fill gaps between them.
  • Place appliances you use more regularly on the kitchen counters, and tuck away the attachments in categorized bins inside the pantry.
  • If possible keep bulkier appliances like the microwave or toaster oven altogether separate from the pantry on the kitchen counters or elsewhere.

Freeing up even a bit of space this way makes a significant difference in small pantries.

Adjust Interior Shelves

Maximize vertical storage density by making minor adjustments to the shelving. Even an inch or two of extra space can allow more items.

  • Make shelves truly built wall to wall without gaps on the sides for maximum usage of width.
  • Install deeper shelves like 12-inch deep shelves to allow more items to be stacked horizontally.
  • Adjust the heights between shelves according to product sizes. For instance, keep 15 inches distance for cereal boxes rather than the usual 12 inches.
  • Remove fixed shelving units entirely and install adjustable brackets. This allows fully customizing shelf heights as per your stored items.

Utilize Drawer Storage for Small Items

Drawers instantly add a lot more compact storage for all the tiny items that would otherwise get lost in a tiny pantry.

  • Use a narrow drawer organizer unit to neatly arrange and store packets of seasoning, small jars etc.
  • Drawers allow stacking items on top of each other while still being able to see everything clearly at a glance.
  • Install pull out drawers even in unconventional spaces like under corner shelves, or above the fridge.
  • Use a storage cart with drawers that can be conveniently rolled in and out of the pantry.

Creative Small Pantry Storage Ideas

With some creativity and out of the box thinking, even irregular small spaces can be converted into a highly efficient pantry with these ideas:

  • Turn an open wall gap or awkward nook into a narrow floor to ceiling pantry. Have deep shelves installed to maximize vertical storage density.
  • For a small closet, replace the clothing rod with a pull down drying rack to gain hanging space. Use the rod to hang lightweight items.
  • Install an interior vertical rotating tray or “lazy susan” in corner cabinets to efficiently access items.
  • Use tension rods or wall mounted rods to create extra shelves instantly in wasted vertical spaces between shelves or over the door.
  • For a tiny wall gap/corner pantry, have full extension pull out sliding shelves installed to easily access items stacked at the back.
  • Use plastic magazine holders mounted vertically on cabinet walls as improvised narrow storage for canned goods.

Solutions By Pantry Size

The available storage solutions differ based on how tiny the existing pantry space is.

Very narrow and small pantry

Extremely skinny pantries around 1-2 feet wide call for smart vertical storage tricks.

  • Use a metal shelf tower unit that gives you multiple shelves in a narrow floorprint.
  • Install floor to ceiling height shelves spaced very closely together to maximize storage density.
  • Use hanging wall mounted racks, corner mounted vertical racks to take advantage of all wall space.

Super shallow pantry depth

Shallow pantries less than 1 foot deep need unique solutions to stack items compactly.

  • Install extra deep wall mounted shelves. These allow stacking items behind each other.
  • Use pull out drawers for a shallow closet. These provide access to items stacked at the back.
  • Opt for open corner shelving to neatly store tall bottles/jars without wasting interior space.
  • Use grip shelves that extend forward on tracks for easy access to a shallow space.

Awkward small spaces

Unique tiny spaces like gaps between cabinets can also work as pantries with some creativity.

  • Use wall mounted racks or corner mounted racks to take advantage of unused vertical space.
  • Install tall narrow shelving units vertically between counter tops. Use for frequently accessed supplies.
  • Opt for open fronted wall cabinets for a narrow gap. These allow maximum visibility and accessibility.
  • Use tension rods or gripper rods vertically to create instant shelving between existing cabinets/gaps.

Pantry Organization Tips

To keep your small pantry as functional and clutter free as possible:

  • Label everything clearly so you can locate items easily. Use chalkboard labels, color coded dots stickers etc.
  • Rotate stock by keeping newer items at the back and pulling forward older ones to use first. This prevents wastage.
  • Throw out expired foods and containers immediately to avoid eating up space.
  • Clean and wipe down shelves periodically to prevent grime and dust from accumulating.
  • Store items used together like coffee next to coffee filters in labeled bins for convenience.
  • Have a donations box for any unused and unopened items you’ve decided to give away.
  • Use door bins, hanging racks etc. to store bulky items that take up precious shelf space like cookie sheets.
  • Store delicate items like chips, cereal in airtight containers to maintain freshness and prevent spills.

Common Small Pantry Problems and Solutions

Even the best laid plans can go awry in a cramped pantry. Here are some common pain points and solutions:

Problem: Too much wasted vertical space

Solution: Install adjustable height shelving. Lower/raise shelves to fit your storage needs. Use vertical racks, hanging racks to take advantage of empty wall space.

Problem: Shelves are spaced too far apart

Solution: Remove fixed shelves and install new brackets to customize shelf spacing. Or use risers/risers to create an extra shelf in between.

Problem: Bulky appliances take up too much space

Solution: Find alternate storage for bulky items outside the pantry. Or install deeper shelves to increase storage density in remaining space.

Problem: Bins and baskets slide around on shelves

Solution: Use non slip shelf liners to secure them in place. Or attach bungee cords to front of shelves to hold bins/baskets neatly.

Problem: Items get lost in dark interior spaces

Solution: Add battery operated LED lights inside pantry to illuminate everything clearly. Or install glass doors instead of solid ones.

Problem: Too many wasted gaps and corners

Solution: Use corner mounted racks, vertical storage racks to take advantage of all available space. Or have pull out shelves installed.

Problem: Shelves are too deep making items inaccessible

Solution: Install bookshelf style divided racks so items are easy to pull forward. Or use risers to split a deep shelf into two levels.

Tips For Specialty Storage

Certain items like spices need more specific storage hacks:


  • Use vertical in-drawer organizers for large collections of spices. These make spices easy to see and access.
  • For wall mounted racks, opt for angled racks that slope spices forward for better visibility.
  • Store everyday spices in a countertop lazy susan or turntable for instant access.
  • Use magnetic strips inside cabinet doors to hold an array of spices neatly.

Canned goods

  • Store cans on their sides on shelves rather than upright to save headspace.
  • A wall mounted rack with slanted shelves neatly organizes cans. Angle the shelves based on can sizes.
  • Use soda can organizers as makeshift organizers for canned goods. These keep different sizes neatly separated.
  • A deep bookshelf with sturdy dividers can neatly store a large canned goods collection.

Oils and condiments

  • Use a wall mounted rack with angled shelves to store bottles neatly. Pouring is easier too.
  • Opt for a countertop condiment organizer caddy for everyday used oils and sauces.
  • Small door mounted racks with divided holders keep bottles accessible and organized.
  • Store infrequently used bottles in lidded bins on shelves to prevent drips and leaks.

Answers To Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common queries answered about designing a small pantry:

What are some space-saving solutions for a tiny pantry?

Some great space saving ideas for tiny pantries include using vertical storage as much as possible, installing deeper shelves, using hanging racks for walls/doors, furniture like rolling carts instead of built-ins, and keeping bulky appliances separate.

How do I add more storage to a shallow pantry?

For shallow pantries, solutions like wall mounted racks, pull out drawers, open shelving, expanding tracks/grip shelves and vertical storage are optimal to maximize capacity. Avoid ordinary shelves in a shallow space.

What kind of organizational systems work best?

Clear stacking bins, labeled storage containers, shelf dividers and baskets help organize items neatly. Labelling and zoning the pantry into categories makes locating everything easy. Drawers provide great compact storage for small items.

How do I store canned goods in a small pantry?

Storing canned goods vertically utilizes space better. Use wall mounted racks, soda can organizers and divided bookshelves to neatly store a variety of canned goods upright. Keep everyday use cans on easy to access shelves.

What are some drawer storage options?

Some great drawer storage options include in-drawer small parts organizers, divided cutlery trays, stacking drawers, drawer inserts for shelves, under-shelf drawers and portable storage carts with drawers.

How do I make a narrow pantry functional?

For narrow pantries, installing floor to ceiling height shelves and vertical storage options like hanging racks and wall mounted racks maximize the vertical storage density in a skinny footprint. Avoid spacing standard shelves too far apart.

How can better lighting help a small pantry?

Adequate lighting is crucial for a small space. Add battery operated lights, or replace doors with a curtain for better light. Glass doors also enhance visibility. Light interiors make it much easier to locate items.


The limited dimensions of a tiny pantry can make storage challenging. However, there are many ingenious solutions to transform even the smallest awkward space into a highly functional storage spot. With smart organization, clever small pantry ideas and specialized storage solutions, you can conquer the constraints of limited square footage.

The key is to make the most of vertical space with floor to ceiling shelving, utilize all wall space fully, and compartmentalize with bins, baskets and dividers. Adjusting interior shelving, using space-saving furniture and keeping bulky appliances separate also allows maximizing capacity. With some creativity and planning, it is quite possible to gain a surprisingly large amount of storage even in the tiniest of pantries.