Small Pantry Planning Guide

Learn how to organize and shop for a small pantry so that no space goes to waste.

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Here's an area of the house you might not think about when downsizing: What happens when you go from a walk-in pantry to a small closet or even just a narrow kitchen cabinet? Or maybe you've found yourself cooking for just one or two people again. What will you do with all of your food and supplies? Chances are, you probably weren't using all of that stuff anyway. Think of this as a great opportunity to organize better and shop smarter!

Pantry Organization Tips

In any size pantry, good organization is the key to minimizing unnecessary grocery purchases and not forgetting about expired food on the back of a shelf. In a small pantry, you have to be even more mindful of space. Remember this rule: Think up. Take advantage of vertical space whenever possible to get the most out of your pantry. Stacking, tiered, and hanging storage will give you the most bang for your buck. And if you didn't have a labeling system in place before, now is the perfect time to implement one. You'll avoid any hang-ups about where things go and everyone in the house will be able to find what they're looking for.

Clear as Day

Clear, well-sealed containers and bins are your friend. Use them to store dry goods and baking items, such as flour, sugar, cereal, and pasta. Label each with the name of its contents and expiration date. As a bonus, these types of containers often keep food fresh longer. Stackable see-through bins double up on storage potential and keep items in view.

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In-Sight Storage

Small turntables are perfect for saving space and grouping together those small spice jars and canisters that too often go missing. Bleacher-style stacking units are great for larger items like soup cans so you can read the labels easily. Both of these options allow you to see and find what you have in a quick glance.  

Hang It Up

Another way to maximize a small space is to utilize empty walls and doors. Try an over-the-door hanging rack or mount a row of hooks to hold cooking utensils, oven mitts, and more.

Floating Free

If your home doesn't have a built-in pantry or closet, another option to consider might be a freestanding unit or floating shelves. Again, go with a tall, narrow unit to cut down on floor space used. Be creative; a high bookshelf can easily be repurposed for the kitchen. Open-style units also make you more conscious of organization, since everything is on display.  

Grocery Shopping Tips

When you have a small pantry, you have to rethink your grocery trips a little to ensure you have room for everything you purchase. Think about basic ingredients that can be used in multiple ways. For example, tortillas can become tacos, chicken wraps, breakfast burritos, or an enchilada bake. Avoid overbuying—do you really need six kinds of cereal? Meal planning is a must to cut down on superfluous buys. Go to the grocery store armed with a list of what you need for the week and stick to it!

Easy Meal Kits

One way to keep your pantry organized and make dinners easy is to pre-assemble supplies for family favorites. Group dry groceries in baskets or on trays that can be pulled out when ready to use. Here are some quick and easy ideas to get you started:

Warm Chili

  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Canned red kidney beans

Soup Night

  • Progresso soup varieties
  • Saltine crackers
  • Soup bowls and spoons

Taco Tuesday

  • Tortillas
  • Taco seasoning
  • Refried beans
  • Bottled taco sauce

Perfect Pasta

  • Dry pasta
  • Jar of marinara sauce
  • Dried basil
  • Dried oregano
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Grated Parmesan

Baking Party

  • Boxed cake or brownie mix
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Cookie cutters
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Chopped nuts
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