We have 5 kids and have lived in small houses for almost our entire marriage. Most of the time, we have had a small kitchen with no pantry. Over the years, I’ve figured out creative ways to organize a kitchen with no pantry when it feels like there is just no where to put your food. If this is the situation you find yourself in, take a deep breath, then follow these steps and we’ll figure it out together!
Related: Small House Living with Kids
How to Make Room for Food in a Kitchen with No Pantry
Our first step has to involve the kitchen cabinets and what’s currently living in there.
With no pantry, we need to condense everything else so we have somewhere for our food to go.
First things first, minimize what you already have in there.
How many people live in your house? That is the exact amount of plates, bowls, spoons, forks, and knives you need.
Minimize absolutely everything. With 5 kids, I have one big stock pot, one smaller sauce pan, a frying pan, and three pyrex dishes – 9×13, 8×8, and a round one.
We also have only one place setting per person. This means if we have cereal for breakfast, we have to wash all of the bowls if we’re going to have soup for lunch.
I thought my husband was crazy when he initially suggested we get rid of almost all of our plates, but it has actually been amazing.
We hardly ever have a sink full of dishes and it takes almost no time to load and unload the dishwasher.
The most important part?
We now have room for food in our cabinets since there is no where else for food to go.
Also, really reevaluate your small appliances.
If there is anything you simply don’t use, be willing to donate it or even sell it on Facebook Marketplace.
Some examples from our own small kitchen are the coffee bean grinder we had, the sandwich press, and an extra juicer we had for some reason.
The other small appliances that we kept I moved to a shelf in our garage.
Unless we use it everyday, there is simply not space in our kitchen for it.
Everything in our small home has to earn it’s place there by being useful everyday.
Otherwise it’s got to go.
Where do you put food in a kitchen with no pantry?
At my best, most minimalist, my kitchen only had 3 cabinets with anything other than food in them.
We eat a lot of canned foods, so I just stack those on top of each other in one cabinet. One of our cabinets leaves a lot of room above one can, but not quite enough for a second can.
There just isn’t enough space in our kitchen for that kind of waste, so I did invest in these can organizers and I could fit over twice as much in that cabinet.
Just organize your cans by expiration date so you aren’t losing things in the back never to be seen again.
A great way to save space is to hang as much as you can.
I have a magnetic spice rack that sticks to the side of my fridge.
This has been a huge game changer and uses space that would otherwise attract paper clutter.
I also have a teeny tiny rolling cart to use that weird space next to my fridge.
Usually, I’m not a fan of spending money to solve problems, but these things have honestly saved us so much space and have made our kitchen function so much better.
I also am a firm believer in multipurpose items.
For example, we got rid of most of our Tupperware and use Mason jars instead.
We also drink out of mason jars. Dual purpose items like this really cut down on the amount of items your kitchen needs.
Related: Purge Household Clutter
When we moved into our house, I realized how infrequently I actually use the coat closet that is right inside our front door.
It’s only about 10 steps from our tiny kitchen.
This easy access means that while it isn’t actually in our kitchen, we can still use this as makeshift pantry space.
We live in Florida, so a coat closet kind of serves no purpose.
Instead, we moved our broom and vacuum to just inside our garage that we can still easily access.
We also made a small cubby for shoes.
Then, my husband installed shelves in that small closet that now functions as a small pantry.
This makes such better use of this space and gives our large family storage for food that we desperately needed.
In our last house, we used a sturdy shelf for extra storage.
Then I just brought a few items into our kitchen as necessary.
Best Pantry Organization Ideas
Regardless of where you are able to put a pantry (or even if there is simply NO possibly makeshift pantry space – we’ll get to that next) there are some tried and true pantry organization ideas that will maximize the storage space you DO have.
One of those is these can storage things.
In our last house, the cabinet shelves were tall enough for only 1.5 cans and it was the bane of my existence.
With these things I was able to stack two of them on top of each other and I could easily fit 4x the cans in that same cabinet.
I just organized the cans by expiration dates and kept like kinds together.
I am usually super anti buying your way out of a problem.
We are on a fixed income and don’t have a ton left over for random pantry storage solutions.
These have honestly made a big enough difference in our storage space that I feel like they were 100% worth it.
I used these small lazy Susans in our last house for spices and a few condiments.
We now use a magnetic strip for spices, but when that wasn’t an option, a lazy Susan was great.
How to Organize Deep Kitchen Cabinets
If you don’t have any area in your home that you can convert into a pantry, don’t worry.
With a little creativity, there are still TONS of solutions to find food storage space.
We just had to maximize the use of space in our kitchen cabinets. They are super old and way deeper than modern cabinets.
This is both a blessing and a curse.
I have maximized the space by using nesting and stacking everywhere I possibly can.
We now have one small set of nesting mixing bowls that I also use for serving side dishes. Remember: dual purpose.
I take everything out of it’s packaging and store it in stackable containers.
This includes pasta, cereal (cereal boxes come basically half empty anyway, getting rid of those saves tons of space), and dry goods like flour, sugar, and rice.
These are my favorite food storage containers and are on sale right now (as of when I’m writing this).
Any head space above boxes and canned goods is just dead space.
We have no room for wasted space, so we have to find the best way to use it.
These under the shelf organizers are amazing for flat, narrow things like tortillas.
I also use them for paper plates and plastic bags.
Small, inexpensive solutions like this really make the most of limited cupboard space for a small extra cost.
Clear containers and storage bins that you can see inside of are also great.
Put less used items in those and in the back of the cabinet, but you can still see what’s in there.
How to Make Use of Counter Space
I use a Rae Dunn crock that says “prep” on it to hold all of my spatulas, wooden spoons, and ladles.
It acts as a sort of decoration but doubles by giving me back an entire drawer.
If drawer space is a huge concern, you can keep silverware (remember, we’ve pared it down to almost nothing) in the middle of the dining room table in a small decorative jar.
Now that we use a ton more flour as our kids are older and eat constantly, I keep a small decorative flour container on my counter.
I can make pancakes super fast in the morning this way.
My oatmeal is also in a clear bin with a metal scoop that I think looks super cute.
Everything else has been put away so I have tons of extra counter space.
Also, remember that some things look acceptable sitting out.
Like a beautiful cutting board on the counter is both decorative and functional. I LOVE dual purpose.
How to Make the Best Use of Vertical Space
If your walls can handle it, hang the pans you decide to keep.
I’ve said it before, but use a magnetic spice system like I use.
If you don’t have small children, a magnetic knife strip is also a great idea.
I also use 3M hooks on the inside of cabinet doors for small things.
For example, I keep my measuring spoons on one and use another to hang scrub brushes under my sink.
Things That Don’t Work
Or at least things that don’t work FOR ME.
Drawer organizers. I love the idea of them and the beautiful pictures they use to try to get me to buy them.
When I bought them at a thrift store and tried to love them, I just couldn’t. They create wasted space in an already tight kitchen.
These drawer dividers worked so much better. I could keep measuring cups on one side and random items, like can openers on the other without wasted space.
Pot rack for inside of the cabinet. This also failed me greatly.
We are much more of a nesting kind of family. Our pots and pans all fit into each other. This works.
Trying to organize the pans and lids didn’t.
If you’re feeling super frustrated with your small kitchen and feel like there will just never be enough space, I can assure you – you’re right. You won’t ever stop wishing you had just a little more cabinet space or a kitchen pantry BUT you CAN create a kitchen that works for you and your family. In a rental we had during 2020, we ordered a $400 kitchen island. We had literally 12 inches of counter space otherwise. I can tell you that this one, very large for our budget, purchase, made such a huge difference. I actually never thought about our lack of counter space again. Give your kitchen a look with fresh eyes and see what space you do have. Then try out some of the solutions we discussed here to see if you can create a more functional small kitchen. If we could make it work with our crazy, large family, I have all the confidence that you can too!