How To Organize A Small Pantry

how to organize a small pantry


Organizing a small pantry is no easy feat. A pantry is the closet for your kitchen, and just like with your clothes, it’s easy to let old groceries, snacks, containers, and plastic utensils pile up and fill it to the brim. Especially when you have a small pantry, disorganization can happen quickly and right under your nose!

If you’re strategic about your pantry organization tactics, you can create systems that give you easy access to all your snacks, spices, and baking ingredients without feeling cramped or overwhelmed.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

I make an intentional effort to be pretty organized in my tiny house. Knowing the amount of space I have to work with and using organization strategies helps me keep the chaos in check.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Simple Steps To Start Organizing Your Small Pantry

Simple Steps To Start Organizing Your Small Pantry

Organizing a small pantry is all about keeping the likes with the likes and creating a space that allows you to get to what you need easily. Keeping your small pantry organized will also make it feel roomier and less cramped.

organizing a small pantryIt may seem like a lot to create a system to keep every single food item in its place, but I promise its worth it in the long run. Putting in a little bit of extra time on the front end to organize your pantry will save you so much time down the line.

Think about all those nights when you struggled to get your kids out the door for soccer practice because you couldn’t find that one piece of tupperware, or those evenings when you were on the hunt for the red pepper flakes to season dinner but just could not remember where you left them.

Step One: Sort Food Items And Take Inventory In Your Small Pantry

Sort Food Items And Take Inventory In Your Small Pantry

When it comes to organizing a small pantry, the first thing you need to do is take inventory to know what you even need to organize. If you’re anything like me, you may have bought snacks or spices years ago that you never use. It’s easy to let a pantry fill up with dry goods and snack items that pile up in the back of a small pantry.

First and foremost, take everything out of your small pantry and set it all across your kitchen floor. Take out old cereal boxes, plastic cutlery, vegetable cans, tupperware, canisters of spices — all of it.

Remove all items big and small from your pantry and sort them into categories that relate to the way you would use them. This will help you visually see how many items you have in your pantry get an idea of what items should be stored together.

Categories In A Pantry

  • Bread and baked goods
  • Rice and pasta
  • Chips, cookies, and cereal
  • Canned items: soup & vegetables
  • Jarred goods: olives & pickles
  • Candy, gum, and mints
  • Legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Dried herbs and spices
  • Honey, syrups, and sweeteners
  • Tea, K-Cups, and coffee beans
  • Oils, sauces, and vinegars
  • Baking essentials
  • Plastic utensils, cups, and plates
  • Ziplocs, bags, wraps & foil
  • Ice tea, water & sports drinks

how to stock a minimalist kitchen

Step Two: Declutter Items In Your Small Pantry

Declutter Items In Your Small Pantry

Before you can effectively organize your small pantry, you’ll need to declutter all those extra snacks, canned goods, and plastic cutlery that you don’t really need to keep around. I want to note the importance of tackling this step before you try to organize your small pantry.

small decluttered pantry shelvesThe decluttering process is an entirely different beast that I talk about in other posts, but it’s an important step in getting ready to organize any space.

There are many ways to decipher what to declutter, choose which canned goods, old snacks, or unused spices to discard and which are truly worth keeping around. Personally, I enjoy the Four Box Decluttering Method because I feel like it’s one of the most efficient yet simple methods out there.

Of course, you’ll have to alter the method a little bit when it comes to pantry organization, as there are a lot of items you won’t want to give away and likely just need to throw away. However, non-perishables that aren’t expired can still be donated to a local food bank or shelter in need.

Step Three: Plan The Placement Of Items In Your Small Pantry

Plan The Placement Of Items In Your Small Pantry

It’s extremely easy for a small pantry to get messy quickly. When we have a ton of random food items that we haven’t given a designated space to, we just toss it in the abyss, which quickly creates clutter.

Effective small pantry organization comes down to determining a plan for what to do with items that don’t have a pre-designated home. Thinking through how you plan to handle that is the key to keeping your small pantry clutter free. The process is going to end up looking different for each person depending on what your needs are, which is why there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach to small pantry organization.

placement of items in pantryOne thing I love doing when planning item placement is heat mapping. Heat mapping just means creating a visual system to see what items you interact with most frequently. Grocery stores use it in aisles to measure what items are purchased most frequently.

In a small pantry, this could look like flipping around cereal boxes or snack containers each time you use them so you can see what snacks you grab most. You can also track your own grocery list to see what you buy or run out of most often by writing down the products you purchase and replenish most.

Let this heat mapping data impact the way you organize. Similar to a grocery store, place items you interact with most often in the places that are easiest to reach and the items you don’t use as much towards the back or on higher shelves of your small pantry.

This way, you won’t be moving around items constantly and making a mess when you need something, because the items you use most frequently will be right in front of you.

Step Four: Plan How You’ll Display The Items In Your Small Pantry

Plan How You’ll Display The Items In Your Small Pantry

The way you display items in your small pantry is also a huge part of the organization process. Personally, I love the decanting method. Decanting your pantry isn’t only aesthetically pleasing, but it can also be an extremely effective method in maximizing space in your small pantry.

Displaying Items In Your Small PantryPantry decanting has many benefits. For one, using clear containers saves you time by showing you how much of an item you have left without you ever having to open the container. This saves you both time and money in the long run.

Another huge benefit to the decanting method is it saves you room in your small pantry and helps you make the absolute most of the space you have. Of course, there are other display methods that can help you save room, too, like investing in a spice display rack or a Lazy Susan.

how to decant a pantry

Step Five: Make Use Of Extra Space In Your Small Pantry

Make Use Of Extra Space In Your Small Pantry

Once your pantry is stocked, sorted, and clean, you may still have some leftover items that need a home.

Have no fear! You can make use of spaces you may not have initially thought about like the back of your pantry door, the floor space behind your lowest pantry shelf, or extra wall space inside or next to your pantry.

extra space in a small pantry

Organization Guide For Each Room Of Your Home

home organization guide

Tips And Tricks For Organizing A Small Pantry

Tips And Tricks For Organizing A Small Pantry

When organizing a small pantry, your goals should center around accessibility and functionality of your setup. Despite the small size, use these tips to maximize space and organize your pantry in a way that makes your life easier instead of more difficult.

1Use Labeled Bins Inside Your Pantry’s Bottom Drawers

One of the best ways to keep smaller items organized and neat is to use smaller bins inside of large drawers or use drawer dividers. Going this route will keep your small pantry neat and help you find what you need faster and easier.
Labeled Bins In Pantry Drawers

2Sort Your Small Pantry Based on Your Personal Needs

When organizing your small pantry, don’t just sort items based on basic categories or the items’ purpose alone. Think very specifically about the life you live with your family, what your needs are, and how this can be reflected in your small pantry organization.

Ask Yourself The Following Questions

  • What appliances need a home in my pantry?
  • What items can I decant in my pantry?
  • What items should I place front and center?
  • What items do I frequently use at the same time?
  • Is there anything to create a specific space for?
  • What storage methods make sense in my small pantry?
what pantry items get used most frequently

tiny house storage

3Invest In A Baker’s Rack Outside Of Your Small Pantry

Sometimes after you’ve decanted your pantry, you still don’t have enough space. If you feel like you’ve decluttered, minimized, sorted, and prodded as much as you possibly can and you still don’t have enough room in your small pantry, consider adding a baker’s rack to your kitchen.

Especially if your kitchen isn’t super small, this can be a great way to have quick access to your baking essentials without having to crowd your pantry.

bakers rack for small pantry

4Use Wall Space To Create A Rotating Grocery List

An important aspect of small pantry organization is being intentional about what you let into your home. If you’re minimal with what you buy and make it a priority to only consume what you need, it will be easier to keep your pantry from growing cluttered.

I’ve seen many families add a whiteboard or chalkboard to the backs of their pantry doors or directly next to their pantry to keep track of what they need to buy. That way, they aren’t buying excess and filling up their small pantry.

kitchen pantry chalkboard

5Buy Tiered Shelves To Keep A Small Pantry Organized

The trick to maximizing space is to make more room out of less space. Easier said than done, right? One way to create space in a small pantry is to invest in tiered shelves.

When you do this, you’re storing two, three, four rows of items on one single shelf. You can literally add room to your shelves while keeping your pantry orderly and prevent item shoving and stacking.

small pantry tiered shelves

6Be Intentional With The Tupperware You Buy

Personally, I found it helpful to toss all my Tupperware and buy one single matching set. This frees you from having a ton of random Tupperware lying around that you never actually end up using.

In my tiny house pantry, I only own two types of Tupperware containers — one medium size that has lids and are stackable, then two large sizes. In the drawer where I store them, I only have the medium bottoms and the medium lids. This way, I never waste time searching for what I need. I just grab one lid and one bottom and I know they’ll fit together.

tupperware matching set

Inspiration For Organization Bins In A Small Pantry

Inspiration For Organization Bins In A Small Pantry

Bins, jars, canisters, baskets, and other forms of organizational containers are the real key to keeping a small pantry organized and maximizing your space. In my own tiny home, I’m pretty obsessive about which organization bins and baskets I use, and I try to only recommend the best.

plastic divided Storage Organizer

Use A Dividing Box To Hold Tea Bags

Don’t simply throw all of your tea bags in a pile in your pantry for your future self to have to sift through when you’re in a rush. This plastic divider bin is perfect for organizing your tea bags by type and flavor so you know exactly where to find your favorite tea to start your day.
Plastic Stackable Food Storage Container Boxes

Store Snacks In Stackable Containers

These stackable plastic containers are perfect for storing chips, cookies, crackers, popcorn, applesauce, and more. This is a great investment for families who need to keep school or extracurricular snacks at the ready to grab and go.

storage holder bin with handles for pantry

Sort Drinks In Attachable Fridge And Freezer Shelves

Sometimes it’s helpful to have more shelving in a fridge or freezer to store sodas, sauces, liters, water bottles, or what have you. I love these attachable shelves because they give me more room in my fridge and freezer.

Plastic Kitchen Organizer

Store Canned Goods In Attachable Shelves

Attachable shelves are also great for storing canned goods in your small pantry. These attachable shelves are slightly larger than the ones above and are great for canned vegetables and soups.

Storage Organizer Bin Basket for Kitchen Pantry Organization

Use A Front-Dip Basket To Store Produce

This plastic, sliding front-dip basket is ideal for creating more room to store your produce. The large opening in the front dips down far, which makes it easy to grab your produce quickly!

Plastic Tall Food Storage Organization Container Bin

Place Tall Items In This Plastic Bin

This thinner storage organizer can easily be used to store boxed foods, freezer bags, Ziplocs, condiments, spices, baking supplies, dry goods, and many other pantry essentials. The bins are transparent and easily transportable.

Plastic Stackable Kitchen Pantry Organizer

House Dry Goods In Stackable Drawers

This pull-out drawer opens easily, making it simple to grab what you need quickly and get where you need to go. These stackable drawers are an ideal option for dry goods.

Plastic Wide Food Storage Organization Containers

Put Chips And Other Snacks In Plastic Bins

These chip bins are clear and full of room. They have easy-carry handles to make it simple to transport snacks from the pantry to your bag or backpack.

Plastic Food Storage Bin Organizer for Small Pantry

Store Protein And Granola Bars In Bins With Compartments

Keeping products sorted is ideal for a small pantry, and organizer bins with compartments make it a lot easier to do that. These organizer bins with compartments are perfect for storing protein and granola bars.

Plastic Stackable Bottle Storage

Use A Storage Rack For Water Bottles

This product is ideal for families who are always on the go, especially with kids involved in sports that fill your weeknights and weekends. The open mouth is super helpful to store water bottles to grab and get out the door.

Plastic Deluxe Spice Rack

Line Up Your Spices On This Expandable Rack

Being able to see all of your spices at once is the best way to organize them and make your cooking experience efficient. This expandable spice rack has three tiers and provides plenty of storage space for all of your favorite spices and herbs.

Pantry Storage Organizer Rack

Store Pans, Trays, and Cutting Boards In A Divider

This divider is perfect for separating your pots, pans, trays, and cutting boards. You can use the rack vertically or horizontally to make the most of your pantry space.

Cookware Storage Organizer Rack

Use Wire Organization Rack For Pots and Pans

This rack is ideal for use on a counter top, in a cupboard, or even under the sink to reduce clutter on top of your counter. It’s ideal for giving a home to your pots and pans and preventing them from piling up in a cabinet.

Lazy Susan Storage Organizer Bins

Lazy Susan Dividers

This set of four Lazy Susan bins keep soups, syrups, jams, jelly, jars, canned goods, tea, coffee, dry goods, pasta, boxed foods, oils, vinegars, cake mixes, and more separated and organized. This set of four bins makes a complete circle and should be placed on top of the base of your Lazy Susan.

lazy susan turntable for kitchen pantry

Invest In A Lazy Susan

Additionally, you’ll need to purchase the turning base of the Lazy Susan to complete your set. This product has a non-slip lip that allows the base to turn easily. It is also sized to strategically prevent interference with surrounding items and walls.

Wall Mount Paper Towel Holder

Hang An Organization Rack In Your Small Pantry

This is my favorite organization rack on the internet. With a wire shelf, a paper towel holder, and multiple hooks, this rack can be used to hold a myriad of pantry essentials like spices, spoons and measuring cups, cleaning products, or anything your heart desires.

Plastic Stackable Square Storage Bin

Organize Miscellaneous Items In Your Small Pantry With Stackable Bins

These stackable bins are perfect for a small pantry. The recessed, hinged lid allows you to take your storage options vertical in order to maximize your space. You can use them to store miscellaneous items like Ziplocs, freezer bags, or plastic plates and cups.

Kitchen Storage Preprinted Labels

Don’t Forget To Buy Labels For Items In Your Small Pantry

This 100-count package of pantry labels come in white or black and are perfect for keeping your small pantry organized and aesthetically pleasing. Attach these adhesive stickers to plastic or metal bins, baskets, canisters, jars, or containers to make the most of your space.

Minimalists Checklist When Organizing A Small Pantry

Minimalists Checklist When Organizing A Small Pantry

I’m a huge proponent of list making to get things done quickly and efficiently. I’ve put together this checklist to keep things straight in your mind while you work to get your small pantry neat and organized.


Sort Items In Your Pantry

  • Sort items by category
  • Make piles of grains, cans, and snacks
  • Separate sweeteners, sauces, and condiments
  • Discard items you don’t need
  • Group food items you eat often
  • Sort non-food items in your pantry

How To Store Pantry Items

  • Ask: What food items belong together?
  • Place ingredients you use most near front
  • Place what you don’t use in back
  • Find a home for non-consumables
  • Keep baking essentials together
  • Store items by purpose

Use Extra Space In Your Pantry

  • Use back of door space
  • Find a home for grocery list
  • Use extra wall space for shelves
  • Store extra items on side of cabinets
  • Invest in a baking rack if needed
  • Use space above tops of cabinets

Small Pantry Organization

  • Ask: How can a pantry meet my needs?
  • Use inner drawer dividers
  • Store a few items outside pantry
  • Store items under pantry shelves
  • Invest in tiered shelves
  • Don’t force things to fit

Organizing your small pantry in a way that gives everything a place of its own will make your life easier when you’re in a hurry to grab breakfast and get out the door or get a head start on dinner.

I love looking at my decanted, labeled pantry items and knowing exactly where everything is when it comes time to cook dinner for me and my loved ones.

Your Turn!

  • What tricks will you use to keep your small pantry organized?
  • What containers are you considering to add function to your small pantry?

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