Want to know how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry? This post will show you step-by-step how to set up your own pantry alternative.
Since starting my health journey last year I’ve been spending a LOT of time in the kitchen.
Getting my life and home organized is one of my major projects here, (side note: an organized kitchen makes losing weight SO much easier),
so I headed to Pinterest to learn all I could about making my messy kitchen a more STREAMLINED, ORGANIZED, and FUNCTIONAL space.
As I read blog post after blog post, it took me a minute to realize most of the tips were aimed at women living in homes with entire pantries.
As in an entire walk-in closet dedicated to food!!!
Unfortunately, my one-bedroom apartment did not come with a walk-in food closet. The NERVE, lol.
And I refuse to let my food get a walk-in closet before I do.
So for now, I had to come up with creative ways to take my small kitchen organization skills to new heights.
I had to start thinking outside the box and ask myself…
What can I use if I don’t have a kitchen pantry?
I grabbed a pen and paper and began my epic journey into PANTRY ALTERNATIVES.
Oh, and you should grab trash bags and boxes for this process.
This post is all about how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry.
Here’s what I’ve learned, what I’ve done, and what I know works amazingly well.
How To Organize A Small Kitchen Without A Pantry
STEP ONE: GET EVERYTHING OUT IN THE OPEN
The first step of any organizing, including small kitchen organization, is to GET EVERYTHING OUT INTO THE OPEN.
Just like therapy, we gotta bring those forgotten buried things hiding in the back of our cupboards out into the light.
It’s where the healing begins people, so start with this step.
Might be a little traumatic.
To mentally prepare, I picked a weekend ahead of time.
I knew that my project…no, my MISSION would be
my beautiful new pantry, so help me God.
Doing it all at once was KEY!
You should do the same.
Set aside a weekend to organize your kitchen.
Now that we have that out of the way, it’s time to begin!!!
Take everything out of your drawers and cabinets and shelves and put it where you can see it.
That means all plates, mugs, bags of flour, cans of corn, serving dishes, blenders, everything.
You’ll probably be SHOCKED to see how much you have that you didn’t even realize.
STEP TWO: RUTHLESLLY DECLUTTER
Now comes the fun part. It’s time to declutter!
You’re simply going to pick up one item at a time
And decide whether to keep it, trash it, store it or give it away.
Those are your ONLY options and you MUST decide.
KEEP – you love it, use it, can’t live without it
TRASH – it’s broken, it’s cheap, it’s chipped, you hate it
STORE – you don’t use it often but might need later
GIVE AWAY – it’s valuable but you don’t want/need it
BE RUTHLESS IN YOUR DECLUTTERING
This is the SECRET to having a kitchen YOU LOVE!!!
You can set up trash bags or boxes or both but just remember to only pick up one item at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.
You have to MAKE A DECISION on every single item in your hand before moving on to the next.
Now, for the items you decide to keep…
I want you to begin grouping similar items together.
We want similar items to form a family unit.
And eventually move in together.
Into their new, organized, happy, mini homes.
Doesn’t that sound organized and amazing!? It is!
STEP THREE: ASSESS THE SPACE & REMAINING ITEMS
We’re figuring out how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry.
That means we must take a moment to ASSESS THE SPACE.
Do you have a blank wall?
Do you have space above your fridge, below your cabinets, opposite your stove?
Take a look around your kitchen and just make mental note of what kind of things might work In the space.
I have lots of organizing tools for you listed below.
Open up the notepad app on your phone.
Take notes on what grouped items you have…
Listing things like pots, pans, tupperware, pantry goods, plateware, etc
and jot down what space you have that is being underutilized (under the cupboards, above the fridge, blank wall for example).
Every single item will need a home. This is why YOU MUST TAKE NOTES.
STEP FOUR: BEST KITCHEN PANTRY IDEAS FOR SMALL SPACES
Creating a pantry in a small kitchen is totally doable and I’m suuuuper happy with how mine turned out.
I used a combination of the following PANTRY ALTERNATIVES.
Pick whichever ones from the list that will work best in your space AFTER you’ve done your decluttering and assessment.
I used four of the ten options listed below.
THE PANTRY BOOKCASE
This is honestly my FAVORITE on the list and one of the four pantry alternatives I used.
I had a blank wall and decided to use this IKEA Fjaelkinge shelf unit as my pantry bookcase.
I previously used this wire rack one from Walmart.
Either one works great.
I just switched to the IKEA shelving this month because it fits my aesthetic more with where I’m wanting my kitchen decor to go.
My full kitchen refresh post will be out in the coming months!
OPEN PANTRY SHELVES
If you’re handy you can actually add shelving and have an open cabinet concept in your kitchen.
This is a great option if you like the clean look of floating shelves.
Plus the pricing is super economical.
All you need is the shelf and the hardware.
And the skill! Which I don’t have.
This one from Amazon is super functional. I love the added railing and hooks underneath the shelf.
These sustainably sourced floating shelves from West Elm come in different lengths.
THE PANTRY DRAWER
Behold The Pantry Drawer!!
This is one of my fave food pantry ideas for small kitchens because it’s adorable.
One of my best friends has a pantry drawer and she just fills it with treats. It’s such a cute idea to break it up by theme.
The Pantry Drawer is kinda like having a tea drawer but you can pick it to be whatever you want.
Tea, sweet treats, chips, pasta varietals, baking products, or even a spice drawer right next to the stove.
And you can organize it into sections using dividers like the ones above or you can break it apart with containers you have around the house and see what you can fit inside Jenga style.
THE ORGANIZED PANTRY SHELF
Ok, this is another pantry alternative that I use!
The top shelf of my cabinet is for rarely used pantry items and multiples.
So I keep my extra jars of tomato sauce, SUGAR-FREE syrups, bags of oat bran, seasonal items like pumpkin spice and my flour alternatives.
If you have high shelves that you rarely access I think a pantry shelf is A GREAT IDEA for either storing kitchen gadgets rarely used or multiples you like to keep stocked up on.
You can add baskets for easy access to pull out similarly grouped items or add a Lazy Susan to give you full view of what you have stored up there.
THE PANTRY CABINET
Very similar to the pantry shelf but in this case you take over an entire cabinet.
If you have the space to dedicate at least one entire cabinet to pantry storage, then this is a great way to organize your small kitchen.
In terms of functionality, I would pick the cabinet that is harder to access.
I like to keep things that I use constantly within easy reach.
But if you are storing snacks and extra treats for your dog then I think it’s ok if it’s the next cabinet over that’s a little harder to reach.
The first cabinet when I walk into my kitchen is the most used.
My spices I keep out on a countertop along with my olive oils etc. I LOVE this three-tiered multi-use rack. It has helped majorly with organizing my small kitchen.
Glass jars are perfect for storing items in bulk and these are beautiful!
TOP OF THE FRIDGE
If you have space on top of the fridge why not use it for a few pantry items?
This is what we did in the house I grew up in.
The cereal was always stored on top of the fridge.
Was your house like that?
It was so perfect because we’d grab the cereal and the milk all in one go.
In my kitchen, I have the microwave on top of the fridge and then cookbooks on top of the microwave.
Always think vertically in small spaces when it comes to organizing.
THE ROLLER PANTRY
Another gem of an idea!
I love how this one is set up as a coffee cart.
I have always been a big fan of bar carts but now you can get any kind of rolling utility cart and have it double as your pantry on wheels.
Now if you have hallway storage near your kitchen you could always hide the roller rack in there if you want to free up space.
That’s why having this thing on WHEELS is so awesome.
You can store it wherever you want.
Here are a few of my favorites.
HANGING WALL ORGANIZERS
I use hanging wall organizers in my closet over the door so it figures the same principle applies in the kitchen.
If you have a blank wall, anywhere in the kitchen, adding one of these beauties can be pleasing to the eye.
Plus it’s super functional for holding any of your pantry goods or kitchen gadgets.
THE MINI PANTRY CABINET
You also have the option of buying a pantry cabinet.
It’s basically a portable cabinet so I would only get one if you’re not able to utilize your current cabinets or if you don’t have any cabinets at all.
If you are in a kitchen without cabinets then a pantry cabinet would be a heck yes!
It won’t be a walk-in but if you want to have a little shelving unit where you can keep all your not-so pretty things behind closed doors then here are a few mini pantry cabinet options that can fit into your space nicely.
UNDER/OVER/INNER CABINET SPACE
This is one of my favorite kitchen pantry space-saving ideas!
I put a few simple screw hooks in the bottom of my upper cabinets and I use them to hang my mugs.
That one thing is what gave me the space to free up one of my cabinet shelves for pantry items.
Simple changes like these can have a BIG impact on organizing your small kitchen.
STEP FIVE: BUY YOUR ORGANIZING TOOLS
getting everything out in the open
assessing your space
deciding which of the above pantry alternatives you’re going to adopt
it’s time to stock up on any organizing tools you’ll need.
Remember what I said earlier about similarly grouped items needing a home?
Once you’ve decided on your pantry zones, it’s time to organize all the items in your kitchen.
You want to make sure you have plenty of storage options so that every single item has a home.
A specific place to live.
Not every gadget needs to be in the kitchen at all times.
Just like clothing has seasons…
your kitchenware has seasons too.
So feel free to put things in storage you simply don’t use.
Maybe that ice cream maker doesn’t need to be there year-round if you only use it in the summer months.
But that air fryer is a staple in your weekly cooking so you know you’ll keep that in a lower cabinet for easy access.
Here are a few of my personal favorite organization tools for your kitchen to MAXIMIZE SPACE, make things PRETTY, and just ORGANIZE your new pantry even more.
I hope this post helps you find your perfect solutions and gives you tons of ideas and inspiration for your own kitchen pantry ideas for small spaces like my own.
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