How to Organize a Small Kitchen Without a Pantry

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This past weekend I spent three hours in the kitchen. Not cooking. Organizing. I have a very small kitchen and I don’t have a pantry. I constantly had kitchen tools falling all over each other in the cupboards and on me whenever I tried to get anything out. My food and serving pieces were spread across many different cupboards and it was always a pain to find anything, even just a glass. So I set out to fix the problem yesterday. It took a heck of a lot longer than I was expecting but it was worth it.

First, I pulled everything out and put it on the counters. This was after just emptying two shovels – yikes! It became a freaking nightmare in there pretty quickly. Then I vacuumed all the empty shelves and wiped them down.

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Anything that I hadn’t used in the past month got put on the top shelves that I can’t reach easily. That alone cleared up tons of space and made this section so much easier to get into to!

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I was ruthless when cleaning out my spice cupboard. I had spices in there that were easily 8 years old; they got tossed. Anything that was leaking got tossed. I put all the sweeteners and extracts together, put the bagged spices into a large pretty bowl, and alphabetized the rest of the spices.

I wish I had a cupboard like my mom’s where she has little racks built into the cupboard door for spices to go. They are so easy to see, and she’s alphabetizes her spices too. 🙂 She’s a smart lady so I stole her trick and implemented it the best I could with the space I have. It looks all neat right now, but it may not be practical. We’ll see. But I’d rather take time to get spices in and out rather than digging through a mess trying to find the dried mustard.

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I don’t have a pantry and storage is limited so I try to keep on hand only what I use often, and keep a lot of things that don’t necessarily need to be refrigerated in the fridge anyway because it saves so much space. I threw out all my wheat flours and all-purpose flours. They were a couple years old and I don’t use them anymore anyway since going gluten-free. If I need flour for a special occasion (like making my mom’s famous bread, a go-to gift for friends and neighbors), I’ll just buy it when I need it.

I consolidated my beans and grains (I had 4 different containers of white beans). Any nuts/dried fruit that I had just a little of, I dumped into one bag for a homemade trail mix. Saved space and created a healthy snack I can grab for work. Anything that I had duplicates of, but didn’t want to combine because of slight variations that won’t let them cook together, (like different brands of steel cut oats), I stacked in a row going back. I put the unopened ones in the back and then older ones up front so they’ll be used sooner.

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I don’t know why my dishes have always been a mess but I had glasses on three different shelves, plates in four different piles. I organized the classes by style (duh Teri, why didn’t you do this sooner??) and put my smaller coffee mugs that I don’t use often up top.

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Then I had ma friend come by to drill some holes, put in some hooks and hung my go-to coffee mugs over the sink. This added a little character to my kitchen (kinda like the peg board I made last year!) and freed up a lot of shelf space!

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Speaking of the pegboard – it’s been a life-saver for my small kitchen. I went to Lowe’s, bought a $5 peg board, spray painted it teal, and got step-by-step instructions from an employee on how to hang it. Not only does it save precious drawer/cupboard space but I have easy access to my most-used kitchen tools.

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I also have wine racks that act as decoration and storage. Most of these bottles are empty right now – some have special meaning or I just like the bottle design – but whenever I buy multiple bottles of wine, I store them here and get rid of some of the decorative ones.

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When I’m really stocked up on wine, I use the wine rack that’s on top of my fridge. Which, sadly, is empty right now but I still like the look of it. I also put serving dishes I don’t use often and wine glasses from wineries I’ve gone too up there. I don’t have nice stemmed wine glasses (only Crate & Barrel stemless ones) so right now I keep my freebies which come in handy when I have parities (rarely) or just want a stemmed glass.

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My Bosch takes up a lot of counter space but since I use it as my blender, which I use almost daily, I keep it on the counter.

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Anyway, back to reorganizing yesterday. I put all my oils and vinegars all together. Since I’m short, it’s easier for me to look down to find stuff that’s all about the same size rather than looking straight into a cupboard. I put all my cheesecake and tart pans behind them, since I don’t use them often.

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I used to have my cutting boards laying flat under things and they were a pain to get out. So I laid them diagonally in a cupboard and put some baking stuff I don’t use that often in the space under them. I also have my cookbooks stashed back here.

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And when it was all finished, I rewarded myself with a glass of wine that I’d opened the night before.

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Now, who’s going to come clean the rest of my house? 😉

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    17 responses to “How to Organize a Small Kitchen Without a Pantry”

    1. Oh my gosh, I am totally geeking out about this post. I have a bit of an obsession with kitchen/pantry organization (I think I’ve published FOUR posts on the topic).
      I am definitely bookmarking this post because we are moving into a new house in about a month, and (gasp!) there’s no pantry. Storing everything in the cabinets definitely makes life a bit more challenging. That pegboard idea is a pretty genius solution though!

    2. Love this post. I moved last year into a MUCH smaller kitchen, and it has been a challenge. No pantry and minimal storage space. But the peg board idea is amazing…Im going to have to see if I can make something similar work for me!

    3. from one small kitchen girl to another, i get it. i love it.

      also, what i really wanted to say is that the vitamix is TOTALLY worth it. it’s awesome.

      have a great rest of the week!!!


    4. LOVED this post! In August I’ll be moving into a studio apartment with very limited kitchen space (and no pantry!), and I was worried about how to fit everything. Thank you for sharing your tips – I know they will come in handy for me. 🙂

      Iris @ Anatomy&Intuition

    5. You make me want to re-organize my (large with plenty of pantry space) kitchen!! Good work, lady.

    6. Having an organized kitchen is the best… and not having a pantry is the worst! I have a little turn table thing for my spices. I think I just bought it at walmart or somewhere like that, and it makes it so easy to just turn it and find what I want.

      • I was gonna suggest the “lazy susan” for spices, too. I have a small 2-tiered one that fits in my cupboard. Very handy!

    7. Just a note, I noticed your wine tilting neck to bottom. You should tilt your wine bottom to top so that the cork always stays wet.

      I am thinking that my kitchen could use a qweekend of clearing cuboards of old and unused items!

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