No Pantry Space? Let’s Find Some!


Apartments and small homes often lack pantry space.  Creative pantry alternatives can bring organization and storage to even the tiniest of spaces.  Read on to discover real no-pantry solutions when your house or apartment doesn't have a pantry.

Not all kitchens have grand walk-in pantries. A large majority of homes and apartments have little to no extra food storage. If you have a small kitchen, you need to get creative.

Finding room for groceries in home.

Finding room for groceries in home.

Alternate solutions like a china hutch, or under furniture and beds, may be called into pantry duty. "Overflow" pantries can find space under stairs, garages, and other nooks and crannies of the home.

Pantry space found in unexpected locations

Food storage doesn't have to be only in the kitchen. Anything is up for grabs in an apartment or small house. Keep "daily" food in or near the kitchen. Extra or unopened supplies can be stashed in other rooms away from the kitchen:

  • closet
  • bedroom, guest bedroom
  • living room
  • laundry room
  • garage

In addition to delegating pantry space to other rooms of the house, consider repurposing furniture that can discreetly hide food storage:

  • china hutch
  • entertainment center
  • bench with storage
  • under couches, beds, and other furniture

Pantry storage in unexpected spaces

Sometimes, you just need a bit more space. Look to other parts of your home or apartment for help. In the picture below, covered low-profile plastic totes can slide under a bed. Do keep in mind that your goal is to not attract pests. This is more ideal for canned food.

Food storage under bed in plastic tote.

Food storage under bed in plastic tote and bins.

Any furniture in your house can be used for pantry storage. China cabinets or hutches, even an entertainment center works. An unsuspecting piece of furniture in an entryway could hold your canned beans! Even side or end tables in the living room can pull double-duty as food storage. Buying a freestanding pantry cabinet is another choice.

Consider throwing a tablecloth over a small table to mask food storage below. You can begin to see that with a little ingenuity, pantry space can be found!

hutches, desk, cupboards used for pantry storage

Use any furniture in your house as storage for food.

Pantry space out in the open

Storing food out in the open is an overlooked option. Consider kitchen countertops. Food can be unpackaged and placed in attractive containers - doubling as decoration. Food canisters have long been the home of the classic flour-sugar-coffee-tea sets.

If you were truly short on space, bins or totes could be used and stacked in a corner of the kitchen (or other rooms of the house). When I lived in a small apartment, all of my life possessions were huddled in a second bedroom. I tossed sheets over the pile so it didn't look so bad. Personally, I think it helped.

Food carts, open shelving, bookshelves, and baker's racks, are all acceptable solutions to attractively store food in your kitchen, out in the open. Lazy susans and baskets are other ideas that can be left on top of counters for food storage.

lazy susan turntable with spices

Lazy susan turntable with spices.

Store food out in open on kitchen counter.

Store food out in the open on kitchen counter.

Reclaim pantry space from kitchen cabinets

Food storage can easily find space in upper or lower cabinets in the kitchen.  Have your pick! Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to store food in drawers, and more attention is being given these days to that solution. As said earlier, homeowners and apartment dwellers might add additional pantry space in the form of a freestanding pantry cabinet.

Pantry storage in kitchen cabinet.

Pantry storage in kitchen cabinet.

Go skinny to make room for pantry space

There are multiple thin storage solutions to help people maximize space in small apartments and homes.  One example is a narrow pull out cabinet/cart especially made for dead space next to a refrigerator. There is also a counter-height version that slides into unused space next to kitchen base cabinets. I caution against the stability of these options, as they appear "tippy."

A company called HINGENUITY INC is specializing in a narrow cabinet they call "Cabidor."  This very popular cabinet is finding great popularity in the behind-the-door concealed storage niche.  Speaking of door storage, over-the-door rack solutions are another way to capitalize on door storage space.  With both solutions, weight of the contents must be kept in mind.  Adequate screws and material to drive the screws in must be enough for successful installation.

Rack over door offers more pantry storage.

Rack over door offers more pantry storage.

Pantry storage, look to inside a wall

A common solution to bring more storage space into a no-pantry kitchen is creating space where there isn't.  One option is opening up the wall and building between wall studs, as the home remodeler did in these photos. Additional small place like this can add valuable storage for items like spices. Make sure to avoid electrical wires during construction!

Found space near entryway reclaimed for pantry space between wall studs.

BEFORE: Found space near entryway reclaimed for pantry space between wall studs.

Pantry storage built between wall studs.

AFTER: Pantry storage built between wall studs.

Make pantry space out of unused space

Make pantry space out of an unused spot in your house. In the right picture, it's simply in a corner.

Below, is pantry space under stairs. As you can see, the builder chose to frame in the corner to create a deeper and more effective pantry space in a spot that would have otherwise been unused.

Pantry built under stairs.

Pantry built under stairs.

Pantry space made out of unused corner.

Pantry space made out of unused corner.

Turn a room into pantry space

In this example, a walk-in refrigerator cooler was turned into pantry space. Most people don't have walk-in coolers in their home. I am actually a person that does! It's no longer a cooler, as the compressor stopped working, which I assume is what happened here. More than likely, the current homeowner had no need to operate a walk-in cooler. Walk-in coolers are not that rare in agricultural settings, such as farmhouses, where farmers still process their own meat.

Walk-in refrigerator cooler turned into dry pantry space.

Walk-in refrigerator cooler turned into pantry space.

Turn a closet into pantry space

This pantry began life as a clothes closet. The deep pantry shelves now locate the spot once occupied by hanging clothes. Unused clothes or laundryroom closets make ideal pantries.

Pantry former closet.

This pantry was a former closet.

Turn a wall into pantry space

Shelves can be added to any wall for more pantry space. Pantries don't have to be enclosed! This is an easy solution that anyone can add to make more pantry space in a small kitchen.

Shelves and angle brackets offer more pantry wall storage.

Shelves and angle brackets offer more pantry wall storage.

Turning a wall into pantry space.

Turning a wall into pantry space.

Decant food as alternative pantry storage

Decant means to remove the food from the boxes or containers that they were packaged in and place the contents in other containers.  This is commonly done with paper and boxed food, to help ward off pests and rodents. Pantry enthusiasts love decanting because it gives the opportunity to create the look of perfect organized harmony. Decanting offers space-saving powers because containers are uniform and stackable, if you choose that type. Some pantry users decant to Mason jars because they are widely available and charming on a shelf.

Decant food example of saving pantry space.

Decanting food saves pantry space.

Accessories, containers, and other no-pantry marvels

There is no shortage of pantry accessories that cleverly expand pantry storage options. One neat idea is to use jumbo size tote bags.  These bags can be found in heavy-duty canvas, practical mesh, or fabric with pretty patterns.  They nicely corral bagged cereal, pasta, and other "baggy" things.  You can even coordinate with your kitchen colors by adding bright and colorful tote bags that compliment the color kitchen scheme. 

Bags hanging on wall double as food storage.

Bags hanging on wall double as food storage.

Pantry space outside of the home

A garage comes first to mind when looking for extra pantry space outside of the home. Main concerns with storing food in a garage:

  • extreme heat and cold
  • humidity
  • easier access for pests and rodents to access

If your climate allows garage storage, then go for it. I would be nervous about a garage as a permanent solution. I knew a family that had a small shed on their property, and that is where they stored their attic things (in sealed totes). Food storage doesn't just have to be a garage, you could even put food in a tote in a car or an old chest freezer that no longer works. Weather and temperature conditions are always a concern with outside storage. Pests such as racoons can figure out how to open most containers.

I find during the busy holiday times, that I need more food storage. In my climate, the garage is like a freezer. I have put extra holiday food inside of coolers in the garage. This short-term solution has been very helpful.

A side note about snowy climates: snow can be used just like ice. If you need to cool beverages, just throw some snow in a cooler, just like you would ice. It works nicely and saves you money and a trip to the store to buy bagged ice!

Food storage in a garage, on shelves.

Food storage in a garage, on shelves.

This very clever shoe storage rack was put into use as can storage in a garage. It naturally lends itself to the "first in, first out" storage technique for food rotation. 

I would be a little worried if the shelf supports had the strength to hold the weight of the cans in the picture. Still, it gets high marks for creativity and would be ideal as pantry storage in the main house.

Proper credit for the idea goes to Queenofthehivemomof5, owner of hotcouponworld.com, who stores her canned food item stockpile on wire shelving units in her garage.

Shoe shelves used as can storage in garage.

Shoe shelves used as can storage in garage.

Pantry stocking is important, no matter what your living space

If you live in an apartment or small  home, you may have to grocery shop more frequently, because of the lack of storage.  You may cook very little in your dwelling or prefer not to cook. Or you may have a job where you are not home very often or you move around a lot.

In those situations, buying in bulk and stocking up when there are grocery buys doesn't make sense. Regardless, preparedness for emergency or unexpected guests is commendable and something everyone should strive for.

I hope you have discovered some no-pantry solutions that can help find more food storage in your home. If you have found a winning idea, let us know in the comments below!

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. She uses her technical background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

Related content

Page [tcb_pagination_current_page] of [tcb_pagination_total_pages]

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Pantry Talk for Pantry Enthusiasts!

>