Home & Garden

How to Organize a Small Kitchen without a Pantry

Learn how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry and do it all on a budget. With a few easy ideas and tips, you’ll be getting your dream kitchen in order in no time.

How to organize a small kitchen without a pantry includes stocking open shelves like the ones shown here.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Most of us have been there at some point in life. You’ve got what feels like the tiniest kitchen ever, no pantry, and a whole lotta stuff to somehow store inside it. Maybe you are off to college (or just sent your child there), you’re renting your first apartment, or you just can’t afford a big house with the most spacious kitchen ever. 

Regardless, we have all been there. 

We are currently in one of these ourselves. As first-time homeowners 3 years ago, we had to settle with what we could afford at the time. Looking back today, I’m so glad we did.

We may have “settled” at the moment, but today we have a completely renovated main floor in our home (as soon as the kitchen is finished, anyway). It’s designed with a much more custom look than what we would’ve received even if we had been able to afford something “nicer”. 

We have learned so many skills and saved so much by learning how to update our home ourselves. We’ve slowly turned it into something that is perfect for us, and we have been able to save money and learn the art of patience in the meantime. 

In fact, I always tell my husband that we’ve put so much into this home that I don’t know if I’d ever want to sell it. I guess what I’m trying to say is: It feels like home.

We’ve learned to change most of what we don’t like and have learned to live with the small things we cannot change. A very wise lesson in life! 

Now, as we finish our kitchen renovation, I have realized if there was one thing I could change about it specifically, it would be the size. I would love a large island, more space to gather, and a lot more room for storage. 

We don’t have a pantry and even if we had chosen to add one in during the renovation, it just would not have fit right. Physically, maybe. But a pantry is usually narrow and tall and would look so awkward on the only wall open for a pantry to be added. 

We have a galley kitchen and since we left the cabinets intact on one side, we only had one other wall that was a possibility. However, with large appliances and the need for two small lower cabinets for more precious counter space, we decided to make due with the lower cabinet storage area for pantry staples. 

But now, it’s time to really get creative with how I’ll make this both beautiful and functional. Today, let me show you how I organize a small kitchen without a pantry, with 10 ways to maximize the space…

How to Organize a Small Kitchen without a Pantry

There are a few benefits and drawbacks to not having a pantry to store extra goods and supplies. Surprise, surprise–most of us don’t have a choice! But if you happen to be in the middle of house hunting, consider some of these things before investing in a small kitchen without a pantry. If you’re renovating a kitchen, review some of these points when considering a kitchen without a large pantry for storage.

Benefits to a no-pantry kitchen

  • Less room and less clutter for stuff, which means less to arrange and organize to begin with and less to re-organize later
  • If you don’t cook a lot anyway, you simply may not care at all about pantry storage
  • More countertop space for meal prep
  • Storage is more centralized for ease of use
  • More open space in the kitchen for other functions

Drawbacks to a no-pantry kitchen

  • Need to get creative with storage space you do have
  • Can’t store as many “extras” with a lack of storage capacity
  • Organization may be less than ideal 
  • Can’t store some appliances in smaller spaces without a pantry

Supplies You May Need | how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry

Fabric storage cubes

Drawer organizers

Utensil organizer (I use this bamboo one HERE)

Spice rack (I use this one HERE)

Labels, optional

Markers, optional

Fabric cubes separate different categories of dried goods to be stored in lower cabinets.
Fabric cubes separate different categories of dried goods to be stored in lower cabinets.

How to Organize a Small Kitchen without a Pantry 

Use fabric storage cubes for pantry storage in lower cabinets.

I picked up several of these fabric storage cubes recently for $3 each and they fit perfectly into lower cabinets. This is where I store my dry goods that I would normally keep in a pantry. I organize each cube by baking ingredients, snacks, other dry goods, and miscellaneous. 

The best part about these cubes is they have handles. I don’t want to be stuck bending and reaching for minutes at a time as I dig through the lower cabinets to find what I need. Now, I simply grab the cube I need and sort through it on the countertop instead. Then it goes directly back in when I’m done. It keeps the cabinets organized and everything is done in one grab.

Use kitchen organizers for an easy drawer organizing hack.

Kitchen drawer organizers really help keep messy drawers organized. Serving utensils can be separated from food preparation utensils. Junk drawers can stay more organized by keeping coupons tidy in one spot where they aren’t mixed in with appliance manuals. Medications and vitamins can be arranged more neatly. This makes finding things much more efficient. It just makes sense.

A bamboo utensil organizer helps keep a drawer tidy for how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry.

Sort items and keep similar things together.

All the cutlery goes together near the cutting board. The mixing bowls all fit within each other and go with other serving bowls in the cabinets. All plates, drinking glasses, and bowls have a designated cabinet. Always, always group similar items together. You’ll never be left wondering, Now where did I put that?

Remember the triangle rule

This rule dictates that workstations in the kitchen be within a certain range of feet from one another in order to make day-to-day tasks easier to accomplish. If you have a small kitchen, you probably don’t have the issue of things being separated too far apart. But you also need enough room to work, which means you don’t want things to close together either. 

Overall, the triangle rule should decrease the steps needed to take between three key stations: where you cook, store, and clean. You want to be able to move efficiently from each area during the course of meal preparation. If not properly organized, a kitchen can be a nightmare to work in. That is why taking this rule into account can really help the efficiency of a kitchen to keep it running smoothly. The flow of a kitchen can make or break your cooking flow.

To apply this, think about rearranging certain areas of your kitchen. This is easier if you have a freestanding kitchen, with hutches, side tables, and a freestanding stove. But you may not even need to take it this far. Focus on how you can keep your triangle between your three main work areas cleaner, less cluttered, and free of interference. Doing so can make your cooking experience so much more enjoyable. 

Store what you use most close to eye level. 

To eliminate extra bending and reaching, organize your space so that what you use most often is right at eye level. For example, I rarely cook with our crockpot. It makes sense for me to store this higher up. On the rare occasion I need it, I grab a step stool and can get it out. By storing it farther away, it allows me to free up extra space on lower shelves to store what I use daily and weekly for less of a hassle.

Bowls and everyday pots are stored at eye level for accessibility.
Mixing bowls, measuring cups, and pots/pans are within arms reach in a prep zone for everyday use.

Take advantage of open shelving.

Open shelves can get a lot of hate. If you style them correctly, they look well coordinated into a kitchen though. One of my favorite ways to store small appliances and some dry goods is on open shelves. I use aesthetic storage jars that blend well with the decor. Almost everything on these shelves are for both practical purposes and aesthetic purposes. I’m all about functionality in our kitchen.

In your kitchen, this may look like matching large canisters for storing flour, sugar, and coffee. These are used frequently in a baker’s kitchen so should be within arm’s reach without the need for opening or closing cabinets. Maybe you have a fancy KitchenAid blender that is beautiful and you’d love to have it on the corner shelf. If you use this often for smoothies and the blender itself compliments your decor, there’s no reason you can’t store it in an open space. Just about anything can be stored on a shelf, as long as it is styled in a way that you can live with. Remember, clutter only becomes clutter if it’s not useful or complimentary to your style.

Easy DIY kitchen floating shelves show items lined up for display and everyday use.
Dry goods and more are stored on a shelf for accessibility during cooking.

Utilize door space.

Another clever way to create more storage space is to hang hooks on the insides of cabinet doors. I’ve seen people store measuring cups and spoons on these, along with a handful of other purposeful items. It’s so easy to open the cabinet door to grab these for measuring and baking in a pinch.

Store occasional items in other areas.

Do you have any items in your kitchen that you can’t quite get rid of but also don’t use very often? We all have a couple of items we can’t bear to part with because we do use them, maybe on the holidays or special occasions, but we just don’t use them often enough. 

Get used to storing items used only on special occasions somewhere else. If you only use all the cookie decorating items once a year during the Christmas season, don’t fill an entire kitchen drawer with them. Store them in a bin in a closet or another room until December rolls around. Don’t give barely used items free rent in your kitchen all year round.

Create “zones” in your kitchen to arrange supplies and tools.

In your kitchen, start organizing items by where you’ll actually be using them. In my kitchen I have a prep area where I do most of my mixing for baking and chopping for cooking. It makes sense to store my cutlery, mixing bowls, cutting board, and mixing utensils in the cabinets and drawers right there within arm’s reach. 

Really think about the layout of your kitchen and start doing the same thing. Where does it make sense to do prep work? Where do you do the actual cooking? Doesn’t it make sense to have spices, pots and pans, and oven mitts close to the stovetop and not across the kitchen? This will save you so many steps (and time) by doing this. The cooking process will become so much more seamless if you follow this guideline. 

A small kitchen gets organized into zones for ease of use.
A prep zone includes counter space, cutting boards and cutlery, and close proximity to the fridge and sink for efficient kitchen use.

Don’t overstock on food and other supplies.

This is my favorite tip for how to organize a small kitchen without a pantry. Get in the habit of only buying what you need each week. Use up older groceries first and replace pantry staples only when needed. It can be tempting to always take advantage of a good deal, but sometimes we don’t realize that we don’t actually need all that extra food. Especially if you don’t have a practical way to store it…

More Organization Posts Like This

Spice Cabinet Organization  

DIY Closet Organization Ideas for a More Collected Life  

How to Meal Plan for the Week  

Craft Drawer Organization  

10 Things To Declutter This Fall  

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.