31 Ways to Maximize Your Pantry Space

When cupboards are a jumbled mess, finding ingredients can take as long as cooking dinner. Keep even the smallest pantry organized with these clever storage tips and smart, space-saving products.

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August 14, 2020
By: Deanne Revel and Catherine Strawn

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

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Photo By: Photography: WE Studios; Design + Staging + Styling: Design Harmony

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Stack It in Style

Cut down your carbon footprint and think beyond new, plastic bins. This repurposed dim sum steamer basket makes a super handy storage unit for small items such as spices and herbs. And its stackable trays make getting to ingredients fast and efficient.

Try a Pegboard

If your utility closet and pantry are one and the same, you need storage options that maximize space while keeping your food and cleaning items safely separated. A pegboard is a great way to create more vertical storage, and it can change with your needs without any additional installation. Just shift the pegs around to store mops, brooms, dustpans and more. Pegboards are also perfect for storing aprons, oven mitts and pot holders if you’re short on kitchen drawers.

Think Outside the Box

Who says living room storage can't be used in the kitchen? This chic, rattan-style storage ottoman looks great at the bottom of this open-shelf pantry.

Upcycle Storage You Already Have

Before you go out and buy new stuff, take a look at storage items you're not using around the house. If you've gone digital, you might have some old magazine holders lying around. And these stands make terrific storage bins for produce in the pantry such as potatoes or garlic.

Keep Canned Goods Contained

Canned goods have a way of disappearing into the back of a shelf never to be seen for years. Keep go-to cans within reach with a can corral. These racks store cans horizontally instead of vertically so that every time you pull a can out, the next can will automatically roll forward. This also keeps cans easily in sight so you don't forget an item and waste it.

Use a Lazy Susan

Lazy Susans are synonymous with entertaining and big buffet spreads, but they're also super handy in the pantry. Not only do these spinning wonders keep lots of small bottles and tins contained, but they also keep ingredients organized by theme. Store similar ingredients such as sauces and spices in each quadrant so you never misplace an item. Lazy Susans are also super helpful in corner cabinets where items tend to get pushed to the back and out of sight.

Buy It: The Container Store, $29.99

Invest in Pro Shelving

When you think about a professional kitchen, you probably think about investing in luxe, gourmet appliances and artisanal ingredients. But a true chef's kitchen also has a pro pantry. Take inspiration from high-end restaurant pantries with these Swedish wood shelving units from Williams Sonoma. The storage system comes in several sizes to fit wall-to-wall or wall-to-corner so no space is wasted. Plus, the shelves themselves can be adjusted to accommodate items with different heights.

Buy It: Williams Sonoma, Starting at $29.95

Build a Built-In

If you don't have a dedicated pantry with a door, you can turn a nook in the kitchen into a bonafide pantry area with opening shelving. Built-ins are a great way to utilize the exact space you have while making open shelving look attractive and intentional. And if you don't have the budget for a built-in, you can fake it with painted beadboard and floating shelves.

Go Old-School With Canning Jars

Weck canning jars have been a pantry staple for more than 100 years. The company's classic tulip design is pretty enough to bring straight from the kitchen to the table when entertaining. But these little, stackable jars can be used for so much more than homemade jams. The airtight seal is perfect for dry goods such as rice, beans and oatmeal.

Buy It: Williams Sonoma, $34.95, Set of 6

Consider Horseshoe Shelves

There's just something about a walk-in pantry that feels extra fancy. That something might just be the sheer ability to see and reach every item at the same time. If you don't have a deep pantry, you can fake a walk-in with horseshoe shelves. These floating shelves create a U-shaped indention that will allow you to take a step or peek inside — even if you can't completely walk in.

Opt for Cubbies Over Large Shelves

Large, expansive shelves can hold tons of pantry items, but they don’t do a great job of organizing or keeping items in sight. If you break down big shelves into smaller cubbies, you can organize items by theme, height or meal type — whatever works for you and your family. And you don’t need to buy a bunch of wood to make this happen. You could even use filing cabinet dividers or cookbooks to fake cubbies.

Label Your Heart Out

Clear bins with airtight seals are a great way to prevent food such as cereal from going stale as well as ensuring no bags — such as sugar sacks — leak and attract pests. But a shelf full of matching bins can make it difficult to locate ingredients quickly. Enter the beloved label maker. Labels make it easy to see and grab exactly what you need. Plus, a pantry full of well-organized and labeled items just gives us warm fuzzies. We’ve even created some special fonts you can download for free to make your labels extra fancy.

Pull Out Your Pantry

If you don’t have a closet or a cabinet to create a pantry, take a look at the thin slivers of space between your kitchen appliances. All you need is a couple of inches to create a full pantry with pull-out shelving. These pull-out racks magically give you tons of storage in a spot that would otherwise be empty. Plus, pull-outs make it incredibly easy to see and find ingredients.

Add a Wine Rack

Clunky wine racks can take up a lot of space on a shelf. Instead of adding a storage unit, turn the shelf itself into a wine rack. You’ll be able to store more bottles without taking up additional space.

Use the Unexpected

At HGTV, we love a good dollar store shoe organizer. There’s just so much you can do with one, from hanging camping gear to storing spices and sprinkles on the back of a pantry door. See how the HGTV Handmade crew outfitted a shoe organizer for the kitchen here.

Take It to the Next Level

To squeeze every last square inch out of your cupboards — and still be able to easily access what’s in back — install a tiered shelf, like this bamboo option from The Container Store that expands to fit the width.

Buy It: The Container Store, $23.99

Put Your Stamp on Spice Storage

Not enough room in the cupboard for all of your spices? Put them on display! Stylist Janna Lufkin and organizer Elizabeth Goodsell discovered that a vintage stamp holder perfectly fits the small jars.

Go Above and Below

Max out your vertical storage by adding undershelf baskets. They instantly multiply your cabinet’s capacity and create designated areas for different types of ingredients.

Buy It: The Container Store, $14.99

Open the Door to More Storage

Take full advantage of the backs of cabinet doors by installing small storage bins. Keep spices, oils and often-used condiments here so they’re handy.

Buy It: The Container Store, $9.99-$17.99

Corral Beverages

Sometimes bottles and cans won’t store upright. If that’s the case, turn to horizontal storage such as this clear rack from The Container Store or the Fridge Monkey, a rubber mat with a series of grooves that keep stacked cylinders from rolling away.

Buy It: The Container Store, $7.19

Double Up on Duties

Cake stands don’t get everyday use, so put them into service as two-tiered storage, like Lufkin and Goodsell did. Small items, like ramekins and sauce dishes, can sit both on top and underneath.

Smartly Stash Food Containers

With various-sized bins and a range of lids, it doesn’t take much for your collection of leftover holders to get out of hand. Lufkin and Goodsell say to group bottoms, then stack lids vertically with the help of a plate rack.

Sort by Category

Gathering like items guarantees you’ll be able to find what you need, advise the organizing pros behind Neat Method. Start with basic groups like baking, breakfast, grains and snacks.

Pick a Clear Winner

The Neat Method pros can’t get enough of OXO containers. “They help you use the full height of your shelf, ensure food stays fresh, and did we mention they’re dishwasher safe?” To track expiration dates, apply stickers to the bottoms.

Add a Base Layer

Here’s a trick for making the most of deep shelves from Clea Shearer, cofounder of The Home Edit: Line up boxes and jars of food on top of a bin, basket or serving tray that’s not in everyday rotation. “Pull out the whole container to access anything in the back,” she says.

Think About the Kids

Put children’s snacks on the bottom pantry shelf, Shearer suggests. This makes it easy for them to help themselves without accidentally knocking over, say, a nearby bag of flour.

Cut Out the Excess

Save space by throwing out packaging, advises Shearer, who recommends transferring items like granola bars and wrapped crackers into labeled bins. Or, shop in the bulk section when possible to skip cardboard boxes altogether.

Go for High Visibility

If you’re redoing your pantry, choose wire shelving and drawer bins, like these from ClosetMaid. They let you see exactly what’s located where, even on high, hard-to-reach spots that solid shelves would obscure.

Build a Snack Station

A narrow strip of wall space is the ideal spot for single-serving bags. To create her custom holder, Christy at 11 Magnolia Lane glued curtain hooks (minus the rings) to a strip of painted wood.

Hang in There

Open bags of chips or pretzels always getting lost on your shelf? With Rubbermaid’s hanging clip, snacks can dangle freely — and avoid getting crushed to oblivion.

Give Each Place a Purpose

Designate a specific spot for the items you buy most so there’s no question where things go when it’s time to unload your grocery haul. Ikea’s Ivar labels slip right onto the front of shelves.

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