When A Cabinet is Your Pantry

Let’s chat about working with what we’ve got when a cabinet is your pantry.This is especially important when what we’ve got feels a little…small. We’re talking kitchen space, and more specifically—pantries, or the lack thereof.

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Now, let’s not let that get you down; rather, let it spark some creativity in you! Not everyone has those huge pantries, and trust me, I’ve had some pantry envy in my life; but I still wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s, so to me, that makes having a large pantry one of those things that just doesn’t mean a whole lot in the end. Would you agree?

Who makes these perfect pantry rules anyway?

Who says you need a big walk-in pantry or a fancy, sprawling kitchen to organize your food well? Not me. It’s all about making the most of the space that you do have, even if it’s just a single cabinet. It’s less about the size and more about the organization. So, grab a cup of joe, sit back, and let’s dive into some tips and tricks to keep your kitchen in tip-top shape—without breaking the bank.

A very small kitchen with a smaller sized stainless steel fridge to the left, butcher block countertops, busy shelves, and pans and utensils stored on a rack above the stove.

1. Prioritize: Keep those everyday items at eye level. Think breakfast foods, or that snack you always find yourself reaching for mid-day (no judgment here!). All about convenience, right?

2. Get Your Containers On: Clear containers can be your best friend in a tiny pantry. Not only do they make everything look uniform and neat, but they let you see exactly what’s inside without having to open it. Pop down to your local dollar store and pick up a few – it’s a game changer, trust me.

3. Zigzag the Shelves: Install shelves in a zigzag pattern to make more room for tall bottles and jars. Definitely a funky take on shelves, but hey, it works!

4. The Backs of Doors are Magic: Think of the backs of cabinet doors as hidden gold. Spice racks, cling film holders, even small baskets for random bits and bobs – it’s prime real estate in there!

5. Lazy Susans Aren’t Lazy: Invest in a couple of turntables, or as most people call them, Lazy Susans. They’re a breeze to spin around, making sure nothing ever gets lost in the back of the cabinet. It’s like a mini carousel in your kitchen!

6. Group Similar Items Together: Pasta with pasta, spices with spices, baking ingredients with—well, you get the drift. It’ll reduce time searching and avoid any potential kitchen meltdowns.

7. Hooks Under Shelves: Hook on some mugs under the shelves and voila! Space saved and it adds a bit of character too.

A cabinet that is two shelves and has pantry items somewhat haphazardly stored.


Alright, let’s talk ‘location, location, location’! Because while all these organization hacks are all well and good, it’s super important to consider where’s the best place to set up your pantry.

Finding the Sweet Spot for Your Pantry Cabinet

Ideally, you might want to have your pantry close to where you’re whipping up all those gastronomic masterpieces – your stove and prep area. It just makes sense, right? You’ll be able to grab your ingredients much quicker without traipsing across the kitchen.

Consider spots like a nearby cabinet, or maybe even an entire column of cabinets if you can spare it! Heck, maybe you’ve got an open corner or a wall that’s begging to be transformed.

Dishes and utensils on kitchen table, ready to cook. white simple modern kitchen in scandinavian style, kitchen details, wooden table, sunflowers bouquet in vase on the table

But, you and I both know, real life and ‘ideal’ don’t always shake hands. Maybe your cozy kitchen space requires a bit of improvisation.

And that’s alright!

Flexibility is key. Maybe your “pantry” turns out to be a couple of different cabinets scattered around the kitchen. Hey, if that works for you, that’s perfect! After all, it’s all about creating a space that’s comfortable and convenient for you.

Sometimes, it’s even a blessing in disguise. Splitting foods up by frequency of use, and placing them closer to where you’ll need them might just bring a new flavor to your kitchen performance!

Your kitchen is filled with potential – you just gotta take a minute, look around, and find what works best. And always remember, the love and joy you put into your home and kitchen aren’t measured in square feet or fancy walk-in pantries—but in the warm memories and belly laughs shared around the table. Happy organizing, and here’s to making the most of our spaces!

Where do I start if I’m just starting out?

Kick-starting Your Pantry

Getting started with your pantry can feel like a big task, kinda like staring at a blank canvas. But just like any masterpiece, it all begins with a single brush stroke—or in our case, a single ingredient!

First things first, take a little time to think about what you and your family (or roommates or just you!) eat regularly. Everyone’s pantry is going to look a bit different and that’s the beauty of it! It should be as unique as you.

However, to give you a bit of a nudge, here are some versatile staples you might want to consider. These items tend to have a long shelf life, are cost-effective, and can be used in a multitude of delicious meals!

Cost-Effective Pantry Staples

1. Grains: Items like rice, pasta, quinoa, or couscous are great to have on hand. They’re super filling, work in a ton of different dishes, and are budget-friendly too.

2. Canned Goods: Canned tomatoes, beans, tuna, and soups are good go-tos. They’re quick, easy, last for ages, and can stretch those meals out.

3. Oils and Vinegars: A good olive oil, a neutral cooking oil like canola, and a tasty vinegar can form the base of any number of dressings and sauces.

4. Baking Basics: Flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda – if you plan to do any sort of baking, these are your pals.

5. Spices: Again, this will depend on your cuisine preference but having a basic collection including salt, pepper, cumin, garlic power, chili powder and oregano is a good start.

6. Dry Goods: Lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds are great for adding protein to your meals.

7. Snacks and Cereals: Because everyone needs that 3 pm pick-me-up or a quick breakfast when you’ve hit snooze one too many times!

And remember, it’s not a race. Feel free to start small and build up your pantry over time, adding things as you discover new recipes or remember those family favorites.

Starting Your Pantry

It’s a little like starting a new chapter in your love affair with your kitchen. It may seem daunting at first, but take it step-by-step, and before you know it, you’ll see that blank canvas come to life.

Keep in mind that the reality is that not everyone has a perfectly staged, laid-out beautiful kitchen space. What you see in the photo below isn’t what most “regular” people like us live with. It’s beautiful, and I can appreciate it, but it isn’t reality for most.

Glass cabinets with decorative pieces on top and white bowls and plates perfectly organized.

The picture-perfect kitchens and pantries we see on social media can be like a double-edged sword. On one hand, they are often a treasure trove of inspiration, but on the other hand, they can sometimes make us feel like our spaces are just not up to snuff. It’s important to remember that what we see online is often just a highlight reel, and behind those carefully staged photos and shiny countertops, there’s a lived-in, loved, and yes, sometimes messy kitchen. In the world we live in, comparisons can be super tempting, but, lived-in moments make our homes truly ours.

Your kitchen is cherished not because of its perfect pantry or gleaming appliances, but for the love, laughter, and nourishment it provides for you and your loved ones. So, let’s give ourselves some grace, remind ourselves that progress is better than perfection, and add a pinch of self-compassion when whipping up our kitchen dreams.

Read more about how I organize my small kitchen here!

xoxo –


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  1. Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a extraordinary job!

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