10 Food Storage Ideas When You Don’t Have a Pantry

10 Food Storage Ideas When You Don’t Have a Pantry

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Not everyone has a pantry in their home. Some houses just weren’t built with one. Pantries are so convenient, especially if they are located in your kitchen, or very close by. It makes meal prep so much easier since you can see what’s there and you don’t have to go to a basement or other storage area.

Most of my homes have had some sort of pantry available for me, but I’ve always wished they were larger based on how much I cook.

When it comes to having a dedicated pantry, they are nice to have, but not a necessity in the prepping world. In fact, we are capable of turning any space into a pantry.

To me, a pantry is almost any space you can store food that doesn’t need to be kept in a freezer or refrigerator. If you cook much, having those staples we use so many recipe options should be stored as close as possible. The more we can store efficiently at home, the less often we make a trip to the grocery store.

Don’t plan to store items that are perishable like eggs, cheese, or other dairy products like yogurt and sour cream since all these should be kept in your fridge unless they’ve been freeze-dried. I have tons of freeze-dried foods stored in #10 cans, I love them.

Because prepping is so important, I have come up with 10 food storage ideas when you don’t have a pantry. Please keep more than one can open in your home.

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Food Storage Ideas When You Don’t Have a Pantry

If you don’t have a pantry for your food storage, don’t worry! Here are 10 ideas that will make storing your extra food a breeze!

10 Food Storage Ideas When You Don’t Have a Pantry

1. Use an Old Bookshelf

An old bookshelf can become a great place to store some of your food. Even in a small kitchen, you can stick a bookcase in there along one of your walls. Load your shelves with dry goods, canned goods, and even your dehydrated produce.

I would recommend getting a bookshelf from the thrift store or Facebook Marketplace if you don’t have one and want a cheaper option. 

I wish we had an IKEA here, they have some pretty inexpensive and sturdy bookcases that could be used to store food. If you get the taller ones, please attach them to the wall for safety reasons.

2. Store it in the Walls

Trust me here, I’m not crazy! You can take out part of your wall in between two beams and then place shelves in between the beams that you can use to store your food. This is a terrific option if you have a tiny kitchen and just can’t place another thing into it.

The main challenge is how narrow the shelves would be. Additionally, you can add some hanging doors like sliding barn doors to hide what you have in there. This can be done fairly easily and with limited funds. Be sure to watch out for electrical wires in those walls.

3. Pegboard Food Storage Ideas

If you don’t want to tear out some sheetrock from your wall, you can use the exterior to create your own pantry. Securely attach a pegboard to your wall. Create a pantry with baskets and shelves that will work with the type of food storage you have.

You can create shelves for your canned goods, and hang some small buckets or baskets on the pegs for your produce. You can also hang flexible cloth bags to store things like spaghetti noodles or cutting boards. 

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4. Repurpose Your Coat Closet

I had a friend who didn’t have a pantry, but she had two coat closets. One by the front door and one by the back door. Instead of using both closets for coats and things, she uses one closet as a pantry.

Add some shelves in your closet that are designed to store different size products. You can buy some basic wood boards and create shelves to hold baskets, canned goods, spices, or most anything you want in your makeshift pantry.

The truth is, many “pantries” in homes right now are the same size as my friend’s closet. If you’re lucky, you have high ceilings in your home, including the inside of your closets. Put some of the less used items in your food supply to be stored either on the upper shelves or on the floor. 

5. Utilize an Enclosed Porch

You have to be careful what you put on the porch, especially if you can’t regulate temperatures in your porch area. However, you can put up storage shelves to store your extra canned goods, dry goods like pasta, grains, lentils, white rice, and beans, cleaning supplies, or things you frequently use like paper towels or toilet paper.

You won’t want to have things in the freezing cold or super-hot temperature periods since the temperature could have an effect on the nutrients in the foods. If the temps tend to stay fairly close to inside room temperature you’ll get decent shelf life out of many items. If you can keep it reasonably cool or warm throughout the year, this is an option to store your extra stuff. 

If you picture storing some kitchen items that tend to take up space like toasters, slow cookers, pressure cookers, etc., this could be a great storage option, particularly if the porch is towards the rear of your home where many kitchens are located.

6. Food Storage Ideas in the Basement

Using your basement for your extra food storage is a great idea. However, you’ll want to keep your food off the floor on 2″ x 4″ boards or pallets. Be sure you have a rotation plan in place so you don’t forget what’s downstairs.

One thing I’ve found about storing extra food in the basement is that sometimes you just don’t feel like going down there to rotate your food, let alone frequent trips to grab the ingredients for that next meal.

I’ve kept so many items on shelves in the basement that I’ve either bought them at the store during case lot sales or canned them on my own. Canned goods include a wide variety of veggies like tomatoes, potatoes, peas, carrots, onions, corn, green beans, etc.

I’ve also stored many types of fruits like apples in sauce form, pears, various berries, peaches, citrus items like mandarin oranges, and even canned meats like chicken, beef, pork, and tuna.

If you plan to store items like flour, oats, whole wheat, etc., be sure you use food storage containers that are BPA safe, have a tight seal, and have a date noted on the top or side.

I seldom keep flour for more than a year, but rice, wheat, and pasta will last much longer, particularly if they were commercially packaged and use oxygen absorbers. I also will store other commercial products like peanut butter, jams, jellies, mushrooms, etc.

If you’re someone who can stay on top of what’s in your food storage inventory, even when it’s out of sight, this is a fabulous option. In fact, there are several ways you can store food in your basement:

  • Build a pantry in your basement. You can build a room down in your basement solely dedicated to food storage. 
  • Add bookshelves. If you have extra bookshelves, you can create your own pantry out of them in your basement.
  • Hang shelves. If you don’t want things on the floor at all, you can use the walls and create shelves in your basement. 
  • Unused bedroom. If you’re now in a new phase and don’t need those basement bedrooms for kids, consider converting one or more.
  • Long-term storage. The basement may be your best option for the things you’re storing for the long haul or items you don’t use as often.
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Years ago, I had a basement and it was a great food storage place, as well as a great place to store extra coats and blankets, hygiene products, emergency preps, and more. Then, Mark and I downsized to a smaller home and now we don’t have a basement. My dream would be to have a pantry that is 14 feet by 14 feet. It’s not going to happen, but I can dream, right? Such is life. My home is much smaller but easier to clean.

We are now downsizing once again as I have mentioned about a year ago. I will keep you posted on how I make the new smaller home will be for us. I’m hoping to share ideas on organizing food storage with less space.

7. Hang Goods Under Your Cabinets

Screw mason jar lids into the bottom of your upper cabinets. Then you can have some instant storage for the things you use most often. I wouldn’t suggest doing a ton of stuff stored this way due to the weight.

But, this is a good option for people with limited storage space. I’d suggest using wide-mouthed jars and you might want to start with smaller/shorter pint jars before trying quarts.

8. Place Shelves Anywhere You Can

When it comes to prepping, you don’t have to just figure out what to do with items in your kitchen. In fact, your whole house can become a food storage haven! Hang shelves wherever you can think of to store extra food and prepping stuff. Here are some places you can hang extra shelves in your home:

  • Build shelves on the sides of your cabinets.
  • Narrow shelves can be placed along your backsplash between the cabinets and counter.
  • You can add extra shelves in closets.
  • Put up shelves above your toilet.
  • Anywhere there is a wall, you can add a shelf for storage. Stir clear of hallways, which could be a safety hazard, particularly at night.
  • We have items stored behind our entertainment center in the master bedroom. Who would have thought?
  • We also have Water Brick products stored under the bed of our guestroom.

9. Build Your Own Pantry

If you have somewhere to put it, you can always build your own, or several if needed. If the outside is your only option, take the items you seldom use, or those that aren’t as “weather/temperature” sensitive, and put them in the outside enclosure.

You can call these sheds or a pantry, they can serve a similar purpose if the items stored are safely kept there. My only concern is keeping the food cool enough, this would have to be your last resort to store your food outside. I have seen families build enclosed rooms in their garages and then added ventilation along with a small air conditioning unit.

10. Use Baskets and Containers

There are so many ways you can store extra food and essentials. Use baskets and plastic containers to store food in hard-to-reach cabinets so that you are using all of your space. You can even use plastic bins that you can scoot under the bed, couch, or shelves. Store it, stack it, and hide it however you can. 

Final Word

It can be tough to find all the right places to store your extra food. Some of us live in small houses, some in apartments, and others just have a hard time going up and downstairs.

When it comes to food storage, make it logical and efficient for you! If you need to build more shelves, do it. If you want to store it in an empty bedroom, do it.

The best thing you can do is be creative as you figure out how to store it any way you can. May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Glass Jars AdobeStock_266580193 by Anjelika Gretskaia

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39 Comments

  1. We have 3 bedrooms, I took one as my craft room. We put shelves in the closet for a pantry. It is now overflown into the craft room. The craft room has also become a storage room for whatever my husband can’t find a place for. His shop outside is full and so is the front porch. And then there are the boxes stacked in the bedroom and living room.

    1. Hi Deborah, oh my gosh, the craft room is now overflowing! I have 3 bedrooms and an office. One of the bedrooms is a queen bed guest room with 6-gallon buckets of wheat lining one wall. I have a grandkids guest room with two-triple bunkbeds. I’m thinking of getting rid of the bunk beds since the grandkids are getting bigger and busy with jobs so they don’t visit as much. I would make that room a more organized food storage room. LOL! I want to simplify my life with less stuff. I will keep my emergency stuff and food storage. But we have stuff we haven’t used in years. I want less stuff. Linda

  2. We took one windowless wall in our guest room and built heavy duty shelves on it. We put framing along the top shelf to hang sliding closet doors. This is now a pantry and holds a lot of our home canned food storage.

  3. MAKE END TABLES W/TABLECLOTH OR OTHER COVERING
    GET THE FRUIT BOXES FROM SAM’S OR OTHER STORES THEY GO UNDER BED & STACK, THEY ARE HEAVEY DUTY ALSO CARD BOARD MILK BOXES ARE HEAVT DUTY ,ALSO LIQUIOR BOXES,CUT DN TO SIZE FOR JARS ,THEY COME W/SEPARTION FOR JARS OR STACK CANNED FOOD IN ,THEY DONT GIVE US GOOD BOXES FOR OUR JARS ANY MORE
    ONLY LIMITED BY YOUR IMAGINATION
    ALSO CK W/ BAKERY DEPT FOR PLASTIC BUCKETS THAT ICING & STUFF COME IN ,THEY ARE FREE & LOTS OF TIME YOU GET ICING ALSO ! THEY HAVE GOOD SEAL !
    AND BE SURE TO GET THE JAR SEALER THAT GOES W/ YOUR FOOD SAVER !

    1. Hi Daphne, oh I love your ideas! You know there is always a way to stock our food storage. Where there is a will, there is a way. Thank you so much for all these wonderful ideas! Oh, and the buckets, yay for free ones! Linda

      1. have to put our ‘thinkin’caps on ! i trned my 2nd bath room into my pantry,also got some closed metal cabinets from resturant close out & son gave me some old “proof tall metal cabinets w/ doors ,cut wood shelves to fit & had some large metal resturant pans that jus fit in there ,left overs from when workin in resturant,2nd hand shelves ,,not fancy but works got buckets stacked & marked
        also big tin cans that popcorn & stuff come in for christmas & etc,find those mostly T thrift stores after holidays ,jus my “stace “(NOT MUCH THRIFT STOREIN’ ANY MORE !)
        THINK ON MY FRIEND !
        WE WILL SURVIVE ! MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR !
        as for organizin freezer,nothing works ! tried it all !

        1. Hi Daphne, it feels so good to be prepared in so many different ways! I love hearing you kept your large metal restaurant pans! Those are keepers for sure! Merry Christmas! Linda

  4. Hi Linda,
    We have a small house with a small pantry and multiple use the bedrooms. However, there never seemed to be enough storage for pantry items and long term food storage. We have a 16X24 tall garden shed out back. I closed off one end of it at 8 feet and insulated it. So, now I have an 8’X16’X6.5′ tall extra storage pantry with a 6000BTU window unit that keeps the temperature at 70 degrees or less year round. I also keep DampRid in there to help hold down the humidity. We keep extra pantry and food storage in there as well as other things that need protection from the Texas heat. A big plus is that I get a lot of exercise retrieving pantry items when Pat runs out in the regular pantry. LOL!!

    1. Hi Harry, oh my gosh, this is what we need to do! I would love to install a window unit to keep the temperature at 70 degrees!! The Texas and Utah heat is crazy hot!! Great idea about insulating and DampRid, I love it!! We can all use some exercise these days of staying home! Going to the larger pantry does it! LOL! Linda

    2. Harry, the window AC unit is a great idea. I’m going to steal that one from you. We have a 20×22 storage shed that needs a new roof. Once I get the new roof on it I’ll insulate it and put in a window AC unit and solve my storage problems once and for all in this AZ heat. If I ever need to heat the shed I’ll build a solar space heater and hook a fan up to it. Thanks for the idea. Now I have yet another in a seemingly endless list of projects to do. I get one done, scratch it off the list and add two more.

      1. Hi Ray, I love getting ideas from our group!! I have to agree with you, I think of one project, get that one done and I think of another one! It never ends! Merry Christmas!! Linda

      2. Ray,
        No theft necessary. You are so welcome to use the idea. That’s why Linda’s blog is great. I have gotten so many ideas from her and her readers. I am sure you are aware that you need to carefully size the window AC unit to the size of the area you need to cool. My room is small and only has a 6.5 foot ceiling since it is under a storage loft in a gambrel roofed shed. For the area and volume I have, the guidelines recommended that I only needed a 5000BTU unit. I chose a 6000BTU unit and am glad I did. That gives me enough cooling capacity to handle our Texas heat and not have it running continuously. I wish I had made the room slightly bigger since we can always use more food storage area. But, we are slowly getting rid of other things in the room opening up more area for our preps. Have a great Christmas out there in AZ.

  5. We have (had?) a third bedroom we turned into a pantry. Bought good quality shelves. It looks like a grocery store!! Friends made fun of us…until the virus hit! We also have shelves in the laundry/utility room. Oh yeah, and under the built in bunk beds in the second bedroom, LOL.

    1. Hi Beth, I love your story about the bedroom looking like a grocery store. My granddaughter when she was living with us, went to get some potato chips and she laughed and yelled, “Grandma this may be a fire hazard”! I got the giggles so bad, it’s packed but I know where everything is!! Life is good when we have a good pantry. We can find a place for all food storage, right? Linda

      1. Hi Linda,
        Yes, always find room! I forgot about my “medicine closet”! That’s what my grandson calls the double closet filled with…well, medicine! And bandages and toothpaste and…you get the idea.
        Thanks for all your writings, I always learn from you!

  6. I live in a 2 bedroom apartment. My largest bedroom is my craft/storage room as it has a walk-in closet with shelves. I have it jam-packed!! I also have a 3 shelf book shelf filled with dried goods. I also purchased a small (made for a bathroom) cupboard with doors – fits perfectly on one short wall in my apartment and houses canned goods (I did have to replace the plastic shelf holders with metal but it is holding up nicely). I only have 3 inside doors (bathroom and 2 bedrooms) so I have hanging shoe things on the 2 bedroom doors that hold a LOT of goods – mostly preps that are not food: flashlights, matches, tape – duct tape and packing tape; gloves, plastic, emergency lighting, and various other non-food items. This makes those items more accessible to me. I also store under my bed, under my couch and in storage ottomans (2 that have lids).

    When you live in a small place, you must be creative in storing your preps.

    I recall a friend back in the Y2K era!! She and her husband turned their living room (they also had a family room) into their pantry. He built shelves around the room under and over windows, down the middle, etc. They stocked those shelves and at our last contact (I’ve since moved) 5 years ago, they were still eating out of their preps. She became very ill but at home and he was laid off his job so they were prepared for all of that as well. I should get in contact with them again!!

    1. Hi Leanne, oh boy, do I remember the Y2K era, what a joke it was! It was so hyped up and BAM, all was well. I love your idea of hanging bags with pockets!! When we have smaller homes we will make it work, no matter what it takes. I enjoyed your story about your friends with the living room as their pantry. What a blessing for them having prepped for whatever came their way. Wow! Linda

  7. I love the idea of storing between the framing in the walls. It’s quite the rage on Pinterest so one could find alot of ideas about how to finish it off to look nice. I personally would have my husband build a small sliding barn door…if there was enough “slide” room. Another option is to go to a place like Home Depot and buy either a kitchen or a bathroom “linen” type closet. Sometimes they’re really deep and things can get lost in the back but they work great for food storage. I’m so very blessed to my own personal grocery store in the basement. During all the lockdown, I only had to order fresh foods and Mt. Dew! We did exceptionally well. My husband had/has more work than he can handle (professional engineer) and I have enough fabric that so far I’ve made 12 quilts with plenty left to go. I had turned an upstairs closet into a fabric closet with floor to ceiling shelves to hold all my fabric. Pinterest is a really good place to get ideas for just about anything.

  8. We added two Closetmaid shelf units in a little used corner on top of our countertop. They holds lots of dry goods. I also had some barely used shelf space in my bedroom and now it has baking supplies. Things I never thought to do before the pandemic meant things we regularly bought were unavailable, so we stocked up as things became available and needed the storage places.

    Thanks for all you helpful posts.

    1. HI Suzie, I like ClosetMaid shelf units! Great reminder! It’s been interesting to see how quickly people learned how supplies could become scarce. Keep prepping, thank you for your kind words! Linda

  9. I have a lot of those footlocker type trunks that I use for fabric and craft storage but you could do the same for food storage. Several are stacked neatly in my bedroom, 2 have foam cushions on top and double as benches at the dining table. One does double duty as a plant stand in front of the window. I put wheels (reinforced with plywood backing) under a large metal trunk and keep the TV on top. In my bedroom (AKA the Shedroom) I have a wall lined with sturdy wire shelving that holds extra food, water storage, tools, etc. It’s covered with a fancy curtain, you’d never know it was ugly shelves. One section also holds a small chest freezer. I built a 6″ wide pullout pantry that fits between the fridge and the kitchen wall and I can’t believe how much stuff fits in there. To make it easier to access the bottom kitchen cabinets I use plastic totes to hold jars, bottles, cans and boxes. Much cheaper and sturdier than drawers and way easier to keep clean. I keep a list of what’s in behind tucked into a plastic sleeve inside the door so I don’t have to keep dragging things out and looking. I have shorter wire shelving unit “end tables” beside the couch, with nice fabric covers and wooden tops. It’s amazing what you can tuck away in there.

  10. I will admit that my LTS is far below most of you, and my pantry is more of a “working pantry” that I continually rotate. We are blessed, in that when we downsize, we gave away and sold off 1400 items (furniture galore, tools, books, you name it, we got rid of it….as a numbers person, I kept track of such things…..lol… Add to that, our new home must have been designed by a woman. There are two large walk in closets complete with shelves and dressers, two 6ft. Coat closets, two pantry closets, one linen closet big enough for a years worth of toiletries, and a laundry room with shelves for two years of cleaning stuff. Add a 1500ft. temperature and humidity controlled basement with coat closets for paper products and an upright freezer, you name it, we can store it!!

    1. Hi Chris, wow, wow, wow! I love hearing this! I have to admit I have changed my view on LTS because the price is ridiculous now. I even tell my readers to please think twice before you buy a #10 can due to the prices right now. I believe having a workable pantry is more critical than having loads of LTS. I love your comment the house was designed by a woman! I got the giggles, but boy, I would love a home designed by a woman. Or at least one like you and I who want to stock our homes for our own grocery store. You have an amazing setup, my friend! Linda

  11. Years ago I lived downtown in Chicago in a one bedroom apartment. Because it was an elderly building, it had larger rooms, no balcony but it had a closet at the front door that had a second door to it around a corner. I used the second door opening to make a bank of wooden shelves for a pantry. When I moved, the manager was so impressed at the use of the space, I got my entire deposit back!

  12. Hi Linda,
    I have a small extra bedroom that is my food storage area. I do not heat it in the winter and it is air conditioned in the summer. I place a brick over the floor vent in the winter to prevent any heat coming in if the furnace comes on. I primarily heat with wood though and rarely use the furnace. I utilize my enclosed back porch as a cellar in the winter to keep fresh produce and fruit.
    I have a large wooden cabinet in my bedroom and a small closet that my husband built shelves in for my home canned items and foods that I have bought such as condiments and dressings, and medicinal items. I have a wooden chest like a cedar chest that is for my coffee storage. I always buy the coffee in the markdown cart too, it will be good for bartering. All my meat is in the freezer, but that is the best can do with that. I do not have a pressure canner. I do have a supply of bought canned meats like tuna, chicken, corned beef and ham.
    Aldi has the small canned hams and the canned corn beef, both under $4.
    We just have to do what we can do and trust that God will take care of us. God bless you!
    Love and hugs my friend,
    Jackie Perkins

    1. Hi Jackie, you have such a great plan, my sweet friend! You are so right we can only do what we can do. I’m in the same boat, and that’s okay. Love and hugs to you my friend, Linda

  13. What I am doing is getting shelves and cabinet’s and I am cleaning out a unused bedroom and placing a fake door on it that looks like a wall. All I will have to do is push the wall in to enter the room. Or I may use the closet in the other bedroom and connect it to the closet in the room I will be using for my pantry that will have shelving in it and with the shelving being able to be pushed as a door and I can enter from there. I don’t know which way I will use but it will make it really good pantry in our home.

  14. #6 – Basement Storage. Our first home, over 45 years ago was a double. Our upstairs tenant was an elderly woman, Martha, who came to America on the sister ship to the Titanic. She was a great grandmother to our children. We shared our basement with Martha and her ringer washer! Our storage was on metal shelves and dated with black magic markers. When Martha got ill and we had to move her to a nursing home it fell to us to clear her apartment because we were all the family she had. We found canned goods and household needs with my dates among her things. We took great comfort in knowing Martha found what she needed and didn’t go without.

    1. Hi Chris, what a blessing to have Martha living with you and for her as well. What a great feeling to see that she had stored what she needed and didn’t go without. What great memories, I’m so glad you shared this story. Linda

  15. This worked great…..Got those vinyl metal shelves from Lowes and put them above all the windows and doors and around the whole extra room….put my #10 cans up there grouping fruits, veggies, etc. Was so easy to see what I had. Then we moved……

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