Saturday, January 8, 2011

Small Space Food Storage Solutions

This is something I put together for a small group of people who live in my neighborhood.  We all have similar living spaces, so it is somewhat specific to where I currently live, but the information is still good to consider wherever you are.

Small Space Food Storage Solutions
Don’t let living in small spaces be an excuse for not having food storage.  Use these helpful hints to help maximize the space in your home:

Rule #1: Put everything in boxes (or containers):
Keeping items in boxes makes a huge difference in terms of organization, accessibility and protection.  I swear by this rule; large house or tiny condo, it makes a big difference.
-         it is much easier to take one box of 12 items out than it is to individually relocate everything
-         boxes provide a stable platform, allowing you to stack food on top of places that have uneven surfaces
-         even on pantry shelves boxes keep canned goods from being knocked over, they make them easier to stack, keep them organized and tidy, and allow for easy rotation (take old items from the front, place new items in the back).

Rule #2: Get Organized:
There has to be a designated place for everything!  If there isn’t, it is harder to keep track of, more likely to get lost or forgotten, and it will take up more room.  Take the time to assign a spot to everything..

Rule #3: Maximize your Pantry:
Even if you don’t want to expand your collection of food outside of the kitchen, you can still fit a ton of food in your pantry.  I have a corner pantry that is standard size for the average home.

   *   Using the floor alone (no shelves) my condo pantry can fit:
-         At least 9 poly buckets, which = 230+ lbs. of food (flour, sugar, barley, wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, salt, etc.)
-         9 dozen mason jars (108 bottles)
-         2 gallons of oil
-         2 gallons of vinegar
-         35 lbs. of potatoes and onions
-         3 drawer stacking unit that holds several misc. items
Point Being: Get over the mindset that everything has to be easily accessible and available immediately and you’ll discover you have a lot more space.  Put items you rarely use in the very back, and items you always use up front.  It is NOT CONVENIENT to have to take things out to get to what is hiding in the back, but it is well worth the extra food.
   *   Townhome pantry’s are able to fit 5 poly buckets on the floor (you can fit 10 if you double stack them with the 2” smaller buckets), or you can fit cases of canned goods, water bottles, etc. on top.

   *   Maximize Shelf Height:
-         Double or triple stack canned goods (I can average ~200 canned goods using one shelf of my pantry)
-         Stack boxed items on top of each other, rather than side to side.  This allows room to put additional items in front (or behind).
-         Lighter items (like cereal and cracker boxes) can hang over the shelf.  Stack newer boxes behind them, largest side against the wall, and lay them flat on the bottom of the shelf.  This still allows the same amount of boxes to be stacked side by side (with the longest side on the bottom), but uses all surrounding space.
   *   Use storage containers that maximize space:
The more miscellaneous sized containers you have, the harder it is to fully use the space.
-         Large spice containers (Costco size) are perfect because they are tall rather than wide.  You can fit 4 deep and stack them side to side, but still have room to easily access ones from the back.  An old Raman Noodle Box will fit 20 spice containers – I write what is inside on the top of the lid, so I can take the entire box out if necessary and find whatever spice I need without rummaging through everything. 
-         #10 cans easily fit 2 deep on shelves and can be double stacked
-         Clear rectangle plastic containers with indented handles (sold at Macey’s) allow you to stack side by side or front to back; or both – I find that you can fit more of these than anything in your corner cupboard (lazy susan).
-         Label everything, especially items that aren’t easily recognizable.
-         Use stackable Tupperware, plastic shoe box containers, drawers, etc. to organize smaller loose items like pudding boxes and seasoning packets.
-         Every misc. shaped jar can be put into a single box and placed in the corner.  Put lighter items like potato chips on top of it.
-         Your pantry door can house all sorts of items if you buy a door hanging basket.

Other Storage in the Kitchen:
-         Under the sink: there is a huge amount of space under there.!  I use it to store my cleaning supplies on one side (kept in a box to keep them from spilling), and my kitchen aid and other odd shaped appliances on the other (that wouldn’t be damaged if they did get wet).  You could stack several cases of canned goods or plastic containers there as well.
-         On top of the fridge: I can fit 7 dozen (84 cans) of food, a case of water bottles, and still have access to my cupboards above.
-         On top of kitchen cabinets: This is just another shelf that is often overlooked.  You could put any food item up there.  If you are worried about how it will look, lay cans down on their sides so they won’t show.  Boxes of pasta, wax paper/clear wrap/tinfoil, ziplock baggies, etc. are the perfect size to fit on top without being seen.  Or, use decorations that allow you to store food; I used to have decorative bowls and baskets lining the tops of my cupboards and I would fill them with all sorts of items.  I know several people that keep their mason jars on top of their cabinets – as storage and decorations.

Storage outside of the kitchen:
   *   Furniture:
-         Behind bookshelves: I have a bookshelf in the corner that hides 22 gallons of water behind it (totally un-noticeable)
-         Behind couches: I have 15 half gallon containers of water stored in between my couch and the wall.

-         Under couches/entertainment centers/tables: Furniture that is very low to the ground can easily hide cases of flat items like tuna fish.

-         Other misc. furniture: I have a HUGE bean bag in the corner of my room – I stash gallons of water on the floor in the corner underneath it.

-         Under my computer desk I hide my stash of pasta (that I store in old diaper boxes) and apple juice (kept in boxes so they stack better).
   *   Under Beds:
-         Everything kept under beds is stored in boxes so they stay organized and are easy to maneuver.

-         My son’s twin sized bed houses 22 dozen bottled goods (264 mason jars), along with 10 gallons of water, all of his old clothes, my decorations, and more.

-         I can fit at least 15 dozen (180 cans) under my son’s crib, with room to spare – all concealed with his bedskirt.

-         I can fit 12 dozen (144 cans) under the outside edge of one half of my bed, as well as boxes of honey, powdered and brown sugar, and coconut.  All hidden from sight – not to mention everything else under there!.
   *   Closets:
-         Raise the floor: Cases of water bottles, canned goods, #10 cans, or any boxed item can be placed on the floor – put a wooden board on top of it (or not) and you’ll still have a floor to stack other things on.
-         Line your closet shelves with a layer of food; you can still put your clothes on top of them.
-         Stack boxes of food on the floor under items that are easy to remove, like laundry baskets.

-        Consider putting shelving units in their closets to help maximize space.
   *   Laundry Room:
-         Shelving in the laundry room can be used to store food
-         The condo’s have enough space to put 3 poly buckets on the ground, while still being able to open all three doors (laundry, mechanical and dryer).   You can stack poly buckets 3 high for a total of 9 buckets (around 225 lbs. of food).   It’s not spacious or good looking, but it’s out of the living space.
   *   Under the stairs:
-         The townhomes have that unique space under the stairs that you could fit a TON of food in.
Outside Storage:
-         Most food keeps best in colder temperatures – take advantage of that during the winter.  My particular storage unit is colder throughout the summer than it is inside of my condo – it all depends on where it is located in relation to the sun.
-         All food should ideally be stored off of the ground, but this is especially true outside.  Concrete can whisk moisture into or onto your storage containers, causing them to rust (or leech moisture through the plastic).  Keep everything stored outside off of the ground – I put cinder blocks down with a sheet of scrap vinyl over them.
-         Every water bottle I’ve tested has had enough space to allow for freezing, but extreme changes in temperature will alter the taste.
-         My outside storage closet houses around 17 poly buckets (425 lbs. of food), plus a dozen or so #10 cans, and is where I keep my extra long term produce (winter squash, potatoes, etc.).  That doesn’t include all of our camping equipment, misc. tools, and other crap that we throw in there.  We have a shelving unit that takes up about 1/3 of the space, but runs from the front to the back, not side to side.  We also have a shelf along the top, and things hanging from screws in the ceiling.  You can store a boatload of stuff in there (and access all of it) if you get creative.
-         Don’t even get me started on what I could do with a garage!

The biggest thing to remember is to Be Creative!  We all have different furnishings and storage solutions, and everyone stores different types of food.  You’ll have to think about what works best for you and your family.  Hopefully this provided some new ideas.


  1. I'll work on getting some pictures up!

  2. "Don't even get me started on what I could do with a garage!"

    as long as it's not food. heat will shorten the life span of your food. And the hot/cold cycles will cause condensation to form allowing mold to grow. The garage is not the best place to store food.

    1. It depends on the time of year, and your garage. Personally, in the house I am in now, my garage is definitely one if the coldest and darkest places in my house (including my cold storage downstairs). I keep all of my potatoes, onions, squash, long keeper tomatoes and other food storage in there all through the winter. There are 4-5 months in the summer where it gets too hot, but I use my garage for food storage a lot.

  3. Keeping boxes that you get from the store is inviting cockroaches. You just never know what might be lurking in whatever warehouse that was stored in/vehicle it was shipped in, etc.

    1. That could go for anything you buy at the store; including bags of wheat, rice, etc. The eggs are everywhere, you just need to make sure they don't have proper conditions to hatch and thrive in your home. I have never had an issue

  4. How do you rotate your food?

    1. I have a system to rotate, but I think it will take more time than this comment can allow. I'll see if I can write something up and post it on the blog soon.

  5. Really good idea! I need to have a storage only for my acrylic! Thanks for sharing! Storage Solutions

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