Monday, August 3, 2015

Creating a Food Pantry From a Coat Closet

  • The layout of our home
  • The new vision for the coats 
  • The new vision for the pantry
From what I have heard from most all of our readers, living in a smaller home is actually very average and common. And many people have tried the expansive homes, and ended up down-sizing because the huge home took extensive amounts of time to maintain, and families found themselves living very separately instead of together. This being the case, many of you might find yourselves without an adequate pantry space, if any at all like we had. *smile* Tiny kitchen - NO pantry space. Not an impossible lifestyle, but pretty inconvenient. Well the Lord showed us a solution for our home as He always has, enabling us to stay living here comfortably. Creating a pantry from our coat closet! I thought I would share the vision with you; perhaps it will be a great encouragement regarding an area that is so prominent in daily life - food preparation and meals. And this summer holiday could be a great time to get this in place before school begins again... *smile*  

The home we currently own is so small that it did not have any room in the kitchen for pantry foods, or even the pots, pans, and dishes we need to cook and serve meals for our family. We crammed small quantities of food into the back of the corner cupboards on turntables, and our dishes to eat on were in the cupboards, but all of the Costco-size food supplies for our family of 11 had to be stored down stairs in the garage. We would send kids down stairs to get more of things when we needed them.  As you may imagine, this was often.  We also stored all of our cooking dishes and pans in what was intended to be the hallway linen closet (which means we had to find another home for the linens, too!)  This was fine really, but time consuming and inconvenient going all around the house when ever we were preparing food.  

Here is where we store our large, bulk items mostly from Costco and Winco. None of this fit into the kitchen before; now they are stored in the garage, but we fill large Tupperware containers for the pantry from these bulk containers.

Then one day when I went to put something away in the coat closet near the kitchen the Lord gave me a vision for turning that closet into a pantry!  I was beside myself with excitement at the idea!  God has always been so faithful to show us how to fit our large family in to this small 1100 sq/ft house.  Here's the kitchen in relation to the new pantry. 

First I needed to envision where our coats and shoes would be stored when they were no longer in the closet.  We found a nice home for them in the garage which was a natural fit as we had recently turned half of the garage into a large mud room, and one quarter of it into an all children's clothes closet. We used some of our large, plastic shelves from Costco to make large-family shoe racks for ours and the children’s shoes.  Bob and I keep our church shoes in our bedroom closet, and we put away seasonal shoes which are not being used (i.e. summer sandals and winter boots) into a box underneath our bed; so our shoe rack only needs to hold our current, casual, worn-often shoes.  

The children's in-season coats (we put away the out-of-season clothes, including coats) hang in the children's clothes closet on a rolling garment rack.

The vision I had for our pantry’s organization came from a dear friend, so the next time we were at their house I picked her brain about how and why she organized things as she did.  What foods did she find most cost-effective to buy in bulk at Costco or Winco (we hadn’t bought very much bulk because we did not have a place to store it before)? Here is where we keep some of the bulk items in the garage, 25 pound bags emptied into 5 gallon buckets to protect the food from rodents or other pests. 

On the bottom left shelves are some pantry items, and on the shelves to the left of the upright freezer are more bulk items. (If you would like to see more of how we choose to organize our home - this is our garage mudroom - you can do so at this link; or you may see how we more in depth how we do large-family food storage and grocery shopping.)

My friend also shared with me where she purchased her Rubbermaid containers for the pantry for the best price (for us that is Wal-Mart), and what labels she created for them.  My friend graciously offered to make labels for our tubs with their label maker for these sizes of containers:

Tub size 40 c./9.4L
- flour
- sugar
- rolled oats
- steel-cut oats
- Bisquick mix
- pasta

Tub size 14 c./3.3L
- brown sugar
- powdered sugar
- rice & lentils (left over packages)
- cheese mix (we make our own macaroni and cheese)
- tea (I keep a container on the kitchen counter for a variety of tea packets, but the rest of the tea bags are stored here)

Container size 1.5 gallon
- cold cereal (3 containers, we don’t need more cereal choices than this at once; we rotate types of cereal in them).

 We began saving money for the project, which cost around $200 total, including:

- Wire shelving for the pantry (we moved the coat closet hanging section to the garage)
- Installation hardware
- Rubbermaid containers to hold Costco quantities of bulk foods
- A small hook inside the door on the right where we hang our cooking aprons. 

My husband used adjustable white wire shelving that hangs on metal frames which screw to the wall.  This way we could change the spacing between the shelves depending upon the heights of the Rubbermaid tubs we were stacking there, but it would not be permanent if we desired to change this spacing in the future.  The shelving is purchased in 8-foot-long pieces which my husband cut down to the sizes we needed; using bolt cutters is the easiest way to cut these, but a back saw works also.  We then covered those sharp metal ends with white rubber end caps.

I already had four 14-inch size turn tables from the kitchen cupboards so I used those in our new pantry on the far right side. This is the top half of the pantry:

This is the bottom half.

The right side inside wall,

And even the door. *smile* I need every inch of space I can get! *laugh*

On the floor of our pantry sit the two 25 lb. bags of extra flour and sugar, extra cereal bags not yet poured into the containers, one of our crock pots (I have a second in the garage for when we have company, and our griddle.

We brought all of the food up from the garage and found homes for it in our new pantry, minus the 25 pound bag items filling Tupperward containers and then remaining in the garage. plus about 50% more food than we had before!  *cheer!*  And after clearing out what little quantities of food did fit into the kitchen and putting them in the pantry, we then had room for all of the serving dishes, cooking pots and pans, and cooking seasonings in the kitchen cupboards.  Linen now lives in the linen closet.  And everything we need for cooking is kept in the kitchen and in the pantry.  Praise the Lord.  *smile*  Aaaah.

Organization saves time, money, and energy! Food preparation is so much more time efficient now, and the oldest children also enjoy cooking and baking in our kitchen and can do so with ease from our hallway pantry. *smile* 

I and our readers would love to hear if you have transformational ideas of your own for living comfortably in a small home, thinking outside the box!



  1. Once again, I love it! I have always thought my house (1400 sq.ft.) was plenty large, but now we will be moving into an apartment (for missions work), so you have given me hope that the Lord will show us how to fit everyone in with room for more! Thank you!

  2. Can you share the dimensions of your closet? We have a hall linen closet we use as a pantry, but I think if it's large enough the wire shelving might work well! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hello Greiner Family!

    Thanks for posting this question, its a great one.

    The closet we used is 36" wide, 28" deep and 93" tall. Basically a standard single closet.

    The shelving is made up of 12" deep wire shelving cut to 35" long pieces and 14" long pieces. The 35" pieces are on the back wall and the 14" pieces we chose to put on the same side of the closet as the door is hinged for easiest access. We were able to fit 6 rows of shelving, 5 that are an "L" shape made up of a 35 and a 14 and 1 shelf that is just the 35 up at the top. The top shelf is actually up higher than the door so to get things on/off of that shelf you need the whole space up there so we didn't put the short leg of the "L".

    I hope this helps, please let us know if you have any other questions and be sure to post your results. We would love to hear about it. I think you will be amazed at how much food or other things a little closet like that will hold with some good shelving.

    Best regards,

    Bob Shupe

  4. JENNIFER - Praise the Lord for hope in how He will fit you in to the space He gives you! =) Thanks for letting us know that you were encouraged. Blessings on your efforts in the mission field! How exciting it is to be used by Him!

  5. I just love these helpful posts keep them coming!! This is my favorite blog. I never was a blog reader until now. I would love to see a post about organizing toys/games. :)

  6. You gave me inspiration to get rid of my desk in our kitchen which was always piled high with stuff and fit it on top of the small counter space next to our refrigerator and in the cabinet below it where we used to keep some of my husband's tools, lightbulbs, etc. I have been decluttering and reorganizing my house for almost 2 weeks and I'm almost done. It feels great! Asap we want to change our playroom into a family closet b/c yours was so cute and practical. Can't wait. Thanks for all the ideas!

  7. MICHELLE - Thank you! I'm honored! And thanks for the topic request - I will definitely post on organizing toys & games - sounds fun!

    SHAINA - I'm so excited for you! I hope you find even more joy in your day with order and no confusion in facing the desk area. I'd love to hear more about what you do with both your kitchen and your closet. =)

  8. Hi,
    I just now found your page. We are currently expecting our 4th baby and have been consistently finding ways to make everyone fit into our 3bed 2 bath home. About a year ago we also made our coat closet (which is off of the kitchen) into a pantry by adding wooden shelves. We also found room in our laundry room for a chest freezer. It's been great to have the extra food storage and being able to buy things in bulk when they are on sale. I love your practical posts and ideas. They are so inspirational. God Bless!

  9. BELLFLOWERFARM - Hello! =) Welcome! Nice to meet you. Sounds like the Lord is leading you along in His plans for you just like He is for us. Congratulations on your next little muffin coming soon!

  10. Ok, I have a pantry type cupboard in my laundry room that is right next to the kitchen. I'm sure with some work, like additional shelves, I could have it looking like this. Where did you get your containers for bulk storage? And since I'm only semi new at bulk food, could you tell me the difference between rolled oats and steal cut oats, and how those are used?

  11. ERIN - I have to say I am so enjoying getting to know you. =) We may need to have coffee together some time. Okay, so, the bulk food containers with the red lids came from Target, purchased individually by the sizes I listed (not in a set - with those you'll nearly always get lots of pieces you don't actually need). I think the cereal containers came from Target, too, but they also have them at our outlet kitchen store.

    Rolled oats are regular oatmeal. But for regular oatmeal there are 3 types: quick oats (tiny, extra thin pieces, cooks in 2 min. - less fiber and less good for you), regular oatmeal (med. size, cooks in 10 min. or so - better for you), extra thick rolled oats which are still the same size as the reg. ones but thicker (takes a little longer to cook and has more of a granola texture after cooked; better for you with even more fiber). Then there's steel cut oats - best for you, takes an hour to prep and cook. These look like someone put uncooked rice in to a food processor and chopped the pieces up smaller; so it's very rough feeling, each piece is about the size of 1/2 of a piece of rice (not rolled or flat at all). It cooks to a similar texture and softness as reg. oatmeal but the pieces are round and chewy instead of flat. I actually really prefer the texture of the steel cut oats as they feel softer in my mouth. I think it taste exactly the same as rolled, but it's the best for you. I'd have to ask my husband about price as he's been purchasing it for us in bulk for a while and I've forgotten, but it's pretty much the same price as rolled oats, unless purchased in bulk then it's very inexpensive.

  12. ERIN - The storage tubs did not come from Target, they came from Wal-Mart. I don't know what I was thinking. LOL =)

  13. I would LOVE to have coffee with you! Although I must tell you that I feel like I have coffee with you every morning!!! I get up to do my quiet time, then pour myself a cup of Jo and sit to read your blog. It just puts me in the right mind set to get through my day. He he!Getting to chat with you in real life would be so exciting.
    Now that I have an idea for my pantry, I was wondering...what do you do with your fresh produce that does not need to be refrigerated? I have apples, oranges, and bananas that move to different spots around my kitchen and laundry room that are always in my way no matter what I do with them. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi, just a quick suggestion on where to put your fruit. A tiered hanging basket from the ceiling is fantastic and keeps counters free.

  14. ERIN - You're so funny! *chuckle* I love that! Well we refrigerate our apples and oranges because I really LOVE cold fruit - warm fruit is just wrong. *wink* ;) LOL Our bananas have their own ceramic bowl on the counter that actually looks sort of like a basket! Ha ha Go figure! But if I had apples and oranges on the counter, too, I'm sure I'd have a cute container of some sort for them to "live" in. If I didn't have much counter space I'd probably look for a narrow/long container that didn't come out on the counter top very far - light colored ceramic maintains an open feeling (ours is cream color just like our counter top so it blends-in well), or clear glass that you can look through so that it still feels spacious on the counter, or a basket. Or I'd utilize a corner space because that's deeper without infringing on the counter top space much. Just me. =)

  15. Hmmm, noted! Thank you for your help! I am so amazed at the transformation of my family, home, and spirit since implementing some of your ideas! Keep them coming!!!!

  16. Hi Erika,

    I've been enjoying reading your posts. I originally found your blog when I searched for "family closet." The level of detail that you provide in your blog entries is amazing! Thank you for spending all this time to explain the "how" of making your life happen!

    We have a similar-sized home (1250 sq. ft.), but just two children right now. We recently accomplished the family closet, which my husband helped me create in our basement. It is just off of the laundry area. We do less laundry now that we're not changing clothes two or three times a day, and we were able to convert the children's closets into "desks" by putting in shelves, with a wider shelf on the bottom. They play very well in their rooms now, and toys stay put.

    What I really wanted to share with you was our pantry idea: our kitchen has pull-out drawers in the bottom cabinets. I have never been able to fit many pots and pans down there, so I made a switch! I put our pots and pans into the pantry closet, and our food in the drawers. It is a MUCH more efficient use of space for us. I now have empty cabinet shelves for future needs, and everything isn't crammed, as it was before. We also put a bookshelf in our kitchen with baskets. These hold fruits that need to be ripened or vegetables. It works well for us.

    Thanks for helping to generate new ideas!

  17. SUSAN B- I'm so pleased you're enjoying what I write! =) And I love your additional ideas, and admire your ability to so wisely make your space work for you! Well done!

  18. Excellent and useful article! Thanks for taking the time to post this.

    corner pantry cabinet

  19. I know this article is an older one, but we are getting ready to do a similar transformation with our coat closet and I have a question. How long will the flour and sugar stay fresh in those storage containers? I bought one large container from lock 'n lock (online) that is air-tight food grade storage, but it was too expensive to buy for all of my bulk storage. I'd like to get ones like yours but I am wondering if it is sealed as tightly?

    1. It's nice to revisit an older post; glad they're still being useful. =)

      Our Tupperware containrs work just great. I've never had a problem, and everyone else I know that uses them hasn't had any problems with flour, or brown sugar, whole wheat flour, etc.

  20. thanks for the quick reply. i'm looking around online and am finding that a 40 cup container won't hold a 25 lb. bag of sugar (or flour, etc). is this right? what do you do with the amount that won't fit?

    1. Okay now I see that you mentioned storing the extra 25 lb bags of flour on the floor - so you just leave the portion that doesn't fit in the container in an opened bag - no problems with it going bad?

    2. Yah, it doesn't all fit, but I couldn't lift it easily if it did all fit anyway! Nor could our daughters. The rest of the bag isn't open really, we roll the bag down tight and seal it with a large metal office paper clamp. Does fine from what we've observed. I actually don't buy the large bags of white flour at Costco any longer (or white sugar) because we only use that to bake cookies once in a while. But when we did use white flour we went through it fairly quickly (compared to most families would) simply because we have such a large family. But now we're eating only whole wheat flour, so we buy the wheat berries really cheap at Winco and my husband grinds the quantities we need as we need them, for weekly bread baking mostly. But I buy the white flour in smaller quantities at Wal Mart. So we're not storing much flour ground, just wheat berries.

  21. I have 9 children, 7 at home and my 2 parents - so really 7 adults in our house (about 1500 sf). My parents have 3 good sized rooms and we have the rest. We do have a full basement so that helps. Most of the kids and my husband and I sleep in the basement.... I am always reorganizing things to fit, but was looking for some new ideas.

    We were going to make our fairly large coat closet into more storage - it is always a mess, but after reading this, it will be great for a pantry. Will get all the kitchen in one area - and saves us from buying a "pantry". We can fit "stuff" in the closet in my sons room (instead of food stuff).

    May have to come up with a place to put the dog food and stuff....

    We have a large entry way. SO we are going to hang hooks opposite the closet - one double for each of us for our coats....

    Thank you for the pantry idea!

  22. We actually don't have the garage to use (it is my husband's business office where he and 2 others work out of) and no pantry. We ended up putting a make-shift pantry system (out of the bins and cube shelves system) in a room. However, it made the room very uninviting. My mom stayed with us for a while and her vision provided a great solution to store baby gear, homeschooling supplies, pantry, etc without disturbing the flow of the house. We gave us a small room in the back of the house (previously the dining room) and turned it into a pantry/storage area. Then we hung heavy duty curtains to hide the area out of view. IT made the flow of our house so nice and most homes now have these little extra rooms. It made all the difference in our home once we gave up on the idea to have a couch in front of the fire place and put our dining room in that room. Now our house is orderly and lovely. Thanks mom!

  23. Erika, how are you feeling? How is the pregnancy progressing?

    1. Thank you, Kathy, for thinking of me. The Lord actually chose to take that baby Home at 9-weeks gestation, so we miscarried.

    2. I'm so sorry for your loss.

    3. Erika, we're so very sorry to hear of the loss of this little one. Praying that God would sustain you and the family as only HE can through the ups and downs of this miscarriage. Kristi Stanton

  24. On a totally unrelated topic... I would like to commend you and your husband for deciding to let the lord have his way with the size of your family!
    And I was wondering if you have ever thought about covering your head? ( AKA wearing a head covering?) 1 Cor. 11
    Again, your family is very enjoyable!
    ~Susannah K~

  25. Thank you so much for sharing your excellent ideas, and your wonderful family.

  26. Thank you so much for sharing your excellent ideas, and your wonderful family.

  27. Hi. I'm not sure you'll see this but I am working on turning a mudroom off my kitchen into a pantry. I'm wondering if you would change anything after these years of use and whether you have deeper shelves. I can put in 20in deep shelves but then they would have to be a u shape where the shelves meet up with the edges of other shelves creating a bit of hidden space. Or I can go down to 16in deep with actual corner pieces that I think would make it operate more as a single unit limiting those nooks. I'm trying to think ahead as we make updates.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. If we had a bigger space to make a pantry we would definitely put in more/deeper shelves and turntables to keep things accessible.



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