(I think it is funny that every time I type "Pantry", my fingers automatically type "panty"! ha! I literally giggle.)
Since I've been trying to post these Simply Living posts on Mondays, I'm a day late this week. I'm using Real Life as an excuse. Yesterday, every room in my house got dusted and vacuumed, 5 loads of laundry got done, the freezer and fridge got cleaned out, the kitchen desk got cleaned off (THAT was a chore!), 2 ½ bathrooms got cleaned, and I even talked on the phone with my mom, my sister-in-law, and my brother! Whew! What a day! Needless to say, I didn't spend much time on the computer. And today, I slept late, piddled around the house, then went to the chiropractor and finally am finding my way back here.
In the Simply Living Series, we've talked about menu-planning and nutrition so it seems only fitting that we now discuss how to organize our cabinets and pantries, before we head off to the grocery store, huh?
A few months ago, I was at a friend's house (she will go unnamed, but she is one of the MANY Julie's that I know!) and was helping her put away things from her dishwasher. I instinctively went to certain drawers in proximity to where I thought her things would go and was wrong on every count. She made fun of me, but when I started showing her how *where* I was WANTING to put things made sense as far as her cooking, baking, and table service would go, she agreed that it was logical!
That is what I share with you today … My camera is going to help me and take us on a little tour of my own kitchen.
1. Start with clean cabinets, drawers, and pantry. If needed, take everything out and wipe them clean. A hand-held vacuum or the nozzle attachments on your vacuum cleaner do a great job as well before wiping them out with a cloth.
2. If you don't have a pantry, designate a few shelves in your cabinets to food storage. Claim a couple of shelves or cabinets in the mud room, garage, guest room, or laundry room/or laundry space for kitchen overflow. There are some items necessary to purchase in bulk, and if you do any home-canning or preserving, it's good to allow for space for the summer/fall harvest. If you just DON'T have room, then you must learn how to 'shop for the moment'! Here is a photo of the industrial shelves in my garage that I use for extra stuff.
3. Most pantries are NOT custom-built so learn how to maximize your space, adding shelving if necessary, to accommodate your storage style. There are many options available at your local home improvement store as well as custom shelving designs. Cans are usually constructed with little ridges on the bottoms so that they can stack easily and not topple so easily. Stack like foods together. (Ex: beans with beans, veggies with veggies, fruit with fruit, sweetened condensed milk with evaporated, etc … ). You'll also save yourself some time when you are preparing a meal if you stack with the label showing forward. Put flours and sugars in plastic or glassware, and label them. I like ones that stack since I don't have custom shelves. It allows me to fit more on a shelf. Early on when I was first married (like for the first 10 years!) I would host Tupperware parties or Pampered Chef parties just to get the free stuff that the hostess can earn! So I have many Tupperware canisters and that really helps keep my pantry organized. Love my labeler, too!
4. Designate areas of your pantry to certain items. Ex: baking supplies, cereals, snacks, coffee/teabags, breads, oils/vinegars/sauces, canned goods, pastas/rice.
(This is one shelf section in my pantry. I have another one this size as well and feel utterly luxurious having such a large pantry! I often chastise myself for still wanting a true butler's pantry!)
5. Label shelves if necessary. This might seem like an unnecessary tip. However, consider the home with husband, wife, and 3 children, for instance—one like mine maybe … one in which all five cook on occasion, often snack on their own, usually rummage around, sometimes help clean up after a meal. If the shelves are labeled, I don't have to talk as much and they can figure out where things go as long as they can read! It might even help them to LEARN to read! My shelves are no longer labeled … my kids can both read AND remember where to put the food back at! I've done the training well, it seems!
6. Store supplies and/or dishes and utensils for one particular kitchen activity in one place. Although my coffee grinder is kept in the pantry, I have my espresso machine, my coffee canister, my mugs, and spoons all in one area.
My "Baking Station" is near my sink, with my KitchenAid mixer to the side, my spices in the cabinet above, my mixing bowls in the cabinets below, and my measuring spoons, whisks, and other baking utensils in the drawers above those cabinets. It is all within an arm's reach of where I am working. I keep all the "baking ingredients" either in the cabinet above or in a congregated place in the pantry. My canisters are labeled "flour", "sugar", etc … as are my spice jars.
7. Arrange cabinets according to movement in the kitchen. If your husband or kids set the table while you finish cooking dinner, make sure the plates, glasses, and silverware are near the table and not near the stove or ovens. I always put those items near the dishwasher as well.
(Note to self: straighten clutter on counters before taking photo!)
8. Items rarely used should not take up prime real estate space. Store them in out-of-the way cabinets above the fridge or built-in ovens, or in the garage, or pantry. I use my blender, food processor, and crockpot often enough, but I store them on out-of-the-way shelves in my pantry.
(PS … the crock pot was a wedding gift and that is why it is 'country blue'! The food processor was also a wedding gift as was the waffle iron. I'm waiting on the crock pot to give up the ghost because I want a nice stainless steel one and I'm convinced that the food processor will NEVER die!)
My Thanksgiving Turkey platter is on the cavernous cabinet above my fridge as is my fondue pot, large roasting pan, and multiple platters and trays that are rarely used.
(Another note to self: this needs organizational help, too! Maybe some vertical dividers would be nice!)
9. Store staples, and allow room in the pantry or 'garage storage' for stocking up on sale items.
10. Store cooking utensils near the stove. Use a crock or large drawer to keep them organized. My drawers are not large, so I have cooking utensils in two drawers and wooden spoons in a large crock.
11. Be sure pots and pans are near the stove. Duh! Sorry, didn't mean to insult your intelligence!
(I've also had the same pots and pans since we got married!)
One huge key to making this work is to stay flexible. Just because you think your coffee pot would be just perfect in that one spot today, don't feel that you can't move it to other spots just to try it out. My espresso machine has been 'stationed' in three different spots since we moved into this house! And my KitchenAid has been in two! Which also meant that every time I moved them, I had to also rearrange my cabinets so that the mugs would be close to the machine and the baking powder was near the mixer! I've also lived in enough different homes to find that after a few trial-and errors and a few months/years in a home, that I kind of settle into what fits in that particular kitchen and I don't move stuff around as much.
So … there you go. I hope you enjoyed the tour of my kitchen (thank you, Camera, for helping!) and picked up on a couple of things that might help you. Please leave comments and share your Cabinet and Pantry Organization tips with us, too!! There's always room for improvement.