As part of our Northwest Bloggers Spring Cleaning Bash, I am tackling the pantry and I have a unique problem.
We just moved into our new house in September and our pantry is HUGE. Now that we are eating mainly whole foods, our pantry stockpile is pretty minimal. We have a few canned goods, some bulk items like almond flour, dried fruit and raw nuts, coconut oil and a few snacks, but most of our food now is fresh produce or meat in the freezer. This leaves a HUGE amount of space in our pantry.
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to organize the pantry or even what to put in it. It ended up being the catch-all spot when we were trying to unpack. “Where does this go? I don’t know, there’s room in the pantry.”
After living in our house for a few months or so and getting the feel for the kitchen and surrounding space, the pantry was driving me nuts. It wasn’t effective, functional or practical. Everything was spread out everywhere. The things I used the most were pushed in the back and the things I rarely touched were constantly being shuffled out of the way. If you’re anything like me, the things in your kitchen stay where they are after you move in, regardless of how ineffective it is. Why is it so hard to change? I would curse my stuff and my cabinets and my leaning-tower-of-whatever, but then push it right back in the cupboard where it was without a second thought.
This can’t just be me.
This was my view when I was cooking. It’s not that bad, I know, but it just feels cluttered. There is food everywhere and nothing makes sense. Kids bubbles, cleaning supplies for the bathroom, cleaning supplies I don’t even use. Why?
This was a huge source of frustration for me. We got rid of most grains from our diet, so things needed to be reorganized anyway. I also had these great bins, but nothing was labeled, nothing made sense. I had 17 kinds of flour, but couldn’t remember what was where. I’m pretty sure I spent half my day searching for what I needed from the pantry, when I could have been doing awesome things like blogging or working out.
The first thing I did was pull everything out of the pantry and put it on the floor. I made a pile of food that we were either giving away or donating. I also took everything out that didn’t belong. I put hand soap under the sinks in both bathrooms, put the kids bubbles in the closet in their room and cleaning supplies in the laundry room.
Next I tackled the bulk bins. I sorted through everything I had, washed all the containers and got to work. I now had bins for our raw nuts and dried fruit, all flours, sugars and unsweetened coconut. Although we have gotten rid of most grains, I do still bake quite a bit (I have an obsession), so I keep all-purpose flour and sugars in the pantry for such occasions.
I didn’t want to spend any money on this project, so I didn’t replace the tape or ink in my label maker. It would have been a lot cuter if I did, but the money isn’t in the budget right now. Random bits of paper in my unintelligible handwriting works for now.
This shelf is mostly storage, with items that aren’t used as frequently. This shelf is not in my line of sight from the kitchen, so I wasn’t as concerned about it looking good. We also keep the few snacks we have up here, out of range of little fingers.
I also put ALL of our food and drink items on one shelf. I used a few baskets that we already had to keep things organized. As you can tell, we have super deep shelves, so keeping things straight and clutter-free is challenging without some sort of organization. I put all of our tea, coffee and coffee filters together on a tray and our cooking oils on a lazy Susan. The best change I made was to move everything we use on a daily basis up front instead of digging for it in the back (coconut oil, honey, coconut cream). While this may seem insignificant, it has saved me time and frustration.
When we first moved in, my husband made the observation that I would probably want something a little more appealing to the eye on these shelves. I was so focused on the pantry being functional, that I kind of thought he was crazy for even thinking about the “beauty” of the pantry. Fast forward a few months and I knew exactly what he meant.
I wanted to display a few of my favorite pieces, so I started digging through cabinets. This killed two birds with one stone. I emptied out a few cabinets so it was easier to get to my everyday pieces and I get to enjoy some of my favorite kitchenware.
Believe it or not, I actually have MORE stuff in the pantry now than I did before, but it’s far more organized. I didn’t spend a penny, everything I used was from around the house, but my life feels far more functional. I spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen, so anything to streamline the cooking process is a good bet in my book.
Please share your tips for staying organized in the pantry and kitchen? Are you like me and need a good swift kick in the rear to make the changes that will make your life easier?
You can check out the full Northwest Bloggers Spring Cleaning schedule for organizing ideas in the garden, office, kids room, laundry room and more.
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