Monday, January 23, 2012

Organized Home Challenge - Week 3: Food Storage Areas

Oh, the pantry.  I have a love/hate relationship with my pantry.  I love it because it means I don't have to take up cabinet space in my kitchen with food.  However, it is a small pantry, and for someone who cans/preserves her own food, that's a problem.  It's also a deep pantry, which means it's very easy for things to get lost at the back of the shelves.  This week in the Organized Home Challenge, we are tackling this particular "problem area".  For me, it's really two areas: the pantry in the kitchen, and the area in the basement where  I store the food I've canned.  I wish there was a way to have it all together, but it's just not practical.

So, here are the before pictures of my pantry and canned-goods storage:

Yeah.  You can probably imagine why I can never find things in here.  It's become a routine of: bring home the groceries, shove them in the pantry as fast as you can, and move on to something else.  Well, I've ended up with duplicates of several things, expired cans, and a big mess.  So, it's time for a change!

Taylor gives lots of great advice on her site, and has several steps laid out.  It's really a terrific site, and I encourage you to pop over there and get started organizing your own home!  This week, though, I'm not going to lay out all of her steps.  It's not that I didn't do them, I just did it slightly differently.

The first thing I did was to draw out a layout plan for my pantry.  Then I began to sort.  My process was simple.  Take everything out of the pantry and put it in one of three piles:
1.  Trash - expired, stale, or opened but really not going to be used again items
2.  Put away - anything that needed to go back into the pantry
3.  Give away - anything that probably wasn't actually going to get used, or duplicates.  This will go to the food pantry.

Everything in the put away pile was then divided into categories:
1. cereal
2. grains (flour, oats, etc.)
3. cooking liquids (oils, vinegars, sauces)
4. drink mixes
5. staples (baking soda, sweeteners, arrowroot, cocoa powder, etc.)
6. crackers, popcorn, etc.
7. small baking supplies (baking chips, sprinkles, coconut)
8. spice mix packets
9. canned foods
10. snacks

Once everything was sorted, I began to put it away.  I had already planned where everything was going to go, so this was the easy part.
Top Shelf (1): Cereal and Grains.  Most of this is already in canisters that I've had around for a while.  However the canisters are different sizes and brands, so I do plan to eventually replace them with matching ones, just to look nicer.  (I also put protein powder on this shelf, since it didn't really fit in with any other group.)

Shelf 2: Cooking Liquids and Drink Mixes.  I took all of the bottles of oil, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, etc. and put them all on a metal cookie sheet.  This will help control drips, and also makes it easier to slide the tray out, look for what I need, and put it back.  Next to the tray, I'm putting miscellaneous things that don't seem to fit, but I need for a particular meal - spaghetti sauce, peanut butter,  taco shells.  Then I have all the drink mix type things - lemonade mix, koolaid for the kids, and my water flavoring packets.

Shelf 3: Staples.  This shelf still needs help.  Everything is in boxes, bags, or miscellaneous containers.  I plan to get new canisters to match and then label them, but so far I haven't found exactly what I'm looking for (that doesn't cost an arm and a leg).  So, instead of "after pictures" for this area, we'll call them "for now pictures".  I'll show you what it looks like when I get it all done, OK?

Shelf 4: Crackers, Popcorn, Baking Supplies, Spice Mixes.  I used baskets to group things together on this shelf.  We always have a lot of crackers on hand, and with a cub scout in the house we have several bags of popcorn.  There are grouped in a large basket.  I used a smaller basket for baking supplies, and an even smaller one for spice mixes.

Shelf 5: Canned Foods and Snacks.  Canned foods (meaning foods from the store that are in cans, not items I have canned myself) are not something I have a lot of.  Some people I know have shelves full of canned fruits and tomatoes and soups, but I don't like to use a lot of preservatives, so I do my own canning.  So this is a relatively small area, mostly containing cans that came home from my co-op and a few strange things like coconut milk and baby corn.  I do plan to get a little shelf to raise up the back row so I can see things more easily.  Next to the cans are snack baskets (or boxes).  The kids' snacks are all portioned out into snack bags (raisins, dried fruit, bunny grahams, etc.) and put in a basket.  They love being able to go to the pantry and get their own snacks!  My snacks (sugar free pudding, 100 calorie packs, nuts) are also portioned out and in a box.  My husband's Clif bars and a couple of bags of nuts are in a separate box.  I'm looking for some sliding drawers that go under the shelves to put the adult snacks in.

Floor: This is where I have the boxes for diet soda.  I'm also keeping my crock pot and blender in here.  Most of the appliances have moved to cabinets in the wet bar down in the den (small kitchen - wait until I can remodel!), but I use these two a lot.  So, I chose to give them some real estate in the pantry.

My canning shelves in the basement were already pretty well organized after this summer.  So, I didn't do a whole lot there, just a little straightening and putting away empty mason jars.

So, here are the "for now pictures".  Once I get my new canisters and slide out snack drawers, I'll give you the "final product"!


  1. Looks great Jilly. My pantry is quite organised and it make me happy whenever I have to find things. The only suggestion I would make is one I read that said to keep all of the kids food near the bottom where they can reach. Is there anyway you can move the cereal down so the kids can get their own breakfast? Jodi.

    1. That's a great idea, Jodi! Unfortunately, I can't get my kids to be happy with a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Yogurt, toast, eggs, all good. Cereal - nope. Maybe I've spoiled them a bit! ;)