If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Organizing the Pantry

 Things have gotten out of hand.  I come home from the grocery store and just stash and poke thing in and close the door.  When it is time to prepare a meal, I just dig around till I find something and go with it.  I'm not very inspired and I don't want to deal with the jumbled up mess any longer!

Here is where we are starting - the top two shelves as viewed from the doorway.
Here are the same two shelves as you look back from the washer and dryer side.
Bags on top of boxes on top of jars and everything is higgledy-piggledy.
And the bottom two shelves and the floor area are even worse!
Yes, we have had to jump back when we open the doors to avoid having something fall on our feet!

So, my first step was to choose a shelf and clean everything off of it.  Everything.  Then, I wiped it down with a wet cloth to get it clean.  Then, I began working on the items on the shelf above it to sort and figure out what we had and what needed tossing.  During this process, I thought I would put all the dry goods together and all the canned goods together and started working in that direction.  Then, as I continued, I thought maybe I should put all the baking supplies together.  Is there really a right and wrong way?  At one point I almost just shoved everything back in there because I had visions of grandeur that I knew could not be achieved until I bought more supplies.

Finally, I sat down with a cup of coffee and did some pondering about the space.  I asked myself if I wanted organization more or if I wanted beauty more.  Then, I began looking around at what I already had that could be used to achieve the goal I have in my mind of my desired end result.  This is my inspiration pantry.  I also pulled some inspiration from this one.

First, I cleaned the jars I got for Christmas.  Two of them are round like this and the third is square like this.  I also washed up a few canning jars and dried them all thoroughly.  As I was sorting things, I noticed what I had that seemed to be something I bought in bulk.  First, I found four packages of elbow macaroni.  There must have been a great sale on elbow macaroni!  So, that went into one of the round canisters.  I also had a large container of oatmeal that was half empty and another that was full.  So, the two round canisters had occupants.  As I kept sorting, I found that I had a package and a half of tri-colored spiral pasta and four unopened packages of spaghetti noodles.  What was going on with me that I stocked up so well on pasta?  I found jars that would hold these products and my decision for getting organized and not worrying about beauty right away was determined.
The two round canisters became dry good containers.

I've always kept our Honey Nut Os in the plastic pour canister.  So, I put it and the dry oats side-by-side.  The tall spaghetti canister has been in my pantry since my thirty-ish-year-old children were youngsters and it sets right beside the jumbo jar of elbows.  I've been keeping our dried beans in canning jars for a couple of years as well.  So, those jars and a jar of white popcorn went along with the pasta.  I usually keep grits in a canning jar but couldn't find the bag I usually purchase at the store, so I got instant packages instead.  I washed out a clear plastic Longaberger basket liner and stashed those grits packages and a lone Spanish rice pouch in it.  Next time, when I find the bag of grits like I usually buy, I can easily swap that plastic container out for a jar.  The box of minute rice was too full to fit in any jar I had on hand, so I just slid the box in behind a jar of a bit of rice that was left from the last container.  Eventually, I would like to have some jars like this for storing some of those items like the rice that would not fit in a canning jar.  So, far, my pantry might not be as well-designed as my inspiration and aspiration - yet.  But, it is a start.  As you can tell, not all of my jars are uniform and the tri-colored pasta is even in an old plastic pistachio jar but it all works and is easy for me to see what is there and how much we have. That visual piece is important to me.

While I like the look of those woven baskets in the inspiration pantry, I'm not sure I want something that I cannot see at a glance.
This looks pretty but I think I need to see what is in the baskets more.

With that concept in mind, I decided that I probably should look for clear boxes like those in the other pantry inspiration photo.  I also had an idea that might put me one step closer to having something similar to those acrylic boxes she used.
See the clear containers on the second shelf from the bottom?

I trekked downstairs and found just what I needed to corral some things.  I noticed earlier in the week that  Mike had removed a drawer from one of the refrigerators down there so that he could store a box of pork chops on the shelf easily.  So, the drawer became my stand-in for the clear storage boxes.
It was the perfect size for rounding up several different bags of chips!

Again, it also provided an easy visual so that I could see that we have all the chips we need for a while and even a bag or two to spare!

My pantry is two-boards deep.  There is actually one twelve-inch pine board behind the one holding those dry goods.  Not being one to waste space, I stashed some items that we don't use as often back behind those dry good staples.
Cake mixes, bread crumbs, and French fried onions hide behind all that pasta.

I discovered that I also had two large boxes of canning and pickling salt.  Why did I think  I needed all that salt?  Only one box has some missing.  So, some day I can get another jar and it will house the pickling salt.  For now, since we don't use it all that often, it hides behind the marshmallow fluff!
Stray boxes and baskets corral packets.

For years I've kept my packets for marinating, onion soup mix, etc. in the clear plastic Longaberger basket clear plastic liner.  So, it just got scooted to the end of the shelf and sets right in front of the basket holding the gelatin and pudding mixes.  The white plastic tub holds muffin and brownie mix pouches.  Again, someday I might replace these containers with something more designer-ish to corral things but for now, this works just fine.  All these items are tucked behind the pasta since I don't do so much baking any more.

On the other end of this shelf are my main baking goods.  I've had some Tupperware containers since before Bridgette was born that hold my sugar, flour, and corn meal.  Even though they are tired, sad, and the lids are almost worn completely out, I was frugal and kept those work-horse containers thinking I could replace them with some of the pretty gallon jars at a later time.  Practicality winning out over beauty.
They may not be pretty but they are still work-horses!

Again, not one to waste space, I set these in front of some other  baking supplies.  I have a couple of boxes of unopened biscuit mix in addition to a partial box stored in one of those old Tupperware containers.  I also discovered three small boxes of cornbread mix.  So, these hide behind the old work-horses.
Baking supplies to back up the baking staples of flour, sugar, and corn meal.

I must have planned to make something special with brown sugar or powdered sugar at some point.  I found a barely used bag of brown sugar - one-and-a-half quarts.  I also found two partially used bags of powdered sugar - three quarts.  That's not all!  I also found two unopened bags of powdered sugar and a bag of brown sugar.  Again, maybe some day I will get a couple of those gallon jars that will seal for storing these sugars.  Till then, these quart canning jars are working fine.  As I was sorting, I simply stacked the unopened bags and set them on the top shelf.  In the end, I decided that was a good use for this shelf - to store items that I have as back-up supplies.
Sweets ready and waiting!

I also discovered a half-used package of mini-marshmallows in addition to the new bag I bought last week.  So, the new bag joined the sugars.  The white tub to the right of them holds a couple of half-full bags of Stevia sweetener for coffee and Mike's cold cereal.  Maybe someday those will go in a jar as well.
Honey, molasses, and syrups

Another thing that made its way to the top shelf with the stand-by supplies was syrups.  I want to get a lazy-Susan-turntable to put these on at some point but they may continue to live on that top shelf since we don't use those on a daily basis.
More baking supplies

A few odds and ends wound up behind the cereals and rice.  I put things like chocolate and butterscotch chips, cocoa, and cinnamon hot candies that  I use for baking in some jars and stashed them between all the powdered sugar and bread crumbs.  Again, having them in jars helps me to see what I have when I want to bake and what I might need to buy on my next stop at the store.  That finished out the shelf that is at eye level and the top shelf.

The shelf at waist level became the place for snacks and canned goods.  That shelf is the one that I am least satisfied with at this point and will soon splurge on supplies to better organize.  The chips are in the far left corner.  They set behind and beside crackers and snacks.  Mike is a cracker lover!  He eats crackers with cheese, with peanut butter, with soup, sometimes even with spaghetti!  He is a saltine cracker fan and I try to always have them on hand.  I decided to put the snacks and peanut butter nearby so that if his sugar level dips, he will easily have something to grab as a pick-me-up.
Snacks all grouped together.

I hope to get a clear box to corral the variety boxes of crackers and one for the snack cakes.  I love, love, love how the large glass canister holds lots of crackers!  It has four sleeves of round crackers and five sleeves of saltines in it with wiggle room.  I can easily see how Mike's cracker-stash is holding up and whether to pick up a box or not.  I must admit that there have been times when the box set on the shelf empty and I didn't know we were out of crackers.  Wonder how that could have happened?
Cans, cans, cans

The next section is the part I'm least satisfied with at the moment and where I will soon splurge.  My inspiration pantry shows cans in a wire basket and that is my goal for these canned goods as well.

The blogger highly recommends the wire baskets above some others that I had considered.  So, that will be my first pantry splurge for beauty as well as efficiency.  I did sort the cans and store all the cream soups for cooking together, the soups for heat-and-eat together, the canned beans together, etc.  I have a row of pickles and home-canned sweet relish hiding behind those canned goods.  There is also a hand-me-down lazy-Susan-turntable that came from my Granny's house holding condiments like mustard, ketchup, and bar-be-que sauce behind the cans. Again, didn't want to waste space and stashed some items back there that are not needed frequently.
Soups, home-canned beans, and juices

Because they are so heavy, I slid the juices in a row against the wall where the wood piece holds the shelf up.  I also brought up a couple of quart jars of home-canned green beans.  I keep the bulk of these downstairs in the kitchen down there because they are out of the way and won't take up all my storage space.  Plus, a whole long shelf with those heavy jars is likely to really sag.
Instant Soup and Croutons

Just behind the jars of beans is where I upcycled another of Mike's cast-offs.  When I went down to get the drawer to corral the potato chips, I noticed this other box on top of the refrigerator.  It hit me that it would be another see-through box to corral some items.  As I was sorting soups and beans, I kept knocking off the instant soup mixes we keep on hand for emergency times when we have a queasy stomach.  I finally tossed one into the fridge utility box and noticed that it fit perfectly.  So, the utility box was put to good use!  I also stashed a couple of bags of croutons in the back and stood back and smiled with satisfaction.
lots of trash

Both trash cans were running over when I stopped but most of it was empty boxes and bags.  There were a few items that were way out of date for use that wound up there, though!
the view from the doorway
the view from the washer

I will admit that I have a long way to go before I get anywhere near to my inspiration and aspirations for this pantry but I do think it was a day well spent.  I have a couple of  lists saved to Google Keep so I can see what I want and need when I'm out and about. There is one for organizing and another list for groceries and supplies.  I know for certain that my first splurge is going to be for the wire baskets to organize the canned goods.  From there I can simply keep an eye out for sales and at thrift stores.

I'm trying to decide if I need to or want to use some chalkboard labels on my jars and glass canisters.  The jury is still out on that.  I'm leaning toward using them so that I can also have measuring and cooking instructions for some items in the jars.  I also have an idea or two but ran out of energy before I got to the bottom shelf and the floor of the pantry.  I'm thinking large clear storage tubs to corral tools, something to organize bags, and something to corral dog treats for the bottom shelf.  Then, large clear storage tubs to corral vinegars, one for cleaning supplies, one for soft drinks, and something smaller for Toby's dog food.
This area is definitely another project for another day, though!

I know that January is traditionally the month for organizing and straightening.  So, I guess I'm falling in with the majority.  It does make me feel better and even more inspired to cook now that I have a straightened and organized pantry and inspiration and hope for further making it eye-appealing as well as functional!