I’ve mentioned before that the Mr. does most of the cooking around here. I’m a lucky gal in not having to do it
all at all for dinner at night. Only problem is, we’re adventurous eaters. …ok, I guess I have to explain what I mean by “problem”. It’s a problem not so much directly, but because of ingredients. You see, when you’re just as likely to make an authentic Mexican dish or full-on Thai, Korean or Chinese for dinner as you are a pizza or other “typical” fare, you wind up with a LOT of food in your pantry and fridge.
The overflow of masa, tahini and fish sauce had gotten unbearable. Multiple times I’d brought avalanches of unprocessed grains down on my head, and finally I’d had enough. I went to our local store, grabbed half a dozen wash tubs, broke out my label maker and went crazy.
Here’s what you need:
A whole mess of tubs, wire shelves (if your pantry shelves are tall) and a label maker
First things first, I had to cut the number of items in our pantry down. We were keeping way too much stuff in our cupboards. We’re maybe a little on the hoarding side when it comes to food (OOOH, a sale on noodles! We like noodles! I’ll buy 10 boxes!) so we had piles of unopened packages and jars.
There is no reason we needed 20 cans of diced tomatoes in our kitchen pantry. None.
So I had the Mr. pick up an ugly/cheap garage storage type shelving unit and it went in our laundry room to store the excess. You don’t get to see that. I’m sorry. It’s too ugly down there. Maybe some day it will be attractive enough to see the light of day. This is not that day.
Once I had the upstairs supply pared down to items that had already been opened or things we were likely to use quickly (a single can of diced tomatoes, a single can of black beans…) I started categorizing.
Now it looks like this:
It’s not the prettiest, I’ll admit, but it’s incredibly functional, and I didn’t spend a billion dollars on contact paper and ribbon to edge my shelves like some of the breathtaking transformations I’ve seen. I use every inch I have available. My wash tubs were a dollar each and the other baskets I already had. The wire shelves were ones we’d collected through moves over the years.
Some close ups:
(please keep in mind our house is nearly 100 years old, some “character” is to be expected)
Basket categories from left to right: sauce mixes, nuts, dried fruits
Peanut butters and other nut butters stored above
Bread and bagels get stored in front (not on top of the fridge any more!)
Dishtowels on the left, teas, sorted into caffeinated and decaf on the right
The bottom cabinet stays a little less well organized than the top (thanks to G), but it’s divided into categories too. The top shelf has a bin for canned fruits and vegetables (not including tomatoes) and one for grains. A basket for onions (if you didn’t already know, you should store them away from your potatoes…for some reason storing them together makes them both go bad more quickly) and a shelf for soup. The bottom shelf has a bin for beans, one for tomatoes (and more next to it on the wire shelf…can you tell we eat a lot of tomatoes?) and a bin for G’s applesauce and juice boxes.
He loves being able to pick out his own flavor for his oatmeal
in the mornings.
Obviously, you’ll have to find a system that works for your kitchen, but the thing I’ve found helps make this work the most is getting rid of as many boxes as possible.
My cereal bin
Just about every product that comes in a box has some sort of bag inside that can be pulled out. Even when the package is brand new, that bag isn’t going to be completely full, nor is it going to take up as much room as the box it came packaged in. As soon as you get rid of that box, you can store the product in much less space.
Until I started doing this, all of our cereal and breads lived on top of the fridge. I hated that. It was hard for me to reach and it made our kitchen look extra cluttered and busy. Now, the cereal is still stored above my head, but I just slide out the whole bin and I have everything at my fingertips…and I just close the cupboard doors and none of it is visible. For cereals that look similar in the bag, I simply use a Sharpie to indicate which is which on the bag.
When I was putting the labels on the bins, I made sure to take into account where the bin was going to be placed. Bins at eye level (or above) got labels on their fronts. Bins that were going in the lower cabinets got labeled on their top edges.
I felt like a crazy woman when I was originally setting this system up (am I really specifying fruits and vegetables, but no tomatoes allowed???) but it has been in place for a couple of months now, and I have to say, I love it. It’s easy to find things, and best of all, nothing pours out on my head.
Which means I can spend less time sweeping, and more time playing dress up.