I was in my pantry the other night pulling out ingredients for dinner, when I decided I just couldn’t take the mess any more. Ever since my kids started baking and cooking regularly, the pantry has just been out of control. They pull things out, and then they put them back in weird and random places.
Like the Sriracha and red wine vinegar on my baking shelf. Clearly that’s where those go, right? I mean, obviously that’s where I should look for them the next time I need them for a recipe.
Yeah, not so much.
Clearly it was time to rethink the way the pantry was organized. And by “rethink” I mean, “make it so painfully obvious where things go, so Mom won’t be tempted to eat anyone.”
So, that’s how I came to reorganize the pantry instead of making dinner. What can I say? Families who keep their pantries neat and orderly get homemade Pad Thai for dinner. Families who don’t get cereal.
Now, I’ve seen lots of pantry redos on the web where everything is in matching containers and looks like it jumped off the page of a magazine, but spoiler alert: this isn’t that kind of redo. Frankly, the thought of forking over the money for 30 matching containers pains me. So, this is the kind of redo that happens when you decide you’re going to fix things using just what you have on hand.
Ready to see how things turned out? Take a look.
We do a lot of baking, so the baking shelf has to hold a lot of stuff. And all of that stuff was buried under a giant pile of chocolate chips. I headed down to the basement to see what I could find to wrangle it all, and I came up with, what I think are, some pretty good solutions.
All of the baking chips went into magazine file boxes. I used one for cinnamon chips, and one for chocolate chips. I stuck labels on the boxes to make them easy for anyone to find.
Then, I used a plate rack (the kind you use to double your cabinet storage space), to make better use of the space I had on that shelf. That allowed me to store baking supplies in clear view, and will hopefully encourage people to put things back in the same spot when they’re done.
I used some plastic shoe boxes to organize the rest of my baking supplies. There’s one for open packages (of things like coconut, powdered sugar, etc.), one for cupcake wrappers and one for icing/sprinkles. And as you can see, they’re all clearly labeled, too. My flavored extracts are tucked to each side of the shelf (out of view in the photos), where they’re less likely to get knocked off.
With that shelf behind me, I also decided to create a new cooking shelf. I really should have taken some before pictures for you, but I was in “get it done” mode by this point. Just picture another disaster.
My first task: find a better solution for our spices. Keeping them on spinning racks just wasn’t working anymore because no one (but me) was putting them in the same place twice. So, I ditched the racks, and headed back to the basement.
I decided to lay all of our spice tins on their side in a metal tray, so you can see their names easily, and I alphabetized them to make it easier still.
Then, I dug through my stash of labels, and found some that fit the tops of the spice jars, and created a label for each one. I alphabetized these spices too, and I tucked them inside a plastic shoe box. And I used another plate rack, so both containers could share the same footprint in the pantry.
Now, our spices take up a lot less space, and they’re a whole lot easier to find. I also love that it’s easy to carry the whole container of spices over to the counter when you’re cooking. So far everyone is doing a great job keeping them in alphabetical order. That’s either a sign that the new system is working or that they’re afraid I really will eat them. The jury’s out on that one.
All of the bottled ingredients that we use when we’re cooking (vinegars, sauces, etc.) had been living on the highest shelf in our pantry, and that really wasn’t working. The kids couldn’t reach them at all, and I had to get a stool out every time I needed one of them. Happily, now that the spices take up less space, I was able to move them down to the cooking shelf. They’re all tucked to the left of the spices.
The top shelf is nearly impossible to photograph, but my essential oils and our first aid kit live up there. I found a clear container with tall sides in the basement to stick all my essential oils in. So, much safer than having all those glass bottles sitting directly on the shelf.
Since I didn’t need the lid for that container, I used it as a tray under my olive oil. Now, I won’t have to wipe oil off the shelf all the time. That probably just means I’ll be wiping it off the tray instead, but at least I can take that out to clean.
And that pretty much concludes the tour of my new-and-improved pantry. There’s a cereal shelf and a snack shelf, plus space at the bottom of the pantry for my five-gallon bucket of sugar and a few other bulk things, but there’s really nothing special going on there.
One of these days I’ll put a full home tour together for you guys. It’s on my to-do list this year.