I’m going to show you something I’ve never shared before. Even visiting friends and family have only caught a fleeting glimpse of it. It’s been hidden. Shut firmly behind wooden doors, as it’s a little bit embarrassing. I’m talking about the inside of one of my kitchen cupboards. My pantry to be precise, but times are a-changing and I’m ready to throw those doors wide open. I now have a beautiful, organised pantry at long last. Want to see how I did it?
Our kitchen has three floor-to-ceiling cupboards. I love them. Made throughout in solid oak. Shut the doors and the kitchen is instantly tidy and smart. It is pure magic. Exceedingly useful when guests arrive.
The first cupboard holds all the cooking equipment, the second has the cups, plates and serving dishes. The third is the pantry.
Why the change?
Good question. There were four main reasons
1. I couldn’t always find what I needed. More importantly the rest of the family really struggled.
2. Food was going out of date before I could use it
3. I over bought food not realising I already had two or three boxes of it and
4.I failed to buy the items we did need as I had no idea we’d run out
Sound familiar? Please tell me I’m not alone. I’d unload the shopping and shove it in the nearest space in the cupboard that was roughly in the right area. Years went by and it needed to be organised. Count your blessings that there is not a before photo. It was a mess.
It was even worse in the fridge as the shelf dates are shorter and food became lost under newer purchases. I tackled the fridge at the same time, using the same method.
How I organised our pantry
OK, so how did I do it? Two words.
Plan – First step for my organised pantry was to work out groupings of food. I cook from scratch and have definite favourites such as Italian and baking cakes. I pulled out a big piece of paper, worked out my groupings and which was their shelf. Some were everyday. Others I bought in bulk and stored in big containers, so they needed to be on the taller shelves. The planning stage took longer than I imagined, but was worth it.
Contain – Next I thought about how to stop items disappearing into the black hole at the back of the cupboard. I needed to see the food and avoid buying too much or wasting it. So I looked at containers.
Top tips for containers
Unpackaging food into see through containers was a good choice. So much easier to manage my pantry and shopping. I’ve also used clear boxes.
Bulk food was easy. My flours, pasta, sugars and oats needed big sealed containers that were see through, so I could see at a glance what I had and if I was running out. Much easier for me to handle than the sacks they came in. Less messy too.
Smaller quantities needed smaller jars. Again I went for the see through option. My pastas and cooking ingredients went into glass jars and plastic for the others. I wish it was all glass, but I needed to keep the cost down.
Bottles and small jars I put in a lazy susan turntable. They take up more room and do leave dead space but I see two advantages in them,. First I can instantly find what I have got. Secondly, if I don’t have the room, I must not buy more.
See through boxes for all the small packets. These are brilliant and a total game changer. Nothing can hide at the back and it is simple to clean the cupboard. I can easily group foods by types. For instance, I have a pudding box and a meal inspiration box. Doesn’t everyone need a meal inspiration box? I went for plastic, which I would have preferred not to, but I’ve tried wicker and steel baskets in the past and it hasn’t helped. The solid bottoms of the plastic boxes stop packets leaking onto the shelf and I can easily and quickly see what is in each box.
For cans I used a rack. We have affectionally called it our can-a-racki or rack-a-cani depending on who you ask. It’s not a bad solution, but I’d prefer to house it in a taller shelf. It works. The tins roll forward as I use the front one, as opposed to sulking in the back of the cupboard under a pile of other tins.
I label almost everything. The containers came with chalk stickers I could write on, but I had a label printer and used that instead, or in combination. It works. The family no longer have to ask me where items are located. I no longer have that mystery jar that I decanted something into. In some cases, I cut the info from the original packet and tuck it in the back of the container, for cooking instructions.
What about the rest?
I’ve often wondered what other people do. Not all packets will fit in the containers. Some of my pasta comes in 3kg bags, which certainly doesn’t squeeze in. I store the half bag behind the jar and as I use it regularly, I’d check there before it goes on the shopping list. We also have a crate in the another room for extra cans I use regularly. I buy chopped tomatoes and custard in packs of 12 tins. They go in the crate and I shop from there when I need to.
My newly acquired mantra is not to buy more than I need. I shop every two or three weeks. Stocking up is OK for food types I use on a daily or weekly basis, but not for everything. If it falls into the more frivolous category, then I only buy one.
Cooking is a joy again. I’m proud of my pantry and I’ve cut down on future food waste. The money spent will hopefully be less than the food I would have wasted. Everything has it’s place and it can evolve as my habits change. There is something rather pleasing about the arrangement. Ordinary, run of the mill items are now displayed like treasures. Almost as if an invisible interior stylist keeps sneaking into the house, to reposition it all.
Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, I’ll leave my pantry door open next time someone visits. I’ve loved organising my cupboard. Anyone want me to pop over and do their pantry too?