Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A new year, a clean slate in the pantry

Last month we hosted a holiday potluck for our hockey friends.  At the party, I was proudly showing off my crazy custom pantry.  It's honestly as big as an average bathroom.  When I showed it to one of my friends, a comment was made about its organization.  This person did not mean it to sound terrible, and I did not take it as her being rude, but it did shame me into looking at the pantry and realizing that the organizational work I did about 3 years ago simply isn't functioning now.  Like anyone, over time I just lose focus on sticking to my organizational plan, and, like many, I get more stuff as time passes.  More decor items, more cookbooks, etc.  It made me realize that I was LONG overdue for a spring cleaning and it seemed like a good time with the start of the new year looming.

The next day, what started as an effort to slowly revamp the pantry with a simple purge of expired canned goods (proud to say, only 5 items disposed of for that!) turned into a revamp of all 5 pantry shelves, the storage shelves, and the wine storage.  About 4 hours later, I had every shelf back in order and a full trash bag and full bin of recyclable items.  I can honestly say I didn't get rid of much relatively speaking, but what I did do was create SPACE between items.  If nothing else, that creates the illusion of organization.  I'm fortunate to have a large enough pantry that it was possible to do that.  I was also able to repurpose a cookbook holder as a much more useful platter organizer!  It lined up platters sideways in an easily accessible manner.  Most importantly, I spent the next few days reexamining my cookbooks (again).  It seems like eternal vigilance, but I'm constantly acquiring new books, so I also have to work to keep the cookbooks from overwhelming the space.  General rule of thumb is that for every cookbook I acquire, I generally get rid of two. 

Now, I have all of the cookbooks repositioned and room for expansion (without complaints from IceDaddy).  I'm fortunate to have a colleague who enjoys cooking and entertaining as much if not more than me.  If I have cookbooks that I think she will like, I generally offer them to her before re-selling to Half Price Books.  There were two in particular that, while they didn't work for me, they are worth sharing - a cookbook for spending one weekend to create a month of meals.  Great idea, but really best for a family with children.  Second was a book of creative mixes in a jar.  Something that is awesome for teacher gifts doesn't really help me since my homemade items are candies and cookies.  But I'm truly glad someone else may be able to get use from them, and if she doesn't she has my blessing to pass them on again.

For those that may want to play along at home, here are my top 5 hints for updating your own pantry.  Total cost for my makeover? $3 for one plastic storage container.  (Although will have about $20 more for a labeler).

Don't know why it's sideways, but this is the redesigned shelves. 
Top - lesser-used containers;  second shelf - baking center;
Middle shelf - cookbooks and plastic bags/trash bags/foil
Fourth shelf - more cookbooks and root vegetable basket
Fifth shelf - more cookbooks
Bottom - wine racks and large bag storage

1. Look for items that you can repurpose - I used a cookbook holder (that was poor in the function of actually holding a cookbook) as a terrific organizer for my decorative plates and platters.  It lined everything up nicely and was a great way to not have to get rid of the item.
2.  Buy a labeler - Now, this is a "do what I say not what I do" item, as I still need to get one of my own, but they are great to remind you of where something should actually go.  It keeps you in check when you start to get lax.  Plus, when you have identical jars that you store different ingredients, it's a handy reminder of which is what.
3.  Put space between your items - if your pantry is like most, the back parts of the shelves can get dark (unless you have lighting installed on the shelves, and I don't).  To let light in toward the back of the shelves and make it easier to grab items, try keeping space between them.  I usually leave 1 inch between different canned goods and several inches between other items such as my cookbooks and decorative items.  It really makes it look more organized (see middle shelf)
4.  Organize by section - I have areas in the pantry for canned goods (and I have sections for items such as tomato products, canned veggies, canned soups, etc), snack foods, and baking items.  Items used more frequently are in areas that are more convenient and accessible (second shelf is my baking center, for example).
5.  Use... plastic shoeboxes - these are perhaps my favorite item for organization.  They cost about $2 at any typical supercenter and allow for stand-up storage of items such as packaged mixes or little items that could get loose and lost if not corralled.  $10 worth of shoeboxes makes all the difference for me

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