Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Purpose Driven Pantry

Being a Food Prude involves deliberate wellness, and requires forethought and determination. These qualities I have. But I also have a dirty secret….

I have a hefty set of organizational skills paralleled with a conundrum of perfectionist tendencies which have led me straight into a shame worthy situation. It's embarrassing. Sad, really. A significant part of my kitchen is in complete disarray. I won’t make excuses, although there are plenty, but I will share with you my journey to reclaim this space. It is……the pantry.

While the pantry inventory is really somewhat sparse in a dedicated Food Prude's home (because most super foods are fresh and require refrigeration), it is still a major component in food prep and can either make or break your prudent spirit. It is important to maintain a well planned pantry as an investment in your time management, peace in the kitchen, and commitment to this somewhat demanding way of life.

In addition to being a source of nourishment, with quality staples on hand, your pantry is a great resource for unexpected meals and can reduce trips to the supermarket. It is the perfect place to stock up frugal finds, and house non perishable sundries to protect your family against weather emergencies or financial dislocation.

Some people may not have a specific pantry in their home, or may have a very small one. Take this piece of advice from 'Organized Home's' Cynthia Ewer, "Think of the pantry as a reservoir of consumable goods which may be stored in any area of the home."

My before and after's are included, {{cringe}}. Don't judge.

Before shot:

I'm hesitating.......

Alright, alright......

So here she is, like a deer in the headlights. Completely exposed, quivering with fear, shocked and confused as she determines what to do next. I believe that if she could, my pantry would run away, far into the thicket, searching for bliss, hoping never to be assaulted by one large, and three small food prude's again.

To my credit. The pantry door dawns a clever system which has been maintained, despite it's abandoned appearance. Some may queary, so I digress. The top half of the door sports two cork bulletin boards, stacked, and dressed in school notices, class rosters, soccer schedules, snack rotations, zip lock bags for box tops, chore and behavior charts (yes, sheets full of stickers). The middle section of the door hosts two wall files, filled with stickers (for the behavior charts), pens, and 3 folders with pertinent school information. Finally, although unpictured, the door knob does not go undressed, conveniently, it supports the equivalent of a wristful of rubberbands for sealing random opened bags of things.

Aside from the tall kitchen trash can designated for recyclables, the floor of the pantry, also unpictured, houses a slew of displaced objects. An unused electric griddle, extra racks for the oven, some parts to the grill, a huge brown paper bag full of nothing other than more brown paper bags, a box of boxed soup, bulk napkins, a half used 50 lb. bag of rice, and a gallon of canola oil. Yes, this is the result of a family that buys in bulk.

The rest of the pantry is, well, chaotic for lack of a better word.  So I've done some research on pantry organization, and below you will find the fruits of my labor: My humble opinion of the best tips online, and a few of my own additions.

  1. Purge. Grab two trash bags, one for trash and one for recycling. Throw out all items that are old and expired or food that you will never eat. If you haven't touched in the past year, it's probably old and you are more than likely not going to eat it soon.
  2. Move all like items together, for example, all dressings & condiments together, all baking items together, all packaged goods together, all canned goods together, etc.
  3. Stating the obvious, if you have the most room on the top shelf, place larger items there.
  4. The floor seems to be the best place to store bulk items, but it can make the pantry feel cluttered if you can't see the floor. If you do decide to store large items here, keep it to a minimum.
  5. If you need more storage space, get a container on wheels that will fit below the lowest shelf so that you can wheel it out easily and clean underneath without any hassle. 
  6. Keep cans of vegetables together in rows and columns on a shelf at eye-level.
  7. On that same shelf, create a section for each category of canned goods.
  8. Remember to add newly-purchased items to the back of the stack or row; use the front items first. 
  9. Use tall plastic or glass sealed containers to store things like dry cereal, pasta, sugar and flower.  Your food will look much more uniform and organized, and will fit better on the shelf.
  10. Store pasta in clear plastic bin(s) that fit on shelf. 
  11. Store bags of beans and rice in another clear plastic bin on the same shelf. 
  12. Keep raw baking ingredients and baking mixes together in one section of the pantry.
  13. Use labels on the front of the shelves to identify the designated areas.
  14. Break the mold. If you are short on space, create several 'pantries' within your home, as long as temperature and moisture aren't an issue. For example, keep the package of extra napkins in the cupboard closest to your table. Store spices and oils in the cupboard nearest to the stove. Store paper towels and extra dishwashing detergent on the top shelf in the laundry room.
  15. If you have kids, keep them in mind when organizing. What you don't want them to reach should go up high, (glass bottles, junk food, etc.) What you DO want them to reach should go down low, (nuts, seeds, raisins, applesauce, etc.)
  16. Keep a little stool close by for your little helper(s).
  17. If you have room, a laundry basket for dirtied kitchen linens is helpful.
Show and tell time.......drum roll please..........

Yes, those are sweet potatoes next to my canned beans. We love sweet potatoes, but in our previous setup, they would disappear, only to be found when their sprouts had grown long enough to reach out and grab us when we stepped in. So in my new organized pantry, the yams won't need to yell, they are front and center, and ready to be noticed.

When you create a kids shelf, most likely the bottom shelf for kids under 10, be deliberate about it's contents. Stock it with things you want them to eat, and make them look appealing. Pictured below is my kid's go-to shelf in the pantry.

On the left is their gluten free pretzels, animal crackers, and raisins. On the right, a basket containing 'special' grab-and-go treats, like gluten free rice crispies, yogurt and cereal bars, and cookie buttons, for soccer games, or snack bags for school. In the middle is a basket of little toys or non food treats that our kids ask for, but have to earn, i.e. Silly Bandz. Referring back to my sticker chart, the kids earn and lose stickers according to our system and they can trade their stickers in for a treat out of the prize basket.  The bottom line is that they know that is their shelf, and they like having a designated space, after all, it's their house too.

Keep your goals in mind, and create a Purpose Driven Pantry.


Are you a fellow Food Prude? Tell us your thoughts....

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