So on that note, I would like to introduce you to my pantry...
It's not a big space by any means, but it does the trick. In our last home, we weren't blessed with a bonafide pantry - our food was scattered across 6 cabinets and in the basement on a storage unit. Not good when you are trying to make a grocery list and you don't know what you have (this can lead to buying another 20lb bag of flour when you already have about 18lbs at home - believe me, this happens). So that being said, an organized pantry is key to cooking, grocery shopping, avoiding debt for excessive flour purchases, and maintaining sanity.
Here are a few key tidbits of advice that I can bestow when it comes to organizing the chaos that can become of your pantry:
1. Have a place for everything and stick to it. No matter what.
I get it. I really do. Keeping an organized pantry can be tricky. Especially when your husband (or kids) puts things where they should not go. But, making sure that everything in that cupboard has a place to go, will save you time, energy, and nagging in the future. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to deciding what should go on which shelf. This is entirely based on how you function as a chef and a grocery shopper. For me, I work from most used to least used items (top to bottom). My pantry is 24" deep so finding things at the back is problematic. But, keeping the most commonly used items at eye-level makes the process a heck of a lot easier. I do keep the junk food near the bottom (eventhough I tend to explore that shelf more than I should, I would hate to see what would happen to my waistline if I moved this shelf to eye-level). For those with kids, I am sure you're screaming at me right now - putting junk food near the bottom is spelling out disaster. But like I said, to each their own. I don't have kids, so I'm putting my chips far from where my eyes can see.
2. Organize shelves by meal type.
Picture this - it's a Monday night, you're stressed from a long day at work, your husband (or kids) are starving and cranky, and you need to get dinner on the table in a hurry. So, you open your pantry only to find pasta next to the peanut butter, and the tomato sauce has gone MIA. Organizing your pantry based on a meal type will save you a lot of time and energy. Plus, you won't have to think up new recipes such as peanut butter penne (I think the whole family will thank you for that).
3. Swap out packages of dry goods for stackable air-tight containers.
If your pantry (baking shelf in particular) looks like a package graveyards, you aren't the only one. What I have done for years, and really makes a difference for me, is to get rid of these various packages and swap out for clear storage containers. I buy Glad containers from Walmart. They are inexpensive, durable, and stackable. Buy them in different sizes to accomodate whatever it is that you need to store. Then, add a label and you're good to bake. Plus, when it comes to storing baking supplies, keeping an air-tight seal is key to cookie-making success.
4. Save time and money by making your own spice jars.
If there is only one piece of advice that you take away from this post, let it be this: buying spices at the grocery store is a rip-off. Period. They will charge you approximately $4.99 for a small jar of cinnamon, garlic powder, or what have you. It really doesn't matter what it's in the jar, because it's just the jar that you're paying for.
I shop at my local Bulk Barn to stock up on my spices. Not only do they have a selection of spices that would rival any Moroccan market, but a generous amount of any spice runs pennies to a few dollars (I'm sure on one trip of mine, a refill of the spice I needed cost me $0.45! You can't beat that!) Once I have completed my spice voyage, I stop at the Dollarama where you can buy spice jars at 3 for $1! Add a label and start cooking.
Most of us have spice packets, food samples, remnants of holiday sprinkles, and boxes of granola bars etc lounging around our pantries with no place to call home. This is where baskets become extra handy. They are perfect to store all those aimless wanderers and clear up the clutter. Baskets are also great to keep your onions and potatoes fresh (since both of these shouldn't live in your fridge). And nothing makes a space look more organized than a basket.
Have any of you struggled with organizing a pantry? Do you have any tips on making use of a small space for food storage? Or does your furry friend get a shelf all their own in your pantry?