When I told people I was moving, there were 3 general reactions: “all your hard work!”, “your garden!”, and “your pantry!” I’ve talked a lot about my garden, so you’re pretty well versed on what I’ve got going on there, but not a lot about my pantry. And not to brag or anything, but my kitchen pantry is f’ing amazing. It is certainly one of the things I will be missing when we move to our new home.
I thought I’d share on how I keep up the pantry, in hopes to give some inspiration and info. If you a passionate cook, the dark days of winter are a great time to do some pantry purging and reorganizing. The rest of my house might be a disaster and crap everywhere, but I keep my kitchen pantry organized. Having a beautiful space may be superficial, but I love being able to see all my hard work from the canning and harvest season, and it keeps me inspired to create wholesome meals. As a homesteader, it also provides a place for me to keep all my tools for food preservation handy and organized.
9 Tips for a Beautiful and Well Stocked Kitchen Pantry
Keep everything in clear glass jars. I have an
obsessive healthy collection of jars for preserves and canning, but I also use them for food storage. I buy dry good ingredients in reusable bags from the bulk section, then decant into the half-gallon sized Ball jars. Clear makes it so I can easily see what I’m low on, and restock before I fully run out. Having all the same type of jar and lids also give the pantry cohesiveness, making it so that visually I’m focused on the ingredient, not the storage method. If I need a label, I write it on painters tape stuck to the lid. I’ll also note any cooking ratios that I regularly forget, like the 1-1.5 for couscous.
Keep narrow shelves to keep things accessible. Things get lost in deep, dark cabinets and shelves. For my bulk ingredients, where I have only one jar of each thing, I have them single file on narrow shelves.
It’s important to note that, living in California, this is not a good set up for earthquakes. If we had a large one, I’m certain the jars would fall off the shelves. I had meant to build a rail, to keep them from jumping off, but never got around to it. Luckily, I hasn’t been a problem.
Keep lots of ingredients on hand. When people gush over my pantry, I doubt it’s the raw wood shelves. I think it’s because it’s so full. My husband calls me a food hoarder. But really, I’m just well prepared. I keep my pantry well stocked. If I come across a recipe, but don’t have most of the ingredients, I won’t make it. That’s just how I am. Keeping things well stocked ahead of time allows me to pull together meals without an advanced plan, and it allows me for spur of the moment creativity.
Cooking from scratch with whole ingredients is very important to me. Seeing ingredients in their raw forms also keeps me grounded and connected with my food. While it’s easy to get tempted by the colorful packages of convenience foods, surrounding myself with the real things encourages me to use them.
Keep everything with miscellaneous packaging in baskets. Despite my best efforts of not using plastic, there are still some ingredients that I can’t find in bulk, usually Asian noodles and rice papers. These, I leave in the package but keep stored in a basket. Packaging can be attractive, but lots of it creates visual clutter and gives a messy, mish-mashed look. With the basket, I don’t see the packaging, and it keeps similar ingredients all together.
Keep ingredients of similar use grouped together. This is a helpful tip regardless if you are in a cupboard or a large pantry like mine. I have a tray for vinegars and oils, a tray for my herbal teas, and a basket for small baking ingredients. All of my jams are in rows, all of the salsas in another, etc. This allows me to not have to hunt for what I’m looking for.
Make space for a pantry a priority. My pantry is giant, and I know some people have kitchens which are smaller. I am very lucky, and I’m well aware of this fact. But, we did not buy our house with it, we created it. The space of the pantry was part of the master bedroom and it’s closet. To me, having a walk-in pantry was a higher priority than a large bedroom and a large closet. So we made that bedroom smaller, removed the closet and instead, we sleep in a smaller room. It’s all about what your priorities are.
If you don’t have the option of remodeling, you can also look elsewhere in the house. While it’s not convenient for everyday items, keep extra canned goods under the bed, on bookshelves, or in another closet.
Keep tools together by use. If you’re like me, and you partake in any form of food preservation, you likely have a wide arrange of kitchen tools and equipment. In my pantry, I have things for cheese making, fermenting, home brewing, and canning, plus assorted things for outdoor picnics and parties. Most of these are small items, and I keep them gathered by function. In one labeled box, I have all my canning stuff: my jar lifter, spare lids, pickling salt, etc. In another, all the fermenting, brewing and cheese stuff: molds, airlocks, acids, bottlecaps. When I’m working on a particular activity, I just pull the bin or box down and take into the kitchen.
Arrange the items based on the frequency of uses. I pull the jar of green tea from the pantry ever. single. morning. As a result, it lives dead ahead of the entryway, at arm level, so I can grab it without barely entering the room. Canning pots, that I only use seasonally, live on the very top shelf that requires the step stool. Same with my boxes of extra jars. Use the techniques used at grocery stores, and use placement for targeting customers. Put things you want to use up or healthy snacks at eye level.
Use baskets and bins for dry produce. I have wooden crates, that I purchased from the craft store, to store my onions, potatoes, squash, and garlic. I glued a cork to each corner to act as legs so they don’t sit directly on the floor. Having multiple of the same type of container once again reduces visual clutter, and I can focus on the beauty of the ingredient. Depending on what I have harvested that year, what the bins are filled with changes, as they do through the seasons.
Put “ugly things” out of site. As beautiful as a kitchen pantry COULD be, it still needs to function. And that means storing things that are less visibly attractive. Bottles of laundry soap, the big Costco bag of baking soda, Windex, boxes of foil, and the packages of Stella’s heartworm medicine, etc. Cleaning products get grouped together on a shelf that’s on the door side of the pantry, making it so I don’t see it when in the doorway or getting items from the main shelves. Smaller items, like the pet medicine, goes in a basket on a higher shelf. Baskets for rags and reusable shopping bags go on low shelves to the side. Still accessible, but less visually in the line of sight.
I hope these tips are useful, and you’ve enjoyed taking a look into one of my most cherished rooms! Take some time to organize your own pantry or cupboards this winter, to make cooking from scratch a more pleasant experience!