It’s officially still winter here in New Zealand but our incredibly mild weather is feeling all kind of ‘Spring-ey’ so of course I’m motivated to start on some spring cleaning. First up is the pantry.
It’s been a year since I organised the pantry and it was looking pretty unloved.
Items were stuffed anywhere there was space, half the containers were empty but still taking up valuable real estate, and herbs and spices seemed to have taken over the place. It was definitely time for a reset.
So, I started by watching a million YouTube videos on ‘how to organise a small pantry’. (I promise I wasn’t procrastinating, I just find it really motivating to see how others do it – ok, there might have been a tiny bit of procrastinating going on but I got the job done in the end so it’s all good).
I noticed that most of the videos recommended going out and buying storage containers or bins – whaaaat? You mean, spend money? (I’m too
cheap frugal). Leave the house right when I was in the zone? (I’m too lazy focused). I was having none of that so I committed to just work with what I already had lying around the house.
The first step was to remove all the items from the pantry. Don’t try to skip this step. There is no way to get a true understanding of what’s going on in there until you take everything out. Plus you get to wipe down the inside of the pantry which, after a year, can get a bit icky.
Looking at everything laid out in the kitchen can be overwhelming. I admit I did consider making myself a cup of tea and heading on over to the couch for a Netflix binge but then I thought – ‘girl, you need to break this down, you need a system’.
So I started grouping things together by type (e.g. nuts and seeds). Oh, and see that wire basket thingy? I totally found it hanging out in my spare room, so no need to go and buy containers (high five).
I took the opportunity to take stock of what I actually had. I found 4 (count ’em… 4!!) packets of nutmeg in amongst all the spices.
I also wrote down everything that I put back into the pantry so that I could see what I needed to shop for. There wasn’t much that I needed and certainly nothing that required an immediate trip to the store so I decided that I would go the next full week without buying ANY groceries and just live off the abundance of food I already had.
I put everything back into the pantry in groups – canned goods at eye level where I can get to them easily; cereals, pasta, rice in the bottom cupboard because they’re easy to lift and they clear space for me to put the heavy bag of flour (which I use all the time) within easy reach.
I cut down an old cardboard box so that I could put all my opened bags of food in there (these are items that are decanted into more manageable containers, such as rice). And I found a large plastic bin to replace the no-longer-sturdy cardboard box that was holding all my storage containers.
The finished job means a pantry that is pleasant and easy to use. Even our dog Roy likes it (although I’m pretty sure he’s just eyeing up that bag of cat food).
I’m not sure how well this arrangement is going to work for me as I tend to switch my focus on cooking quite a lot. Eg, if I’m big on asian food then I like to have all of it handy. If I’m into baking then that’s what I want to lay my hands on quickly. So we’ll see how it goes. Do let me know in the comments if you have any tips on organising your pantry and what works (or doesn’t work) well for you.