Friday, March 30, 2012

Pantry Makeover

I wasn't looking to reorganize my pantry, it just sorta happened. My husband was looking for a recipe one day and blithely commented, "You need to do something about this thing." I don't even think that recipe "book" is even pictured here, but just imagine a bunch of torn-out magazine pages shoved into a spiral-bound notebook stained with oil, butter, egg and the likes of them. I couldn't argue with my husband. He was completely right. Not only was the thing an eyesore, usually tucked beneath loaves of bread and stacked on top of a bunch of cooking magazines that hadn't seen the light of day in over a year, it took me forever to find most recipes. Something definitely needed to be done. Fellow LH contributor, Deirdre, had once showed me her system of organizing recipes, so I decided to emulate it. (Stay tuned for details of this system, as I'm sure it will be a future post.) I went through all the ripped out pages and tossed any of the recipes I had never tried. Then I perused the untouched magazines and ripped out the recipes I wanted, passing the rest to my sister, who gladly took them off my hands.

I put the recipes aside, and placed my bread products (sandwich bread, rolls, bagels, tortillas, croutons) into the basket I had just emptied of magazines. I placed my new bread basket back in the pantry and was dissatisfied with the clutter on the rest of the shelf. Then I realized the clutter didn't end with this shelf, not by a longshot. I was utterly displeased with my entire pantry. (Brace yourselves for the mess that was my pantry. Keep in mind, also, that this was before I went grocery shopping and so it normally looked 10 times worse.)

As you can see, there was no method to the madness. Snacks were scattered on each shelf. Napkins that I never used and empty canning jars were taking up space on the first shelf. Flour bags were sprinkled throughout. I had a place for cereal and a place for canned goods, and that was about it.

When flipping through my BJ's wholesale club coupon booklet, I noticed a coupon for a 7-piece Rubbermaid storage set ($14.99) so I bought one. While I was there, I noticed a 3-pack of Rubbermaid cereal containers ($15.99), but I didn't pick it up because $14 was already more than I wanted to spend on a whimsy to organize my pantry. I hurried home, excitedly washed all the containers, and dumped the snacks into them. I cleared off the first shelf and moved all the healthy snacks down, along with the boxes of cereal. This would now make breakfast and snacks completely accessible to my children. I loved the clear containers because I could see exactly how much of each snack was left at any given time. Phew....this felt MUCH better.

Little did I know how much this soon-to-be pantry overhaul would consume my thoughts. Let this be a warning to all my OCD counterparts: MAKEOVERS ARE ADDICTING! I literally could not sleep at night because I was too excited about the changes I wanted to make. I read other blogs about pantry makeovers, sometimes three or four times (hello, House of Smiths!) I searched online for other storage containers. I arranged and rearranged my shelves in my head. I thought about what colors would go well with the rest of my kitchen. After too many nights of this planning, I decided I needed to actually do something.

I remembered that I had a $47 credit in my Amazon account, so I decided I would buy some canisters for my flours. I don't have enough counter space, so all my flours went in my pantry, but trying to scoop and level flours back into their bags without making a mess has always been a challenge. This investment would be worth it, as much as I baked breads. Plus, simply put, jars would be way cuter. I found these and bought four of them ($46), one larger than the rest.

Unfortunately, these jars are on backorder, so I won't receive them until next month. So, for now, just envision all those flour bags as beautiful jars in my makeover picture.
Continuing with the glass jar idea, I decided to make use of my empty canning jars. These would now be my "grain" jars. Other grains that didn't fit into these jars, such as pastas and taco shells, went into a woven basket I already had.


I placed the bread basket, along with two large containers I had just purchased on sale for $5.69 each, nut butters, and the rest of my grains on the next shelf up. The two containers would store any homemade snacks that I made, such as granola bars and muffins. I decided to place the nut butters next to the bread, so that my children could make their own pb&j sandwiches. My two year olds used to take out the canning jars previously, which scared the begeebas outta me, so I figured placing glass jars one shelf up, sufficiently out of their reach, would be just what I needed to keep me from having a nervous breakdown.


The flour shelf became my new "baking" shelf. Originally, I placed my cookbooks there, but decided to move them back on top of the refrigerator where they seemed to fit better. Instead, I filled in the rest of the shelf with other baking supplies, using random jars I had. I took an underutilized basket and filled it with less-used baking items (other, more frequently used ones are in my lazy-susan cabinet).

On a little ledge to the left of this shelf, I placed a school bus tin that I had already been using to store Box Tops for Education.

I moved on to the floor space. Cardboard and paper recycling had no home in my pantry. Sometimes, it was in a paper bag. Other times, it was placed in a box, or just thrown on the floor. I emptied a crate of toys into an unused wicker basket and made the crate the new "paper recyclables" home. Reusable shopping bags were moved to my van, while plastic bags that I reuse were placed in a basket, hidden to the right. Root vegetables were placed in another sturdy basket I had, and a space was dedicated to unopened bottles of juice.

At this point, my pantry was really starting to look organized and the "clear container and basket look" was making my cereal section look out of place. In my online searching, I came across the OXO POPS container series - so sleek, so stylish.

Unfortunately, each container costs over $15. I remembered the Rubbermaid cereal containers I spotted at BJ's and hesitantly headed back there. I knew that, with a family of seven, three cereal containers weren't going to cut it, and I would need to buy two sets of three. We're talking $32. After a struggle, I decided to buy them. I brought them home, filled them, and placed them on my shelf. I immediately had buyer's regret. They weren't the prettiest things ever, and they took up nearly the whole shelf. I would need to do some rearranging. I decided to take out one of the cereal containers, leaving only five. After a little pouting, and seeing my kids' positive reaction to them (i.e., they LOVED them!), I decided to put aside my need for an ultra chic pantry, and be happy with a functional one. Everything was organized. The children were able to be self-reliant. Mission accomplished, right? I vowed not to spend any more on this reorganization.

Now, I absolutely love my cereal containers. One is filled with instant oatmeal packets and a box of cream of wheat, leaving four for cold cereal. It is a new rule that no other cereal is to be opened (other boxes are stored on shelves in my basement), until a container is fully emptied. It used to be that everyone would open a box and eat the cereal until only a bowl-full was left, along with a whole lot of crumbs. Crumbs have been virtually eliminated, as I fill the containers by scooping the cereal from the box. Alright, alright, who am I kidding? I use my hands to fill them. (Sshhhh...don't tell anyone.) The cereal also stays fresher since there are no more bags that have casually been left unrolled in the boxes.

The top two shelves are out of my children's reach. The lower one was designated as the "treats" shelf. Candy, formerly placed in a tin bucket, was placed in some ceramic bowls I never used, one for chocolates and one for non-chocolates. It was happenstance that the bowls coordinated with the new plastic containers I had just bought, red and green. Space to the right was reserved for chips. Herbal tea was left in its own box behind another one in a decorative tin. Hot cocoa, marshmallows, and other treats were placed in more glass jars I had laying around. (I find glass nut butter jars from Whole Foods to be among the best containers once emptied and washed. They have great lids.) Other miscellaneous items, such as nutrition bars, microwave popcorn, and fruit snacks, were placed in a wicker basket to hide the contained mishmash. (Note: Remove popcorn bags and any other individually packaged item from their boxes. Every little bit of room counts.)

I placed canned goods on the top shelf, as they are not used everyday and this shelf provided the most room to stack cans on top of each other. Dried beans were also placed up there, along with extra condiments. I originally placed the beans in a wicker basket and then in a wire basket (that I bought at Target on clearance for $2.98) but didn't like that I couldn't see what I had in the former and didn't like the look of the latter, as nothing else in the pantry was wire (don't worry, the purchase wasn't a waste, I used the basket to hold wash cloths under the sink). So, I went against my vow. I bought the wire basket that I didn't use (actually, I bought two...don't judge me). Worse still, I couldn't just leave the beans in their bags, so I bought some more canning jars. The ones I had were Ball brand with silver lids. These were a few dollars more than the generic brand at Wal-Mart, so I bought the generic brand ($7.88), for 12 quart sized jars with gold lids (don't match, but remember, functionality, right?).

The shelves were now all organized, but something was missing. That last little cute, yet functional, touch...labels. Keeping with the chalkboard label jars I ordered, I found 40 oval and rectangle chalkboard labels on etsy for $9, and a box of chalk at Staples for $0.99. I found a chisel chalkboard marker online for $2.49, but shipping cost more than the actual marker, so I decided against it. While at Staples, I saw a whole line of Martha Stewart home office supplies that were really cute, but much more expensive than what I found elsewhere. For instance, a four-pack of sharpened chalk cost $4.99! I took my 12-pack of $0.99 chalk and decided to sharpen them myself. The box is kept in the school bus tin.

If I had the budget, I would opt for the chalkboard marker. I had to resharpen my chalk after labeling each jar. I also found that putting labels on the cereal containers was somewhat futile, as little hands constantly smear the chalk. Nonetheless, the labels made all the difference to me. They added that extra little "cuteness factor" for relatively little cost.

Maybe, in the future, I will slap a couple coats of paint on my pantry walls and line the shelves, but for now, I am quite content with my space. My oldest son saw me taking pictures for this post and remarked, "I really like how organized our pantry is," and you know what? I really like how organized it is, too.
Funny, however, that this whole makeover started with an unruly pile of recipes. Guess what's sitting on my kitchen counter?


Your clutter-free pantry pal,
Christine


P.S. Shout out to the Spring into Organization Blogger Home Tour: click for more.
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13 comments:

  1. I really need to do this! thanks for the ideas:)

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    1. I changed things around a little at a time until I was comfortable with the results. Organizing by type was the biggest help. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. wow you've inspired me! my pantry's a mess...

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    1. You saw my "before" picture. I can't believe I put that out there. Best wishes in your own organization!

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  3. Fabulous makeover! Love that you made do with what you had and didn't spend a lot of money. Anyone can create a new look if they have endless funds, but how many of us have that these days? Love it!

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    1. Thank you so much! I feel silly penny-pinching over a $2.49 marker, but we really are on a tight budget, so every little bit counts. I checked out the Salvation Army, but no luck there. Some creativity and a lot of determination goes a long way. I appreciate your comment!

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  4. You did a great job on your pantry. Thanks so much for stopping by The NY Melrose Family and leaving such a sweet comment on my laundry closet redo. I'm following via twitter and facebook. I'm hosting a bloglovin blog hop right now so feel free to join in. Bloglovin is another way to follow your favorite blogs. The instructions on how to add it are with the hop at www.thenymelrosefamily.blogspot.com/2012/03/bloglovin-blog-hop-for-March.html

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    1. I will definitely have to check that out. Thanks!

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  5. i have the same containers but haven't labeled them yet!

    www.thepinksmashbox.com

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    1. It's amazing how much those little labels changed the entire look for me. If you stock your pantry with the same things all the time, you could use permanent labels, but we change things up so frequently at our house that the chalkboard ones were the way to go.

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  6. Wow! Any chance I can get you to stop by and organize my pantry?! I love the idea of using of chalkboard containers - I will have to order some.

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    1. Thanks! I actually love organizing, but never seem to find the time. I CANNOT wait until my chalkboard containers arrive. I'll post pictures of them once they come, for sure.

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  7. Stopping over from the UBP! The pantry looks awesome! I really need to do this to my own pantry. I took a stroll around the blog and really love the ideas and tips offered up! Looking forward to following.

    Ashley @ http://thereisnoplacelikehomemade.blogspot.com/

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