This pantry project has been a long time coming. It has been a jumbled disaster for several months, but I didn’t bother to reorganize it because I wanted to do a complete overhaul on the pantry closet while I was at it.
The problem with ‘overhauls’ at our house is that the rest of the house then becomes a complete disaster. Also, I usually have a lot of help. This week, we finally tackled the pantry, and I am excited about the results.
To begin, I brought in a garbage bag and a donation box. I got rid of a toaster oven that burned everything, a Salad Shooter, a manual food processor and the Magic Bullet. I recently bought one nice food processor that does everything except burn toast. It was such a relief to finally send those appliances to the donation box! I tossed opened bags that were stale or that no one was going to eat. I took every item out of the pantry and washed the entire thing.
Then, I found some ceiling paint and a half gallon of paint left over from our bedroom closet makeover and painted walls, floors and ceiling. I decided to stain the shelves instead of painting them. I used a water-based Minwax stain in Pecan. I chose to use water-based stain because I was working in an enclosed space and it is less toxic and smelly.
One thing about our pantry is that it is the closet over the stairs to the basement. In the 1950s, they often made these closets with deep steps all the way to the back. I have been researching solutions for making our closet more user-friendly, but haven’t found any help. So, Jer and I decided to put horizontally adjustable shelves across the shelves we put in a few years ago. They can be pushed back if needed, but we pulled them forward so everything is reachable from the first step. I found that things would just get lost and piled in the deep cave, so the shallower adjustable shelves are nicer for us. (We can access the back, so I put a few very infrequently used items back there, like the dehydrator and angel food cake pan).
A pantry works best with multiple shallow shelves. When Jer and I added shelves to our closet, we made the ones on the sides 6 inches deep and the ones on the back 11 inches deep. This keeps items from getting lost in the black hole that often happens when shelves are too deep. If you happen to have deep shelves, consider installing pull-out bins or drawers.
I also wanted to add a little fun to the steps, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on it. Jer suggested using half a grapefruit. The ones we had were pretty large, but I spotted some Cuties and decided they would be perfect! I found some orange and yellow craft paint and two paper plates. After practicing on a piece of paper, I started randomly stamping the Cuties on the steps. The final look is not for everyone, but I like the 70s retro look and think it will be fun for awhile. When I get tired of it, it will take 10 minutes to paint it again.
After the pantry is clean (and the paint is dry!) it is time to put things back. I arrange items according to use and size. Most frequently used things go at eye level. For us, that means canned goods and cereals are readily available for easy grabbing. Multiple cans of the same food are stacked together.
I prefer to take things out of larger packages so I know when it needs to be restocked. At lower levels are individually wrapped snacks and things that are ok for our kids to grab. The highest shelves are reserved for empty glass bottles, extra spices and lesser used appliances.
As far as other organization tools, I use plastic half gallon and gallon containers with labels for things like rice and granola. I also decant extra flour and sugar, etc into labeled containers to keep random bags from leaking everywhere. I wish they were clear, but they are recycled (aka.free) so I like them. Clear containers of any kind are nice because you can see the contents inside and know when it needs replacing. There are many container options for sale, but make sure it fits the food and fits into your space before you buy. I am using baskets to corral picnic supplies, extra Kurig cups and bags of chips. I tried a few different baskets before I remembered this orange one that goes better with the ‘citrus’ theme.
We mounted a broom holder on the inside door of our pantry to keep them from falling out every time we open the door. I also have a grocery bag holder mounted to the inside of the door. Other options for the inside of doors are over the door racks, spice shelves and shoe holders. Painting the inside of the door is an upcoming project.
Now that the pantry is stocked and organized, the food will just cook itself, right?