Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Small Pantry Tips

I've mentioned our pantry issues in passing before. I'm always looking for ways to make it more functional, but here are some things that have worked for me so far!

Also, this is a long post; feel free to scroll to the summary of tips at the end!

There's a lot going on in this picture, so I'll start from the top shelf and work my way down. I currently have this shelf split into "flours" and "pastas." I keep my flour in that big stainless container to keep the mess down. Our shelves are narrow, but deep, so I try to push everything to the back as much as possible to keep it all in view.

Next shelf down: I've created an elevated area with a box of empty jars, which allows me to use more of the space without blocking the view as much. I also have a thin, plastic cutting board laying across the wire shelf to block the gaps.  This keeps my smaller bottles of vinegar, oils, etc. from tipping and catches any possible spills. 

Underneath the wire shelves, you can see on the left that we removed one shelf and put this breakfast cart in the pantry instead. It adds a (gap-less!) flat surface and 2 more shelves. The middle shelf on the cart pulls out - picture below. The bottom one holds distilled water and some less-used kitchen appliances.

Since this shelf is at knee-level, I label everything on the top. We tend to buy most of our dry goods in bulk, so jars of all sizes come in handy for storage. Can you tell I love split peas? ;)

We try to limit how many plastic bags come home, but they do come in handy now and then. When I ripped one of our reusable grocery bags on the way home one day - I cut it up, sewed it into a tube, and added some elastic to the bottom. Now we have a double-recycled plastic bag dispenser! This has saved us a lot of space and frustration, since before we were literally stuffing them into one of the lower shelves in the pantry. We're now limited to what we can keep in the sock, and anything else goes into recycle.

Here's the last thing I've added lately. Before this, there was a tacky off-white plastic thing that was supposed to hold the boxes. You can see a corner of it in the top picture of this post - I disliked it so much I never got a good shot of it! For about $10, I bought this shower organizer that happens to have a bunch of hooks at the bottom, and happens to match the oil-rubbed bronze of our sink. 

It's a temporary solution, but it took over the job of the plastic thing AND cleared out 2 drawers: my spice drawer, and a towel drawer. I'll get a better spice system eventually, but for now, having them in a double-layer on this shelf isn't too annoying.

This turned into quite the long post! Here is a summary of my tips for working with a small pantry:

1) Keep bulk items in containers to minimize mess and maximize usable space. Clear is best, and mason jars stack great!

2) Elevate canned goods to create more visible layers. I used a box of empty jam jars to elevate a second layer of canned goods.

3) Use flexible cutting boards to block gaps in wire shelves for smaller items.

4) Don't be afraid to take some shelves out and put a piece of furniture in your pantry! Flat surfaces and multiple drawers can be so much more useful.

5) Label, label, label. When things are already cluttered due to space, it can be frustrating trying to find a certain jar/can/box of something in a sea of things that look the same from the top or sides.

6) Limit the things you don't use as often. By using a bag sock, we don't have a shelf overflowing in bags we will never use; once the sock is full, we'll recycle any new bags. I also keep my less-used spices in the freezer to save on pantry space and to keep them fresh longer.

7) Take organizational techniques from the rest of the house. Our over-the-shower organizer freed up two drawers by holding spices and giving us a place to hang towels and potholders.

Do you have any tips for making the most of a small pantry? I need all the help I can get!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gluten Free Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is something we've simply learned to live without since going gluten-free....until now! This recipe is based loosely on a copycat KFC chicken recipe. To us, it's better than the original.

Recipe: Gluten Free fried Chicken

1 tsp parsley
2 tsp season salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp tarragon
3 tsp sage
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp pepper
3 tsp salt

Gluten Free flour mix:
1 cup tapioca flour
1 cup rice flour
1 cup oat flour

3 cups buttermilk

In a large bowl, soak your chicken pieces in buttermilk. I let mine soak overnight in the fridge, but about an hour should do. 

When you're ready to fry your chicken, heat oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot or deep fryer to 375 degrees.


Mix the gluten-free flours with your seasoning. Take your chicken pieces from the buttermilk and roll them in your flour mixture until they are thoroughly coated. 

Place 3 to 4 pieces of chicken at a time in your hot oil and fry for 12 minutes on each side until cooked. Cool on a wire rack with paper bags underneath to catch excess oil.

I love this recipe and my husband says it's even better the next day!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day


I spent the morning putting together a Valentine's day box of goodies for a client who works at the Nail Dynasty. She loves my chocolate covered strawberries. I always include other goodies and try and make my boxes as fun and colorful as I can. 


 This box included quite a few chocolate-covered goodies: strawberries, sugar cookies, pretzels, and dried mangoes.



I hope this gives you some ideas to make someone's Valentine's Day special!

 Happy Valentine's Day from Zabrina.

Monday, February 11, 2013

DIY Spice Rack.

While my daughter was here recently she commented on my messy pantry. I went on to tell her that my pantry was fine and I knew where everything was. So she did the unspeakable and asked me where the onion powder was and I couldn't find it. Point taken. Here is my step by step on how I made my pantry spices easy to find. First I went to Home Depot and found a 10 inch by 24 inch piece of steel.

Then I went to Hobby Lobby and found a frame 10 inch by 24 inch at 50% off.

A package of mounting pins from Hobby Lobby.

 I put my new spice board together in less than ten minutes. It was so easy.

My daughter and I made a trip to World Market where we found these great tins on sale for $1.50 each. They have a magnetic disk on the bottom. I went with colors tins to make it easier to find what I need. Red for hot or Mexican spices, green for dill weed, parsley, etc.

I have to say this was a fun project and my pantry got a thorough cleaning to go with my pretty new spice station.

Hopefully my next project will be this fun!

Until next time, happy crafting!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Spring Cleaning - Laundry Closet Redesign!

"A place for everything, and everything in its place." 

This has been my new maxim while reorganizing our current house. One of our biggest issues here is storage; without much furniture and hardly any closet space, there simply isn't enough room for even the basics. It's been my goal while searching for a new job to also spend some time making our home more cozy and functional. The laundry room re-do is probably my favorite project so far!

Here is our laundry "room" before. It's a closet off the small hallway between our garage door (on the left here) and our kitchen.

You can see how the previous owners left it: a single, poorly installed shelf, stained walls, and a couple of nails in odd places.

First thing first! I ripped out the old shelving (keeping the shelf, since I chose a shelving system that could re-use it). They used drywall anchors rather than properly hanging anything on studs, so there were a lot of big holes to fill.

Once all the spackle was dry, I painted the whole inside of the closet a medium gray. This color was on the "rejected colors" shelf at home depot and was one of those nifty paint-and-primer in one types that are normally a bit pricey. I paid $7 for this gallon and didn't even use a quarter of it!

The next big thing was the shelving! One of the things I did like about the previous "design" was the style of shelf. These wire shelves are very sturdy, the gaps aren't big enough for much to fall through, and the lack of flat surfaces means less dust collection. The shelves were easy to cut to size with a metal saw. 

I took it a step further and went with a track shelving system that would allow us to change the height of our shelves to fit whatever we decide to put here. The main anchor is at the top of the wall, shown here. I'm very lucky to have an amazing husband who patiently walked me through every step, and completed all the work for me when I got tired. He also decided that we needed more light in there, and purchased and installed the light fixture for me. 

For the bottom shelf, I wanted to ensure that nothing could fall behind the washer and dryer, so I took an idea from Pinterest and put a wood shelf right along the top of the machines.

We gained so much storage space with this that we still don't have it filled up, months later. I love that the shelves are easy to move (we've already moved them twice!) and that it would be trivial for us to add another in the future. I'm looking forward to this summer now that we have space to store all of the canned fruits and veggies we love to make!  

I still need to install hooks on the sides of the closet for the ironing board, brooms, and other things, but overall I'm pretty pleased with the outcome.

Now, if only I could make my pantry this functional.... :)

How have you solved some storage issues in your home?