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!

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