Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pantry Revamp, Part 3: Organization and Finishing Touches

Last time, we talked about how adding shelves to the space between my existing shelves and door gave me a new space for canned goods, but I was still struggling with finding a way to organize our food in a way that let me find everything I needed. Creating "zones" didn't work since things were already overcrowded and everything had to be shifted to reach an item. Wine crates and baskets didn't work since, while they held things in certain groups, they were bulky and hard to dig through, not to mention that they blocked the view of other areas. 

Here's a before shot of my pantry (note that a big box of jumbled stuff has been removed from the bottom shelf here while I measured):

In fact, here's the contents of my pantry all over the floor (minus the paint can):


I loved the idea of having everything in stackable, clear containers like these from the Container Store, but at $15-$20 each and not quite big enough for many of my bulk jars, it just wasn't meant to be. I forced myself to browse around the organization section at Home Depot to search for cheaper alternatives, and came across these:


They're perfect! I bought all they had (then promptly returned them since Target had the exact same bins for cheaper than this price). 

I also bought several cheap plastic shoe bins (at 99 cents each, this was so much better than the container store!) for smaller items, and to organize some other things in my kitchen.

The result? All my pantry items are organized by category, in lightweight containers that are easy to move around, lift, and see straight into! (I can even look up through the wire shelves to see what's left in the top containers!)

Big Bins:
Oatmeal, Breadcrumbs, Grits, & Cream of Wheat
Rice & Beans
Syrups, Spices, Sauces, & Flavorings
Pasta & Asian Wraps
Dried Fruit & Nuts

Small Bins:
Snacks & Sweets
Baking Items, Specialty Flours, Sugar
Coffee, Tea, Drink Mixes, & Straws

Small Bins in another kitchen cabinet:
Measuring Cups & Small Baking Dishes
Kitchen Aide Accessories & Small Electrics

The only thing that's really changed from here to now is the jar of coffee; it's moved to the space above our coffeemaker somewhere else in the kitchen.

I made my labels small with the intent that they wouldn't block the view as much this way, but now I think they're a bit too small! I love the font, though (you can get it here for free!). It's just enough of that "fancy froo froo kitchen" to make me smile, without having get through life with a 2-cup container of flour.

These two photos are present day. It's been about 4 months since I added the big containers and I still feel like I can find everything in my pantry. It's trivial now to check and see if I have a particular pasta or bean I want for a recipe, and I'm never out of canned tomatoes!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pantry Revamp, Part 2: The Shelves

Part 1 in this series was all about the prep work, and now we're on to Part 2: the actual shelves! I remember standing back and looking at the pantry immediately after putting these up and thinking that it was such a small impact for so much work, but months later, I can't imagine my pantry without these!

First up, measuring! I measured from the wall's edge to the top of the doorjamb, and from the edge of the shelves (see below) to the back of the doorjamb. I used these measurements to figure out what type of wood to buy...these boards ended up being the perfect dept for shelves without interfering with the door, and without me having to cut them more than once.

Once I cut the boards to the proper width, I attached simple corner brackets to the wood and labeled each shelf with a unique number. 

With a pencil, I made sure each shelf was level and at the space I wanted and marked where the top of the board and screw holes were. By now I've about had it with this project and forgot to take more pictures...but imagine hammering drywall anchors into each screw hole, painting all the shelves, then screwing them into their specific spots on the wall!

I also took some of the long screws I was using and re-attached our "temporary" spice rack to the door. Since the shelves don't go beyond the doorjamb, the door still closes without issues. I also took some picture frame wire and made a bit of a "belt" to hold up those boxes on top of the spice's barely visible, but lets us open and close the door without the boxes moving at all.

Unfortunately, while the shelves freed up a lot of space and kept my canned goods in view...they did not solve the issue of losing everything in the deep pantry shelves. The above photo is current, but after finishing the shelves my pantry still looked something like this:

Part 3 is all about how I organized this small pantry on an even smaller budget!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pantry Revamp, Part 1: The prep work

It's not news that having a small pantry has been a big challenge for me, but after tons of trial and plenty of error, I finally have a setup that works! It took a lot of time and steps to get to this point, so I'm breaking this up into 3 posts. This is Part 1!

So a while ago (many months, egad!), I posted this photo:

While my husband was working from home one day, I heard a loud crash downstairs. We both ran to find that the temporary spice rack had fallen to the floor. The tiny nails I had used to hang it just weren't strong enough to hold up all those glass jars. Despite the mess here, I was thrilled to find that only 2 spice jars were actually broken.

Since it was a temporary solution anyway, I took some measurements and bought some wood, fully planning to make a new, custom shelving unit for the door. I had sketched out plans and everything, and bought all the wood I'd need....except that I've never worked with actual wood before, so I assumed that a 2x4 was 2 inches by 4 inches. For anyone else who apparently missed this big memo...wood is measured by its "green" size, before it's dried out and shrunk, so what you buy in the store is a good half inch smaller all around. The particular boards I had purchased for the door shelving turned out far too small to work, so I had to return them, and came home with some supplies to add some small shelves around the inside of the pantry instead.

Of course, as I was putting these in....I realized that the inside of the pantry was horridly dirty looking (you can see some of the odd scribbles here). The walls looked like someone had taken an entire box of crayons and scribbled all over...and I'm pretty sure this was never painted before. So, I emptied out the entire pantry and painted it.
(This was a great opportunity to throw out anything we didn't need, but it still wasn't enough. More on that later!)

This moment of hilarity happened while trying to get our extra shelf out...I had to break out the rubber mallet to get it apart. 

I also scrubbed the existing shelves, some of which were oddly colored in spots and had some gunk that wasn't ours. Ew. I'm just glad they fit in the bathtub. I tried several cleaners, but in the end a simple mixture of dish soap and baking soda with some elbow grease got them looking like new again.

Since the stains inside the pantry were so bad, I primed all the walls first, then followed up with a coat of regular white trim paint we had lying around.

I'll explain how I build and installed the new side shelves in Part 2!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Red's Quick Basil Bacon Chicken Pasta

I'm embarrassed to say that Red shared this recipe with me almost a month ago (with pictures!) and I neglected to post it until today. Now I'm craving my favorite basil I think this is dinner tonight!


Its really easy, just pasta, basil pesto, chicken and bacon. :) So easy!

Quick Basil Bacon Chicken Pasta
1 pound cubed chicken breast
6 slices precooked bacon
1 box spaghetti or other pasta (use gluten-free pasta for an easy gluten-free dinner!)
1 jar basil pesto

Put water on to boil for the pasta, and brown the chicken in another skillet over medium heat.

Boil Pasta according to the package directions.

Chop your cooked bacon and add it to the browned chicken

 Add your basil pesto to the cooked chicken and bacon right in the pan. Cook a bit longer to warm everything through!

Drain your pasta, and combine with the sauced up chicken and bacon in a large bowl. Dinner is served!


Red is now living in New York with her husband and two small children, so cooking quickly and on a tight budget plays into her recipes. I'm really excited to see what else she can add to the blog!

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Mess Under The Kitchen Sink

I'm one of "those" people who put everything under the kitchen sink. I try and rearrange the mess oh every year or so, but looking for a matching pair of dish gloves set me off to find another solution to my mess.

A trip to Big Lots and $5.00 later, I found a solution. I'm going to use the door to my laundry room which is 5 feet from the kitchen.

Gloves found. This is so much better...why didn't I do this years ago? I hope this helps some of you with your "Mess under the kitchen sink." I wonder what I can organize next!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Zucchini Hush Puppies

My husband and I like to grill fish on our outside grill, and I love to add my gluten free fresh zucchini hush puppies to the meal. This is another fun and easy way to use your garden zucchini and your family will love how it tastes. 

Here is the recipe: 
1 cup yellow corn meal, gluten free 
1 cup Oat flour, gluten free 
1 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp baking powder 
2 tsp salt 
1 tsp onion powder 
1 tbsp sugar, you can leave this out if you like 
2 small shallots fine chopped 
1 cup heaping full shredded zucchini 
1 egg 
2/3 cup milk, or more if needed

Mix the dry ingredients (corn meal through sugar) and wet ingredients (shallots through milk) in separate bowls. 

I use a cheese grater to shred my zucchini. Mix dry and wet together and roll into balls.

Using your deep fryer, fry three to four balls at a time until brown. That's it! I hope you enjoy this fun and easy recipe.