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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Pantry Organization

Frugal Kitchens 101

My pantry at the house we just sold was about 8' x 10' with rather low, (about 5')  open beamed ceilings.  It was home to two freezers as well as copious amounts of food.  The pantry in our new home was formerly a bedroom on the lower level.  It is about 10' x 11' with a full 9' ceiling.  There is a window that is really not desirable in a pantry but that is easily dealt with.  The pantry has a full sized bedroom closet for additional storage and will be home to two freezers, two industrial shelve units (one came from a grocery store) and a couple of smaller knock off metal industrial shelving units.  It will house an eighteen to twenty-four month supply of food as well as small kitchen appliances and equipment.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on how I am organizing my new pantry [pictures later this week].

A well stocked pantry is one of the best safety nets in today's poor economy but it rather useless if it is not well organized.  The reasons being are, first you have to be able to find what you are looking for to eliminate duplicate purchases and, second you have to have a good rotation of food to prevent your carefully accumulated food stock from spoiling before it can be used.  Here are a few ways I organize my pantry:

  • metal industrial shelving - This type of heavy duty wire shelving (eg. Alera available through Sam's Club or Home Depot) can hold 600 lb per shelf which means I can load the entire shelf unit with pretty much anything I want.  I also have a heavy duty, metal shelving unit that came from a grocery store that can hold a lot more weight per shelf.  The smaller, knock-off Alera units hold less but are great for dry goods.  I use S-hooks to hang pots, pans, utensils and food items as needed to extend the storage capacity of the shelving.
  • like with like - Some home organizers recommend organizing a pantry with foods you cook together (eg. everything to make a pasta meal) but I don't like that method.  Instead, I organize according to similarity, much the same way a grocery store is organized.  For example, all rices together...all flours together...all baking needs together.  It makes a bit more sense to me.  
  • labels - Labels become extremely important with a larger food pantry.  At any given time I have several boxes of home canned foods waiting to be moved onto shelves as they become available.  I label the front of each box with the contents, year made and number of jars using green painter's tape and a Sharpie then stack two to three cases high on the bottom shelf of my heavy duty industrial shelving.  I label each jar of home canned food with the contents, month and year it was canned.  I do the same for anything I freeze or dry or any container holding food. 
  • systematic - I am very systematic about pantry storage, keeping a running list of what I need as items are used, buying when on sale then stocking enough to get to the next sale.  Home canned foods are stocked in the quantity to get from one growing season to the next.  The list is created by noting when I'm down to the last two or three items of that particular food so as to not run out entirely. This is a good way of determining how many jars of a certain food I need to can as well.
  • rotation - It is very important that the food stored in the pantry is constantly rotated.  I put newly acquired food whether purchased or home canned/dried to the back so older food gets used first. 
  • the floor - My pantry room floor is laminate wood and while the danger of flooding is low, anything stored on floors is in plastic pails or bins.  Floor space is ideal for stacking empty canning jars and bulk dried food purchases.  Everything is stored around the perimeter of the room leaving the centre of the room with ample space for unloading newly acquired foods as well as easy access to the stored foods.
  • the walls - I use a variety of organizing baskets and hooks on the walls to utilize what would be otherwise wasted storage space.  The 3M removable hooks work well as do the screw in C-hooks.  
  • the ceiling - Unlike my former pantry with a beam ceiling, my new pantry has a finished ceiling.  I plan on hanging a dowel for drying herbs from the garden.
  • the window - Windows are not recommended in any pantry as light can cause certain foods to deteriorate faster.  If a window is present it is recommended that it be blacked out but I have a bit more interesting plan.  The window is above one of the freezers.  My husband is going to build a wood frame with shelves around the window where I can grow potted herbs and start seeds.  On the room side he is putting a room darkening shade so the window side that gets good light will be producing food while the pantry side is protected from the light.  The shade allows for easy access to water my mini indoor garden. 

2 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

Thanks for all this good information, GG. And what an interesting idea!
Never had a pantry that big! Lots of good ideas here. :)

Anji said...

I wish I had a pantry! My mum had one. You are fortunate to have so much space.

Now that there is no danger of over heating from the sun, I started storing food for Christmas in the loft yesterday. I store basics too, so that my budget can concentrate on fresher Christmas goodies nearer the time.