Organizing Your Pantry
A Well-Run Pantry
How to Create Storage
Where do you store your surplus things like canned goods? I only have two lower cabinets, one under the sink and another with my pot, pans and appliances in it. My upper cabinets have my dishes, glasses, corning ware and spices. My small one-door pantry has my boxed goods. I have a 6x6x5 foot steel shelf that fits behind my back door on the wall by my garage entry door that I keep canned goods on. Keeping extra in the garage is out I live in Texas, and we all know what the heat will be like here soon. I need things to be where I can reach them easily, so the top of the fridge and under the bed are not options. What do you do?
When I moved into my house, it had a broom closet in the kitchen, but no pantry. I took out the closet accessories, painted the inside, and put up shelves. Below the bottom shelf I put a set of wire mesh drawers. Now, I have a pantry that I needed and no broom closet, which doesn't bother me at all.
We have a basement, and in the corner of my laundry room, I have two shelving units. One is used for extra toiletries. The other shelving unit holds my non-perishable extra food. I call it my "pantry" because that is what it is used for. Right now, I only have two shelves used for food. The other two shelves keep small appliances like the bread machine, waffle maker, Foreman grill, ice cream maker and some really large stock pots that won't fit in my kitchen.
On my food shelves, I have canned veggies, fruits, soups, tomato sauce and paste, catsup, mustard, BBQ sauce, spaghetti sauce, salsa, peanut butter and jelly. I also keep boxed items like cereal, crackers, cookies, pasta and mixes and tea bags. I watch those carefully for expiration dates.
I keep extra coffee, pasta, butter and sometimes cookies and crackers in my extra freezer. I keep unopened juices (bottled) in the fridge just to keep my extra fridge part full since DH and I cut back on soda.
When I lived in an apartment, I kept extra food under my bed in flat boxes. On any given day, I could pull out out-of-season clothes or some mac n' cheese.
We live in Arizona in a small-ish house with not-so-great storage, too. Does your place include a coat closet? Coats could be moved to a space in the garage (either in boxes or a hanging wardrobe). Or you could move out your coats and possibly redistribute them to bedrooms, keeping canned goods in the closet instead.
Do you have a tall dresser you could squeeze in somewhere? I had a friend who had six kids. She doubled her storage by using old fancy dressers in unusual ways to decorate her home. She stored all kinds of stuff in them. If the canned goods were too heavy for you in a dresser, you could move the cans into your pantry and use the dresser for lighter stuff.
Have you taken things out of their packaging? It is shocking how much food you can compress into your actual pantry space by taking mixes out of their boxes and storing in plastic shoe-size containers, etc. I keep my most frequently used spices, cooking sprays, and a bottle of olive oil on a Lazy Susan on my countertop next to my stove. I like spices, so I have more to store, but this frees up some space, too.
Another idea is to take some bi-fold doors and turn them into a corner-closet hideaway for some of your food. You can get bi-fold doors at Habitat for Humanity resale shops for well below the usual cost. You could put this in a bedroom if an area is not available in the kitchen or nearby.
Do you have a laundry area? Could you squeeze an extra wire shelf in there? I would use a space like that to store any pots and pans that I used only occasionally and to store anything that wouldn't be bothered by the humidity caused by the washer and dryer. This might enable you to re-purpose some of the other cabinets in your kitchen for food storage.
It sounds like you have already pared down quite a bit. If storing food is an important priority, is there something taking up space elsewhere that you no longer need? Maybe you could find ways to re-purpose other areas of closets or former video or craft storage?
Canned food should be stored in a cool, dry area to keep best, so an outside laundry area may not be the best. Do you have a corner somewhere that you can put a box, then cover it with a cloth? I saw a storage area created like this and no one could tell what it was. Or maybe you could stack cans in a corner of a closet?
Could you hang some of your pots and pans on the wall or ceiling? That would free up a bit more cabinet space for food. There are all sorts of racks and hooks you can use for this purpose.
Other than daily food that lives in my kitchen, most of my other food supply is in my medium-sized laundry room. I have room for a small chest freezer. My husband installed double-door wall cabinets over the freezer as well as the washer/dryer set. I also have a cheap "wood" bookshelf in there that is entirely used for food storage.
Even though you are in Texas, I wouldn't hesitate to use the garage, especially for staples like sugar, flour, and pasta that won't be affected by the heat. I have dry staples in #10 cans in my garage in New Mexico and haven't had any problems. I have a case of canned milk there now and am not worried about it.
A friend of mine has storage all over her house. Two things that I specifically remember were that she had canned goods in cases under furniture. She had the cans only one level high and cut the box down to that height. Then she could just slide the case out, take out a can, and slide it back.
The other thing she did was take advantage of the little space behind some of her doors. If the doorframe was even 5" away from the wall, leaving 5" behind the door when it was open, she put narrow shelves right up the wall behind where the door opened. She put the 30 ounce-size cans on it and had a lot behind her door.
Mom and Dad of 10
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