The holidays have complete;y thrown our internal calendar out of whack. Which is surprising because it’s not like we go to work or anything. Every day is like Groundhog Day in our house: a mixture of work, eating, being lazy, playing with cats. But with Christmas and New Years falling on Wednesday, we’ve been thrown off kilter. Also work has been extremely slow, as in non-existent with the holidays. Things better pick up soon or we’ll be shopping for real estate agents before the snow falls. So with all the random mid-week holidays and free time, we were able to take advantage of the situation.
Wednesday we took the opportunity to start off the new year by organizing the pantry in the kitchen. Actually it started out as a quick task to clean out the two bins we keep for candy. We got a lot of candy for Christmas and the bins were already full of old candy. Often times we’d hold onto candy because it was “cute” or whatever and then never eat it; it would go “bad” basically. Well for the new year our goal was to throw out all the old candy, put the new candy in the bins and actively eat the stuff. We will only have candy we like from now on, and we will eat it.
As I said, cleaning the candy bins turned into organize the pantry; it desperately needed re-organization. Organization is always a good new year’s resolution, to boot, right? So I figured I’d take the opportunity to talk about our pantry. Maybe you already have a pantry or are thinking of putting one in, here are my thoughts and advice.
Pantries are one of the best assets of any house. Some may think a pantry is a luxury but it really isn’t. They can be as simple as small as a large cabinet or closet, or as large as a small room with multiple doors. Regardless, I believe every house would benefit from having a pantry. They are a great place to unload groceries, store supplies, and help organize the kitchen and beyond. Nearly every house I’ve lived in has had a pantry in one form or another.
When we were planning our current home we carved a pantry out of a central run of space between the Kitchen and front hall. The first sketches had the pantry located towards the front door. We then moved the pantry into the Kitchen space for a couple of reasons. The design of the kitchen we were emulating had a spot perfect for the pantry, fitting perfectly into our floor plan. The other reason for this location was easy access from the kitchen itself. We have very little storage in our kitchen, so we needed a “working” pantry.
In our last house we had a large (6′ x 4′) walk in pantry right in the mud room off the garage. It was perfect for unloading groceries, but drove me insane when I was cooking because of all the back and forth from Kitchen to pantry. The pantry location in the new house is wonderful. It’s a little further away from the driveway and front door, so it’s a longer haul to bring in groceries, but on the plus side we can set bags on the counters and unload them into the pantry, freezer and refrigerator while standing in basically one place.
How big your pantry is depends on a lot of factors. My preference is to carve out an actual “room”. If you can’t do that then use an existing cabinet or install a pantry cabinet. In that case size is determined for you. So assuming you can craft a small pantry room, size is up to your personal taste and space available. The nice thing is, you’re going to maximize all of the space for storage, so even if yours is a small pantry, do not fret. The rule here is, think about what you’re going to store the pantry, where you want it to be, and how much space are you willing to carve out. As long as you have at least a few feet in each direction, enough that you can step inside, you’ll likely be satisfied.
At the other end of the spectrum, you can go as large as you want. The benefit here is that the pantry can start to take on more tasks such as storing dinnerware, counter appliances and even have some integrated goodies such as a wine refrigerator, or a baking station. Your imagination, and wallet, are the only limits. Go for it, if you got it, I say.
Our pantry is relatively tiny at about 3′ x 3-1/2′. Having lived with our space for some time now, I can say we’ve been happy making this it work for our busy family of four. Here is a diagram of the pantry:
When it comes to a successful pantry it goes without saying that you’re going to need shelves of some kind to store all of your supplies. If you have the space you can even consider installing cabinets and countertops. For our room we had enough space for built-in shelves, made from 3/4″ plywood. Another option is you can use stock wire shelves, we had them in our old house for example. If you do that, plan on cutting some 1/4″ plywood to rest on top of some of the shelves that will hold items that could fall through the “cracks” in the wire shelves.
For vertical spacing, I just measured the set we had in the old house, which worked well for us for a nearly a decade. Take a look at the diagram, you may want more or fewer shelves.
The overarching priority in the design of your space should be maximizing every square….cubic…inch you have available to you. In our case I designed the shelves to be “L” shaped, with a deeper section as you are facing the pantry, and shallower sections off to the right side. Thinking three dimensional-ly I went a step further and made the bottom two shelves even deeper in the front facing sections. Beyond the shelves we used the 3″ of space to the left for shallow items: spices above, a broom, dustpan, and rack for food wrap below.
The key is to use ALL the space.
If you have a door to your pantry, make sure you leave a little reveal space to each side of the door. In our case the 3″ to the left is perfect for small stuff, and the 10″ is great for cans and bottles. Vary the dimensions and locations of shelves and organizers. The items you are storing in the pantry are varied in shape, size and quantity so your shelving should be as well. One note of annoyance, if you have “L” shaped shelves like we do, you’ll have a “dead” corner on each shelf. It’s difficult to figure out what to store there, and even more difficult to access it. Not a deal breaker but be aware. Maybe even stagger your shelves to avoid this in some instances.
For our door, we chose a handy pocket door. It’s open pretty much all of the time, but we can slide it close when we want to impress company. A swing door would be in the way all of the time when it was open.
Great, so you’ve got your pantry. Now you need to organize it. Depending on what you’re using the space for, or what you’re storing in there, how you organize it will vary. For our family, this is how I like to organize it:
We try to keep the items we use every day towards the middle. Not surprisingly, the lesser used items or items that are surplus reside way at the top or bottom. Keep in mind, little hands become deft at gaining access to things they shouldn’t in a well-organized pantry, so keep unhealthy snacks, alcohol, hazardous items and candy (if you want) away from where children can access them. Even with the smaller size of our pantry, we can store a few weeks of supplies in there. Items such as appliances, garbage bags and cleaning supplies are stored elsewhere in the Kitchen and house.
Storing supplies in labeled bins is a great way to use every inch of your pantry. Items like rice, flour, sugar and other “commodity” are fine in see through, stack-able containers. Pull out what you need then put them back for tidy storage. We also use bins for candy and even have a “snack” bin for loose bags of crackers and cookies. This way we don’t have a ton of half empty boxes taking up space and creating visual clutter. If you’re worried about spoilage, print the expiration date and place that on the container, along with a label denoting the contents.
Once everything is in its place, enjoy! You’ll rearrange things as necessary and maybe even add a few shelves or organizers here and there. In our case I mounted some little shelves we had lying around from IKEA to set spices on. I’d like to get a little wire organizer for cat treats in fact and mount it to the wall above the food wrap. So, like anything it’s never really done. But you’ll never regret having a pantry, no matter how large or small.
We’ve been hit with a lot of snow and cold this week. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment. Stay warm and safe people.