The Pantry Problem (Solved)
When I think back on the gifts that stand out, it’s always the intangibles – an in-home Indian cooking lesson, a weekend at a B&B, a sweat session with a personal trainer. The experiences may be short-lived, but the benefits linger. While many of these stand-out gifts revolve around food and travel, the latest was all about home – and being happy in it.
I was given a few hours with a Neat Method consultant as a birthday present. I sat on it for a while (my birthday is in June), hemming and hawing over how I should use the time. Should I focus on my bedroom closets? The office with a growing mountain of papers? Or should I tackle the boys’ playroom? There are just so many possible projects in this house it was tough to nail it down. So Catherine, my Neat Method consultant, suggested we walk through the entire house together and go through each of the areas one at a time. She opened cabinets and drawers and talked, I scribbled down notes furiously. By the end of her visit, I had a couple pages of great ideas and a much better looking kitchen. I have begun implementing some of Catherine’s terrific suggestions around the house and you know what? I’m enjoying the outcome. I’ll share my top five favorite tips from Catherine here, plus a few of my favorite pantry staple recipes.
Tip #1: Use baskets (I used these wire marche baskets) to neatly group like items, such as grains, beans, nuts and dried fruits.
Does your pantry look like the photo up above? Mine goes through cycles of being neat and well-organized to cluttered, too full and useless. Who knows what’s in there anyway? It’s no wonder I end up with duplicates since I can’t find anything. By grouping items into baskets, you can better contain them. It also gives you a clear idea of when you’re running low on an item and need to replenish.
Which shelves would you rather have?
Tip #2: Consolidate boxed items in one place by tossing the box and labeling the inner bag.
You can do this with cereal if you’ve got a Jerry Seinfeld-style collection. As you can see above, I have just three boxes so I didn’t do that. It’s easy. Just take the box top off and rubber band it around the inner bag so you remember what’s inside. You can do the same with baking products like sugars, for example. I have dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, powdered sugar, sugar in the raw. Too many boxes! Take them out and place in zip top bags with a label.
Tip #3: Rethink your kitchen drawers.
Are the cooking tools located close to the stove? Is the silverware drawer next to the dishwasher? Could your junk drawer use a downsize? In my case, we moved the cooking tools into the old (large) junk drawer next to the stove, relocated the silverware and used the old (small) silverware drawer as the junk drawer. Smaller drawer, less junk. Why didn’t I think of that?
Tip #4: Purge, sort, inventory and re-group.
This is a tip that can be used throughout your home. I’m in the middle of a big closet project upstairs following this very formula. Catherine and I did the same for my cooking tools. First, she emptied all the drawers (eek!). We identified broken items, duplicates and random pieces and parts that had no home. Goodbye to them. Then we sorted the remaining items into categories – sharp stuff, utensils, food storage aids – and replaced them in drawers grouping like with like. We are still getting used to the new locations, but at least we’re not running back and forth to get items that should be within reach.
Tip #5: ROYGBIV
Remember the rainbow? Red, orange, yellow, green…Roy G. Biv. Catherine suggested I reorganize my books by spine color. I gave her a pouty look that said, “Are you kidding me?” Then I tried it with the kids’ books. Not bad, not bad. And I moved onto my cookbooks. Pretty. And now I can easily find what I want because I know the spine color of all my favorite books.
You’re probably hungry after all that rearranging, aren’t you? Here are a few of my pantry favorites:
- Lentil Tomato Soup
- Warm Sesame Noodles (try with peanut butter!)
- Rosemary White Bean Soup with Barley
- Chickpea Salad
- Linguine with Pesto Rustico
- Pasta with Lentils and Kale
- Tuna Noodle Casserole
- Lemon Baked Salmon with Broccolette and Bulgur
- Shrimp Enchiladas with Corn and Black Beans
- Panko and Fresh Herb Crusted Chicken Breasts
- Spaghetti Frittata
- Herb and Scallion Frittata
What tips and tricks do you have for keeping your kitchen organized and neat?