Monday, January 10, 2011

The Practical Pantry : Where?

Dill pickles, sweet lime pickles and pickled jalapenos in my pantry.

"Where in the world would I put all that food?" There you have it, the burning question of anyone who is contemplating building a food storage pantry. You may be lucky enough to have a space just for a pantry in your home. If you're like most people, that is not the case. A significant pantry is still doable for you, you just have to get creative.

If you have a designated pantry space, for me it's a small closet off of my kitchen and laundry area, you just have to clean it out (easier said than done for me) and get it organized. A friend of mine with a very large family, has a room of her home that she set up for a pantry. It's bigger than my bedroom, perfect for her family. When her husband suffered a life altering illness and was no longer able to work she fed and still feeds her family of 10 children plus 4 grown children who visit often with their spouses and kids, from her food storage. Her years of diligence blessed their family in a tough time. Amidst all the unknowns, they knew they could eat.

I have a small space but following my friend's advice, I pulled all of my food out of my kitchen and organized it in my pantry. The only food items in the kitchen are baking supplies. This idea seemed strange to me at first but has streamlined my cooking by making all my bowls and utensils easy to reach, also I can see at a glance what I have on my pantry shelves. If this is a possibility for you, get all the food but your baking supplies in your pantry space. You'll love it!

Now, for many people this isn't an option. Rarely are new homes built with any space for storing food. Our current home is the first one I have had that has a separate space. In fact, this series was inspired by my sister and her kitchen situation. Her family is working to build up a good supply of food and they quickly ran out of cabinets. My handy brother-in-law put up shelving around the kitchen and they are using that but it is a challenge to keep organized. That got me to thinking about food storage when you don't have the storage.

One option is to use one section of your kitchen for dishes, mixing bowls, pot and pans, etc. and another section for food. By keeping it in a designated chunk of space or cabinets you can see what you have and what you need to stock up on. Another option is to look around your house and see what space could be better used for storing food. A quote I love is from Amy Dacycyzn, "Would you rent the space under your bed for $50 a month?". Under my bed I have shoes, my husband's antique shotgun he inherited from his grandfather, various toys my kids dropped down there and carnivorous dust bunnies. I could fit a lot of food under my bed. And we have two bunk beds and two cribs in our house too. You could fit some food under all those beds. A hall closet? A linen closet perhaps? There are probably lots of possibilities in your house that you never thought of.

The only caveat is that the pantry space be a consistent temperature. Food should be stored in a dry ventilated place where there isn't a big temperature fluctuation. Unfortunately this rules out the garage. So the challenge is to look around your home and scout out all the places that could be converted to food storage. You will be surprised at the space you can find to store that case of canned tomatoes or 25 pound bag of sugar or in my case, the 10 pound bag of chocolate chips. Not under the bunk beds, that's for sure!


Alyson said...

Loving this!! Keep the Pantry Primers coming!!

Danelle said...

My parents put in a huge pantry when they finished our basement growing up. It didn't mean much to me then, but I sure do envy it now.

Susan said...

Boy, Audra! You've hit the nail on the head when you speak of the conundrum of storage space! I have open shelves in my kitchen. I bought different sized screw-top jars from Target to store all my staples (flour, sugar, beans, nuts, pasta). I also save the mid-sized condiment jars to store smaller quantities (pine nuts, pepitas, the like) and tuck them behind the bigger jars... Jams and jellies go back into the cardboard flats that I bought the jars in and are stored in two closets off the kitchen area ... I haven't gone to storing things in our basement or under beds because I'm afraid I'll lose touch with age and whereabouts ... canned goods are my huge problem. It's such a challenge though, isn't it?

Kristin said...

You are so smart, you know that?
Happy to be your friend.
(And glad you don't point out all my pantry inefficiencies.)

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about where you get your bulk supplies? I'm really enjoying this series, thanks for writing it!