Thursday, January 12, 2012

You don't HAVE to put shoes in them you know...

I had 4 loads of laundry to fold, a dishwasher to un-load, a birthday party to plan for Daughter, some e-mails to reply to and phone calls to make but I could no longer endure the chaos. The pantry needed a serious re-takeover. The fridge was bulging with leftovers. Sometimes the need to bring order to those places we frequent multiple times a day overrides my desire to finish other things I am in the middle of.

Instead of doing all that other stuff, I began tossing out leftovers with fuzzy stuff growing on them, reorganizing the condiments shelf, stacking yogurts and divvying up the produce/meat/cheese in their appropriate drawers. And I was winning the battle over all those uneaten treats. You know the battle. That battle between "Oh, but it was so thoughtful of so-and-so to drop this by and I don't want to seem unappreciative. But looking at these sweets is giving me a headache and the kids REALLY don't any more of it."

You have my blessing. Take those goodies and toss them. Heavens, I was finding Halloween candy and tossing it. It felt so good. Is it wasteful? Yes. But sometimes you have to trash perfectly fine Tootsie Pops to accomplish the greater good. The greater goods actually. 1. You have space on your counter again and you can see what actual nutritious items you have in your pantry to make dinner (or what you are missing). 2. You are achieving the goal of eating more of the nutrient-rich foods and less of the junk. It's January, folks. We all resolute to eat healthier and cut out some sugar. Even I, the self-proclaimed Oreo-aholic and the believer that Chocolate Cake -- yes, it's a proper noun in my own personal stylebook-- can make almost anything better, sincerely desires to take better care and notice of what I am putting into my body.  Trashing the goodies helps.   I know it was so sweet of Phyllis to make that toffee. But it's been a while so that toffee is probably stale.  I'm sure there are lots of perfectly great things to do with junk food(compost even?!) but sometimes you just need to get it out of your life.

After tossing old Halloween candy and the like, I also needed to get real with some of the items I had in my pantry (expiration dates give wonderful guidance).  I have a husband who likes to go backpacking every year with his dad and brothers. Each year he over-purchases on food items he is going to bring. These food items are the ones that really only taste good if you're camping. Those needed to go. That food goes to the Food Bank and less guilt is involved.

I also had to take back over the back of my pantry door. I don't have a huge walk-in pantry, so the real estate in my pantry is precious. {I will acknowledge that this is a respectable size. I have lived in places and have survived on much smaller. I don't want to sound ungrateful. But, in my perfect world, I would have a walk-in pantry. } I have this wonderful contraption that has helped free up cabinet and pantry shelf space in a way I never before thought. No tools necessary. No trip to the hardware store. Just grab it during your next trip to your favorite (or un-favorite but you still go there) big-box store. The problem with this, however, is if you don't stay on top of it, the careless eyes and hands of Husbands, Sons, Daughters and Babies could un-do the organization of this contraption pretty easily in a matter of moments. I needed to re-organize this in a bad way.

Here she is, post-overhaul:

{Take note of the mini candy bars. I am sure many of you can relate to this: Daughter had a birthday and Grandpa's package came today. It was filled to the brim of goodies. I only got to enjoy the period of "no junk food within eye-or-hand-reach for the children" for about a week when I re-organized the pantry and dumped it of a lot of the junk. 1 step forward, 8 steps back! Some things never last!}

I don't take credit for this idea. My friend Carrie, mother of six, inspired me with her use of this in her own kitchen. She mostly uses hers to house snacks for the kids (granola bars, crackers, etc) and uses another shoe holder in a different closet for crafting and art supplies.  In any case, it's a great place to put all that awkward-sized  food you have without cluttering up your cabinets and pantry.  I recommend the clear shoe organizers simply because you can see what's in them.  I think I may go the extra mile and label these to help the others in my family know what goes where. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to read my mind.

Would I prefer to have this? Yes. I think so.

Over-the-Door Large Pantry Rack
courtesy of Bed Bath and Beyond

But the shoe organizer works for me now. {Bed Bath and Beyond has a selection of these great pantry door racks ranging in price from $19.99 to $34.99}

Here are some other helpful solutions to maximize your pantry, and keep your food fresher, longer....

Love, love love these containers from Ikea. Every time I go I want to buy them out of all their clear plastic food storage. Not only do they maximize pantry space (if used correctly), I just think it makes food look so much more attractive. I really should get to labeling these. But for now I think I can differentiate my basmati and brown rice from the pine nuts.

Clearly, I need to beef up my short-term food storage. I have a funny story about that I'll have to share with you sometime.  I do love my Shelf Reliance cansolidators! I highly recommend Shelf Reliance for not only your shelving needs, but also your actual food storage. The stuff is delish, it's easy to order, and super friendly on your pocket book. 

Why we didn't use these tiered racks in all the tiny apartments we lived in (that had NO food pantry in them) I will never know. I am just so thrilled I have them now. Expandable. Bed Bath and Beyond and Wal-mart sell them.

Cereal stays much fresher when I keep it in these babies. And you can buy your cereal in bulk and throw away that annoying bag it comes in. I think I got these at Ikea...but maybe Wal-Mart. Either place carries them.

Here she is. I would really like to maximize the space I have on the floor of my pantry. I'm thinking a basket for the chips and perhaps some stackable open-front crates like these... 

I welcome your ideas! When I come up with something brilliant, or even mediocre, I'll be sure to share. 

This is not in my pantry-- but I thought I would share with you part of my "baking station."  This is just one little shelf in a cabinet just above the counter where I keep my Kitchen Aid. All of these containers  (minus the butter and sugar dishes) were purchased at Ikea. I keep the refills for these ingredients in an upper shelf. This pictured shelf is very accessible, a key thing to remember when laying out where supplies and ingredients will go in your kitchen. 

 Take back your pantry, your fridge and your cabinets!  You will be better equipped to meal-plan, and waste less food when you can actually see the food you do have.

Happy Organizing!


TJ and Mandi said...

I like the idea of using the shoe rack for the pantry. I have been contemplating using it for all of the kids art supplies. As for the bottom of my pantry (at my last place), I just used a plastic crate that fit perfectly under the last shelf. I could just pull out the crate and it became a "sliding drawer" of sorts . . . still not the best option, but it made it so I didn't have food on the floor and so I didn't have to dig for food in the bottom back corner without any light (it was hard to see in mine on the bottom).

Michelle said...

Mandi! So great to hear from you. I just may have to steal your idea TONIGHT. I have clear bin just waiting to be used... I can use that until I get around to actually purchasing the other supplies. Thanks mucho!! :)

Teri's Life said...

Love the shoe rack idea! I will have to try something like that. I even like the crate on the bottom as a sliding shelf.

One of these days I will be the one to organize our pantry and shock the pants off of my hubby! (He is the one who usually does this)

Amy P said...

Okay Michelle, now I KNOW that this is your little niche! :) I'm going to be an avid reader. Thanks for the ideas. I can't wait to start organizing to my hearts content! :)

Iona said...

Hi there, great blog name! Did you know you were mentioned in the Guardian magazine at the weekend? Here's the link:

Great organising tips.