Thursday, April 4, 2013
The Great Pantry Makeover
Cooking, cooking cooking, day in, day out, that's what I do. I don't actually mind, mostly, and I want to do it (actually, I want to do it much better, but that's a topic for another day); I want to use up all that good garden produce, and bake from real ingredients - and the children, well, they bake as a recreational activity, which I feel is so much better than tennis lessons. The thing is, my pantry is a terrible, non-functioning mess. The Man, who runs a business, is all about systems that function properly, and continuous improvement of those systems for maximum efficiency (see, hon, I listen, I really do). Well, considering all the time I spend in the kitchen, I am thinking that maybe this system should get a little more efficient.
At the moment, what we have is a basic structure of where to put things - although some things live in at least two different places - but there isn't quite enough room, so it is too tempting to just toss items...somewhere. This has been not working properly for too long, so now is the time to change. I consulted the efficiency guru. He said there was too much in the cupboard. I said, I know that. Der. I need a plan. He said, get rid of the recipe books. Two layers of anything, he said, is one too many. (Can you see the recipe books on the second shelf up, behind all those jars of coffee and tea bags and crackers? Can you imagine how annoying it is to get a book out?) Well, I said, where to put them? There is, as you can see, no room at the inn. He said, they are books aren't they, put them in the bookshelf. I said, but the bookshelf is all the way down the hall way. He said, but now the books are all the way behind the coffee. We had a competition, and lo and behold, it was quicker to get a book out of the book case down the hallway, than to get the coffee, the crackers and the teabags out of the cupboard, and then the recipe book. OK, sometimes it takes a different perspective. So, I severely curtailed my recipe book collection (we all know I don't cook new food anyway), and then I decluttered a few more books from the bookcase (the scary thing about decluttering is it becomes ridiculously easy after a while. It doesn't even hurt. I can see how people become minimalists...). Easy as that, two feet of clear space in the pantry.
Then I took everything out of the pantry and put it all over the floor...
...and cleaned all the shelves. Ho hum. And started at the top. Only stipulation - only use what I have already for storage. No new stuff. Luckily, our shed was filled with enough old wicker baskets to start a high-end green grocer's shop, and not an inconsiderable number of plastic crates I have bought over the years and been unable to part with.
Originally, this top shelf was full of little plastic pots of tiny amounts of ingredients for things like muesli, or dried fruit for school lunches. They took up lots of space, and I could never find anything. Then I had an efficiency moment of my own! Everything in a big tub, in little bags.
Which left room for the cake box (v. imp), and a mini crate of muesli bars (still trying to wean children off those, with variable success). A mini wicker basket of spices, and another wicker basket of obscure items like walnuts in the shell.
Now the other side. The shelves of this pantry are very deep, and I have a lot of food, so I couldn't avoid two layers of 'stuff', efficiency expert notwithstanding, but I made it as simple as possible. The tubs behind are all the same family - pulses and grains. And my most used, rice and lentils, are super easy to get at. Next to the pantry is a little slice of bench space to park stuff like the olive oil on so that I can pull out the dried chick peas. Should I need them. Ever.
Next shelf is all about baking.
This hasn't changed much. Behind there are two big tubs that hold 5kg of flour each, plain and wholemeal. In front are all the sugars. They were originally scattered around a bit, now all in one place. I do have to lift them out to get at the flour, but pulling the flour tubs out is a two hand job anyway. And really, I mostly need sugar when I need flour... I love my flour scoop, by the way. The Man put it in my Christmas stocking, years ago when we thought we still needed extra stuff at Christmas.. It's great to scoop flour into the scales.
And on the right, all the rest of the baking gear.
At the back, oats, coconut, cocoa, next to that, choc chips and other indispensable baking aids in the plastic crate. Right at the back, the dry goods I don't use often - semolina, cornflour, rice flour, and in front of them, another plastic crate with sugar substitutes - golden syrup, treacle, molasses. In the wicker basket, baking additives, vanilla, baking powder etc. I tried to get all the like things together to make baking easier. In fact, I often take the whole basket out, and the crate behind, and just sit them on the bench while I'm baking.
In front are the self raising flour and the icing sugar. I've worked out I can store 12kg of flour on this shelf, and about 4kg of sugar!
Down we go again. Next stop, a bit of DIY.
I have always stored my breadboards here, for about two years since the kitchen was put in, and they have constantly fallen over onto the scales, and I have constantly mentioned how much I would like The Man to come up with a solution. Well, after two years, it took him about 15 mins to knock up this divider shelf from some left over melamine in the shed. Thanks, darling. In the past I have had big plastic boxes, shoved somewhere, full of the baked treats that the girls make. But I have decided that less is more. I found these two jars in the shed, and that will be all the sweet treats available, with the rest in the freezer. You think twice before you take the last macaroon.. at least, you should...
Are you getting tired yet? Have a cup of tea.
Yes, there is a lot of tea here. But I need it all. I rather like this basket. I wonder where I got it?
Coffee, tea, crackers. One of the reasons I need some wiggle room in the pantry is that when things are on sale, I buy a lot at once. One of the problems in the past has been that I have shoved things in the bottom shelf at the back, and they have disappeared, so I go buy more. But now they are found, and I don't think I need any more coffee beans for a while.
Nearly there now. Sauces and condiments all in a basket on the left. They used to be all just stood about, loitering with intent, and I couldn't see what was at the back (the naughty ones always stand at the back). Now I can pull the basket out a bit and find what I'm after.
Two more baskets, one in the back corner, full of pasta and crackers.
One full of cans of tomatoes and chickpeas and baked beans.
And pineapple chunks which Posy likes to eat for breakfast..
Now, oils at the back, the onions and garlic at the front. Need more onions.
Whew, last shelf now. Well, the floor really. When we had the kitchen built I asked for the bottom of the pantry to be floor boards so I could just sweep it out when I swept the kitchen. Until now though, there has been a big wicker basket in this bit, full of all the things that didn't fit anywhere else. It has now been banished, and I brought down an old garage sale wine rack from the shed.
And last of all, the potato basket. This can hold 10kg of potatoes, although it doesn't feel like it today..
The giant breadboard, and the grill tray, and we're done. What a mammoth effort that was. But I can reveal to you now, that this exercise in efficiency actually took place about three weeks ago. And it is working out well. We are putting things away. The fact that everything similar is grouped together means that the children can put away the grocery shopping without creating chaos, and it is really easy to see what we are running out of, or not..
I love it! I can't believe it took two years in a brand new kitchen to work out how to make some cupboard space work. Hey ho, I'm a bit slow, but now I am thinking about all of the other cupboard spaces in the house...