Tuesday, August 31, 2021

My Happy Pantry

Welcome to my happy pantry, where imperfections are tolerated 
as long as their labels are facing forward. 

You know what I like?

A neat, clean, well organized and easy to use pantry. And I'm not gonna lie. I like a pantry that has a certain sense of style. 

You know what I don't like?

Spending a gazillion dollars on trendy organizers, and styling out a pantry so pretty that I can't use it without marring its pristine perfection.

So as is always the case, as I plowed through my annual summer pantry sort-out, I've been keeping my sights set on that happy medium.

Granted, this space has been reasonably organized for the past few years. I mean, after living in this house for more than three decades, you'd think I'd know where to toss the soup cans, right? But as life evolves - and boy, does it ever - so evolves my pantry, and in my inexhaustible brain, there's always a better solution lurking just out of reach, and so I march on, doggedly determined to improve my storage system.

wheat flour | white flour | sugar | powdered sugar | white rice | brown rice

spices in the back | dog treats | paper napkins | salt and peppa 

oils | sauces | vinegars 

Up on the top shelf, my baking basics got an upgrade this year. Gone are my circa-1986 plastic bins and may they rest in peace after serving me so well. In their place, I splurged on some new plastic bins that offer the advantages of a slim silhouette that I can grab with one hand, and lids that are both secure and easy to pop on and off. I love them.

I've considered labeling these new gents, but honestly, I don't readily grasp the point of labeling clear containers. I mean, isn't it easy enough just to look and see what's inside, rather than reading a label? But then again, I'm the person who recently dumped a quarter cup of powdered sugar into a unsuspecting roux sauce just as my brain was whispering, "Are you sure that's flour?" so maybe I should take all the help I can get. 

My spice storage stays the same, with all my dudes lined up in their original bottles rather than decanted into some snazzy custom glassware. Sorry, I know other people can make that work but my life is too short to rebottle my spices. But then again, I do love the pleasing uniformity of a matching spices, so I buy all the same brand of spices as proof of my commitment to elegance and beauty. 

Of course, a few years ago when I decided to commit to Spice Island and slowly weeded out all the other visually jarring brands, Spice Island up and redesigned their labels. So now my spice shelf looks like the infidels have invaded once again. Alas.

But the Big News of the 2021 Pantry Makeover Season begins on the third shelf down from the top. 

See the white trays that fill the shelf, dividing one big wide open range land of a shelf into three manageable corrals? Well. They got a bit of a face lift this year. 

You know what's better than a satisfying painting project?
A FAST and satisfying painting project. 

These super functional fellows began their lives at Target as simple unfinished wood trays designed for crafting purposes. They've been living it up in my pantry for about five years now, still in their natural  pine state.

Until this summer, when I brazenly dumped their contents out onto my kitchen counters, turned my back on that outrageous mess, and marched them out to the garage for a go with the paintbrush.

The aesthetic of the wood was fine but the white much more effectively bounces the light around inside my often-shadowy pantry and for that reason alone, I dig the new look.

oils | sauces | vinegars 

cans | sweet things | cereals and grains

water bottles | nuts and dried fruits | boxes and big bags

These trays help so much in communicating my organization system to the other people who use this space. Since Covid reared its ugly head in March 2020, my husband has been doing all the grocery shopping (under my direction, of course) and puts the new stock away before I even tiptoe out of my bed. With the help of my sparkling white trays, and several long-winded but entirely fascinating training lectures, he now at least gets the new stuff into the right box.

I call that a win. 

But like any good system, a pantry needs some breathing room. There are always gonna be days when you stock up on, oh let's say five bags of Trader Joe's popcorn, because your second born is coming in for a long visit and she lives for popcorn, but you don't necessarily have an official popcorn overflow section worked into your pantry design. Well, that's the job of the bottom right-hand tray in my system, and I must say, it works like a charm. 

* * * * *

Of course, the delightful irony of my pantry is that, thanks to my new eating regime, I partake of almost none of these foods. Personally, all I need to feed myself are the spices, oils, sauces, and maybe a couple vinegars. 

But life is a journey best traveled together, and my people do like to eat. And so I shall continue cooking whatever they want, and stocking up on all their favorites in my happy pantry 

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