I’ve always dreamed of a large walk in pantry. You know those ones you see on Houzz, or on HGTV. The funny thing is when I first started in the world of blogging my blog was called The Savings Pantry. Bet you didn’t know that right? It only lasted like a week, until I changed the name again, and again before I finally settled on Mother Thyme which thankfully stuck. My concept was going to be sharing recipes that utilized items in your pantry on top of deals and coupons you could find on products on sale at the store.
In my little world I have kitchen cupboards which some duplicate as my “pantry”. I’ve shared pictures of my kitchen before. It’s cute and efficient but I would love more square footage. I keep it as organized as possible since I want to open the cabinets and see them cluttered, that would drive me crazy. And since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking for the kids, creating recipes for MT I need it to be efficient as possible. I use one cupboard and a long, narrow cupboard as my pantry. I also have one thin cupboard near the stove for just spices.
No matter if you have a large walk in pantry or use cupboard space as I do for store food, having neat and organized will help making meals, and grocery lists a lot easier.
Late last year I grabbed my first box of OXO pop containers. They changed my life. I got on a kick buying them because they are a big help to organize your pantry. If you keep food in boxes, that usually allows air into the food, which could make it go stale faster. Having them in containers, whether the OXO containers I love, or whatever ones you prefer, you can see how much food you have left, you can stack the containers on top of each other and utilizes the space better.
Start with a clean slate. Clean out your pantry and toss anything that is expired. Keep a box for canned goods you may not use and take them to a food bank. Sometimes a good pantry purge will help give you a clean slate to start with and use up items you have had sitting around in the pantry.
Substitute. Have a recipe that needs corn syrup but you don’t have any on hand? Before heading out and buying corn syrup you may only use once in a while substitute it for an item you may already have in your pantry. Sure, it may alter the recipe somewhat, but if substitution is allowed you save space and money on products you don’t use often or don’t have on hand.
Corn syrup- Substitute 1 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup water
Dark Corn Syrup- Substitute 1 cup brown sugar plus 1/4 cup water
You can also use maple syrup, honey or agave nectar in place of corn syrup. It will alter the flavor but a good alternative if you don’t have corn syrup on hand.
Plain Bread Crumbs- Substitute plain bread crumbs for the equal amount of corn flakes or crushed crackers.
Buttermilk- Substitute buttermilk with one cup low fat or whole milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and then use as needed.
Self Rising Flour- Substitute self rising flour with 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Cream Fraiche- Substitute cream fraiche with sour cream.
Vanilla Bean- Substitute vanilla bean with a few teaspoons vanilla extract.
Sour Cream- Substitute sour cream with plain yogurt or cream fraiche.
To have a efficient pantry that is utilized, make sure you can see everything in it. If you have cans stuffed in the back, chances are you won’t see use them. Group staple pantry items together and label it. I cook a lot with tomato sauce, paste, crushed tomatoes. Have that stuff all in one basket, or bin. You can pull the bin from your pantry when cooking to get the staple ingredients you need. This also helps when you are making your grocery list to check bins to see what you need. Even if you don’t use bins, group common ingredients together so you can easily see what you need. Some common groups would be snacks (chips, bars), breakfast foods (cereal, rolled oats, steel-cut oats), lunch items to help making lunches easier.
Create bins for each meal for the week. This will make busy weeknights easy after a long day instead of looking through the pantry for the ingredients. If you are making Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas, have the ingredients in a bin, so you just grab the bin and cook. You could even take it a step further and have the spices already measured out an in little jar(s) to toss in when the recipe indicates. Prep once after grocery shopping, and making dinner during the week will be that much easier.
Utilize space on the door. If your pantry has space on the door, place an over the organizer to hold more items, even for your storage bags, foil etc…
Make a pantry checklist. Keep a list of your staple items you use often. When you are running low or need to add it to your grocery list you can note it on your checklist. Add this to the inside door of your pantry so you can easily check items off your list.
Don’t buy items you don’t use, even if they are on sale. I am one that always is looking for a good bargain. Even if I stack a coupon with a store coupon and can get the item for free, why do I want to waste the real estate in my pantry if it’s not going to be used. Sure its free but it is costing space in your pantry. Only buy things that you are going to use.
Stick with one brand at a time. Do you really need 4 open boxes of cereal? Stick to one or maybe even two in the pantry. Use it up before replenishing with more.
Keep healthy snacks for the kids on lower shelves. Kids are more likely to grab what they first see. If they just see cookies and chips they will tend to go for those items first. Keep trail mix, fruit, veggies and other healthy after school snacks where they can grab those. Keep the cookies on higher shelves for the occasional treat.
Having an organized pantry will save you money. If you only keep items that you use in your pantry you will not only use it but items will not go to waste or expire. Shop for what you need for the week. If you are thinking about making a recipe but it’s not on the menu, wait to buy the ingredients when it is planned for. Don’t buy it if you aren’t going to use it. Use up the ingredients on hand first.
Use the seat in the grocery cart for any extras that may not be on this list. Keep everything you need in the basket. You can evaluate before you check out with any of those impulse purchases that are sitting in the seat if you really want them.
Quick and easy pantry recipes. If you have items in your pantry you want to use up, here are few recipes to help use up those ingredients on hand.
Baked Beans- Why by canned baked beans, when they are just as easy to make yourself and most items you may already have on hand. Pantry items include- molasses, brown sugar, tomato paste, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, navy beans and common spices.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce- Why buy bottles of barbecue sauce that takes up real estate in the pantry. Whip it up yourself in a matter of minutes. Pantry items include- ketchup, worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, a little brown sugar, lemon and common spices.
Pizza Sauce- For your next pizza night, make your own sauce in no time with just a can of tomato sauce and spices you already have on hand. Pantry items include- olive oil, tomato sauce, tomato paste, a little sugar and common spices.
Maple-Nut Granola- Instead of buying packages of granola, make it yourself with common ingredients already on hand. Pantry items include- rolled oats, coconut flakes, nuts, brown sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil and dried fruit.
If you like my chalkboard pantry printables I created for my storage containers, they are available to download at Mothertime Marketplace.
For get more organizing tips to help organize your space and life in Jennifer Ford Berry’s book Organize Now!: A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life and connect with Jennifer on her site jenniferfordberry.com.