Making the Most of Your Pantry and Under Counter Cabinets

Most of us can benefit from more storage in every room, but the kitchen, being the heart of the home, deserves special consideration.  Once, storage for food, cooking utensils, and large and small appliances, were all that a kitchen afforded the one cook in the house.  Counter space was important, too, but not as much so as it is today.  Now kitchens serve as entertainment areas as well as the food preparation and eating room.  Now, too, there may be multiple cooks in the kitchen.

Great storage, therefore, is even more important to today’s homeowner.  Old-style kitchen cabinets for food storage are more outdated now than ever, and have been replaced by pantries and pull-out shelves, which are far more practical.

What do you do, if your current kitchen doesn’t have these amenities?  Start with what you have, basic cabinets; lower cabinets will be far more efficient with pull-out shelves.   Most homeowners can retrofit the cabinets without having to break the bank.  The nice thing about pull-out shelves is you can buy them one or two at a time as your budget affords.  Having pull-out shelves allows you to utilize the entire 24 inch depth of your lower cabinets, without having to call in acrobatics to reach whatever might have slipped to the back.

Once your lower cabinets are in order, concentrate on the upper cabinets; for many of us, they are too tall to utilize more than one or two shelves effectively, so make the most of what you do have.  Using the hard-to-reach upper shelves for little-used items or large serving pieces makes the most sense.  For the shelves you can reach, try clear, vacuum sealed canisters; they come in a great variety of sizes for all your dry storage needs.  These are great for cereals, rice, crackers, and pasta; and you can easily see how much you have on hand, thus making quick work of your grocery shopping list when it’s time to restock.

You may want to keep your baking materials in one place; vacuum sealed canisters are a must here too, either clear or stainless or ceramic work nicely.  The smaller items like baking soda and powder are fine in their commercial containers and fit well into the space.  Since you likely use salt frequently, you may want to keep it in an easy-to-scoop apothecary jar for convenience.

Adding stackable wire racks to cabinets or a pantry shelf helps with cans and jars like soups and tomato products.  Once these items are faced-forward and in order, it will be simple to see and access them and record what is needed for the next stop at the grocery store.

If you are fortunate enough to have an actual pantry, keeping the above-mentioned ideas in mind will help keep your pantry well ordered.  If you happen to have a closet near-by--and I mean right near the kitchen--you can easily outfit it with some of these ideas.  Relegating a make-shift pantry to an entry hall closet is less than ideal; but remember that a retrofitted closet is going to be about 24 inches deep, so the same rules would apply regarding shelves that re too deep to access the items at the rear of the closet.  Having pull-out shelves would be most beneficial.  Having shelves custom cut to fit, measuring about 12 inches deep also works.  Lower shelves in a make-shift closet-turned-pantry can be deeper for storage of little-used large appliances, like a crock-pot, 40-cup coffee maker, or small appliances. 

All of these ideas are all simple enough for most homeowners to achieve a high level of success and a more orderly and efficient kitchen space.

Even Organizers Need a Tune Up

Sometimes décor means being better organized.  After all, if you aren’t organized, you waste time and cannot enjoy your lovely décor because you are busy searching for that thing you know you have, but cannot find.

This condition is a problem for everyone except the compulsively organized, which, by the way doesn’t apply to me and probably doesn’t apply to you.

I recently gave a talk about organizing the spaces we live in; even I was surprised at what I found in my own home.  The space under my kitchen sink was still organized, and everything that I use daily was in its place and easy to reach.  Lesser used items were relegated to the rear of the cabinet, but were easily accessed with the pull out container in which they sat.  The only improvement was a light cleaning; after the cleanser dust settles it just stays on everything until it is wiped away.  Boy I could use an app for that!

One area that was recently improved upon was my spice storage.  When we had our kitchen island replaced, I had one of those slick, narrow pull out spice cabinets installed.  While I loved it in theory, I found it to be less than idea in practice.  Small spice jars took up as much space as their taller ones, and I could not read the labels unless the top of the container was marked.  I found myself having to lift each one out to see if it was the spice I needed, which was a huge waste of time.

I found a pantry door system that is fantastic for me.  I counted the items I have stored on the back of my pantry door and discovered they numbered 73-- many more than I could store either in a drawer or in the pull-out cabinet.  Not all the 73 items are spices, but they are pantry related items and free up valuable pantry real estate.

The one area the group I spoke with, was most impressed with was the ever-present “junk drawer”.  Yes, mine was organized and does not deserve such a pejorative title; maybe it should be called the “odds and ends” drawer, but we all know every kitchen needs a junk drawer.  Organizing it makes it far less frustrating and quite a time saver in the bargain.  The key to avoiding this potential kitchen disaster is using small compartments that you can fit wall to wall and front-to-back, so there is no shifting about within the drawer.  Empty space begs to be filled, and hurried people tend to drop an item in the empty space rather than find its designated spot, thus creating the junk drawer syndrome.

The pantry door hanging system took my husband only minutes to install, and I took over fitting the baskets to suit my height.  From there it only took me less than an hour to complete.  It is not a weekend long project; actually, it took under 2 hours including the pantry shifting.

Next time: Making the Most of Your Pantry and Under the Counter Cabinets