We’re onto week two of getting organized in the new year! Last week we started off with daily routines, some money-saving/time-saving apps, and my pegboard/inspiration board. There’s more I want to do and share in the office, but only so much time and the kitchen needed attention!
While I have a few goals for the new year, I focused mostly on getting up at 5:00 am every day last week so that I could carve out time for the blog and other work I need to get done in the day. Now that I’m working outside the home, it’s just tough to squeeze it all in, and I knew that consistently getting up early was my best bet for getting to do the things I really wanted and needed to do in a day. I’m happy to say I did pretty darn good! I got up Monday at 5:00 with plenty of reasons to go back to bed floating through my brain, but I ignored them. Tuesday was the worst day…my husband and I both overslept bigtime. We’re not sure what happened to my alarm (I checked, it was on), but we shook it off and got back to it the next day. Wednesday I got up at 5:00 again, this time no excuses, no groaning in my head. I was just ready to work! By the end of the week, though, I was getting tired. I went back to work Wednesday after Christmas break, and Brad and I weren’t getting to bed by 9:00 like we usually do (and need to do for me to happily get up at 5:00…this girl needs her 8 hours!). I was able to oil up and push through the start of a sore throat and other signs that I haven’t quite slept enough. Thursday Brad and I laid in bed until 5:30 but technically we were awake…just being lazy…and Friday I snoozed 15 minutes. Not perfect, but not bad. I posted on the blog FIVE times (more than my goal of at least three!), got my inspiration board off to a good start and reorganized my pegboard.
My word-of-the-year pushed me through the week, and when I had moments where I wanted to not do anything, I told myself that I just needed to START. It pushed me through the morning wake-up and it pushed me to workout and participate in a plank challenge. Again, it wasn’t perfect but I STARTed, and will continue to work towards where I want to be, not making excuses but yet gracefully allowing for life to happen…because it will.
This week I knew I wanted to get going on the kitchen. The kitchen and pantry are typically the first spaces I organize in the new year because a lot of time is spent fixing meals, doing dishes, and finding a snack…and because no matter how well I have it organized six months before, people start putting things back willy-nilly, and shelves and containers get dusty and dirty. I also like to organize for how I want to eat, which means purging the processed foods that crept in over the holidays, and putting healthy meal and snack ideas where I’ll easily see them.
I spent most of the morning yesterday putting the Christmas stuff away (which took way longer than I estimated), so by the time lunch rolled around and I was ready to start on the pantry organization, motivation was not quite there. I ate, took a brief siesta, and then told myself I needed to START. I knew that once I got going, momentum would kick in and it would be good. And I did, it did, and it was. Since I decided to not just wipe shelves down and put things back similarly to how they were, this project also took longer than I expected and as I type this Sunday morning, I still have to finish the pantry and cupboard above the stove! I figured I’d be onto the cabinets or freezers by now! But I like how the pantry is taking shape and think the changes will be beneficial to my healthy eating goals, so taking the time to do it right is the way to go.
I wish I could show you where I started, but AGAIN I forgot to do a before photo! I even thought of before I began yesterday morning while getting ready in the bathroom, but when I finally got around to it and was pushing myself to just. get. going already, I got all gung ho and emptied the pantry before I realized what I’d done. I even texted the bestie and said, “…do I put it all back?”. Because she loves me (and maybe because we enable each other), she said, “Ugh…honestly I wouldn’t, you would lose a lot of time.” So I didn’t. And I tried going back to find last year’s pics to help you visualize, but it appears I organized but didn’t take pics or post about it?!!! (So ashamed.) As I transitioned to WordPress and worked on blog training last year, even the most likely blog posts didn’t happen, I guess. So I will do my best to help you imagine…
For the most part, the pantry and baking cupboard above the stove were still fairly well organized. Each had labeled containers for most of the contents, cans were in a wire organizer on the door, lunch containers and bottled items were corralled in plastic baskets, the shelves were lined, and the floor of the pantry had rolling crates for larger items like vinegar, extra peanut butter, etc. While mostly organized, however, there were overflow holiday treats that just got stuck on a shelf, a leftover bag of chips was in the “bread” bin, some newer ingredients had been shoved where there was an open spot on a shelf, and the spice jars that were on the open shelf above the stove were FILTHY. At minimum everything needed emptied, wiped down, and put back into place. But while most things were working and would stay as-is, I wanted to take things a step further and ensure that my goals of eating healthier and saving money would be helped by this organization.
As I always do to start organizing the kitchen (or any space), I took everything out of the pantry and put it on the kitchen table. (And I didn’t get a photo of that, either! Holy moly.) The pantry shelves weren’t in bad shape, but I replaced the lining on one and wiped them all down. And boy did the floor need vacuumed…bleh! Then I gradually started to put things back, starting with the items I knew I wanted to return and that worked in their former location well. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.) Baskets got wiped out and my Tupperware Modular Mates got wiped off as well, especially the tops of lids. As I put things back, some labels needed a slight updating, which was easy because my vinyl labels with chalkboard marker are easy to erase and rewrite!
My goals with the pantry (and baking cupboard), aside from just being organized and clean, were this:
- Remove as much processed food and sugar as possible. While I don’t eat bread typically, Brad makes sandwiches for lunches often and he likes cereal for breakfast when he’s out of time to make oatmeal. And Faith just got a bunch of candy for Christmas. I threw a lot away and by the time Valentine’s rolls around (maybe sooner), the rest will get tossed, too.
- Have as much meal-making ingredients as possible within view when we open the pantry. This included moving some legumes and grains from the baking cupboard above the stove to the pantry. I want to be able to plan meals based on what we have, stretching our grocery dollar as far as I can, as well as planning healthy meals.
- Put healthier items closer to eye level, junk food on the bottom shelf. I’ve done this in the past but things just needed tidied up, and now that I’m not doing daycare, there is less likelihood of having crackers and those kinds of snacks around. If it was just me none of that would be around, but Brad likes saltine crackers on occasion (like every time we have soup), we keep graham crackers and marshmallows on hand for s’mores, tortilla chips are the only chips we regularly stock (and I’m able to ignore their presence so that works for me), and then the holiday candy.
This took quite a while and I didn’t get to take pics until Sunday afternoon, and by then the sun was streaming in and causing me issues, so some of the pics aren’t great. Starting at the top of the pantry and moving down, here’s how it looks…
The very top shelf is where I keep cake decorating supplies and kitchen tools that we don’t use often. Those dollar plastic shoe boxes from Wal Mart work great for storing those things. They stack, I can see the contents, and they’re light for getting down from a top shelf. I make my own labels with vinyl cut on my Pazzles, and then I write the contents with a chalkboard marker.
The second shelf is the only one tall enough for my Tupperware cereal containers, so we keep cereal, oats, and now other grains, legumes, nuts and coconut there. I moved the grains and coconut over from above the stove so that a) I could make room for spices above the stove and b) I wanted to be able to open the pantry door and at a glance be able to figure out what we had to make meals with (with the exception of what’s in the fridge, freezer or fruit bowl, of course). This will help us use up what we have, and tonight’s supper was a great example of success…”burrito skillet” made with rice, beans, salsa, taco seasoning, leftover shredded chicken and a half bag of frozen corn!
For food storage I use Tupperware Modular Mates and smaller rectangle containers from The Container Store (which I couldn’t find on their site anymore). Eventually I want to switch to all glass but in the meantime I try to use quality plastic that fit well with our shelf dimensions and that stack. I have used Modular Mates for years and the varying heights, depths and shapes work great in both shallow and deep shelves.
The next shelf has four plastic baskets from Wal Mart. Three small and one medium fit perfectly across our pantry shelf. The first has vinegars (cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, coconut vinegar, etc.). The second has sweeteners (raw local honey, molasses, stevia, maple syrup…unless it’s in the fridge) and also vanilla extract. The third bin is where I keep nut butters (except the ones that need refrigerated), and the last holds our oils (coconut, olive, sesame). Keeping these containers in bins not only keeps them organized, but also keeps the shelves clean and makes cleaning up leaks a lot easier.
Below that shelf I keep “food food”…bread, garlic, onions and potatoes…and now an extra bin for other items that we may have on hand that meals could be made from (mac-n-cheese, spaghetti noodles and sauce, etc.). I’d rather not have some of this stuff in the pantry at all, but on nights that I’m not home for supper, it’s nice for Brad (or a sitter) to have an easy option. These things can also save us from going through the drive-thru, which will save money. I generally keep cup-a-soup on hand and we have Ramen noodles, both of which Faith requests when she’s sick. (And maybe Ramen is a guilty pleasure of mine, too.)
Keeping our lunch containers in the pantry rather than in a cupboard has worked well, so I kept them here. They’re easy to see and access, and they are more likely to get put away correctly (rather than tossed under the counter into the basket). I moved the lunch boxes down to the rolling crates at the bottom of the pantry, and started a new basket on this shelf for protein powders. Brad likes to keep protein around for his workouts, and I like it as well for an after-workout “snack” (this one from Young Living).
The bottom shelf is where I banish the junkiest of foods, with the idea that if they’re not in my direct line-of-sight, then I won’t be as likely to reach for them. As I said before, I wouldn’t even even have most of this in my pantry at all, but I’m not the only one that lives here and I’m still fighting the battle to rid us of all processed food. 😉
To fully utilize the bottom of the pantry and yet keep things off the floor (where dirt, leaves, dust and dog fur like to hide…largely because the pantry is right by our back door), I use fruit crates that we added casters to. This is where I keep large items, extras, and things that don’t otherwise have a place in the pantry (or that maybe I don’t stock regularly). Right now I have cake mixes (another thing I don’t really buy anymore but for some reason stocked up thinking I’d be making a bunch of cupcakes), hot cocoa (a huge box that Faith got from Grandpa), the lunch boxes, bags of leftover grains that didn’t fit in the smaller containers, almond milk cartons, white vinegar, distilled water, and extra foil, olive oil and coconut oil.
Cans are kept in this wire door organizer as well as extra spices and a few other odds-and-ends. This organizer works great and every year gets a minimal reorganization because it does its job well!
Usually things don’t change much above the stove, either, but I do organize this space and the pantry hand-in-hand. This time I decided to move the spices from the open shelf they were on…
…to the bottom shelf of the cabinet above the stove.
I wasn’t planning to make any purchases for this organizing project, partly because I have a bunch of unused containers for the kitchen, but mostly because we’re trying not to spend any extra money. I did, however, wind up deciding that this expandable bamboo spice shelf from Wal Mart would be necessary and worth it. Prior to that, we had most of the spices on the open shelf, but also some spices in a drawer, and large or extra ones in the pantry. I don’t organize like that like to organize with like items in multiple places and it was becoming a problem (as it usually does…don’t organize that way!). Not only would we forget what we had because it wasn’t easy to see them all in one place, but when I took the smaller spices out of the drawer, there was about a whole container’s worth that had dumped out!
I like having spices in glass jars that are all uniform and labeled the same, but the spice jars that I have are all in use. If I find them on another garage sale (like I found the other set), I’ll be sure to snatch them up! But I also try to be careful what seasonings I purchase and that they’re as pure and unprocessed as possible, so currently I have more than I have typically had in the past couple of years. (Again, I’m not the only one that lives here and my husband keeps buying stuff…ugh!)
Larger batches of spices and homemade seasonings are kept in mason jars or reused food jars. I moved my taco seasoning mix from one of the plastic containers to free it up for barley, and put the seasoning in an empty honey jar. Our recycling company doesn’t take glass, so I wash and keep most jars that honey, spaghetti sauce, etc. come in. The jars come in handy for making DIY oil concoctions (body butter, bath salts, etc.), and will save me money on food storage, too!
The other shelves above the stove are where I keep baking supplies, like flours and sugars. The less healthy, more processed ones go on the top shelf. My husband buys brown sugar for smoking meats, for example, but I try to use coconut sugar or another alternative sweetener. Processed brown sugar way up high, coconut sugar closer to eye level.
The rest of the week I plan to go through the kitchen drawers and cabinets, and hopefully the fridge and freezers, too! I hope you’ll follow along and organize with me throughout January!