Plan your Pantry

Posted by DSH on Monday, November 27, 2006

An efficient pantry puts ingredients at your fingertips and helps you target your shopping list.
A well-organized pantry wasn't a concern for Old Mother Hubbard. In most kitchens, however, storing the burgeoning supply of cereal boxes, pasta packets, and soup cans is a challenge.

Expert Advice
Before you throw out the lot and deny your poor doggy a bone, consider these tips from organizing consultant Alice Winner of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, and California Closets design consultant Ginny Scott of Portland, Oregon.

Planning Size
* Know your personal requirements. Cooks who work mostly with fresh ingredients may want to devote less space to nonperishables. If you rely on prepared foods, and especially if you buy in bulk, you'll want more storage.
* Determine the ideal pantry size. Scott recommends adding up how much square footage you devote to pantry items, whether they're stored in your kitchen, basement, or garage. This gives you an idea of how much area you'll need to consolidate items.
* Fulfill several storage tasks. Walk-in pantries are popular where space allows. "You can even put your broom and dust mop in them, so they're taking the place of other closets," Scott says. A door will conceal clutter.
* Let a shallow pantry serve you well. Shallow shelves make it more difficult to "hide" items behind other items, so you can see at a glance what's on hand.

Determining Location
* Annex adjacent spaces. Corners, broom closets, and unused spaces between existing cabinetry can be fitted with drawers and pullout shelves to maximize storage potential. You may be able to borrow inches from an adjacent room or closet to create a shallow pantry.
* Extend the shelf life of your food. Site your pantry on a cool outside wall, preferably on a north-facing side. Avoid areas too close to heat sources, including dishwashers, ranges, ovens, refrigerators, radiators, heating vents, and windows.
* Claim nearby counter space. Don't stoop to stow groceries. Instead, land bags on an adjacent countertop if most of your pantry storage is waist-high.

Maximizing Storage
* Make the most of vertical space. Use adjustable shelves and steps to stagger the heights and avoid wasted space. Racks that hang on the backs of doors or from stationary shelves also optimize storage.
* Install pullout shelves and drawers. Instead of reaching to the back of deep, immobile shelves, pull shelves and drawers toward you for easier access.
* Arrange items so labels are visible. Scott recommends storing cans one deep and on their sides in shallow drawers so you can easily view the labels. This also works well for spice containers, which often fall over when placed on a turntable, Winner says.

Organizing Contents
* Group similar items. Winner says grouping items by size may sometimes use space more efficiently but may cut down on accessibility.
* Contain small items. Put items such as seasoning packets, small cans, and single-serving snack packages in movable bins or slide-out baskets so they don't slip behind other items and get lost.
* Be transparent. See-through containers and wire baskets let you easily determine the contents. Or use labels, which will help you locate items -- and encourage you to put them back in the proper place.
* Accommodate kids. Store approved snacks, breakfast foods, bowls, and cups at a height easy for kids to reach. That way, they can safely help themselves.
* Avoid overbuying. "Plan space for the things you need," Winner says, "then only buy to fill up that space. If you have three cans of tomato sauce and use two, only buy two to replace them. If you don't have the space and don't use the item, then it's not a bargain."

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