Friday, January 7, 2011

Organising my pantry...and other exciting adventures

There comes a time in every (housebound and quarantined) woman's life when she realises she needs to organise her pantry.  As I sat in my house over the New Year's period, contagious and bored, I realised my time had come.  My little seed pantry, gifted to me by my mum on my return to Australia (having left my enviable Indonesian pantry behind... I really miss my dried morels, thanks Customs sniffer dogs), had seemingly tripled in size and now clung precariously to the shelves like some weirdly tasty fungus.  Unfortunately this had led to such unfortunate occasions as "Jeffie forgets she has three other packets of plain flour and pots of baking powder and buys another lot, only to discover she has actually run out of self-raising flour".  Special times.  So, as you might have gathered, it was now time to get my pantry under control.

The first thing I did, other than take a "before" photo of the mess (sorry guys, no before shot), was to consult the experts.  Apartment Therapy had some really great ideas for New Year's clean ups (, and this picture ( particularly inspired me to tackle the mess I had carefully hidden away...

The other major inspiration was Martha Stewart... I know it's unrealistic to hold myself to the Martha Gold Standard, but gees, I really wanted a pantry as organised as this one at (

It's just. so. freaking. PRETTY!

After a couple of hours work I can't say that everything in my kitchen pantry now coordinates, but it has become a haven of order and, bygod, cleanliness.  I had no idea so much stuff had leaked, spilled and was otherwise growing strange mould hidden in there.  Truly, horrifying.  But no more!  It has been banished by order and stackable stuff.

Simple stuff helped to get everything straightened out like putting all the oils together with all the vinegars rather than having them scattered around with the spices and the sauces.  So, here are my three simple tips for doing this for yourself.

Create additional shelves-within-selves ... otherwise known as "levelling-up"

Using levels to prop stuff up so I could fit more spices etc in the space (I bought these metal ones from Ikea) proved to be essential:

Clear jars and air-tight containers (plus some labelling)

Eliminating endless loose and open packages (often multiples of the same thing) of stuff like flour by putting them into clear, labelled containers helps organise things quickly, and I'm less likely to keep buying more flour because I have a good idea of just how much I have left.   We bought these mason jars for $2 at the Super Supabarn out near the airport (not so helpful if you don't live in Canberra).

 Doing this also helps lengthen out the life of your pantry-goods, especially if the containers are airtight.  Just remember to label the containers so you know what's in there, and make a note of the date of expiry while you are at it.  I sometimes cut out the labels and pop them inside the jars/containers so I can see the label at the bottom.  I love labelling.  It's an addiction, so I have refrained from buying a label-maker.  It's for the best, really.

I also used a number of larger tupperware-esque containers which were sadly lidless (speaking of which, where on earth do all my lids go?!) to organise little jars of things like honey, stir-fry sauce, BBQ sauce, vegemite etc.  That way they are all in one spot and it's easy to take the whole "tray" out to find something.  Not only that but, if they leak (and oh, do they ever, especially the honey) it's a simple clean-up task too. Thanks, Martha, for this stellar tip.  Oh, and my Mum, who it must be said has been doing this for years.

So that's it.  My three easy tips for an organised pantry.  We'll just have to see if the organisation remains in place in another year!


  1. Give in to the label maker - they are awesome! Oh the happy times I have spent labelling all my recipe folders. Baking, Roasts, Indian, Italian......then list goes on and on :)

  2. They once let me loose with one at work. My boss' entire office got labelled and reorganised while he was away. He looked like he was going to cry (not from happiness) when he got back. Apparently he was slightly less fond of labelling things than I was... this event scarred me.