Saturday, October 30, 2010

Challenge #3-Space, Part 2

Now lets tackle the issue of a small pantry or limited space for canned/boxed goods. Trust me, I know this problem too. I've lived in a one bedroom apartment with no pantry, other apartments with very small or no pantry and our current home has a very small pantry too. So, understand that all that I'm giving as suggestions and things I've done have all been done with limited space, to this day I do NOT have a large walk in pantry or huge closet full of food. Hopefully that helps give you a feel for the perspective I'm coming from.

So, lets get started. First of all, lets work on some of the alternative solutions to find places to store your "stock up". Here are some ideas:

-An extra storage unit in the garage, basement, on a porch/deck/patio. Be sure to get something with doors and potentially a lock if necessary! ;) We do have a cabinet in our garage which is currently our 'second' pantry and holds paper products, canned goods, cereals, snacks and other items we use frequently.

-Linen closets, coat closets, laundry rooms, other cabinets in the kitchen are all areas that could be used for extra storage.

Just to give you more ideas of how we've made it work in small spaces in our house: We don't have a laundry room (it's more of a closet that covers our laundry machines), so my husband put in industrial like shelving all the way across, above the machines to provide a lot of extra storage for us. Then we put other shelves and other storage drawers on top of it. We use that area to store extra cleaning supplies, paper towels, and toilet paper. Along with other items. We don't have a coat closet and our linen closet is full, but we do keep extra toilet paper in there.

Those are just some ideas to get you thinking creatively, because it CAN be done, we are proof of that.

So lets take on the small pantry, shall we?

First of all, if you're going to get a lot of stuff into small spaces, you need to be organized. The worst thing you can do in a small space is be disorderly. It's another area where you might need to think outside the box too. For example, we have plastic drawer units on nearly every shelf in our panty. They keep more then a shelf can, it's organized, it's easy access, and things can go on top of the drawers.

Here's a list of some things we keep in the drawers:
-Jellos/pudding mixes
-baking mixes that are small or in bags
-dry drink mixes (flavored coffees, sugar packets, teas, hot chocolates, etc).
-Kid's packaged snacks (taken out of the boxes, so they can help themselves)
-baking supplies (muffin cups, chocolate chips, sprinkles, toppings)

I like to keep those smaller/miscellaneous items in drawers because they can be "thrown" in there an not cause a mess. They are also a pain to keep on shelves because they are small, awkward packaging, and difficult to stack or reach when you need them. A drawer is the perfect solution for them.

For further proof that I live this in my real life, and so you see that everything isn't in perfect order, here's a picture of our pantry:

Small, right? 

A view of the inside to give you an idea of how the drawers work and help for extra storage. 

I also use the door for extra storage by hanging shoe holders from the door. 
(Side note: These are also great for things like mittens, scarfs, umbrellas, etc in a coat closet). 

Now, after you've explored all those options to expand your space, here are some things to work think about to work with what you've got.

The first two are just like the freezer situation.
-Prioritize and smart storage solutions. What is your goal? If it's to save money then my suggestion is to have the things you use in a lot of recipes on hand and get them while they are on sale. Keep things that make your life simpler when it comes to time too. If you frequently have last minute guests or you need to have things to take to events regularly, then keep things that will work well for those occasions on hand. For example cake mixes and frosting tubs, crackers and dips, canned items you use in a lot of meals. If that's not your lifestyle, then don't buy a lot of those items and focus mostly on things you use for your family's meals.

We eat a lot of pasta, because it's cheap, quick, easy, and very versatile. Instead of getting a bunch of small boxes to keep in my pantry though, I'll get an extra large bag of noodles at Sam's club (this can be done with a bunch of boxes too, I just have the Sam's option) and pour them all into a large upright tupperware that fits nicely on my pantry shelf. It holds more, it's more organized and it's easy to access. They hold A LOT of lose spaghetti type noodles too. I do the same with the extra large bags of cereal. Bottom line, find ways to stock up on commonly used items and make the room for those things. If you have space for "extra" stuff then add it, but fit the important stuff in there first. If you aren't a huge "from-scratch-baker" you may not need a lot of flour, sugar, etc. on hand and just get the mixes and small amounts of the other items.

-Think of several meals you eat a lot of and your family really enjoys and be sure to have 2-3 of all the items needed for those meals on hand. Chances are those same ingredients are things you'll end up using in a lot of other recipes too.

-Re package your items. If you have a lot of boxed goods that can go into large ziplock bags and lay them flat, then do that. It'll save you space. If you can get rid of some of the packaging to make it a smaller unit, then try that. Find cans, jars, or other ways to package things in order to get them to fit your space. There is no rule that says you need to keep things in the package they come in! :)

-Go through your pantry regularly to make sure you're using what's in there and you're not over buying things you already have plenty of.

-Occasionally do a "use what I have weekly menu" and make every meal on the menu use up several items in your pantry that you have a significant amount of to make room for new items. That'll save you a trip or two to the store too! :) Bonus!

Final thoughts, we've been doing the stocking up method for a long time and in all amounts of space. It really is doable. It may not be to the extent that others are able to, but if you base your choices on your priorities, are realistic to your lifestyle and your space, you can have a lot on hand. Remember, the goal is to avoid the store in order to save money, so just like the freezer, a pantry full of stuff you don't use isn't doing you any good! Be wise about your purchases and make the most of every penny and square inch! ;)

Now get busy re-organizing your pantry, stocking up, saving money and making fabulous meals for your family! You can do this!

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