When it comes to apartments, I seem to have a type – old and quirky. Who needs an in-unit washer and dryer when you can have a triangular closet that can barely contain a pair of shoes unless they’re turned sideways? A bathroom door that doesn’t lock? Privacy be damned – it still has the original cut glass door knob. And the kitchen? Functional cabinets, counter space, and outlets were not priorities when my current building was designed. Cute, yes. Functional? Not so much.
There are many things I need to fix to get an efficient kitchen but my first project has been to get my food situation in order. Stat! I’m a person who tries to eat healthy (Snickers bars have protein, right?), prefers to pack a lunch every day (as I say to Anne, every lunch I pack means more money for shoes and handbags), and would rather grocery shop every other week than every other night. And I’m guilty of wasting a lot of food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s why the food organization issue became top priority.
I expected this project to entail a huge amount of trial and error but truthfully, it’s been fairly successful. Here’s what I did:
Step One: Organize the Pantry
Putting away the groceries used to mean squeezing stuff in wherever it would fit. This led to cabinet chaos, 20-minute searches for staple ingredients and a lot of waste since food was forgotten until well past the pull date. My cabinets are narrow but deep and anything in the back might as well have been in another dimension. I couldn’t see it or reach it. My most spacious pantry area is above my fridge so I have to use two different stepstools (the little one that’s always handy and the big one I drag out from behind the stove) to access different portions of it. Like I said, CHAOS!
After reading Sarah Barthelow’s Little House Pantry post I decided Mason jars would be a great solution. I picked up pint and quart Ball Jars in Vintage Heritage Collection colors and the standard clear jars in the half gallon size. For spices and extra small items, I also grabbed a dozen of the 4-ounce size.
The varied sizes make it easier to store any amount of product. I can put the large jars in the back of the cabinet or, for items I use frequently, all in a row on my open-sided shelf. Small jars stack neatly in front. Chalkboard labels and bright chalk pens help keep track of what’s in each jar and how long it’s been there. I try to keep items in the store packaging until I need to use them but once a package is open, into a jar it goes. Added bonus: Everything I’ve jarred has stayed fresher longer. That includes Oreos and Triscuits. I’m just sayin’.
The final pantry problem solver is my Anchor Hocking Glass Heritage Jar. The one gallon size holds a wide selection of snack bars. Don’t judge – they’re for my lunches. And maybe a snack after dinner. Or at midnight. OK!! Yes, I live off them. *Hangs head in shame*
Step Two: Fridge Purge!
I got lucky in the refrigerator department and ended up with a brand new fridge that’s also the largest one in my building. I pack my lunch daily and love having fresh produce for salads and snacks so these OXO Greensavers have been a lifesaver. Even though I live alone, these have kept my strawberries, grapes, bell peppers and cucumbers fresh for long enough to get through warehouse-store sized amounts. Plus they keep my fridge surprisingly clean and tidy. I’d rather go on a run after work than scrub out my produce drawer, and now I don’t have to choose.
My Chef’n Berry Baskets are also in frequent use. They don’t have the carbon filter technology of the OXO Greensavers but they do keep my berries fresh and they eliminated sticky blueberry puddle messes. Yay!!
Getting my produce in a row (literally and figuratively) has led to better refrigerator organization overall. Just look at th0se tidy lines and stacks! And did I mention how much less food waste I have?
With one major kitchen issue solved, I’m feeling ambitious. I could try to make sense of my spice cabinet. Or I may try to clean up my bakeware/ mixing bowls/ rarely used small appliances / boxes that haven’t been unpacked in 4 years cabinet. Then there are those 6 or 7 vintage dish sets that could really use sorting. It must be about time to clean the kitty toys (and hair clumps) out from under the stove. Suddenly feeling less ambitious… And I wonder why it took me this long to get my food in order!
Do you have a space in your kitchen that badly needs organizational TLC? What’s first on your to-do list — or what’s the organization job you’re dreading the most? Let us know!