Sunday, February 8, 2015

Kitchen/Pantry Organization - Food Storage

Whether your pantry is a separate closet, room, or cupboard, this post is about getting it organized. First, determining how much room you have for pantry storage is essential. Second, decide what is going into it. Is it going to be used for food storage only, with small appliances, or with other items? My pantries have been all of the above. Third, considerations for dietary needs, like gluten-free or kosher, have to be taken into consideration.

Do you have enough pantry space? Once, I was fortunate to have a large kitchen with enough cupboards to hold most pantry staples, plus a closet that held snacks, holiday kitchen needs (like the turkey roasting pan), and family games. Now, I have a small kitchen, and the pantry is very little. The first shelf was almost three feet above the floor, so I added a small set of shelves to take up that space. It is small enough that I had to put the shelves together in the closet – it would not slide in fully assembled.

In order to add more storage space, the pantry is supplemented by a floating island I put together using metal shelving and added casters, along with a piece of pine I had cut to size at one of the box home improvement stores on top for a solid work surface. For cost efficiency, I bought a five-shelf unit, used three for the island, and the remaining two-shelf piece is utilitarian storage.

Which items are included as pantry staples? Canned goods, baking supplies, pasta and sauces, broths, and spices. In addition, breakfast items, like cereal and oatmeal, vinegars and oils, and breads can be stored in the pantry. Onions and garlic can be stored at floor level if the space is dark; a dark space keeps these vegetables from sprouting or delays rotting.

Arrange the pantry stores with the most used within the easiest reach, the next used immediately above and below that shelf, and other items in less convenient spaces. The top shelf of my pantry is quite high and inconvenient, so it stores my roasting pan, less-used small appliances, and extra light bulbs. Bottled items, like oils, vinegars, molasses, are stored on the cooler bottom shelves. Baking supplies, soups, dried beans, and nuts are on my floating island shelves, along with cutting boards, and baking pans. My spices are in a cabinet near the stove.

If a gluten-free or intolerant person is sharing a pantry with non-gluten-free people, it is important for gluten-free products to be stored above anything containing gluten. Although it can be imperceptible to the naked eye, gluten particles fall down; if products containing gluten are above gluten-free products, the gluten-free products become contaminate with the potential to harm gluten intolerant consumers.

Keeping kosher is not a part of my experience, so I looked up how to do so. If one is conservative, the whole kitchen is kept kosher, so there is no need to keep kosher and non-kosher items apart. Even so, dairy and meat products are kept apart, preferably in cabinets across from each other; the equipment they are prepared with, and the surfaces they are prepared on, are also kept separated. (“Jewish Dietary Laws (Kashrut): How to Keep a Kosher Kitchen,” http://www.jewishvirtual  If a kitchen is shared where one keeps kosher and the other does not, the kosher foods, utensils, dishes, preparation equipment, etc. must be stored separately so they are not contaminated with non-kosher foods and preparation methods. ("Kosher Foods,"