Last month, on I was on a Spring cleaning spree, decided to organize the Pantry - a long overdue project - 'coz every time I cook, it takes me forever to find the ingredients that I am looking for and lot of the times I enthusiastically start cooking, just to realize I don't have/can't find the ingredient I am looking for. Sometimes, that's ok as you can substitute with other ingredients, but other times, substitution is not an option.
Here, I share my experience, tips, tricks, process and the list of things needed (which is not many) to make your pantry look cool too! Functionality is just an added bonus ;) Chalkboard labels are an 'In' thing these days, and so are Mason jars, and why should your pantry left behind in getting upgraded to the current fashion?
This turned out to be a fun project!! It costed less than $25, but having done this since past couple of months, following are the instant advantages I see:
- Find the ingredients in a blink and cook like a Pro!! Saves me on an average 10-15 minutes every time I cook.
- Reduce wastage and cut costs - Not knowing what we have in the pantry, we often end up buying the same items again, which again gets lost. Not anymore :)
- It looks so cool!! Anytime I go in the kitchen, I can't stop opening the pantry door, taking a peek into it and feeling happy :)
Ours is a household where we - myself, my Mom, my Sister-in-law - love to cook. And I am talking about elaborate cooking. You can find most of the grains/pulses/flours/lentils/
spices imaginable in our pantry (well, almost)! I counted just the kind of lentils and beans and it added to more than 25. Spices - probably a lot more. 6-8 different kinds of rice. A total of about 150-200 items maybe. So you get the idea. Hence this kind of project was justified.
- Chalkboard paper: I ordered this from amazon at a very reasonable price, and the quality is good too. I still have so much leftover after the project. It costed $10 and change.
- Tag maker punch label: I had a couple of them, you just need one. I purchased it from Joann's/Michael's for some $10-12 - something like this. Both these stores take coupons - so there you can save some 40-50% of the price.
- Chalk marker: I bought the Bistro Chalk marker pen from Michael's' for some $3 and change. I preferred the thinner tip - 2mm/3mm.
All of these items are in a couple of pictures I posted. All of the above costed less than $25. In case you have to buy jars, which I didn't, you can also buy from these stores, and again, use the coupons they offer each week. There is always a 40-50% coupon available.
We have a huge collection of Mason jars of various sizes, which come with Pasta sauce, jams, jellies etc. So re-purposed those and didn't have to buy even a single jar or container for this project.
Total of about 8 hours total, spread over a few days. It all depends based on the size of pantry and number of items you have. Our time included removing old labels from the jars etc. Try to find good sunny days, and I'll tell you why in a bit.
- Order/buy the supplies ahead of time.
- Plan. This is a very important step as you need to take stock of what you have, buy whatever you need to ahead of time, gauge how much the task entails etc. Overall it would be very efficient to do so. I am glad we did, or we would have had a few surprises, and additional time to complete the task.
- Pick a nice sunny day, if possible. Start with emptying all the bottles/jars/containers (dry stuff) in paper bowls/plates. We used the paper boats and that saved us a lot of cleaning time. We put these out in sunlight. This step is not necessary, but I have seen people do this in India and there may be a few scientific reasons for it.
- As mentioned earlier, we used all the existing jars/bottles we had. Lot of these had old labels stuck on it which is not very easy to remove. So we filled the kitchen sink with water, added vinegar and baking soda, and soaked the jars/bottles/containers in it. As and when these were soaked for say 30 minutes or so, we started washing it with a scrubber. You may also use goo gone or something like that to soften the labels for easy removal. A mix of olive oil (or any oil) and baking soda works just fine as well. Using scrubber, we removed the labels and put these in the dishwasher for washing. Repeated this step for all the batches.
- Once out of the dishwasher, we put the jars out in the sunlight for an hour or so to dry in the heat.
- Taking stock of what all we had in each size/style of jars, we determined what would go in which jar, based on the quantity of each item, and more importantly so that each 'family' of ingredients like whole spices, ground spices, lentils, etc. would go in similar set of containers - and that is as much for good looks as it is for the functionality. After all, who doesn't like a good looking pantry? We also determined which section of the pantry does each of these 'family' of ingredients go. The ones used more often are better off stored at places easy to reach and so on and so forth.
- Then comes the task of cutting the labels, writing the names of the ingredients on it. Fun stuff!! By this time, you would have almost completed the majority of the tasks so it's happy dance time for sure!
- Final step is to fill the ingredients in each of these jars/containers, put labels on it. It helps to put the labels towards the upper half of the jar, in case you are going to line up the jars in 2-3 rows inside the pantry. The names on the jars in the back rows are much likely to be more visible in this case. Sometimes we use a certain brand of spice/masala/any ingredient, in which case, it is a good idea to cut off part of that name and tape it on the inside of the lid. When it's time to re-order you'll know which brand to buy (or avoid).
The End Result:
A good looking, well organized, fashionable pantry from which you can easily find the ingredients and quickly churn out recipes like a Pro, and you'll be left with ample extra time to do the Victory dance as you cook :) Enjoy!