Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pantry Organization

My pantry is a great source of pride for me! Yes, I know that sounds silly, but I am very particular when it comes to my groceries.  The cashiers at the grocery store often look at me funny when I sort my groceries as I put them on the checkout counter.  You see, it is much easier to put the groceries away in an organized fashion if they are bagged in an organized fashion!  No one else in the family is allowed to help put away the groceries.  Because I try to shop for the month, I have lots of food to store, and I like it done my way!  (I'm not like this about most other things; my family is encouraged to help around the house.  Just don't mess with my groceries!)

Now, my pantry is rather large, especially for an average-sized kitchen in an average-sized house.  But the principles I want to share with you can be applied no matter the size of the pantry.  The key is creating zones and sorting items into those zones.  I'm going to break down each zone for you and share ideas for items that you want to keep on hand at all times if you are working toward creating weekly (or even monthly) menus. 

Zone 1: Baking Supplies

Okay, so I don't bake that often, but the items on this shelf are staples that can be used in many aspects of cooking. Items to keep in stock:

all-purpose flour
white or yellow corn meal
pancake mix
cooking oil
olive oil
baking powder
sugar/powdered sugar/brown sugar
muffin mix

You'll notice that my coffee and coffee liners also find their home on this shelf. And of course, Cafe' du Monde beignet mix!

Zone 2:  Boxed Breakfast Items

On busy mornings, my kids can fix a quick breakfast without any help from Mom and Dad!  My sweet husband likes to cook breakfast for the kids in the morning.  He's done it for years!  There are times, however, when we need something "in a hurry" and the kids know they can go straight to this shelf.  Items include:  boxed cereal, instant oatmeal, instant grits, chocolate milk mix, and protein shake mix (for when Mom's in a hurry).

Zone 3:  Seasoning Mixes and Staples

This is probably the most "miscelleaneous" shelf in my pantry.  The basket houses envelopes and packets of the following types of items:

taco seasoning
stir fry seasoning
fajita seasoning
country gravy
pork gravy
onion soup
ranch dip/dressing

In addition to the basket full of various seasoning mixes, I also use this shelf to store extras of condiments like mayo and mustard, salsa, salad dressing, and pancake syrup.  There are also containers of bread crumbs and drink mixes.  If it doesn't fit into any other "zone," it goes here!

Zone 4:  Snacks and Crackers

These two shelves house a variety of crackers:  saltines, Ritz, Club, and our favorite - Pretzel Crisps!  These are yummy pretzel crackers that my husband and I eat with hummus or Laughing Cow cheese wedges.  They are a great low-calorie treats!  We also keep other snacks: regular pretzels, chips, microwave popcorn, and Chex Mix.  I love my baskets for keeping these snacks organized.  I took this picture right after a shopping trip, but what I also usually like to do is use snack-size ziploc bags to make baggies of these snacks in kid-sized portions.

Zone 5:  Canned Goods

I keep LOTS of canned vegetables and soups on hand at all times.  Some of my staples are:

cream of chicken soup
cream of mushroom soup
cream of celery soup
diced tomatoes
stewed tomatoes
lots and lots of ROTEL tomatoes
Margaret Holmes seasoned vegetables
Glory seasoned vegetables
alfredo sauce
spaghetti sauce (We like Hunt's Four Cheese or Zesty and Spicy.)
Blue Runner red beans
all kinds of beans (for chili, taco soup, etc.)

I try to keep "like" items together, but I've heard of people who take their canned goods organization to the extreme and alphabetize their vegetables!  I'm NOT that crazy!!!

Zone 6:  Boxed Items

I keep two different groups of boxed goods on this shelf.  To the right, you'll notice all kinds of pasta.  I also keep a supply of instant rice and instant mashed potatoes on hand at all times.  To the left are "supplies":  freezer and storage bags of all sizes, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, waxed paper, and slow cooker liners. (A MUST HAVE for using the slow cooker!)

Zone 7:  Paper/Plastic Products

One of my goals as a busy mom is to have my family sit down for meals together despite our busy schedule.  So I use lots of shortcuts and smart ideas to get meals on the table quickly.  Many times, though, we have to eat and run!  So, we often use paper and plastic plates, bowls, cups, and flatware.  I know not everyone is going to agree with me on this one.  I do own a dishwasher and I do use it, but there are just times that I have to prioritize.  After a late ballgame, washing dishes (or even loading the dishwasher) sometimes takes a back seat to more important things, like making sure uniforms are washed for the next day or reading my 8-year-old a bedtime story.  I pick my battles!

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