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  • Anïsa Lewis

Pantry Makeover I: The Basics


...Or Anxiety, Whatever Your Vibe May Be...

You probably need to fix your pantry. No shade. In the last post, I asked readers to think about what they like or would like to cook and eat if they had everything they needed. If your kitchen space doesn’t have everything or at least most of the things that you need to achieve that, then that totally means that a pantry revamp is what needs to happen.

What type of pantry are you trying to build? If you never thought about it, think about it now: there really are different types of pantries. To most people, when they think of a pantry, it is a closet in their kitchen where they put food stuff. To be fair, that is true. But, just for clarity, I’m going to refer to the “normal” kitchen pantry as a kitchen closet so y’all will know what I am talking about. So you put all of your flours, sugars, canned beans, tomatoes, etc. in your kitchen closet, right? You have a shelf for each type of thing and maybe the floor is covered with a few dozen plastic grocery bags and containers of kitchen cleaners? The broom’s in there, right? No? Okay, maybe that’s my past, not everyone else's'!

What if you don’t HAVE a closet in your kitchen to put all of your dry foods and ingredients in?

I’ve lived in several different places and have had large, small, and zero kitchen closets. I’ve found that, although a closet is convenient, I don’t necessarily need it. If you live in a tiny studio apartment, you can still create a pantry that fits your needs. If you have a pretty big kitchen like mine, but no kitchen closet in sight, you can make it work. Your pantry is about stocking your kitchen with what YOU want and what fits YOUR tastes and be it tiered shelves, plastic bins or cabinets, you can make it work.

**But first, y’all, throw away your old spices. Just do it. If they’ve been sitting in your cabinet for years, just yeet those right into the trash, please. It’s weird to be emotionally attached to Italian seasoning.

So what are the different types of pantries that you can have?

Cabinets:

So here’s the kitchen at my house:


Nothing fancy. It’s arguably the best kitchen I’ve had access to. Like I mentioned, I do not have a kitchen closet. My spices and goods are mostly located in the cupboards in the kitchen, however, I found after a few years here, that it was not enough space! I started (and continue to) storing food on top of the refrigerator...does that mean Refrigerator Top is a pantry in itself? Hmmm….

Things I keep in the cabinets:

  • Dried herbs & spices

  • Canned goods-mostly beans, tomatoes & tomato paste

  • Small bags of rice

  • Small bags of beans

  • Small bags of grains

  • Yeast

  • Sweeteners-sugars, honey & agave

  • Extracts

  • Unopened sauces & oils

  • Pasta

  • Many, many Asian noodles

  • Coffee

  • Entirely too many varieties of tea

A very less than perfect display of spices I use

No big rhyme or reason, just supplies...
For when I seriously need cookies...

Not bourbon this time, but I use that to store tea, promise ;)

Tiered Shelving:

Because I was running out of space, I extended my pantry here: The garage. I used tiered shelving to store the bigger items, as we buy in bulk. It helps me stay organized. I put the bulk grain and dried bean items in a plastic tub to keep them safe from any hungry critters that may end up in the garage.

Things I keep in the garage:

  • Bulk flours

  • Bulk rice

  • Bulk beans

  • Bulk cans of beans & tomatoes

  • Canned chicken


Nothing special. Several flours are in the bin below.

I also have extra tiered shelving in the kitchen. It’s where I keep my vinegars, bulk oils, salt, sourdough starter, kombucha experiments (when I try my hand at them), cast iron skillets, etc.


Freezer*:

I don’t know if this is a rule or not, but to me, freezers are a type of pantry. We use our freezer so much for storage of extra food and bulk items. We have a regular freezer in the kitchen and a deep freezer in the garage. We almost bought a second refrigerator one time when I got super out of control about Thanksgiving last year! It’s okay, though, we didn’t do it and didn’t need to. I was just being a madwoman. There’s just two of us living here, but the deep freezer became necessary because I don’t know how to control myself when I go grocery shopping and when I’m cooking (I still cook like I am feeding the family of six that I grew up in).

Things we keep in the deep freezer:

  • Various cuts of meat

  • Ground meats

  • Bulk frozen vegetables (it’s kind of trash, but I enjoy eating carrots that are cut into perfect squares. Sometimes it’s just soothing...anyway…)

Things we keep in the kitchen freezer:

  • Food I’ve made too much of (usually soups, stews and beans)

  • Frozen seafood

  • Ice cream

  • Frozen fruits

*Please note, you should eat your frozen food within a reasonable window of time according to the packaging/recommendations because freezer burned anything isn’t that tasty anymore.

These are my working pantries. They are super not perfect and I wanted to show you all because sometimes it is intimidating to know what to get when it comes to stocking your pantry (a list of some of the things I have is in the last blog post). I read over all of this and it sounds like I’m doing too much. I’m not, though, trust me. I grew up with parents who did even more than this because they maintained a huge garden and several fruit trees and bushes. Our freezer stayed full all winter with home grown produce. I know a lot of foodies and farmers that likely run circles around my pantry, and many are cooking for big families. I’m down to learn a lot, too. What are you doing with your pantry?

** FDA Food Chart Info



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