Pandemic Pantry Panache
Updated: Jul 24
Hello my lovely think-outside-the-box readers!
How has Covid changed the way you and your family dine?
For us, like most people, it's been zero restaurant outings and instead mega-cooking at home because we feel safer healthwise eating this way now. My husband Steve and I have not eaten out, had food delivery, nor bought grocery store deli take out even once since the pandemic began. (This is why I came up with our Sunday Trays to make things a little easier too food-prep wise, and now our new pantry m.o. will make our Sunday Trays prep even easier too. Yay!)
So much at-home cooking is like running your own restaurant at home, right?!
And so, it was time recently for a home-pantry upgrade from our several little mini-pantries we had set up pre-Covid to one big pantry that now holds 95 percent of our in-stock-at-home food, and all of the stock is more easily accessible and visually organized to make ordering groceries easier too.
Note: We live in a 748 SF cottage-style home with no basement nor attic nor garage, and we cannot store food in our one small outdoor shed due to Arizona temps. In other words, chocolate melts really fast if you store it in the garage or a shed here! Of course, if you live where things freeze, well then that's something to keep in mind for your at-home food supply, too. :)
For our new DIY pantry, we bought two large heavy-duty melamine cabinets and had them delivered to our home. Steve assembled them. When we needed more shelving inside, he took apart our white melamine kitchen cart that he assembled three years ago when we moved in so he knew how to take it back apart, and he cut the boards to fit. Since we are replacing the kitchen cart anyway, (more on that DIY project later), the boards were "free" and he didn't have to schlepp the cart to the recycling dumpster. He also saved the cart knobs and the wheels for future DIY projects. We both love to repurpose to keep things out of our landfills, to use our creativity, and to save money. Win. Win. Win.
My part in this "little pantry project" was sourcing and purchasing the cabinets online, rounding up and washing any storage baskets and bins we already had in our home so I didn't buy more new ones than we needed, labeling baskets, and the overall organizing strategy inside once the cabinet was assembled and secured well to the wall for safety. (Important!) I wrote notes on paper of my overall strategy before we started this, made a budget for the cabinets and any new basket shopping*, and then we tweaked the organizing too as we went because things evolved.
Please don't think you can do a project like this in one day. And it's best to have two people, at least. You have things to order, wash, assemble, label, etc. and you have to get your food supply sorted by category too and put it into the bins/baskets. You have to be flexible as you go too, and also allow for any more food storage containers that you don't already have on hand. In my case, for instance, I added a "sunflower seeds" bin just today, as well as two small containers for gravy packets. It's not perfect usually right out of the gate -- a few tweaks are needed down the road sometimes and that's okay!
Something else to consider: Even with planning our project ahead of time, both Steve and I were tired and sore by the end of all the assembly plus the basket organizing and washing and strategizing, I'll freely admit. It looks easy when you look at the pix above now that it's done, but it was like a gym workout with all the bending and carrying and stretching. So you might want to allow at least three days of effort/take vacation time off work so you can finish this up efficiently, but not in one "power day."
In a future post, I will show you why I chose varying baskets and bins rather than having them all the same size and "pretty-pretty matchy" like you see on beautiful online boards. Because real life is not an online board, no matter what any social media star tells you, so it's best to stay real when setting a project up like this. :)
In an upcoming post, I will also show you how we decorated around this pantry cabinet since it's in our living room/foyer area, but I don't want anyone to know it's a food pantry decoratively speaking, so I have DIY dollarwise decorating tricks up my sleeve for that.
I hope this gives you at least a beginning idea of how you can create a large-ish at-home food pantry for you and your family that will more easily help you cook from home, especially if you live in a small home and/or have a small kitchen. More help for small homes and spaces.
Remember: Your pantry should be tailored to you, your family, and your space/home. Think outside the box; I know you can come up with things you already have around your home, repurpose them cleverly, and make it a creative family project that's fun for all.
True DIY pantry story: Years ago I was asked during a media interview by a young Mom of two boys if I thought she was selfish because they had recently moved to smaller home due to her husband's job relocation so she wanted to turn one of her boys' bedrooms into a walk-in food pantry and have the boys share one bedroom.
My response to her was to talk to your family about the pros and cons of this spatial arrangement and why not do this if your kids get along well so they can share one bedroom easily, and your family can save money on food by buying in bulk/on sale, and keeping everything organized in your "walk-in" bedroom-pantry so that you don't buy too many duplicates and can better plan your food ahead etc. For that matter, your kids can learn to organize a food pantry for their future grown-up years when they leave home, and see how it will help them save money on groceries too. Have them help you set this up and show them project planning!
And, if siblings share a bedroom, they can learn to get along with others and how to keep their room tidy enough so as not to drive a roommate crazy. :) Of course, if one sibling is an extreme neat freak and one child is a total messy, you might want to re-think this whole idea. Also, now with homeschooling such a big thing, there might not be room for two kids to realistically share a bedroom so you may need to look around the rest of your home to find a "potential pantry" space and you'd be surprised what you might come up with if you think outside the box! :)
I don't think this Mom's bedroom-turned-pantry idea was selfish at all; I think it's smart. But it needs some serious thought too if it will work in real life as I mentioned above, before tackling the project.
Now that you have food for your body, my lovelies, here's a little food for your soul.
Wishing you pantry panache!
*Since neither of us likes debt, we purposely budget, save, strategize, and plan ahead so that we can pay cash for all of our home goods and upgrades. Repurposing and DIY helps that cause along too. And by living in small home, vs. a big one, there's not as much to buy for one's home in the first place either, which also saves money, avoids debt, and builds our savings/investments. And since we love to travel, (before pandemic times), saving money on home items and projects helps that fun cause along too. Anyone can do this; including you!