It’s been exactly two weeks since I said good-bye to culinary school and my self-imposed vacation is over. I told the kids and John that for two weeks after I graduated I was going to do NOTHING but relax.  Truthfully though, I just wanted to do what I “wanted” to do!  Now that time is over and it’s back to business.  But does a mother of four, wife of one and daughter of an aging mother really ever do nothing??  I didn’t even get to eat the Bon Bon’s I told John I was going to nosh on every day.

Ok, lets get started with The Pantry Project!

We all love to have a pantry but who in their right mind likes to clean and reorganize them?  Well, this task has been calling me for over a year now and I finally hiked up my sweats, tied my hair back and got it done.  Did it take me longer than anticipated?  Of course!  But the end result is awe inspiring.  So much so that I sat at my kitchen counter and admired my days work while eating a cake pop.

To begin, I pulled everything out and put it all on any flat surface I could find.  This is when you locate things you have forgotten, lost or someone else hid for a late night snack (JOHN!!).

Looky here, Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark, unopened from last Christmas.

How did that happen?  I must have been too tired to notice for the past year. Christmas gift anyone?


After recovering from the shock of finding unopened chocolate,  I cleaned off the shelves that I hadn’t seen in years with soap and water.  Yucky, but there was no strange substances to clean, just dirty fingerprints and dust.

Next was to sweep the floor and sponge mop it.

Talk about a clean smelling pantry – much different than some of the other smells that have come out of there from time to time.  Now is when I assessed whether I should cover the shelves with paper or leave them as is.  I decided to cover them because when the paper/plastic liner gets dirty and ragged looking, I can replace it easily.  Cover them up I say!   …no one will ever know what lies beneath them.

On to organizing!  I went through all my items and placed like-items together.  Cereal with breakfast items, vinegars with bottled items, cans with cans and so on.  Oh, and I threw things out!!!  Yes, this is the time to get rid of those opened jell-o packets that you once used a portion of and put back on the shelf because some day you were going to use it again.  If it is still sitting there, throw it out.  If your half-eatin’ marshmallow bag is all sticky and the mallows are stuck together in one big blob, throw…it…out.  Also, check expiration dates on all your food.  Normal shelf life for opened bottles of oil, balsamic vinegar, syrup, etc. , is about 90- days or so.  But that is only a “rule of thumb”, not gospel.  (what is a rule of thumb?)  Next, be sure to put all opened bags like pasta, dried beans or rice in a bigger zip lock bag or see-through containers so you can see them when you need them.

Now you’re ready for the fun part.  Putting everything back into the pantry in a neat and organized way.  My advice at this point is to assess what type of organizational items will actually help you keep the pantry clean over time.  For me I needed three wire baskets for the shelf  (found at Lowe’s on clearance for $4), three hanging baskets, two large floor baskets (also from Lowe’s) and two pull-out drawers from Walmart.  Then I went to Bed Bath and Beyond to find two lazy susan’s that work fabulously for my bottled items.  I already had a Longaberger basket that I use for kids snacks and things, a stacking rack for my cans and two wire shelves.


All in all, the end result is a well-organized pantry that I don’t have anxiety over anymore.


 It’s Fall so turn the oven on to self-clean and get busy on your pantry project.  That’s killing two birds with one stone – what an awful  metaphor – you’ll be thrilled with the results.

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  • Vicki Dickson

    First of all… HURRAY for a new post! I have been waiting for the day I got to read what you have to talk about. Secondly… JEALOUS! Miss you.

  • My Awesome Sister Mary

    It looks fantastic! I LOVE to clean and organize! Theres something so satisfying in having a place for everything, and everything in its place! 🙂 Good work!

  • Chris

    Funny you should ask about the ‘Rule of Thumb’

    It is the rule that a man could beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb. You did ask. 🙂

    As for the pantry very nice job.

    I went and bought an old free standing wardrobe for $10. It has 3 doors. 1 opens to the little drawers that you would use for socks, underwear and foldables. The other 2 open for all the hanging clothes. I put shelving in the large open space with the top 2 shelves slightly angled to allow for a can return system or first in first out. then each shelf under that is spaced further and further apart to allow for maximum use of the space. Properly filled it has enough room for a 2 year supply for 2 people. ( well that was until Penny went and got all allergic to everything )

    That was just MY experience with the pantry.

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