Does your kitchen pantry spark joy?
January is all about planing and getting organized, a fresh, rejuvenating, refreshing start to a new year! And for us foodies, where cooking and food is our passion or hobby or a necessity, and we spend time in kitchen to de-stress from our daily routines, a well-organized pantry, with colorful mason jars with neatly labeled ingredients is an aesthetically pleasing visual.
Note: I updated this post with more information in Jan 2019 with some additional information.
I did this Pantry organization project back in 2015 when I published this post. That time, I had not read the now internationally popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by this beautiful author Marie Kondo, which is now also a very popular Netflix Series, and which has made this a household phrase in recent times – ‘does it spark joy?’ But I felt similar sentiments when I did this project back in 2015, and anytime I walked into the kitchen, I just couldn’t help myself but glance into the pantry and smile. It brought me a lot of joy. The cooking became so much more enjoyable, and efficient. I have now read her book and it completely resonates with me. Her gentle ways of explaining us the importance and benefits of tidying up, her amazingly beautiful tips and tricks breaking down the process into 5 categories, kitchen being one of it, and most importantly her being grateful about not just things you have but even the ones you are letting go of in the process of tidying up, and KonMari method completely resonated with the underlying theme of this blog which is all about mindfulness, joy, gratitude and the art of cooking and eating. The book makes the whole process very sacred and enjoyable and fun and of course eventually life-changing. I highly recommend you reading this book. In fact during one of my organizing process I was listening to the audio book while working on my wardrobe organization and it was really motivating.
Coming back to the Spring of 2015 and the project: pantry organization, cooking for me is a passion, and an art and so I took up this project to bring some art and organization into our kitchen pantry.
Last month (Apr 2015), I was on a Spring cleaning spree, decided to organize the Pantry – a long overdue project – ‘coz every time I cook, given some of the elaborate ingredient recipes I make, it takes me long time 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, as I had most of the jars needed and had to buy some supplies only, but having done this since past couple of months, following are the instant advantages I see.
Advantages of an organized pantry:
- 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 🙂 It definitely sparks joy 🙂
Ours is a household where we 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 varieties 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. Please note, these labels are waterproof and I have used it for over 3 years now with jars being washed multiple time, but the labels have stayed intact.
- 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 on Amazon. 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, something like this on Amazon. I preferred the thinner tip – 2mm/3mm.
- Different kinds of glass jars
Update: I am getting a lot of inquiries about the various jars used. Though I had most of it from my past purchases or re-purposed the pasta sauce, jams & jelly jars, I have found some similar ones for you that I am linking it below:
- Mason Jars: 4 oz. 8 oz., 16 oz., 64 oz.
- 30 oz. tall round glass containers
- Glass canister sets with stainless steel lids
- Set of 6 spice jars
All the items listed here are also listed here on the Shop tab.
All of these items are in a couple of pictures I posted. All of the above costed less than $25. 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!
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