Organizing all of my supplies is probably the biggest focus of my life lately. I just have to have space for everything, everything in order, know what I have, and be able to rotate things well. I also tend not to do projects that are viable and worthy of my time if I have to work too hard to find and gather all of the supplies I need and then have to hassle to get them all put away too. In other words, I’m much more functional in a clean and organized environment. But my kitchen isn’t exactly up to par where that’s concerned. I’ve got a minimal amount of counter space and cupboard space and so I’ve take up room in the kitchen with mismatched pieces of furniture and such that I’ve accumulated over the years I was single in an effort to try and make things work as well as possible. As I’ve been working on my cookbook I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen and it’s been very obvious that I don’t have things organize like I need them. I’ve been bringing tons of stuff up from the pantries and just stacking them up and up and I try to make everything handy for the stuff I’m cooking. Ahhhh! But the good news is that last month I was able to find a great solution that allowed me to be more organized in the kitchen and have all of my grains, flavorings and such readily accessible to use whenever I want. I hope that some of the ideas I share with you might be useful to you too.
Our 13 year anniversary was last month. I asked my hubby for a new food processor because the one I have from the early 80’s has about had it. (And I can always justify having a food processor because it will still run in the midst of a power outage thanks to my little Roadrunner Humless Solar Generator. *grin* Remember, I am, after all, the laziest prepper on the planet.) So off we went to Costco to look to see what they had. I looked, I loved, and then something said “just look around some more.” So I did. Just as we were passing around a corner over in the auto supplies section of the store, something caught my eye. It was brushed stainless steel like you would see in a professional kitchen, with lots of drawers, and a deep cabinet and it was topped with a beautiful maple colored butcher block on the top. It was long and sleek, and narrow enough to replace a problematic part of my kitchen while still giving me more storage space. (The plague of every culinary crazy, right?) The Kitchen Gadget Geek in me completely ignored the fact that this was supposed to be a tool bench for the garage. It was just too pretty for that.
Without even having to express to my hubby why I loved it so much, he totally caught the vision in only a couple seconds after I started drooling over the possibilities. Here’s the best part…it was marked way down because it had been “used” (aka purchased, assembled, tried out, and then returned). But it was still in mint/new condition. If I had purchased something like this that was designed specifically for the kitchen, it could have looked exactly like this with the butcher block top and the brushed stainless steel, but because it would have been for the kitchen, it would have cost a couple grand--easy! But I only had to pay an enth of that! This was definitely a moment deserving of the Happy Dance.
Here's the "Before" picture--you can see just how awful this space was as it just seems to beg to get more and more cluttered as I brought more and more things into the kitchen from the pantry. Ugh!
Here's the "After" picture. Now this is one bright, shiny object I don't mind distracting me! (by the way, these are still at Costco. The regular price for them is $540--but hey, maybe you'll get lucky to and find a great deal on a returned one.)
Here's the proverbial "OCD drawer"--all of my cooking (as opposed to baking) spices alphabetized. :-)
Moving in this piece of fabulous equipment required me to go through all of my cupboards; cleaning them out; and then getting them reorganized. That's one project that I really didn't mind doing. In fact, I was so EXCITED at the possibilities that this new-found organization would afford me.
Since I was already practically redoing everything in the kitchen anyway, I finally got around to putting small amounts of my favorite grains in the clear P.E.T. containers and labeling them. It allows the items to last SO much longer and makes it so that I don’t have to go down to the pantry and lug up a 5 gallon bucket every time I want to make something with it all. It also ensures that dry goods will stay fresher longer. So many of the things we buy nowadays come in those cardboard boxes with the flimsy bags inside. I discovered a long time ago that the P.E.T. containers are great for keeping dry cereals instead of keeping them in the manufacturer’s packaging. As long as I use the P.E.T. containers, I can keep everything organized AND fresh much longer than the manufacturer's packaging! It also works much better for those times when I might purchase the dry items in bulk, even the Cheerios at Costco, but don't want the bulk in my kitchen--who has room for that anyway? (Is it just me or does anyone else have a problem neatly stacking those big bags of cereal?) Plus, I don’t know about you, but haven’t you noticed that those cereal boxes take up SO much room in the cupboards? They seem to just be getting bigger with less in them nowadays. Don't get me started on those big, awkward bags of dry pet food! Ugh! What an eyesore amidst an otherwise clean kitchen! But now I can just take my large P.E.T. jars and fill them up with dry dog or cat food and put the rest in the bigger buckets and keep them down in the cool, dry storage space. This ensures that the dry pet foods stay fresher longer, doesn’t attract mites or mice AND gives me the opportunity to put the food-grade diatomaceous earth right in the food at this point instead of trying to remember to give the animals the DE once a day. (And of course the DE ensures that no little insects make themselves at home in the food either.) Using something that’s square, tight, and that keeps things good longer like the P.E.T. containers just makes good sense.
I also loathe it when I’ve been using a #10 can of something, such as strawberries, only to find that once I’ve opened it and used it, it’s still taking up as much room as when it’s full. So with these P.E.T. bottles, I can put the remaining ingredients of open #10 cans and take up less storage space without compromising the taste, texture and nutrition. Once you open a #10 can of freeze-dried product, you should have about 18 months before you’ve compromised taste, texture, and nutrition. The good news though is that I’ve discovered that the same is true when I transfer the ingredients from the #10 can over to the P.E.T. containers.
Thanks to this little project, I now have all of my cupboards organized and everything that I use regularly (which is just about everything I have on hand) accessible in its original packaging or in the appropriate size of P.E.T. containers. And they’re all labeled. (And, yes, I confess, that I did alphabetize all of my seasonings, cooking herbs, and baking flavorings.) HEAVEN!
The added bonus of this bench is that it is on wheels. One of the problems I’ve had in making my YouTube videos is how my kitchen’s set up. Any time I’m at the stove the camera has to come to the side of me, or look over the shoulder, or get my back side. Meh. But since this work bench has wheels on it, I can turn it around any time I want to make an instructional video AND have a whole heck of a lot of my favorite tools and ingredients handy to boot! So now I have NO excuses not to get more of these done! Yay!
I also have it set up so that any time I bring any groceries home I can simply pull out my FoodSaver and take care of the dry goods right then and there instead of having it feel like more of a big deal kind of production. The other day I brought home 50 pounds of raw pecans. All I had to do was grab the FoodSaver and my Mason jars and fill them up with the nuts and suck the oxygen out. I was done with the whole project from the time I got home to putting the jars away in less than 15 minutes. Yeah, I’ll pay 15 minutes to ensure that I can preserve my pricey pecans for 5 to 8 years. No problem. Again…Heaven! Who knew that organization could actually save me so much money? I suspect that it can save you money too so try out some of these ideas. (By the way, the picture to the left is of Panko crumbs--which I use in a lot of recipes; but since they are so fine I can't just FoodSaver them directly or they could clog up the tubing. So I measure them out in 1 cup increments--since most recipes call for 1 cup--put them in individual baggies, and then use the FoodSaver to seal them oxygen free to maintain freshness.)
I officially declare this National Prepping Organization Month! So...Happy Organizing *grin*!
(If you’re looking for more information on any of these methods, just put the term in the search bar above with the use of quotation marks.)
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