Cleaning the pantry challenge

6 August 2010
A kitchen is like the engine on a car; it drives the house.  We spend a lot of time in our kitchens preparing meals, making cups of tea, baking bread and biscuits and when we invite visitors into our homes, we often sit at the kitchen table deep in conversation.  Kitchens are where a lot of our home production takes place so it makes sense to keep our kitchens working at their best.  Despite what many of you think, I am no angel. Like most other people, when I'm in a hurry I take shortcuts, I open packets and don't put them straight into a container, I don't look properly for ingredients and sometimes have two jars of the same thing and I don't put things back exactly where I took them from.  I am guessing you know where this post is going.  I'm talking about pantries and keeping them clean and tidy, but this post has an added bonus - it's also a challenge!

 BEFORE - What a mess!

Before we carry on, let me say that my pantry is in my kitchen and it's where I store all food that  I am currently using that doesn't have to be refrigerated.  My stockpile cupboard is just around the corner from the pantry and it stores all unopened and unused food.  When something is taken from the stockpile and opened, it is put in a container and stored in the pantry.  I usually clean the pantry about every three months.  We have no major bugs here to worry about and since we started freezing all our dried goods when they're brought home, we've even eliminated the dreaded pantry moth and weevils.  I don't stop freezing and using containers just because I see no insects, I know that I don't see them because of the freezing and containers.

  AFTER -  it makes me smile.

My pantry was in a really bad state.  Despite knowing I should decant everything into its own container, I had a couple of things in plastic bags held tight with a rubber band, I had two jars each of dates and dried fruit and a couple of unopened packets that should have been in the stockpile cupboard.  Overall the pantry was a disorganised mess - the result of a busy woman taking short cuts, I'm sure many of you can relate.  So I set to work.

I emptied all the shelves into the kitchen benches and wiped the cupboard down with warm soapy water to remove all traces of spilt food, and then carefully dried all the shelves.  I put back the larger items onto their shelves so I would have more room to work, then started sorting jars into categories and checking I didn't have more than one jar of everything.  I made one jar out of the two lots of dates and one of dried fruit.  Any jar that were almost empty had its contents put in a bowl while it was washed and dried then the jar was filled to the top.  The entire exercise took about an hour and now I'm back to having everything is its right place and the pantry set to help me work efficiently in the kitchen instead of hindering me.  It feels good and every time I go into the kitchen I open the pantry door and smile.

Unneeded jars, washed and ready to be put away.

This is an easy task but its one of the important ones.  Having food organised and safely contained will not only help you work, it will keep your food safe and will help eliminate waste.  So if you haven't cleaned out your pantry recently, I challenge you to do it this weekend.  I am going to start a thread at the Down to Earth forum where we can all post our photos.  We may not live close to one another but we can still use our modern technologies to support and encourage each other to work to the best of our ability.  I know it's probably not what you want to do on the weekend, but it won't take long and what else could make you open a door and smile at the pantry?