September 26, 2022

Preparedness Month Project

About two years ago, we upgraded our pantry (some of the photos below are from that post). We added insulation to the walls, installed energy efficient windows, and I rearranged the shelves in what I hoped was a good set-up. But, you know how it is; living with an idea sometimes isn't as good as it seemed. So, I spent some time this month (September is Preparedness Month, after all!) figuring out how to improve the pantry.  

My original set-up: one corner

This corner was the first problem. I thought I could work with L-shaped shelving, but it was more hassle than it was worth. The opposite corner was okay, so I left that side as is.

Original set-up, opposite corner

I cleared off the problem shelves, gave them a dusting, and set them up like library aisles. Then I used another shelving unit to add another shelf on top.

New shelf arrangement

The other side of the room was the same but a foot shorter because the pantry door isn't centered in the room. I have a five foot wall on one side of the door and a four foot wall on the other.

Original set-up on the other side of the room.

Original set-up, the other corner on that side.

If I rearranged the ell to make an aisle between the shelf units, there wouldn't be enough room to use the grain grinder on that side of the island. What to do? After a lot of thinking and measuring, my solution was to move the island cabinet to the four-foot wall instead of the table. That made enough room to turn the shelf, plus I can still get to the grinder. 

New arrangement. (The lean is due to the camera lens!)

However, I liked having the island for the Berkey water filter. And the countertop was handy to set down an armload of jars before shelving them.

Original set-up

So, I found something that takes up less space. 

New arrangement.

The Berkey is still easily accessible and I have a small surface for setting things down. Plus, I can get around the island to get to everything, and the cart shelves are perfect for things I use often, like my fermentation and cheese making accoutrements.

I think this room arrangement makes better use of available floor space. And it helps with another problem too, i.e. a place for empty canning jars. I've tried various ideas for jar storage, but none seem to work very well. With this arrangement, there's room between the wall shelves and the cabinet for boxes of jars. Empty boxes can go on top of the shelf units.

In addition to a set-up that I'll hopefully be happier with, this exercise gave me an opportunity to check dates and seals on canned and vacuum packed dry goods, dust jars, rotate, and reorganize. When I'm busy canning for a string of days, I tend to just pop the new jars into any empty space on the shelves just to get them out of the way. I like it better when everything has its designated space: fruits, veggies, soups, meats, jams and jellies, pickles, etc. 

How about you? Do you have particular challenges with your food storage? How have you tried to solve them? How do you manage empty jars? How do you keep things organized? What's worked? What hasn't? I'm open to ideas!


Mama Pea said...

As I read through this post, I kept thinking, "Yep, same problem here!" I've found the only way to find the perfect set-up (ha, there is none) is to keep changing until one figures out what works best. We have a couple of plastic shelving units that look identical to yours, but I've had trouble over the years with the shelves bending from weight. I like wooden shelving (where it's possible to built it) and have two wonderful steel units we got from a restaurant going out of business. They collect less dust and are easier to wipe down plus are strong enough to hold any load I put on them. A good storage spot for the empty jars always creates a jumbled mess frustration. That's something I still haven't figured out. No matter where I stash them, I feel they're taking up "good" storage space!

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, at least I know I'm in good company!

I agree about the plastic shelves, they simply don't hold the advertised weight. But they were the cheapest and I needed a lot of them, so there we are. I have a couple of those steel shelf units elsewhere, and agree they are superior to plastic. If I ever come into some windfall cash, I'll invest in them! Or, maybe one of these days, Dan will have the time to make wood shelves. Although the thing I like about the plastic or steel, is that being not solid, I can store empty jars upside-down on the shelves and the jars can breathe, i.e., they stay cleaner without getting a musty or closed up odor.

Ed said...

I'm pretty happy with my last setup which was building shallow wooden shelves along one wall in our basement. They can only store jars 2 deep but have lots of cavities so we can keep everything grouped up and easy to find. I generally keep the oldest preserves to my right and put the new ones to the left of the old ones so that we can use up the oldest stock first without much digging around. A couple times of year I slide everything to the right and fill in all the way to the left with the empty jars. I just keep all the empty jars on the same shelves as the full jars. Since I tend to preserve things in the same sized jars all the times, they are always near what remains of the previous preserves and thus easy to locate without having to shuffle around heavy boxes of empty jars.

My only complaint is that we decided to switch over to mostly using pint jars and thus loaded up on a bunch of them over the winter and gave away a lot of our quart jars. But this year I started canning apples which are really too bulky to do efficiently in pint jars and so I used up what quarts I had and bought some more. I should have kept more of my old quart jars. Live and learn.

Leigh said...

Ed, that sounds like a really good system, especially since you have the wall space for a 2-jar-depth shelf.

I know what you mean about jar sizes. I do a lot more canning in pints than previously (which is why I have so many boxes of empty quart jars now), but for some things, I find quarts better. Plus, they only use up one lid for the same amount as two pints!

I've also got a lot of odd size jars: 3/4 quarts (24 oz) and 3/4 pints (12 oz). They're good jars and were basically "free," so I use them as well. But they complicate my empty jar organizing efforts. I'm hoping with this set-up, I can start to fill empty rows with empty jars. (I say that now, but we'll see!)

PioneerPreppy said...

My challenge is getting my caning machine started. She just doesn't seem to want to run these days :)

Leigh said...

Hmm, PP. What do you suppose it would take to fix it. ;)

Nancy In Boise said...

Good job! I reorganized mine recently too. Its good to adjust as needed. Maybe I'll share some new photos! Nice space you have!

Leigh said...

Nancy, please do! I'd love to see photos of your pantry!

tpals said...

Ah, now I have storage neatness envy. Do you use your Berkey regularly? I have one,but haven't needed to use it. I've been rewatching Jericho, nothing like a nuclear show to make you rethink preparedness.

Leigh said...

Tpals, we use our Berkey all the time. But we're on municipal water which has so much chlorine in it you almost gag on the smell when it comes out of the faucet.

WolfSong said...

I have to organize my space.
Our biggest issue is that it's in the basement.
Our house is tiny (just under 700 sq ft) with 3 adults.
And 2 of those adults are getting older, with bad knees.
So I want to clean out the 3rd bedroom/library and turn it into our pantry/seed starting area til the greenhouse is done,and clean out 98% of the *stuff* in the basement.
(why is it so dang easy to hoard things??)
If we'd have been smarter when we were Farm hunting, we would have looked for a house without a basement.
Ah well. Live and learn.

Leigh said...

WolfSong, I agree, it's very easy to hoard stuff! Although, most of what I have is stuff I use, even if only annually. I think that would be especially challenging in a tiny house! I think that's a really good idea about turning your third bedroom into a pantry. My original pantry was a tiny 4x5 foot room off the kitchen, which was way too small for all my canned goods. So that became the utility room and we turned the back study into the pantry. I guess what I'm saying is, it never hurts to rearrange living spaces to suit needs!