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I think it is time to stop hiding under the bed and move on to the pantry.

Before you close this post because you don’t have a pantry, STOP! Technically, I don’t either. This post is still for you.

The first myth of pantry-dom I’d like to bust is that the pantry has to be in (or near) the kitchen. Our Kitchen is on the main level of our house. We have a room downstairs, in the basement, next to the garage we use as a playroom that houses our hot water heater and air conditioner and heater. It’s a bit bigger than what is needed for these appliances, so we turned it into our extra food storage area.

In it we have a chest freezer, an extra refrigerator (we bought it eight years ago for $35 from govdeals.com), and a wall of open shelving for non-perishable items and paper goods. Well, we also keep infrequently used dishes/pans down there. And I installed a shelf over the freezer (high enough to open the lid – on the second try – lol) where we keep our coolers and buckets for brining turkeys at Thanksgiving.

We call this room “The Market.”

My kids love it when I ask them to run down to “The Market” to get a gallon of milk or a bag of chips. It’s kind of like living in a city over a little market and being allowed to run errands – without getting wet when it’s raining.

So, before we start organizing the pantry, let’s think about spaces where a pantry could exist, for those of us who don’t have one in the kitchen. We need to begin by finding the pantry you don’t have.

Finding the pantry you don't have

The one limit I’d probably place on creativity is bedrooms/bathrooms. I don’t think I’d plan a pantry in a bedroom or bathroom closet, but otherwise, anything is fair game!

  1. Obviously, a hot water heater closet, if there’s extra space.
  2. I have a friend who converted her coat closet into a pantry. It’s near the kitchen, but not in the kitchen. You may need to install hooks near the door for coats – yours and guests – but they’ll be easier to access and it gives you a great place to store food!
  3. A linen closet. You just have to find places to keep the linens. I have ideas for this, too, but those posts are still a few weeks away!
  4. The junk closet. You know that place where everything you don’t know what to do with, but don’t want to get rid of goes? Get rid of it! Then use the space for a pantry.
  5. A large armoire placed in the dining room, breakfast nook (we don’t have one of these either), entry way, or some other place near-ish to the kitchen. Just make sure it has solid doors, so you don’t have to look at soup cans and paper towels every time you walk into the house.
  6. Do you have 4+ inches between your cabinets and refrigerator? I’ve seen pull-out shelves made for that space.
  7. You could build shelves into the space between the studs in a wall behind the kitchen door. Simply remove the drywall covering the open area, install shelves right into the studs, frame the edges to make it all pretty, and you have floor-to-ceiling shelves that are just deep enough to hold canned goods and boxes of tea, cereal (facing out), pasta, etc.
  8. What about your laundry room? Is there room in there for open shelving or a tall cabinet with doors?
  9. Do you have a mudroom? A pantry cabinet in the mudroom is great when you are unloading groceries. And if there’s room for the extra refrigerator, you not only pick up space to store extra refrigerated foods, but can put drinks and snacks in there for the kids. Think about those summer days when they are playing in the sprinkler, get thirsty, and traipse through the house – muddy, grassy feet and all – to get a popsicle. If there is a refrigerator in the mudroom, the mud can stay where it’s expected.
  10. Don’t forget the garage. Often there is enough space in the garage for an extra refrigerator. Add some workshop shelves for an instant pantry.
  11. Unfinished basement? If there’s light, it could be a pantry.
  12. Do you have a covered or screened in porch on the back of the house? The large armoire I mentioned above or a tall closed cabinet could go out there to hold food. Or lockers! Lockers are a great semi-outdoor option. And again, if there’s space for an extra refrigerator, you gain easy access when dining outside, grilling, and for kids when they need a cold drink while playing in the yard.
  13. And if you want to get really extreme – attic space is always an option. You may not have enough height for a refrigerator up there, but if you are up for a little bit of construction, you could definitely finish a small part of the attic for food storage. Our boys have a play-space carved out of the attic over their room, and while I dreamed of a dumbwaiter to lift them in and out of the hole, we opted for a ladder – not the pull down variety, but solid wood with large, flat steps. We do have a basket on a pulley for lifting things (not people) in and out of that space.

If you’ve lived without a pantry for years, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Why have a pantry? The greatest benefit we experience in having a pantry is saving money. I can buy items in bulk for a discount or stock up when something we regularly use is on sale. Having a place to store it, where I can see what’s there, and begin my weekly “shopping trip” at home saves us hundreds of dollars per year. Really!

It also adds convenience. Having sufficient overstock on hand means I don’t usually have to run out at the last minute for a needed ingredient.

Next week we’ll start talking about how to organize a clutter-free pantry for ease of use and to make sure food doesn’t go to waste.