I was lucky enough recently to have my mother-in-law come visit for a few days, keeping Will very entertained and giving me time to tackle some of the projects that I think about daily and make progress on never.
This included a complete cleansing and re-organization of our pantry, complete with a trip to the container store. Sure, I could have done it while taking care of Will, but we would have had cluttered countertops and dirty laundry for a week. (It's definitely one of those projects that gets far worse before it gets better.) So when an Angel of Baby Entertaining descended, it was pantry time!
I pulled everything out, sorted it into categories, and THEN made a list of what containers to purchase. (I was so impressed with myself for doing it in that order.) I would like to say I then measured the pantry and wrote down the dimensions, but actually I got incredibly lucky.
When I got home, I put my grouped items into bins, pulled out the label maker and went to town. Some of the boxes were easy to label - pasta, desserts. Pretty logical if you're looking for spaghetti or brownie mix. But the box with bread crumbs, corn meal, and oats? I almost labeled it "grains" and called it a day. But that wouldn't really help me if I was looking for one of those items or trying to remember where to put it back. So I typed out an individual label for each item in the bin rather than categorizing, and now I can actually find things without trying to guess whether bread crumbs should be in a bin labeled grains, flours, or cooking. As a sidenote, after trying to logically group all the items in my pantry, I have a little less anger at the seemingly illogical placement of many grocery items. (Maraschino cherries: baking needs, drinks aisle, or iced cream display?) It's harder than you'd think.
My only downer was Greg's lack of enthusiasm when I told him the project was in progress. "Haven't you done this before?" He asked. "It didn't last."
And that's the thing - it doesn't. It can't. A pantry has a constantly changing inventory, so it requires constant reorganization. It will never be maintenance free. But I think having bins where similar items can be pulled out all together and rummaged through will help, especially with enough labels to actually steer pantry raiders in the right direction.
I'm also hoping that by organizing it so I can pull out a bin and see everything in the back of the deep shelves that I will buy fewer duplicate items. Planning meals before I go to the grocery store and then checking my pantry inventory could prevent overcrowding, save money, and waste less food.
Who knows, maybe I'll read this post in five years and laugh hysterically at my optimism, but I think it is possible to stock a pantry wisely, keep it from being overly full, and use it to always have a few meals or snacks on hand for the days that the grocery store just isn't in the cards.
By the way, Greg fully redeemed himself by showing interest and enthusiasm when he came home and the project was completed, and by being nice about my love affair with the container store. It won't last forever, but it'll keep us more organized until next time. :)
Bonus: I also sorted all Will's outgrown clothing by size and type to put away for future use! Oh label maker meets container store meets Nana visiting, how I love you.