Having the right shelf design in your pantry is crucial to organization and can vastly help improve your cooking experience. Imagine: Your recipe calls for paprika. You know you have some, you’re sure of it. You wade through the spice junkyard for fifteen minutes to find it. Then you have to track down that can of garbanzo beans—it’s around here somewhere—meanwhile, your onions are burning.
A functional pantry is essential to all-around kitchen happiness. Knowing at a glance what you have helps you use food before it goes bad, keeps you from buying duplicates, and most importantly, gets that paprika into the pan before your onions turn to charcoal. Shelving systems run the gamut, and much of the decision comes down to personal taste. Some things to keep in mind while shopping:
To start, remove the existing shelves of your walk-in or cabinet. Budget permitting, you should begin with the largest hollow box possible. The most functional shelving designs are wrap-around, or U-shaped; that is, three of the four walls have shelves mounted on them. This gives you a central vantage point from which to take inventory. Each shelf will be shallower, true, but that’s a good thing. Remember, you want to know what you have at a glance. Plus, when shelves are shallow, they require less headroom, so you can install more of them.
Parse it as finely as you wish, or into broad categories such as Daily Food, Sometimes Food, and Almost Never Food. How much you keep in each category will guide your design. Spices, for instance, should occupy the shallowest shelves, and should only be stacked two or three deep. If you only keep a few spices on hand, though, don’t waste the real estate. Mount Velcro strips to the door and stick uniform spice canisters to them. Bulkier items such as flour and sugar can go in under-mounted pull-outs, saving the prime shelving for cereal, pasta, grains, and other high-turnover items.
Wire and mesh shelves allow light to pass through, but extra lighting always helps. Battery-operated LEDs cost only a few dollars, and mount below shelves or to the wall. Do not keep the lights on for long periods of time, however, as exposure to light can accelerate spoilage.
If you have no pantry, or your cabinets are filled with the good China and Aunt Harriet’s crock pot, find an attractive hutch, credenza, or baker’s rack. Typically designed to organize offices or media collections, these pieces can be just as effective for chicken soup and breakfast bars. What’s more, they can often add just the right design flare to an otherwise standard kitchen.