Pantry Ranting

If I see another perfect, straight-out-of Williams-Sonoma pantry filled with quaint matching baskets and lovely labeled glass canisters full-to-bursting with wholesome looking gluten-free grains I’m going to beat someone over the head with my copy of Real Simple.

But perhaps I’m just jealous.

You see, my pantry – and I am blessed to have an actual, separate room for my pantry, located between the garage and the kitchen – has become overwhelmed by piles of crap.

As I was loading up another case of peach preserves the other day (those 100 pounds of peaches I bought had to go somewhere) I noticed that the top rail that holds up our entire wire shelving system was pulling out of the wall. The super-heavy-duty drywall anchors were not heavy-duty enough for my family, it seems, and the weight of canned goods, cat food, brewers grains, and all the other stuff we shove in there was just too much for them.

Visions of 100 pounds of peach preserves mixed with countless shards of glass and a half-dozen wire shelves crumpled on the floor filled my head as I hastily began to unload the glass jars of peaches and everything else previously stored on the shelves.

As I write this, it is 10:37 pm on Thursday, and Homebrew Husband is in the pantry right now, drilling holes thorough the top rail in order to re-secure the whole shelving system directly into studs.

We like to call this kind of thing, “date night.”

The good thing about this little homestead improvement project is that it forces me to re-organize a room that had been slumping towards unusable for quite some time.

Here’s some pantry “before” pictures. I’m putting these up so all you people who say things like “I’m so jealous of your garden!” can get a nice balanced picture of the constant messiness that seems to be my life these days.

This is the still-usable wall. It holds my dry goods…beans, oatmeal, pasta, that kind of stuff. Everything’s contained in commercial grade plastic tubs left over from my catering days.

This is the floor of the pantry. Well, actually we had to move a lot of that stuff into the hallway so Nick could climb a step-stool and begin the rugged-ification of the pantry. All those file boxes at the bottom hold empty canning jars.
Here’s the wall where the shelves have already been removed. This is the area that held the majority of the canned and ready-made food staples…stuff like olive oil and Thai chili sauce and canned tuna and Dijon mustard. You know, the basics. That’s mayonaise sitting on top of cat food, sitting on top of malted barley.
My pantry is a hot mess in need of help right now, so I’ve gone-a-looking for some good inspiration photos.
I’ve seen a lot of this:
What the hell is that about? Why do “dream” pantries barely have any food in them? I mean, look at this image – there’s 8 jars of pasta sauce but no pasta, some bottled water and what appear to be two bushels of onions. I’m a pretty by-the-basics cook, but this is spartan even by my standards. 
I also like how the Kitchenaid mixer is tucked into a corner so it will take the maximum amount of maneuvering to lift its 25 pound heft up onto the countertop. I guess when you’re laid up in traction with a spinal injury from lifting your stand mixer, you order take-out.
Or take this inspiration piece:
Can’t you just imagine? “Oh, I’d love to make blackberry jam, but it would totally ruin the look! It’ll be another batch of lemon curd for me!” Again, a pantry with essentially no food but several bottled beverage options. I do give this pantry huge points for putting the obligatory color coded stand mixer at what looks to be shoulder height and providing a step-stool to increase access to it.
I guess what I’m snarking on about here comes down to the promotion of style over substance in what should be the most substance-full room in the house. A pantry is not costume jewelry for the home. It is a work-horse. The pantry is the kitchen’s wing-man, her partner-in-crime, her back-up. It’s where the rubber meets the road in the world of the productive home.
It’s where last minute meals get concocted, essential tools get stored, platters for entertaining friends get tucked away. The pantry is where all the preserves of late summer and early fall sit quietly – applesauce, dilly beans, canned peaches, tomato sauce – waiting for their moment of glory in a winter meal. It deserves a little more respect than being tarted up like a lemon meringue pie.
Hey, I’m all for a simple, peaceful, beautiful environment. All for it. One day, when my son stops gleefully peeing on everything, I hope to recapture a sense of peace, simplicity and beauty in my own home. But for now I’m taking comfort in the fact that I’ve got function on my side, even if form has taken a bit of a back seat.
Actually, having my entire pantry on the hallway floor isn’t particularly functional either, come to think of it. Wish me luck on my reorganization. And if you have any great real pantry inspiration tips or photos, please share! I need all the help I can get. 


  1. says

    Sorry, no inspiration for you as my "pantry" is a large cabinet in the kitchen and one of those white pre-fab shelves with doors out in the garage.

    But a big thanks for the laughs. "Date night" made me smile knowingly, but the comment about lemon curd made me giggle out loud. :)

  2. says

    A year ago I had a heavy-duty "shelving system" in my pantry. One night, the whole thing ripped itself from the wall, and crashed onto the floor. Amazingly, I only lost one jar of mint jelly. After loads of research and pricing, I wound up with the IKEA shelves, primarily because they fit perfectly into the space I had. I will never again trust anything that's screwed into the walls with drywall anchors for my pantry again! Glad you caught yours in time.

  3. says

    First off, I'm shocked and amazed you got any weight to hold with screws directly into drywall. Your eldest could rip that right out of the wall without effort. I was thinking the screws were bending and being pulled out of the studs. Yikes!

    As for my pantry… It's all over the place, with no order at all. Pantry Organization, what's that? I've got a decent sized one in the kitchen filled with whatever will fit, but mostly snacks and tea. Under the breakfast bar is where most of the canned goods go, and the costco boxed are in the garage on U-build wood shelving. A house guest would get lost and starve!

    Good luck! You're a professional, so I'm rooting for you.
    First off, I'm shocked and amazed you got any weight to hold with screws directly into drywall. Your eldest could rip that right out of the wall without effort. I was thinking the screws were bending and being pulled out of the studs. Yikes!

    As for my pantry… It's all over the place, with no order at all. Pantry Organization, what's that? I've got a decent sized one in the kitchen filled with whatever will fit, but mostly snacks and tea. Under the breakfast bar is where most of the canned goods go, and the costco boxed are in the garage on U-build wood shelving. A house guest would get lost and starve!

    Good luck! You're a professional, so I'm rooting for you.

  4. says

    As a girl, I grew up with a "cold room" in the basement. This was a dark and scary place that not only held foodstuffs that were probably placed there by previous generations of family members, but all my mother's canned goods as well. At Hermity Farmer-Women, my daughter and I decided to create our own, less scary, cold room. We turned a rarely-used basement bedroom into a storage place. We have a bedroom dresser that holds our root crops, and are adding random free-standing shelves bit by bit. We get earthquakes, so I have been trying to figure out how to secure an old medicine cabinet to the wall so that it doesn't tip and spill all my carefully concocted tinctures and potions. Your pantry, my dear, looks like a wonderfully full and organized space to us. We seem to be the queens of condiments right now. If the world goes to hell in a handbasket, we joke that we're all heading to the basement with a spoon.

  5. says

    Hehe, loved this post! Your insights into the so-called inspiration pictures were hilarious. No one really lives that way. My only advice is to get some real cabinets in there. Wire shelving is crap.

  6. says

    Loved your photos – as they are REAL…. The others to me were a lot of wasted space… They should be crammed full! lol!

    Go for sturdy steel heavy duty floor to ceiling shelving units – industrial or commercial use ones. That wire shelf rack into sheetrock is a no-no for serious users.

    Don't have a pantry :( … but do have sturdy bimart wood cabinets with locking doors and adjustable shelves for my canning stuff! Totally awesome and durable and heavy duty!

  7. says

    I would love to have your pantry. I have a 1950's house with two tall kitchen cabinets that don't seem wide enough for much.

    My first thought in the first display photo was about lifting
    that heavy mixer. Odd placement even for an ad. :)

  8. says

    You have a pantry? Your lucky. Mine is in the garage and looks even worse. Go thru the door into the garage, off to the left are shelves previous owner had, not much but its where all the canning jars and filled ones are for now. Ive run out of room however.

    Off to the right is an old wicker shelf unit with is too feeble to hold cans and jars so it holds all my paper goods and things like that. Behind it is two tall file cabinets that hold all my craft junk. Here is where the other filled canning jars will be stacked since its strong.

    After you find your way thru the maze of moving boxes and junk (we moved here almost two yrs. ago), you will find the freezer on the far right wall. If you follow the maze to the right of the freezer theres metal shelving with groceries on it that I dont use much.

    Go back to the freezer and on its left are two tall metal shelving units, filled with my groceries and such. Sadly Ive run out of room there too and there are piles on the floor in front of it, some still in the grocery bags till I make more room on the shelves. This is also where all the big bottles and jugs go tho.

    However, I am lucky enough to have a decent size kitchen to store all my pots and pans and baking stuff in. And my Kitchen Aid sits proudly in one corner. She never has to be moved and I even have counter space to use as a baking area. I guess we all have to compromise.

  9. Erin says

    Omg I love your blog. I've been reading it for a while now. I actually get excited when I see you've made a posting!! Thanks for taking time out of your day to do it.
    By the way…I have a kitchen aid and cannot imagine having to pick it up like that. It's hard enough to drag to the front of the counter

  10. says

    Anyone, and I mean ANYone who has a pantry like those pictured should have their head examined! Those types of pantries are for those "I wann'a look like I cook, but we order take-out six days of the week" kind of people. Yours, BTW, looks much neater than mine. Maybe I'll post a pic of ours (after I clean it up a bit)….or maybe not.

    Oh, and why do they always show Perrier or other fancy bubbly water in bottles when there's a pantry shot? Is that their idea of emergency water storage?? :)

  11. says

    Hmmm. Those stylish pantries just don't have the used look to them. My appliances are all out on the counter as they are constantly in use. If I packed them away that means I would have to have two spaces allotted to them…counter and cupboard. No.

    My grandma and mother had those cold rooms mentioned. Creepy is right, especially to get to my grandma's I had to walk past the wringer washer which would "rip my arm right off" if I got within 10 feet of it. My mother's I had to walk past the furnace room…shudder…they give me nightmares.

    My husband built a very sturdy floor to ceiling pantry in the basement, louvered doors, very nice. That is for all the canned and bottled goods. My dry pantry is also a floor to ceiling cupboard about 18" deep in the kitchen. I don't even have doors on it as it is really nice to survey.

    • Bernadine Moore says

      lmao reading this…brought back a lot of memories….my gramma had one of those washing machines and my aunt told me the story many times of the time her hand got drug through that wringer because she wasn’t watching what she was doing. (her eyebrows and eyelashes also got burned off when she leaned over to set the fire in the basement incinerator….I think she was very distracted!) :) My home is a 100+ year old farmhouse and I have one of those root cellars down there…a dark and scary cave and I have not set foot in there in 20 years! I keep saying I need to go in and clean it, but cannot bring myself to. Like the dumb waiter shaft next to it, they are relics of a bygone era….fun to look at, but just a space for spiders to roost!

  12. Lady Banksia says

    I have kitchen cabinets galore, all full of stuff (both the random items and the everyday usable tools), but no official pantry. Unless you count the closet by the front door, that which does not hold coats and hats, but alas: has light-duty shelves for who-knows-what… my rolls of food-storage vacuum bags, a crowd-pleasing amount of almonds, paper towels, canned salmon, you know – that stuff.

    Too hot here in AZ to store any food items in the garage… wouldn't dream of it. No basements here, either. What's a gal to do?

    and by the way, your pantry rocks! Function over form, I say! I'd take your pantry over those showroom pantries in a NY minute!

    (I'd go free-standing, sturdy shelving, if they are gonna carry that much weight/stuff.)

  13. says

    I wish my pantry (aka the garage that we can't park in because all our stuff is in there) looked even close to your disaster version LOL. I have great shelves for canning stuff that although it looks like it's been there for at least 30 years, it is definitely sagging and I have nightmares of falling jars. So my jars are in an odd system of cardboard boxes on wire shelving that is quickly getting overwhelmed. I go out there and come back as quick as I can so I can forget the big task I have to take on in cleaning it out.

  14. says

    I am with ya on the totally organized pantries! I have a pantry "closet" and it has nothing but food in it, oh, except for the hardly used waffle iron and foils and freezer bags.
    I like your version of "date night." too funny!

  15. says

    The only advice for organization I can give you is group like things together. I've got all my Asian foods in one place, pasta and grains together, beans in another, sweeteners grouped, etc. It makes it easier to find stuff in a pinch and see when you're running low on something. Yeah, yeah, an inventory would be nice but get real. Who's really got the time to maintain that?

    "Honey, when you took the jar of peanut butter outta the pantry, did you mark it off the list? Cuz if you didn't and we run out, it's your problem and I'm not making a special trip to the store!"

    @Lady Banksia – nice to see you here. We should get together!

  16. Anonymous says

    Pantries, like sock drawers and spice racks, are easy targets for entropy. The only way to deal with it is to really – Oh, look! It's Gin O'clock.

  17. says

    My pantry is three (well, four, since I added a crate on its side) deep shelves in the corner of the kitchen (very impractical, especially for the things as the back, with a large rubbermaid tub underneath, plus some additional food on a shelf in the other corner, and some stashed under the sink. I live in an apartment with a very poorly designed kitchen, so I work with what I have. I'd love a room, though – something good and practical, like yours, rather than the ones I typically see in magazines.

  18. says

    I'll take the red kitchen. Does it come with clean & spritely kids dressed in denim and red gingham, perhaps a matching apron for me? I would look hot in that kitchen!!

    My advice for the pantry is, make sure it has a door on it!

    Good luck!

  19. says

    I don't have a pantry! Deep sigh…I sure wish I did because I would definitely have one of those showcase pics you posted, NOT! Hilarious, putting it mildly. My canned goods, pasta, etc. are spread out in my kitchen cabinets and it drives me crazy on a daily basis honestly. The only pantry type item I own is a vintage pie safe that belonged to my late grandma that I ended up with somehow by the skin of my teeth. The pie safe incident practically caused me to lose my relationship with my aunt. True story. Since my husband is a materials manager you would think we would have an organized pantry, but no. He brings home amazing large glass containers from work, bins, you name it, but these items never get organized in one location. Your post has me inspired though….a pantry, wouldn't that be dreamy. My wheels are turning!

  20. says

    Oh, and I second what another commenter said: Get the wire free standing racks. Costco has reasonably priced ones, and I believe they come with rollers. You would want to bolt them to the walls somehow since you're in earthquake country too I'm sure. Can't wait to see the after pics!

  21. says

    Home Depot has heavier duty free-standing wire racks than Costco's, which I would recommend if loading it up with filled canning jars. The heavy duty ones can handle 300 lbs per shelf on the 48" wide one (18" deep, if I remember right). I believe the lighter duty ones can only handle 150 lbs. Do your research before you buy!

  22. says

    I don't even have a pantry, so no advice on that – but I have just 'madeover' my home office. Fear of ending up on the news as a crazy lady found dead under a pile of papers, I set too tidying and organising and it FEELS SO GOOD to see it now and to use it now. So go for it, make it functional and suited to your place but maybe add some beauty too – and as dixiebelle said – have a door of it. PS love your writing, keep it up, cheers

  23. says

    Love this post, the dream of having the perfect pantry .. hummm :) I would rather have a separate room for my pantry but in my little abode I am happy with the built in pantry that often gets re shuffled, this way I don't forget about the various and strange ingredients that I have. I do have a rather large laundry which I have a wooden shelving unit for extra kitchen "stuff". I drive my husband nuts with this as to keep it clean and tidy I move it … frequently!!!!!

  24. says

    If you'd like pictures of real pantries, this thread has some great ones:

    Real, heavy duty shelves, loaded with canned goods…and links to directions for sturdy homemade shelves.

    Can you tell what I have on my (overlong) to do list? :) I'm lucky enough to have a small walk in pantry (converted closet in our guest room, near the kitchen) but I scarily am using those plastic storage shelves that you can get at the big box hardware stores. It worked well for a while, but loaded up with canning jars they're a little scary!

  25. says

    I have a mild obsession with other people's pantries. When I was growing up we had a walk-in pantry filled with my mom's home canned food and her co-op bulk foods. I used to stand around in there a lot. Like a lot of people my pantry consists of lots of shelving in the garage next to an extra freezer. Pretty it isn't, but it's satisfying when filled with all the things I've canned. As you can see, I have no advice. Just love listening to all this pantry talk.

  26. Cally Brown says

    I have a pantry similar to yours. Except. Except mine is at least twice as messy. Get back to me if ever you work out how to sort it :p

  27. April says

    Our “pantry” is the extra bedroom in our house. We live in a small three bedroom, and it is located down the hallway, but quite a bit of room. We have shelving units around all the outside walls, and a couple through the middle to create a couple of short isles.

  28. Paula says

    LOL’d about lifting the Kitchen Aid mixer from the bottom shelf. My mixer lives on the counter and I get have to rest after sliding it from the back of the counter to the front to use it.

  29. Elfreda says

    I had to laugh at the “Can-solidator” link from OhPervyOne’s post. They’re described as having patented technology, did they find a way to patent gravity? Oh, no!

  30. kathleen says

    Wingits! Or what about those steel garage shelving units anchored to the wall. Aldi sells them for cheap the beginning of summer. Personally, I would just build one out of wood but I have built most all my furniture and I realize that’s not everyone’s thing. I also realize this post is old. Hope your pantry is still off the floor!

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