Freestanding Pantry Options
Your kitchen, no matter the size or budget, can be organized and made clean, functional and efficient with the right freestanding pantry options.
Stay Well Stocked
"I keep at least one backup of every item in my pantry," says blogger and cookbook author Elana Amsterdam of Elana's Pantry, "and as soon as I pull it out for use, I am sure to add the item to my grocery list so we aren't ever out of inventory."
Organization is Key
Cookbook author Sheri Castle, whose most recent book is The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Recipes for Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers' Markets, Roadside Stands and CSA Farm Boxes, has organized her kitchen into task-oriented work zones. "For example," she says, "I keep all of the items I use for baking in one drawer, all items for measuring and mixing in one drawer, and all knives and cutting tools together in another drawer. When I'm ready to cook, everything I need is in one spot, ready to grab and go. This organization makes prep work quicker because I don't have to dig around for things. It also makes clean up quicker, because I know exactly where everything should go when I'm done.
Protect Delicate Tools
"Covering the bottom of kitchen drawers with a piece of non-adhesive shelf liner keeps items from shifting and sliding when you open and close the drawers," says cookbook author Sheri Castle. "It also cushions delicate items, like the microplane graters I use to zest the lemons for my lemon curd." Get Sheri's Citrus Curd recipe.
Whatever recipe you're whipping up, having a well-organized pantry means you can find what you need when you need it. To keep her ingredients well-organized and handy, gluten-free cookbook author and blogger Elana Amsterdam uses different size glass jars and labels them with a label maker. "I put the higher jars in the back and the shorter ones in front," she says. "That way you can see everything at once without moving the jars around."
Use Double-Duty Containers
Glass jars make great serving dishes, as well. Annette Joseph, author of Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli, 2013), serves her olive tapenade in a glass jar. The casual presentation helps a party feel friendly and laid-back, and any leftovers can be stored right in the serving container. Get Annette's Olive Tapenade and Crostini recipe.
Opt for All-White Dishes
Another serving-dish space saver: Instead of bowls and platters in lots of different patterns, buy everything in white. "That way," says caterer Bruce Soffer of The Chefs Table, Ltd., "the things you have can be used for any sort of party, and any color scheme." For a more casual look, compliment the white china with rustic baskets or to dress things up, add candlelight.
Keep an Eye on Freshness
To help keep track of your perishables, do what Arlen Gargagliano, chef/owner of Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, NY, does to make sure the ingredients in recipes like her chimichurri are always fresh. "Label items not only with the content," says Gargagliano, "but with the date they were opened."
Contain Bulk Purchases
If you buy ingredients in bulk, as Arlen Gargagliano does not only for her restaurant, Mambo 64, but for her own home use as well, transfer things from floppy bags and large boxes to more manageable, smaller containers. It's easier to keep the containers right at hand, and they're less likely to spill, too.
Chalk Up a Checklist
If you’re planning a party with lots of dishes to prepare, each with lots of prep steps, take a tip from caterer Bruce Soffer of The Chefs Table, Ltd., and keep a chalkboard, white board (or even a large piece of paper taped to your wall) with the steps for every day written out, day-by-day.
Plan Ahead for Parties
When you're cooking to entertain, remember to schedule in your table setting, in addition to the food. "Set your table and do your flower arrangements and tablescape a day in advance," says Annette Joseph, author of Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli, 2013). "And label your platters, trays and serving bowls with sticky notes, identifying the items to be placed in each of them."
A relatively inexpensive fix to add more storage and keep items separate and within easy reach, freestanding pantries are the perfect alternative to built-in pantry cabinets and closets, and they come in a variety of options. Units range from those with just a few shelves to large pieces of furniture that cover entire walls. You can pick one up at any store that sells home and kitchen accessories, or even find a used one that'll work well in your kitchen. Just be sure to measure the space where you plan to put it so you know for sure it will fit when you get it home.
Deciding what type of material you want your freestanding pantry to be made of and what your budget is for it will also make it easier to choose the one that is right for you. Freestanding pantries with wire shelves work well for organizing canned and dried goods, as well as pots and pans, and small appliances. The wire material makes everything easy to see and gives your kitchen a clean, contemporary look. Stainless steel freestanding pantries also have an air of professionalism and efficiency.
A wooden shelving unit is also a good option, as it has the tone and style of something more classic and traditional. Wooden units often look more like furniture and give your kitchen a homier feel.
Plastic pantry units are an inexpensive option if you're on a tight budget and simply want something functional you can put together easily. They can be bought at discount retail stores and snap together in a variety of sizes.
Choosing an armoire or bookcase for your freestanding pantry is an interesting new take on a classic piece of furniture. It can stand against a wall and give your kitchen character and warmth. This type of furniture can be bought new or you can have some fun scouring yard sales and thrift stores for something you can restore.
Rollout drawers and shelves can easily be added to most freestanding pantries for a more customized look. Other accessories like spice racks, dividers, lazy Susans, see-through storage containers, baskets and bins are smart additions to organize your pantry with your own personal style.
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