Tools to Organize a Pantry Quickly

Written on April 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm , by

 

I have just completely reorganized my dry-goods pantry.  Naturally, I used technology to make the job go faster, get everything super organized, and save money.

I took a laptop, a trash bag, and some cleaning supplies in there and finished the job with the minimum of effort. In fact, quite a bit of technology went into this project. Here’s what I did.

First I pulled everything out, throwing out old spices and baking supplies, and washed down the shelves. But rather than just toss everything that was past its pull date, I pulled out a tablet computer and ordered replacements as I went. Ordering everything online meant I could take on this project at any hour of the day. It also meant I got exactly what I wanted and upgraded my ingredients considerably – for less money.

I replaced some of my baking goods and cleansers at Alice.com. And I ordered crackers and other snacks at Paydragon.com using my smart phone. This service has an app for iPhone and Android that lets me scan the item I’m replacing and click order.

Some of my spices were quite old, though. And many of those were bought in haste when a recipe required it. I am a huge fan of TheSpiceHouse.com and have been ordering spices from there for years. Good spices make cooking a visceral pleasure. And ordering good spices online is cheaper than buying tired ones at my local grocer.  Even my teenagers love it when I order spices from here. Everyone has a favorite – popcorn cheese, scented sugars, fine vanilla – that makes preparing food fun as for them as it is for me, even if their cooking is no more extravagant than microwave popcorn or cinnamon toast. In fact, the pleasure of ordering new spices here is why I took on the pantry reorganization in the first place.

Ordering spices in bulk online saves money here. But I need my own jars to put them in when they arrive. But bags of spices are difficult to store and use. So this time I decided I would go all in and replace my odd assortment of jars along with the tired spices. I started by ordering new spice jars at Amazon.com. I got some larger jars – to match – to hold grains, nuts, and dried fruits.

My new jars and spices arrives a few days after I cleaned and tossed things. And I spent another – very aromatic and pleasant – hour filling those jars.

To make everything clear to everyone who cooks in my kitchen, I labeled all the jars with an Epson LabelWorks LW-400 ($38 at Amazon.com) label printer. This labeler lives in my pantry and has saved may dishes from “I thought that unlabeled jar had sugar in it but it was actually salt.” It runs on batteries, lets me change fonts and print size for every label, and prints out a label tape that exactly fits the item I’m labeling. I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

This was a fun project. And it recharged our cuisine.

Everyone has been experimenting with flavors. I’ve made some Cajun, Thai, and Indian dishes. And my daughter (14) has turned Chicken salad – with interesting spice experiments – into an art form, which has made out brown-bag lunches something to look forward to every day.

The popcorn? Nothing short of amazing. Our favorite is popped in a pan with olive oil and flavored with butter, popcorn cheese, and a dash of Vulcan’s fire salt.

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