When we first moved in, our kitchen was a hot mess. The small, awkwardly placed cabinets were difficult to organize. Living with a roommate means doubles of many of the “basic” kitchen items – in our case, baking supplies – which takes up more room than it should. We each had half of a cabinet for all of our food, the rest of the space was filled with pots, pans, tupperware, and all of the other kitchen things you tend to accumulate. This wasn’t working with my grocery shopping/food storage habits. See, I like to keep a lot of things (legumes, nuts, grains, flour, etc) on hand in my pantry at all times, so the only things I really need to grocery shop for are items that get stored in the fridge (almond milk, eggs, vegetables, fruits, cheeses). This allows to me to stock up on non-perishables infrequently and makes my trips to the grocery store a bit quicker since I only hit up two areas, rather than the entire store.
Remember what my kitchen was looking like when we first moved in?
A hot mess. That’s what this place was, except minus the hot part.
Our storage system evolved a bit after we settled in a bit more, but these pictures remain exemplary of our kitchen’s progress in the first couple of months we lived here. It was not working! I needed a solution, and after seeing something similar in an airbnb my mother and Aunt Stephanie stayed at while visiting, I got an idea stuck in my head. I started hunting for a china cabinet on craigslist soon after. A china cabinet? Isn’t that a little dated? Just wait. See that weird wall that caps the closer side of the galley kitchen? It’s not in line with the long hall way wall, but rather 2-3 feet back closer to the kitchen. It’s almost perpendicular to the center line of the refrigerator. It makes no sense! It serves no purpose! It annoys me! That is where the china cabinet will go. It will extend the kitchen storage and make the wall more functional in the mean time.
I hunted and hunted. That wall is only 43″ wide so the cabinet had to be skinny. I still wanted something tall though, so I could gain as much storage as possible. Finally, I found it! The perfect cabinet. It was exactly the right width for the wall! I drove with my friend Kayla to Hayden Island in North Portland and we stuffed the china cabinet into the van I borrowed from my parents, paid the man his $90 bucks, and headed back to my house. A little dusting and a wipe down with Honest Co. Multi-Purpose Cleaner, and she was ready to be filled on up!
The cabinet even came with a little light that makes the pantry goods look super cute and cozy in their new home. The glass shelf inside lets the light shine down on to both levels. I filled the open middle area with cookbooks belonging to both my roommate and I. The cabinets below hold mason jars, my Staub dutch oven, and my waffle iron, while the drawers contain some random bits and things like frosting squeeze bottles and rolling pins. Boom! Insta storage! The cute cabinet almost makes me forget the annoying the flooring transition I talked more about here. Fake wood meets fake tile in such a dumb way, don’t even get me started! Just concentrate on the glorious cabinet!
You see I also got some new stools. And one of my Parlor palms died. I’ve left it there in such a stylish manor. I bought a new snake plant replaced this guy with the new one in the meantime! The stools I bought when my office moved from east to west Portland. I picked them up for $20 each and I have five. I’ve been using 4 here at the “counter” but the ledge is only about 8 inches deep so people mostly sit sideways and I think I’ll need to remove one more for ease of access.
The china cabinet so perfectly fits this spot and it really ties the kitchen into the living room beyond. It feels so great to walk over here in the evenings and grab my jar of cous cous or lentils. Each morning I make my bowl of oatmeal and set the bowl in front of the cookbooks while I get out the chia seeds from the upper cabinet to sprinkle them on top. It’s quite a handy spot!
Inside my jars hold a whole manor of non-perishable goods! I really have more storage for this than I really need, but I really love the affect of all the jars within. On the left side I have muesli, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, cous cous, black rice, and sliced almonds on the top shelf and rye flour, lentils, dried mango (for the all of two days I have it before devouring every last piece!), polenta, whole wheat flour and my tin of steel cut oatmeal.
On the right side I’ve got black beans, black eyed peas, tri-color wild rice, finely milled whole wheat flour and pine nuts on top, while the bottom shelf holds tri-color popcorn kernels, chia seeds, rolled oats, and usually chocolate chips, but I believe I finished them off before taking this picture!
Our kitchen is small so it’s not a big deal to walk to the china cabinet; it’s no further from the sink than the fridge! Having everything out in the open in the china cabinet makes things so easy, too. There is nothing like a full pantry to make me smile. I just love the way different foods look in jars! It’s simple and colorful, classic and clean. It makes me feel like a pioneer with jars full of canned goods lining her cellar. In reality I have jars full of foods that were not available then and none of them are canned and I can walk into the grocery store to buy them pretty much any time of the year. But that makes it feel less special, so I still like to day dream about pioneer cellars.
I love these jars. I’ve been picking them up at IKEA for a few years now. The small ones are $2.99 and the larger ones are $3.99. I hope they never discontinue them, though it’s hard to imagine needing any more that I already have. I did buy a few more when I bought the cabinet, since I wanted to fill up both shelves. They’re well worth it. The jars I fill with organic foods mostly from the bulk section. I loved Berkeley Bowl for this when I was living in the Bay Area. I’ve yet to find a go-to grocery store here in Portland, but these were all filled with bulk goods from Fred Meyers here which has a surprisingly good organic bulk section!
The cabinet is standing functional for now, though I would love to paint it at some point soon. I’m thinking of painting it a lovely black similar to how Dana at HouseTweaking.com re-did her armoire in her studio. The hardware I might keep or just replace with knobs. I’m not sure yet and I don’t have plans to paint this until a number of other things are checked off my to-do list! For now, I’m just to busy staring at all the non-perishable pantry goods with goo-good eyes.
How do you store your food? Does it affect how you shop? Are you the matching jars/containers type or the everything in the box it came from type?