Kitchen storage

Well Preserved's post about kitchen storage got me thinking about ours today -- I'm actually pretty proud of the changes we've made since we've moved in. We have a long way to go, but the kitchen is a lot more usable than it used to be. We keep most of the items we use frequently in one shallow upper cabinet; I've finally managed to figure out a configuration that almost never requires moving things to get other things out:

Mug hooks are my best friend - we hang lots of things on the insides of cabinet doors. I had been thinking about how effective that is (and absolutely hating our one other upper cabinet with a passion) for a couple of years when I recently decided to redo it, and I'm thrilled with how it turned out. It went from a cabinet with several short shelves that nothing much fit on to being very handy. I took out most of the shelves, moved one down to the bottom, and hung grids (purchased at Daiso <3) on all the interior surfaces.

Now I can get everything out easily and get to my small pots one at a time. We hang a lot of our most-used kitchen utensils on a wall grid behind the stove...

...so the less-frequently-used ones (like spare canning tongs and the candy thermometer) go here, along with other things that are difficult to store, but which I didn't want to shove into the abyss of our couple of almost-useless lower cabinets (rolling pin, pastry mat, mixing bowls, etc.).

So where do the big pots go? The ones that are fairly flat hang on the wall (either on our big grid behind the stove or from another wall shelf), but the others, we store up high. We don't have space above our cabinets, so we had to make some for the two big stock pots:

Coffee mugs (which have a high turnover) and smaller pot lids (which are currently being washed) also go on this wall. The big pot lids are stored on the pots to keep the dust out.

Most of our bulk food goes on a bookshelf we got cheap at a church library sale (hooray for no longer being in an earthquake zone!) and painted to match the cabinets. It stands alongside the fridge in the 10 or so inches we have that don't encroach on the walkway. I'm particularly happy with the spice shelves we put in this summer -- they're a compromise. I wanted to be able to access the spices easily and see what we've got on hand, and David wanted to make sure they were stored in the dark so they didn't degrade. So we used craft wood and L-brackets to put these guys in in the empty space above the canisters on two shelves. I still have to paint them, but they satisfy both our requirements and use space that otherwise is wasted.

Finally, we do have a small pantry in the kitchen (thank goodness!) that we use to store the less attractive food and our cookie sheets (they're on the same kind of shelf as the ones above them). We overhauled this recently in the hopes of cutting down on the amount of convenience food we keep in the house, so we took out some door shelves and consolidated the bagged/pouched/boxed stuff so we can get through it faster. These little $3 IKEA shelves are my fourth-favorite organizing tool (after mug hooks, grids, and mason jars) because they'll fit on the inside of even narrow closet doors.

The canning jars next to the orange basket are pre-measured for our rice cooker so we don't have the excuse of not wanting to go to the basement to get rice -- this has actually turned out to be really handy, and we've definitely cooked more by adding that little extra convenience. We keep a few things upstairs from our ridiculous basement room-converted-into-pantry (below), but the bulk of our home-canned stuff stays in the dark, cold basement. It's a lot less convenient, but the food keeps much longer in those conditions, and the trips up and down the stairs are good for us.

Those shelves are 18" deep and consist of virtually every piece of furniture we had for a while -- I moved 11 times between 2002 and 2009, so when I worked at Storables in Seattle I would buy a piece or two at a time of the Industrial Post shelving and carry it home on the bus because we didn't have a car. (Yeah, I got some strange looks.) We used it for everything -- desks, end tables, kitchen storage, fish tank stands, you name it. Once we finally bought a house we didn't have to worry about moving around so much, so eventually we took apart all the IP stuff we had and built this gargantuan thing. The whole shelving unit is actually interconnected, so it was pretty insane to try to figure out the order in which the pieces went together, but it's about the only thing I can think of that's actually sturdy enough to hold this many canned goods.

One thing I don't have a picture of is some of our re-purposed grocery store display shelving behind the door in the pantry. All of my canned soup, coconut milk, etc. is actually stored in cardboard shelves. This might seem crazy, but if you look at many of the sale displays in your local grocery store, you'll see that they're incredibly sturdy -- in most cases they have to not only be strong enough to hold canned or jarred products, they also have to be tough enough to withstand shipping. I work in the corporate office of a major grocery retailer/wholesaler, so mine were sample displays that were thrown away, but you could get these by asking for them at your grocery store -- they just get recycled when they're empty.