The Family-friendly, Holiday Pantry

Very few homes have a pantry that is off limits to anyone but Mom or the cook. Gone are the days of raised-eyebrow glare for trespassing into forbidden kitchen or pantry territory. The current trend to open living spaces--connecting kitchens, dining areas and living rooms--means the kitchen is for much more than just food preparation. Kitchens and pantries have become central to family life and entertaining. And with the move to more individually-packaged and microwavable foods, everyone helps themselves to snacks, drinks and DIY dinners, including the kids.

So it’s more important than ever to have a pantry that’s family-friendly so entertaining will be flawless, whether it’s a teen pizza party or a fancy sit-down dinner. The holidays bring more time at home with the kids out of school, taking a few vacation days off work, and guests dropping by, so an organized and well-stocked pantry is crucial to keeping the “ho-ho-ho” in the holidays!

Purge the pantry

Check expiration dates. When food and staples are “stock piled,” it’s easy for items to slip past their expiration dates. Warehouse buying also contributes to over-stocking, and you should do regular inventory to ensure you only have fresh, usable foodstuffs in the pantry, especially if kids help themselves.  They aren’t going to check for freshness.

It’s true that some foods are usable or edible past the expiration dates, but past that date a product is generally no longer at peak flavor, texture, or nutritional value. And for some foods, that expiration date is important, and it should not be consumed.

  • Unprocessed pantry foods like pastas, cereals, beans, nuts and grains can last for months in their original, sealed packages. Once opened, they should be stored in air-tight containers to retain freshness.
  • Processed foods like canned goods, dried foods like crackers, or formulations like cake mixes also have long shelf life but, once opened, the clock starts ticking on freshness. Dented, rusted, split or bulging cans should always be discarded.
  • Be sure to check if food items need to be refrigerated after opening, and bakery items (bread, muffins, bagels) will last longer if refrigerated, especially if ambient room temperature is warm.
  • All food storage should be in a cool, dry place, below 85°
  • Always store newest purchases at the back of the shelf, drawer or bin, so older foodstuffs are used first. Potatoes, apples, onions and other produce should be rotated, always putting the freshest at the bottom to prevent spoilage.

Trust your senses. If something smells “funny” or doesn’t look quite right…it probably isn’t! Life is too short to eat questionable food. Toss it!

Here’s a tip on eggs:  Since you can’t tell by looking at an egg if it’s still good, place it in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks, it’s okay to eat. If it floats, it’s past redemption and should be thrown away, preferably without cracking it and releasing that rotten egg smell.

Set up pantry zones

First and foremost, a pantry is supposed to make your life easier by keeping a store of the things you need, as well as providing storage for items that you don’t want displayed. Plan your pantry space so that seldom-used items store up high, like mixers, blenders, serving trays and seasonal dishes, leaving easy-access levels for everyday use.  A custom pantry from Tailored Living® is designed around specifically what you need to store, accommodating all your space in the best possible way. Accessories like wine racks, spice racks, cabinets, integrated lighting and pull-out drawers or bins will help keep everything accessible and safe, with zones keeping you supremely organized.

  • A snack zone can keep family favorite munchies, sodas, waters and energy drinks front-and-center on accessible shelves, making it easy for everyone to serve themselves. At a glance, you’ll be able to see when you need to replenish.
  • Keep school lunch items together so everyone can pack their own lunches. No more extended discussions of who wants what, kids can help themselves.
  • Set up a “company’s coming” zone with supplies for entertaining that is off-limits to the family. This way you’ll have what you need for special menu plans for holiday parties, including any specialty adult beverages, herbal teas, sparkling waters, or decadent chocolates that are reserved for guests (or your own private stash).
  • A work zone could incorporate a countertop for sorting groceries, taking inventory of stored supplies, or pulling together whatever is needed for preparing dinner or packing lunches.
  • Large skillets, pizza stones, or woks that are big and unwieldy can have a designated storage zone, keeping them out of the way until needed.
  • Kitchen towels, table linens and place mats can stack neatly on a shelf instead of being divided into several drawers around the kitchen.
  • A zone for pet food, including vitamins, food additives, canned and dry food in air-tight containers, makes feeding quick and easy.
  • A broom closet can house and hide cleaning tools as well as products that could be hazardous. Either a locking door, or high shelves for chemical products will prevent access by children, and mops, brooms and dusters are out of sight. Additionally, light bulbs, emergency candles, matches, batteries and a basic toolkit can be close at hand.
  • A recycling zone with pull-put bins makes it easy for everyone to properly stash their trash.

Your custom pantry

An organized pantry with everything in its appointed place will make holiday entertaining and everyday living less stressful and more enjoyable. Whether your pantry is reach-in or walk-in, your Tailored Living designer can help you maximize the space for the perfect pantry for your lifestyle. With our wide range of cabinet styles, finishes and decorative hardware, you can match your existing décor and have a pantry that is as functional and as fancy as you want!