Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Pantry Organization has it's rewards!

The weather's turning colder. Pumpkins are out but the farmers market is getting a bit sparse.
Then there was the reminder to be prepared for pandemics. Not my favorite P word.  But it did make me look in my pantry. Now there's a horror story right there.

I didn't take a before picture. But it was bad. The shelves were half empty. Half full bags turned over on their sides. How had it gotten to it's "after an earthquake"-like state?

Wellllllllllll. We only use fresh veggies in the summer. I don't buy preservative-laced food. If it isn't "clean" food, it isn't in our pantry.  I make it through the winter thanks to freezing. But this year, for a lot of reasons, including very bad spring weather, I didn't get a lot of freezing done.  

It really wasn't the fear of an Ebola pandemic freaking me out when I looked at the pantry. Nope. When you have lived through hurricanes and ice storms, you learn a well-stocked pantry can keep you from traveling roads with folks who think they can drive on slippery asphalt or keep you from starving while you wait a week for the power to come on. Or say everyone in the house has the flu? Do you really want to go to the grocery store in your pjs?

For us, long term storage stocking up means canned goods like chicken noodle soup, canned ravioli and Frosted Mini-Wheats for ManO, gluten-free snacks for me, dried fruit and nuts, oatmeal, and Spam. But most of all, getting my act together meant getting my pantry in order. I'd already decluttered back in the spring but I needed to organize.

Where to get ideas: I researched the net. I visited Pinterest.  Traveled to I looked in TJ Maxx and Target.  Pondered closet organizers in hardware stores. Bottom line?  I decided I'd rather spend my money on food rather than racks and boxes and other storage containers to make my pantry "pretty."  Not to mention, I found out canisters don't necessarily keep out bugs. So I turned my rabid attention to the ZONE method, putting foods together by their use or type of meal.

The Top Shelf:  Water filters, plastic bags, parchment paper and such as well as cookbooks are up here. Sadly, I only pull out the family cookbooks at holiday time. The rest of the time, I'm on  But I broke down and bought a fill it yourself recipe book to keep all my most used GF recipes at hand.  

The Baking Shelf: Gluten free flours, mixes and other grains, condensed milk, pumpkin, spices, extracts and four kinds of sugar for holiday baking. If it wasn't before the holidays, this shelf would be practically bare, even with my reorganization.  Money saving organization: I have baggies of spices and mixes that I stand up in dollar store plastic napkin holders. 

The Quick Meal Shelf: On the left, I put my various sauces and GF pastas, stir fry ingredients, and condiments.  On the right, breakfast stuff like oatmeal and Frosted Mini Wheats. Okay, mostly Frosted Mini-Wheats. ManO is obsessed like a toddler who will only eat one thing. And that thing is Frosted Mini Wheats for breakfast.  Why yes, that is a bag of potato chips on the quick meal shelf. Don't judge.

The Long Term Storage Shelf:  The canned goods here have a long shelf life. There is enough here to survive two weeks. Yeah, I won't make it through a zombie apocalypse but will make it through a North Carolina storm. My rule of thumb is to always replace what I take out but, if I have the option of buying fresh ingredients, ignore this shelf as much as possible for true emergencies. has a list of items you should have on hand in case of an emergency but googling emergency preparedness works too or maybe even zombie apocalypse.

Floor level:  My bulk paper products and bags go here.

Sigh. I've worked over several days on the pantry. But I'm not done. It's a work in progress. ManO keeps moving stuff because he likes it better in one spot or another. I have some dead space that needs to be thought about and used better. But I did mention rewards.

I decided to make my pumpkin ice cream as a motivation.  After three days of hard work, I rewarded myself with a variation of my three ingredient (whipping cream, condensed milk and vanilla) ice cream. You can find the original post and vanilla ice cream recipe hereWhip the cream before folding in the condensed milk, 3/4 can of pumpkin and one tablespoon pumpkin pie spice. Throw it in an ice cream making and voila.

But then I decided to get wild and crazy and top it with a pecan praline sauce.         

It doesn't get much better when you find a praline sauce recipe that doesn't require corn syrup or a candy thermometer. This is my adaptation of several I found on the web. Just remember you must use butter to make this recipe work.

Easy Praline Sauce 

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup organic half and half 
1/2 unrefined organic cane sugar
dash salt
vanilla to taste
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped or pieces (optional)

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Mix half and half, sugar and salt together then pour into the pan, whisking constantly. Continue to stir until sugar is dissolved and sauce thickens. Take off heat, add vanilla and stir. Cool for a half hour or so, stirring occasionally. Add pecans, stir and serve over ice cream. Store leftovers in refrigerator up to four days.

Note: Some folks leave out the nuts and use it as an easy caramel sauce. 

You can also add gingersnaps or other types of cookies on the side to really make it special.
So how is your fall pantry looking? Is there anything you make sure to stock up on before winter, bad weather or flu season set in? Do you have a favorite sundae combo as a reward for good behavior or a bad day?  


  1. MMM. I haven't had SPAM in years!! What did you do with it once you cleaned out your pantry and made it all natural/ preservative free? The food bank must love you. :)
    I need to try this recipe. I love all things pumpkin!

    1. All the cans I've stocked are pretty much emergency food. If we don't use them, I give them to the food bank at least six months prior to their expiration. You are on target! We'll eat it if we are desperate or want to pretend we are in Hawaii again.

    2. Got it! This is the BEFORE picture. I thought it was two part series and we were waiting for the punch line.

  2. i'm wondering how Spam mad the 'clean' list too LOL! I hated that stuff but my dad liked it so we had it every so often -same with those nasty salmon patties! - but at least both were married to macaroni and cheese so not all was bad.
    I did some major stuff with my pantry a few years ago and every so often I go through and toss stuff. I sorta do the 'zone' method - mine has a section like yours right in front of the door but a little side section on each side of the closet area. front and center I have my various teas and some canned veggies- the left has canned tomatoes then broths and canned beans and canned soups...floor has the trashcan and paper towels (when I remember to put them away)
    I think you've inspired me to work in the kitchen today- have intended this for a while now but let it get away from me and was too tired and unmotivated but I want to get back to cooking more and that's hard to do in a small kitchen that has its counterspace taken over by stuff. :-( couple of dr appts and church stuff from 1 pm on today so may end up being tomorrow though since I can't sleep I loaded the dishwasher so hey I started LOL!

    1. Good luck. And remember you can always do a bit over days. As far as clean goes, you have to remember that Spam is on hand in case of emergencies. Otherwise, it doesn't get opened...unless I want to be in Hawaii again in my mind.

  3. Oh, yes, it must be real butter! I love that stuff. I could put it in a glass and drink it, but that's probably not a good idea....
    And let's not look inside my pantry. There's everything but food in there....time to declutter.....

    1. It's amazing what I found in my pantry that wasn't food. But then for you, I bet the guys don't give you a chance to have a full of food pantry.

    2. That's the sad truth of my life, Julie. :(

  4. Okay, I am cheering you for cleaning your pantry. I haven't even vacuumed in a month due to deadlines. At this point in my life unless I have company it is not getting cleaned. I spent a lifetime cleaning. I am running out of writing time.


    My treat for good behavior is Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt.


    1. Everyone is on a deadline but me. Sniff. Well, I do have a few self imposed.

      I didn't know about the dark chocolate with sea salt. Must go find it!

  5. Your "Spam" caught my eye, for sure. To all the naysayers out there, a friend brought me an egg and Spam burrito. Reluctantly I eyed it (his wife had carefully wrapped it in foil) but after the first bite, I really enjoyed my breakfast. Not enough to make them myself--we stick to bacon, ham, sausage--but still. So Go Spam!
    We haven't really organized the pantry since we moved in nearly a year ago, but we do have plans to put spice racks and canned good racks on the inside of the pantry doors. Maybe we can do that in November? Maybe.
    Your pantry looks great! So clean and fresh! WTG, Julie! :)

    1. Thanks, Nikki. That's the advantage of moving, isnt' it? Spam doesn't quite make everything better like bacon but it will do in a pinch.

  6. My wonderful son-in-law Jon does this for me. I think my lack of organization kind of unnerves him, either that or he loves being helpful (this is true!!!) and he rearranges the big pantry cupboards for me.... Now I love the help, and if it takes me a while to locate things, well, hey: That's better for my waistline because climbing up and down takes effort and it's like a little surprise party when I find them again!!!!

    In my head I'm organized. As an author, I'm organized. Raising children, I'm organized with a splash of chaos and fun thrown in. But oh mylanta, my cupboards.... Julie, I'm just going to come and live in your house, it's just wonderfully put together! Go, you!

    1. Thanks, Ruthy. Now if we can just can cure my love of covering all empty horizontal surfaces!

  7. I'm so impressed!! My pantry is a disaster!

    I'm LOVING the ice cream recipe!! Must make it asap! But I need to buy whipping cream.

    1. Hey, do you think ½ and ½ will work?? I do have some of that.

    2. Yes, I've used half and half before. It freezes harder in the freezer though. And pumpkin cream soup wouldn't be bad if it doesn't work. Let me know how it goes.

  8. I have to try this recipe! It sounds fabulous :)

    And I'm a big believer in pantries. We keep a six month supply in case of storms, etc., and as a cushion against job loss. I used to think "that would never happen to us" until it did - and our pantry kept us fed. Manna in the wilderness.

    I use the food from our pantry - "store what you use and use what you store" - but I do have a couple items like canned potatoes for those emergency times. If we don't have an emergency, you really can't tell the difference between canned potatoes and fresh ones in beef stew!

    And yes, I'm on a deadline, too. What are those editors going to do once the first of November comes? Their emails will be bursting with manuscripts!

    But then, I have another deadline looming at the end of November-ish. That date isn't quite as firm, but definitely before the end of the year.

    1. I've wondered about you in blizzard land. And deadline land too. I've never reconciled to canned potatoes but potato flour I love.

    2. I've wondered about you in blizzard land. And deadline land too. I've never reconciled to canned potatoes but potato flour I love.

  9. Spam? Do you really keep Spam on hand, Julie? I though it was loaded with preservatives. Sorry, Spam is one of things that has never appealed to me.

    Way to go with the pantry, though. I cleaned mine out a month or so ago, got rid of the expired stuff or things we no longer eat. Of course, I didn't toss the things we no longer eat (mostly pasta), I simply passed it onto my daughter. :)

    The canned shelf is always the fullest. Soup, tomatoes, tomato sauce, peanut butter, Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs (hubby) and Ravioli (#2 son) and Ovaltine (#1 son). There are some things they just can't live without. :)