Stardust

Writings from my little corner of modern domesticity.

The Before and After in the Kitchen: Part 2- Cupboards

I know I promised this back with the drawers, but, well, school caught up a bit and I forgot all about it! But no worries- here it is, the reworking of the Starski foodstores.

I only tackled the upper cupboards this time, generally, because I didn’t really want to drag out every piece of cooking equipment and miscellany I had in the lower ones. Those will be done later, though- you can be sure of that!

I started with the cupboard between the stove and sink, where  we had overflow cup storage (water bottles, travel mugs, “blinky cups” acquired at student events, etc.) and my baking supplies.

I didn’t think about taking pictures until I’d pulled out most of the overflow junk- it all used to be crammed rather inefficiently on the bottom shelf there, which made it difficult for me to reach up and grab baking supplies above my head and required me to get the stool out anytime I wanted to bake something. So I pulled everything out, shifted the shelf height upwards, and repacked. I sorted the cups with their ease-of-use directly related to their frequency of use, and the baking stuff by category and what fit around the shelf splitter (which you can’t even see in the before photo) best. I also moved the cinnamon and nutmeg out of the spices and put them in this cupboard because that’s the stuff they get used with more often than not. The cornmeal which was previously awkwardly packaged in a round container got moved to an extra pourable storage bottle I had kicking around that fit in better and allowed me to better measure how much I had left.

After that, I moved on to the cupboard to the right of the stove, where we kept a bunch of miscellany that got used on the stove, theoretically, and some canned goods.

I tossed a LOT of stuff out of this cupboard, too- those packets of noodle sides in the middle of the bottom shelf  turned out to be mostly past their “best by” dates by a good month or so. The box of Ramen crammed in behind them went, too, though to other people who could use it, since the dates weren’t ’till 2012, but we just weren’t eating it. Everything expired was tossed, the canned goods were pulled out for further sorting, and the shelves were reorganized according to ease-of-use. Pasta was settled all in the same place, and the boxed cake mixes were shifted from another cupboard, since I had an entirely empty shelf up top. Amazing how much space you can gain just keeping up on your expiration dates!

You might also notice (though I’m not sure the picture is large enough here) that there are sharpied-on dates on the boxes in the “after” picture. Best-by dates are notoriously hard to read, and are in different places on different products, so I decided to take a page from Wendy’s and make them easier to find. Now all my boxed goods have the date written on three surfaces and my canned goods have it front-and-center and on the top. It’s going to help out a LOT with knowing when we need to use something. I’ve been keeping up on it by taking a couple minutes to write the dates on the stuff we bring home while we’re putting groceries away. Little investment, bigger payoff.

After that cupboard, I went to the other one that (inexplicably) housed canned goods- the cupboard above the microwave.

It had previously held oatmeal and Poptarts, granola bars of all sorts, canned soup and fruit (and one lone tuna can), and anything meant to be microwaved. It’s hard for me to reach the top shelf, and so it was rather poorly utilized. I pulled everything out, dated it, and resorted so the granola bars, Poptarts, and oatmeal had a home on the shelf I could reach, and then sorted the infrequently-used canned goods up top. All the ravioli is together, all the soups, the fruits, and the miscellany (diced tomatoes, canned mushrooms and jalepenos), sorted further with the soonest-to-expire at the front of the line. I can still get at the back with a stool, and I can reach the front row from my toes, and Ryan can reach it all anyway. But the stuff that gets used the most is in easy reach for anyone that might, and that’s great. I plan on getting a little bin to hold oatmeal packets, too, so I don’t need to stack boxes like that.

Next up was the cereal cupboard, designated such because picking something easy to remember to label it was the only possible course of action with all the miscellany in it. Marshmallows, cake mix, tea cups, tea, cereal, peanut butter, powdered drink mixes- it held a lot of stuff.

Honestly, my favorite part of this redo is that I managed to find a decent place to keep all my cookbooks together. But the reshuffling of the contents to be at least a little more consistent was also a great victory. The cups just did not belong there. Sure, they were with the tea- but really? They took up space awkwardly in a good cupboard.
So I went through the contents, tossed what had expired, shifted the shelf up a couple inches to better use the height of the cupboard, and emptied the cupboard next door; the awkward corner cupboard, to help with the perspective of things. What resulted in terms of this cupboard was the shift of the chips and crackers to the shelf with the cereal to form a light-weight items shelf with the contents still in easy reach, and the repositioning of the teacups and saucers (the real space thieves) to an equally-awkward but somehow appropriate corner of the corner cupboard. The tea and powdered drink mixes cozied up next to each other, and in the space freed by the teacup shift, I was able to relocate my cookbooks from their various locations across the apartment. The way the hinge is in my cupboards meant I had to make do with putting cookbooks in a rough place to retrieve them from to have them in a cupboard, but I managed by putting the less-used ones behind the hinge, so it wasn’t a problem anyway.  I also put our nutrition supplements there, in the cupboard we access frequently for cereal, snacks, and tea so that there was less excuse for me to skip my calcium chewy. Applesauce and peanut butter also found a home, and the salsa you see here was later relocated in favor of a container of regular old-fashioned oatmeal (as opposed to the microwave stuff in the other cupboard).

The corner cupboard was done somewhat simultaneously here. It was previously known as the snack cupboard, because it held all the cookies, crackers, chips, peanuts- anything we could snack on, and then up top our alcohol. Not that alcohol is a snack- it was just the only real place to put it at the time, and it never relocated.

Honestly, it doesn’t look a whole lot better; but it’s better than it was. I can actually see everything in there now. The alcohol has been shifted to the back, better reflecting our actual usage habits, and the teacups are still in easy reach but out of the way. The red shoebox there on the right side with the snack-sized Ziploc baggies will be replaced with a proper bin later, and I’m getting shelf splitters for this one, and maybe even a small wine rack, since there’s space up there. The shoebox is in charge of holding individual “remainders” of individually-packaged snacks, like filled crackers, bags of chips, and baggies I’ve packed with single servings of some other items like cookies or nuts for tossing into lunches or bags for snacks to go. I try to keep some of those pre-packed so when I think of taking something with me last-minute, I can grab the baggie and not scramble around trying to do fill one quickly and with little attention to serving size.

Now, I’m sure you’ve noticed there haven’t been any dishes to be seen yet, with the exception of the teacups, or the cupboard over the stove. Well, those didn’t change much- my dishes cupboard was already pretty tidy, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do for the stove cupboard other than to maybe get a couple little bins and shelf-splits for it. See?

I have to admit, I kind of hate the Dave & Buster’s cup/bowl because of how it is and that I can’t stack it under anyone ’cause Ryan loves that thing. But other than that, I’m pretty happy with the dish cupboard. Right over the sink, so it’s easy to put stuff away after doing the dishes.

The over-the-stove cupboard also somewhat bothers me because I’ve heard it’s a bad place to keep spices and oils, but I don’t know where else to put them, or what to put there instead. Cook books and alcohol are out, as are other dry goods because they’re spoiled by the same things that spoil your spices and oils, so all that leaves are maybe cans, and I can’t find anything reliable or definitive about what I can put above the stove. I figured that since I usually end up leaving the doors open when I’m actually cooking anyway, they probably aren’t too bad off because the heat is allowed to cycle out, but I don’t know if that helps enough.

Any suggestions?

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