Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Food Storage in Small Spaces

I'm going to take a minute this morning to answer a question from Eileen. Some of you may have some help for her, and any help we give each other will help all of us!
we only have a small fridge and freezer (small) above it. I DO HAVE A SMALL PANTRY AS WELL: If you don't hate this question: could you give someone like me a 'moderated version' to help with ideas?

Eileen, let me tell you first of all that I have an apartment size fridge too, and the only freezer I have is the one above the fridge. We live in a 4-bedroom townhouse, over 1700 sq. ft., but the stove and fridge are apartment size! I am continually amazed and frustrated to have such small appliances in such a large apartment. So . . . I had to learn to cope with these smaller appliances when we moved in here.

For the fridge, I have come to the point of cleaning it out at least twice a week, sometimes three times. That does not involve pulling everything out and wiping it down every time; I just check to see what can be used up and/or moved out that day. Then I rearrange things to fit better, because I have 3 teenagers helping with dishes and food storage. They tend to cram things in instead of thinking it through and figuring out how to arrange things so that everything fits. I need all my shelves, but that makes them all close together, so large things don't fit well, such as a turkey or large ham. I can't fix my crockpot the night before, for instance, and then pull it out and start it the next morning, although I can get my ingredients ready and then assemble them in the crockpot the next morning.

The freezer . . . I have one half shelf in the freezer, that holds ice trays and a long, narrow bin for the ice. The rest of the space and the door shelf are almost always jam packed with stuff. I use frozen vegetables a lot, and I like to buy at least a week's worth of meat (I hate going to the grocery store any more than I have to). My best coping strategy for the freezer is to freeze things as flat as possible. When I grate cheese, I store it in quart or gallon ziploc bags, and stack them flat on each other. Ground beef I measure into meal size portions and squash it to about 1 1/2" and stack those flat. I've read that some ladies make entire casseroles and store them in ziploc bags, stacked flat in the freezer. Frozen veggies go in gallon bags and store flat. You can store quite a lot that way. Things that have to stay in large packages, such as whole chickens or a container of ice cream get fit in around the flat packages. Another option for the whole chickens is to cut them up, lay the pieces on a cookie sheet and freeze them, then store them in ziploc bags. They are already broken apart and you can pull out the pieces you need. A couple of months ago I cooked 3 bags of chicken breasts in the crockpot, then shredded them and stored in ziploc bags.

The pantry. We have a good setup of cabinets in our kitchen, but it's not enough to store a month's worth of food, so we cleaned out our utility closet, where our water heater is, and put free-standing shelves in there. This closet is big enough to walk into and stand, but not to walk around in. There was already a wide shelf on the wall, so I put boxed and bagged, lighter weight things on that shelf, such as crackers, cereal, pasta, etc. I put my canned goods and heavier bags of flour and sugar on the free-standing shelves. I stack my canned goods at least 3 cans high, if they'll stay on top of each other, and I store like things together (all the kidney beans together, tomato sauce, tomato paste, canned fruit, etc.). Nothing is alphabetized, though! LOL I like order, but not to the point of driving myself or my family insane. What I like about making the closet into a pantry is that I can walk in and see what I have without having to dig around in the deep dark corners of a cabinet. I do use one double cabinet in the kitchen for food items that we're currently using, like syrup, crackers, chips, and my baking supplies. The unopened things are in the pantry closet.

Ladies, please add to this! I am an organizing infant! My way is completely different than my mother-in-law's: what makes sense to her doesn't make sense to me and vice-versa. So let us know what your organizing and storage secrets are! And Eileen, I hope these are a help to you!


Elly said...

Thank you for the pic-intensive response!!!! It sure helps. My pantry is an old 'dumbwaiter', and can fit lots....but because it's deep, I can forget I have stuff. I'll make a printout of all it holds (hello dining room table!!!lol) and as I use something, cross it off!! I think I'll have to keep a spreadsheet 'on tap'. As for the freezer, you are a lifesaver. Thanks. My fridge, admittedly, could use the 2-3x a week plan. Thank you so very much. HUGS

Susan said...

Eileen, I forgot to say that the shelves in the picture don't look very full because that pic is from the last time we went shopping. Yesterday was for 2 more weeks than that trip was, so they are crammed now.

I've done a pantry inventory before, but I couldn't figure out how to keep a running inventory. If you have 6 cans of beans, do you list each can separately, or do you use hash marks and erase 1 as you use each can? How does that work? I can be a little thick-headed!

Elly said...

Ummmm....well....I prefer to list each type of bean separately...but I have to WRITE THE LIST on regular paper until I can get a spreadsheet 'figured out'. Talk about primitive. Other than my blog and email, my computer 'know-how' is 'know-not-how!!'lol. I'm doing tons of laundry today and by the time I'm back home, it'll be lunchtime. I'll be organizing the pantry after the holiday, cuz it'll be a big job. Right now, I am so backlogged on the pantry I have to EMPTY IT, see what's there, draw up a MENU plan from it, "get real" (!!) on what menus I want to keep revolving....that type of thing. With my autistic sweetie, keeping a rotating roster can be difficult..although I can frugally get Kenny to eat pizza on tortillas, believe it or not. (this saves a bundle from take-out). He won't touch pizza on french bread, bagels, or homemade dough.
Whew! I've gone on, haven't I??? As for your last 2 staements: I'd used a pencil first and erase. You and I are in the same boat as far as your last remark!!!(wink). BTW, I love Lucy.