As we shift from summer produce to heartier pantry staples, it’s time to trade Creole tomatoes for canned. For pointers on keeping those cans — and the rest of our larder — within easy reach, we turn to Jenny Zurik, partner with MZ. Architecture & Design. Her storage strategies follow a guiding principle: “Everything has its place, and if it doesn’t have its place, then it doesn’t belong in your house.”
When it comes to pantries, resist the urge to use the space as a catch-all for household items. “Decide what the program is,” says Zurik. “If the program is food, great. If you also need cleaning supplies, try to put those somewhere else. You don’t want to mix those things if you don’t have to, even though it’s possible to organize them together.”
“Drinks and snacks are their own monster,” says Zurik. When possible, she moves space-hogging beverages out of pantries and into a bar area. Packaged snacks can devolve into sloppy piles on shelves (especially when kids are putting them away), so Zurik prefers non-pantry spots for tidier storage.
Zurik loves a slide-out drawer for spices and a chef’s pantry for clean design and smooth function, like the models from Rev-A-Shelf (rev-a-shelf.com) with roll-out and swing-out shelving. If space or budget constraints don’t allow for a new build-out, start smaller. Every pantry can benefit from a purge, as tossing expired food frees up space and reminds you what’s on hand. Other inexpensive options include a Lazy Susan for spices and oils and clear, labeled canisters for storing dry goods. If you opt for bins and baskets, choose a consistent style that contains items neatly (i.e., no bits and pieces poking through wide wire mesh). Whatever approach you choose, make sure it’s one you have the time and inclination to maintain. Those ingredients are just as important as the items lining the shelves.
Don’t go too deep
In Zurik’s experience, people often overestimate the amount of space they need (unless they are bulk shoppers). In large spaces, or on deep shelves, items easily get buried — and wasted. “It’s important to be able to see what you have at any given moment because the minute it gets hidden from you, you lose track of it and don’t use it,” she says. Shallow shelving keeps contents visible and easy to locate.
In any kitchen/pantry setup, Zurik makes the highest-use items the most accessible. That means oils, spices, and other frequently used ingredients should be stored near kitchen prep sites for maximum convenience, while seasonal items (like crawfish trays), can be more remote.