Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kitchen Management 101: Dry Goods Storage

We buy stuff in bulk whenever we can, particularly those items that keep for a long time and/or which we use regularly, such as beans, lentils, grains, nuts, popcorn and pasta flour. Bulk purchases are much cheaper than packaged goods, at least in theory (I suspect that some stores take advantage of this assumption and jack up the per-pound price, but usually it's a better deal than buying packaged goods).

It also forces us to use whole foods, since you can't buy Hot Pockets or pizza rolls in bulk.

A bonus advantage is the lack of wasteful packaging, not to mention the wasted energy that goes into packaging and shipping the weight of that packaging (then there's the pollution from the manufacturing of boxes, inks, etc...). But one disadvantage is that sometimes bulk goods, if kept in their bags with only a numeric code, are easily lost among other bags of bulk stuff.

That's why -- on the advice of my mother-in-law, who's a master organizer -- I decided to obtain several large, one-quart mason jars and a digital label-maker. Originally the plan was to get some larger food containers with lids that snap open and closed, but the jars proved much more affordable and we use them for other things around the house (jams, jellies, etc.).

Here are some one-click resources to get you started, but the great thing about mason jars is that they can be found at garage sales and thrift shops, as well as at most grocery and hardware stores. Wide-mouth jars are the best, allowing easier access and filling.

There's no need to actually buy anything, but this is the system that works best for us. You can also just collect jars and containers (personally, I think it helps for them to fit together on the same shelf), and then label them with tape and a sharpie.

I know, this is pretty boring stuff. But it sure makes cooking and managing the kitchen a whole lot easier.


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