Top layer of exposed pantry with jars of dry goods, garlic, and flowers.

How My Exposed Pantry Cuts Down On Food Waste

Food Lifestyle
If you were to walk into my kitchen, you’d quickly discover that I now have an exposed pantry. And while I love that it makes my kitchen look Pinterest-worthy, I actually jumped onto this design trend because I needed a way to get a handle on our food waste. 
 
Food waste is an uphill battle in my house. I’ve talked about it so many times: when writing about my 2018 sustainability goals and even while showing you how to make this DIY citrus spice salt soak from citrus that was slowly going bad. Compared to the average American household, we’re probably not doing too poorly. Amanda and I work really hard to eat everything we take home. We even have some colorful debates about who is going to eat what. More often than I’d like to admit, Amanda sucks it up and eats the stale thing hiding out in the pantry. I think this is what love looks like, or at least I hope it is. But because we both were doing this a lot more than we wanted to, I decided to make a huge change in how we store our food: I exposed our pantry. 
 
When exposed pantries entered the scene of trendy-trendiness, I found myself jumping on an actual bandwagon. I love them, as a concept, as an aesthetic, and because they’ve seriously helped me cut back on food waste. I know that sounds a bit odd, but I’m just here to be honest about what has worked. 
 
 
For apartment dwellers, we actually have a decent amount of storage space. Even though we have a small kitchen, we have enough cupboards to store all of our dry goods out of sight and out of mind. The out of mind part was the biggest problem, however. I found that when these food items were completely hidden, not only did we not eat them, but also we just keep buying more food. Another problem is that even though dry goods last a lot longer than say the stuff in one’s fridge, they still have a shelf life. No one wants to eat stale crackers. 
 
Black and gold shelf used as exposed pantry with jars of dry goods.
 
For some reason, I’m more likely to cook with food that I can see, what’s in front of me. Maybe it’s because I’m a creative person, or maybe it’s because I’m a visual learner, but if something is hiding out in a cupboard, it’s as good as dead to me. This is not something I’m proud of, and considering I still can’t fit everything on our narrow shelf, I need to get better at looking in the cupboard. But I’ve noticed a huge change in how we approach our food, and I’m excited about that. 
 
While exposing my pantry has definitely cut back on food waste (and garnered a lot of conversation from friends who exclaim, “Look at all your dry goods!”), it’s also an attractive way to display food in your kitchen. I think a good kitchen, one that makes me excited to cook and be present with my food is one where I can be aesthetically inspired by what’s available to me. I tend to cook more wholesome foods this way, and it just looks pretty. The colors add a vibrancy to the space and beckon you to imagine what you might make. 
 Exposed pantry on black shelf with gold bars.

Making The Switch To An Exposed Pantry

Making the switch to an exposed pantry was easy. It required the following items:
  • 1 shelf small enough to fit in our tiny kitchen, but big enough to hold stuff. (Amanda had one in a closet that we weren’t even using. A coat of gold spray paint and it was ready for its debut.)
  • An assortment of glass mason jars, big ones and small ones plus lids. (You can get these used, or save pasta sauce jars, etc. As you can clearly see, not all my lids and jars match.) 
  • The dry goods themselves. Luckily, we had plenty of those lying around!  
If your landlord will let you take the doors off your cabinets, you could also make an exposed pantry with the cupboard space you already use. This is a great option for people with even smaller kitchens than ours. Luckily, I had a little spot that fit my shelf perfectly. 

After we found a spot in our kitchen for the shelf, I went through all of our cupboards and composted anything stale or scary. Then, I began storing all of our dry goods in the jars and arranging them by type. Even if something originally came in a plastic bag or cardboard container, I recycled the packaging and put the contents in a glass jar. It keeps for way longer this way, is completely safe from pests, and again: If I can see it, I’ll eat it. 

 Top Layer 

Top layer of exposed pantry with jars of dry goods, garlic, and flowers.
 
-Small batches of whatever I have laying around, in this case, roasted pumpkin seeds, bulgar wheat, sour apricots, and candied ginger. I keep things like garlic and onions up there as well, and some pretty flowers and plants because we all need a little bit of happiness in our kitchens.
(I also usually store honey up there, away from the ants, but in these pictures, it’s on the bottom shelf for some reason.) 
 

Second Layer 

Assorted nuts in mason jars in exposed pantry.
Assorted nuts, crackers, and dried sweet apricots. I cook with nuts and seeds a lot as a vegetarian, and I like a variety. Here I have, walnuts, cashews, pecans, raw almonds, and roasted almonds. 
 

Third Layer 

Assorted beans and pasta in mason jars in exposed pantry.
Down here I keep beans mostly. Black beans, red lentils, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, and yellow split peas are staples in my household. I also have some random colored, gluten-free pasta that I found mediocre and now need to eat. And popcorn! Best snack food ever.

Bottom Layer 

Grains in mason jars with jar of honey in an exposed pantry.
Rice, grains, and larger amounts of pasta. Shown in the photograph: Brown rice, rolled oats, cornmeal, polenta, and honey. I eat a lot of brown rice, I find it really grounding. 
 
Exposed pantry made from an old computer shelf, with mason jars full of dry goods.
 
I feel like I reached the peak of my exposed pantry nirvana when my brother-in-law walked into our apartment on Christmas and said, “loving the exposed pantry.” Yes, I thought, me too. How do you store your dry goods? What are ways you’ve found to combat food waste in your pantry? What should I make with the small amount of gluten free pasta that I hated? 
 
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Exposed pantries are pretty, but did you know that seeing your food will make you more likely to  cook with it? You can make your own exposed pantry with a simple shelf and some mason jars.

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