By Phillip Rhodes
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Clutter -- or its eradication -- is a national obsession. With more stuff than ever and less time to deal with it, we want better ways to organize. Nowhere is this more applicable than in the kitchen, the highest-traffic room in most homes.
In the spirit of clutter control, Cooking Light ran a contest to find readers whose pantries needed an organizational overhaul. From hundreds of entrants, we chose two -- Dawn McGreevey of Atlanta and Camille Fargo of Medford, Massachusetts -- to receive full pantry makeovers. Cooking Light Projects Editor Mary Simpson Creel headed a team that included professional organizer Jennye McCreary and recipe developer Cynthia DePersio. McCreary supplied the clutter-fighting know-how, while DePersio created dishes to fit the winners' cooking styles and make the most of pantry items. Read on to find ideas that will help you reclaim your own pantry.
Finding the right level
Camille Fargo loves to cook. Every night she makes dinner for her family (husband Jeff, eight-year-old Jeffrey, five-year-old Jared, and three-year-old Jack). Convenience foods don't often find a place at her table; instead, Fargo relies on basics like broth, canned beans and tomatoes, and olive oil. Not that she spends all day planning dinner: Fargo also watches a relative's baby several days a week. Changing diapers and cleaning up spills -- while pursuing a master's degree -- leave little time for organization.
McGreevey lives the fast life. Her job as a marketing manager for Porsche means many dinners in fancy restaurants. "That makes it hard to eat healthfully, since you never know what you're going to get," she says. When McGreevey is home, she enjoys cooking for her husband, Ron, and her Cooking Light Supper Club. She stops by the grocery store frequently, instead of shopping once for the entire week. She and Ron enjoy diverse flavors and often try new foods. That's why pantry organization is crucial: "I'd love to have a better pantry so I can cook more spontaneously," she says.
Next, McCreary tackled drawers and cabinets. She sorted the items in each drawer, using utensil dividers to group like with like. "I prefer interlocking dividers that you can configure," McCreary says. "Everyone doesn't have the same setup or the same utensils." Finally, heavy appliances like the mixer moved from their remote location in the laundry room to kitchen cabinets that had previously stored rarely used vases (which moved to the laundry room).
McCreary's storage tips
Let usage be your guide
Like goes with like
Rise to the occasion
Shop for the right fit
Canned staples and other pantry favorites can easily turn into clutter.