Pantry Organization: Put Your Grains In Jars

When I got married last summer I bought several dozen vintage blue Mason jars as flower vases for the reception. I loved their greeny-blue color -- but I also loved their functionality. I had plans for these jars, post-wedding, and I finally put my plan into action.

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I don't have a lot of pantry space in this kitchen; most of the cupboards are quite narrow and shallow. Also, I have been buying most of my grain and pasta in bulk so my cupboard was getting piled up with thin, floppy plastic bags. I would forget what I had, and lose things underneath other bags.

So I finally did what I had been intending to do all along: Put our hallway shelves to good use as a proper pantry, with all my serving platters stacked up neatly, and use our washed-and-ready wedding jars for all the grains collecting in the cupboards.

I still need to get lids that fit; the vintage lids I had were too big. But the overall effect has already been excellent; I remember what I have, and it makes this little pass-through hallway at the foot of the stairs much prettier.

I am hoping that the vintage blue of the jars also helps keep the grains fresher. Even though the hallway is pretty dark (and Ohio sunlight is awfully weak right now; I don't know if any will actually squeak in from the living room or kitchen) it's good to keep grains in dark or opaque containers.

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Until I poured out the grains into the jars, I didn't quite realize how many different varieties I had! And this is only the whole grains; the flours, sugars, and other ground-up grains live in the baking cupboard.

Here's a list of the grains currently lined up in my pantry jars, with links to recipes or info about each one:

Rolled oats
Steel-cut oats
Basmati rice
Jasmine rice
Arborio rice
Wild rice mix
Buckwheat
Trader Joe's Harvest Grain blend
Pearl couscous
Spelt
Popping corn
Orzo

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Here's a wider look at the pantry. We took out the bottom four shelves to make room for our television, which is on a mobile cart. It usually sits here in the hallway between the living room and kitchen, draped with one of these. (A small joke.)

I'm not a fan of open storage in every occasion; there are parts of my kitchen I want safely behind doors. But already I've enjoyed having my grains in jars out where I see them regularly, and out of precious cupboard space. It helps me remember to use things up; I pass that buckwheat and couscous eight times a day at least. I'm also looking forward to not using bags anymore when I need to fill up on something at the co-op; I'll just take my jar down with me.

Do you keep any of your ingredients out in the open?

Related: Kitchen Spotlight: Open Storage in Small Kitchens

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