My Pantry

You’ve asked to see my pantry.  I have to do a little ‘splaining before you get to see it.

  • I’m not an alarmist.  I don’t stockpile food for any particular reason.  I buy lots of whatever is on sale that we will eat.  I can everything I find that’s in season.
  • I believe in being prepared . . just in case.  If you’ve lived where there are hurricanes, snow storms, tornadoes, earthquakes . . any kind of disaster, you know that a whole lot of the panic and problems occur when people have no food, no water, and no way to prepare their food.  I hope I’ll never be the one standing in line at the grocery store when a storm is predicted or when there’s been a disaster and food is in short supply.  I’ve seen it happen when snow storms and hurricanes are predicted.  I’ve seen it happen when ice storms have happened and trucks can’t get here and I’ve heard how horrible it was when the hurricanes hit Louisiana and all kinds of food were in short supply.
  • If you’re the kind of person who goes to the grocery store every day for what you’re fixing for dinner — whether it’s because you don’t have a place to store food or because you don’t know what you’re fixing for dinner or whatever, that’s fine.  Doesn’t matter to me one bit how everyone else plans and stores their food.
  • What I do may seem like a totally crazy idea to some, maybe all, of you but all I ask is that you respect my decisions and how we live our lives.  Even though many have asked to see my pantry, I’ve hesitated to show it because I don’t want any grief about our food storage.

If there’s ever an emergency, we may be stuck eating tomatoes and green beans but we will have something to eat.

My food is stored in a concrete room where the temperature stays between 60° and 70°.  The area above the room isn’t concrete but all the walls are concrete so it’s fairly safe, at least from tornadoes.  The oldest food is in front.  I can load it from the back, though I mostly don’t.  Where I have the green beans stored now, when I start getting low and restocking, I’ll put the new ones in a total different section so that when the ones I have now are all gone, I’ll know the oldest ones are gone first.

The pantry is as full now as it will ever be.  My goal is to can 150 quarts of tomatoes so I need 16 more quarts.  I’ll probably do 2 batches and that will give me 14 quarts and I’ll be done.  Done canning for the entire season!  Feels good!

Because of where the shelves are sitting, I can’t get far enough back to get a good picture but you’ll get some ideas.

Lots of jams and jellies.  In the boxes are half pints of jelly and jam.  There’s cherry, peach, mulberry, grape, crab apple, jalapeno pepper and I can’t remember what else.  The top shelf also has jams and jellies in pint jars, as well as chutney and whatever else might be stuck up there.

Behind all these storebought cans are home canned tomatoes and spaghetti sauce.

Behind the clear vanilla are jars of home canned tomatoes with storebought cans of corn on top.  On the bottom shelf are the extra green beans that didn’t fit on the green bean shelf, the crock pots and some big cans of tomatoes.

How do I keep track of all this, you might ask!  A spreadsheet, of course!  I have a general idea of what I have so I don’t keep this list with me at all times and I doubt it’s ever 100% accurate, but it’s close enough that I don’t have to do any real guessing to know what I have and what I need.

I don’t inventory soup and jelly and canned fruit.  In fact, canned fruit is kept upstairs because it’s mostly for snacking.  The main things I inventory are the things I really l care about how much we have.  Going to the grocery store is a big waste of time for me . . especially if I have to go because I need one thing. Just glancing at the list, I can see that I have one can of cream style corn.  We don’t eat it except in casseroles but I like having several cans on hand.  Looking at green beans, I normally don’t keep 85 cans of storebought green beans on hand but our Wal-Mart is remodeling and a few weeks ago, they had the Italian style green beans marked down to 15¢ a can.  I got all they had.  The use by date is October, 2012.  They’ll be long gone by then.

If you noticed the post-it note holder in the first photo, there’s a pencil by it too.  I don’t run to the computer every time I grab a can.  I make a note a post-it and stick it on the shelf somewhere.  Sometimes there are several post-its full of lists of items I’ve taken.  When I have a chance, I fix it all on the spreadsheet so I can keep it as accurate as possible.

Twice a year I re-organize and re-arrange, making a list of what I’m needing to replace, making sure the older cans are in front, and checking the spreadsheet.  By about May of 2011, these shelves will be pretty empty.  Most of the jam/jelly will be gone, most of the tomatoes will be gone, most of the home canned green beans will be gone.  Some things will take forever to use.  I have a lot of vanilla and those big bottles last forever.  44 cans of tuna seems like a tremendous amount to some but we love it and have it at least once a week for lunch and often I use two cans to make tuna salad.  That’s just 22 weeks worth . . less than 5 months it will be gone.

That’s it . . now you’ve seen my pantry!  And, you see why I don’t need a pantry in my kitchen.


  1. 1

    eve in ga says

    I’m impressed, Judy! I think your pantry area looks awesome, and your method of keeping it updated and organized is, too. Eve

    • 1.1


      I always say “I’m so unorganized that I look organized!” If I didn’t keep lists and spreadsheets, I’d be the one going to the grocery store before every meal. I’m the most unorganized person I know. Just ask me to find my keys!

  2. 2


    I don’t think it’s crazy or excessive at all. The vast majority has resulted from preserving food you’ve grown, the rest is food you will definately eat, and you’re taking advantage of special offers etc.

    If you threw half of it away, I’d be critical, but it’s obvious from the other posts on your blog that you use leftovers up.

  3. 3

    Dianah says

    WOW Judy! I am so impressed. I wish I had a pantry. Can I be you when I grow up? Thank you for sharring with us.

  4. 4


    I had to chuckle as you were “splaining”. I grew up in the north, in snow country and dad worked construction. That meant that 6 months out of the year he was out of work…. your pantry is typical of what I knew as a child. And mom knew exactly how much of what she needed to put up to get through the winter until dad would return to work and the garden would start producing again. We also had 2 freezers, one for meats to go through the winter, another for the fruits and veggies that didn’t get canned. We even had home canned grape-ade….and boy was that stuff good! To this day I don’t care to drink store bought grape juice, it’s just not the same!

  5. 5

    Mary Jo says

    I am so impressed, Judy! I don’t have as much space as you do and my family thinks I’m crazy for having as much in the freezer and in the pantry as I do. But they don’t mind that with at a moment’s notice I can come up with a pretty good meal! Sounds like to me that you are a pretty smart lady to be so organized.

  6. 7


    Wish I was more organized like you. I also go thru the shelves twice a year. Better to be prepared then standing in line…”Noah didn’t build the ark in the rain”…lol

  7. 8

    Connie says

    Thank you Judy. You’ve given me inspiration to do a better job with my food storage. Preparation is a good thing.

  8. 9


    Great post Judy! Thanks for sharing pictures. I understand completely the how and why and wish my pantry was as full as yours. And as organized. 😉 My goal for the summer is to convert a former bedroom turned junk storage into a pantry room.

    I grew up alot like Judy Whitehead. Even as a young wife, hubby worked like dad worked. Construction meant winters off. Today, my pantry is stocked full just so I don’t have to go anywhere. I love being home!

  9. 10

    Liz says

    I know you have plenty of wheat, but how about salt and sugar?

    My mom always told a story of her grandparents in the “old country” always having large bags of salt. They would be teased about it, but when it became scarce, they were able to give some away – salt was more precious than many other things. I have extra amounts of salt and sugar.

    I need to get more organized with my pantry. I am trying to figure out my basic needs/desires and start from there.

  10. 12

    Sandy says

    I am really impressed with your pantry and how you have it all organized. No running to the store for Judy… can plan your meals by what you have on hand.

    I have one question. With all the tasty meals you cook, why aren’t you fat? It is probably because of all the work you do and no television watching. I wish I could be more like you, Judy. WTG!!

  11. 13


    My pantry looks pretty similiar to yours, so I don’t think twice about it. But I do have a question! Do I see a sheet of metal on top the wire shelves, below the cans?

  12. 14


    Judy, your pantry is WONDERFUL. I am SO impressed!!!!!! I *hate* shopping several times a week! I’d LLOOOOVE to have a stocked pantry like that!!!! You are an amazing woman for all you do, I am just in awe!

  13. 16


    Honestly – I am so impressed with all of your hard work. You are a wonderful organizer and caregiver to your family.

  14. 17


    Wow! This is an incredible system. We live in an RV, so the most I can shop ahead for is about a week, and even then I have to be ‘creative’ in how I store things — especially the refrigerator/freezer things! I’m very impressed and glad you shared! 🙂

  15. 18


    Your pantry brings back many memories. When I was growing up we had a huge garden and mom canned everything. When I say everything I mean it. We picked up the green apples that fell from the trees and mom canned them then she boiled down the peels and made jelly. She also canned on the halves for a man who had a garden about twice the size of ours. There were 4 of us kids and we spent our summers picking veggies and helping mom can and freeze. Dad kept two hives of bees in the backyard. You might be surprised to find out that we lived on 4 lots in town. Not on the outskirts but right inside town. We also raised chickens and rabbits for food. We had hens for eggs also. I was raised much the way you live now. What I wouldn’t give for a chicken raised the way dad raised them and fried fresh. However, to this day I can’t eat home canned green beans. One summer mom canned 500 quarts of green beans and that is what we lived on that winter. I still remember green beans at every meal that winter. Thanks for reminding me of those year! Happy times!!

  16. 20


    I love your pantry. Mine isn’t as organized as yours, but I love it. Living on a farm in Minnesota is reason enough to have a pantry. Love it when I only have to go to town once a week!

  17. 21


    Good job on keeping your pantry so organized! It is very impressive. I wish I was as far as you on tomatoes, but mine are just turning a twinge of red. That means I will be canning tomatoes in a week or two!

  18. 22

    Bonnie says

    I love the organization; I too keep a spreadsheet, but mine’s about 30+ pages of EVERY item edible anywhere in my house: ‘fridge, freezer, small pantry, garage shelves, etc. The one thing I never learned to do was home canning, though my grandma did and aunts did. I can make freezer jam though from strawberries, much preferred over the canned jam. In my “dream life”, I’d be as energetic, motivated, and ‘with it’ enough to do a garden, raise chickens, make quilts, etc. You and Pioneer Woman wear me out, in a good way! LOL.

  19. 23

    Cindy B. says

    When the kids were younger and we had a small farm, I used to can about a thousand bottles a year.

    The kids grew up, I gave up the hubby, and we sold the farm.

    I still store a lot of food. I didn’t have a vehicle for awhile once and we made it a month without having to go to the market. Son got tired of powdered milk, can’t say I liked it much either. BUT! We made it.

    We raised chickens and sent them to the butcher about 25 birds at a time. I used to make chicken broth and add the small bits of meat from simmering the backs/necks/ribs.

    Dried beans are easy to can and have ready for chili or bean soups as well.

    And I still love the look of full pantry shelves! Your shelves are beautiful …

    • 23.1


      Dried beans take forever to process so I don’t do many in the summer. That much time on the stove makes a lot of heat. I’m about to run out of pinto beans but as I empty jars of tomatoes, I’ll soon begin to can beans in those jars.

  20. 24

    Lynne in Hawaii says

    Wow! Great job organizing and keeping track of everything. Using what you buy is the key. Don’t store what you don’t eat! You should also keep extra toilet paper, paper towels and water. Many times in an emergency, local water systems will use what’s in the pipes in a day or less if electricity goes out and the pumps can’t put more in the system. Living on an island, we are subject to tsunami threats, huricanes and earthquakes. If the ports were knocked out…it may be weeks to get good supplies replenished. Being prepared is a good thing. Way to go!

    • 24.1


      We have toilet paper, paper towels, bath soap, shampoo, tooth paste, hand lotion, lamp oil . . most everything we could need. It’s all stored in a different area. We’re so blessed to have so much storage space in this house.

  21. 25

    Andee in aZ says

    WOW! I need a bigger pantry. Way to go on being that organized with it all, waste not, want not!

  22. 26


    I am so happy to see your system and it is a TERRIFIC system. I wish I had room to do something like that. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  23. 27

    Diane in CA says

    Thanks for showing us what organized means ! I love how you know what you will cook all week and how much you will use in a year. I’m in So CA, we don’t do hurricanes, tornados, power outages or disasters in general and our occasional earthquakes would send all those tomatoes to the floor so a big pantry isn’t important. But boy, I am impressed by yours.! Makes me want to learn to can.. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • 27.1


      Canning isn’t hard at all. Very time consuming but not hard. I think it’s one of those things you either love to do or hate to do. I obviously love doing it. It’s really a toss up for me . . in the sewing room or in the kitchen?

  24. 28


    I looks just great! I used to buy that vanilla by the case when I decorated cakes….. before I was a quilter.

  25. 29

    Margo says

    Lovely! Reminds me of how we grew up on the farm! In fact my mom’s name is “Judy” also. :0) Thank you for sharing.

  26. 30

    Linda H says

    Beautiful pantry! Thanks for inspiring us with your pics. When I lived in snow/tropical storm country and had a basement, I kept prepared. Since moving to laid back CA, I have neither basement nor extra cabinet space. What I have done toward the end of summer when the new crops are ready and the stores are sale-ing their older stock is to buy tomatoes and beans by the case box and slide those under the beds. I’ll also buy smaller amounts of other items and slide those under in a box. It helps. I find that I need to make a reminder note about the location of these items and affix it to my kitchen food cabinet though. :-p

  27. 31


    Truly amazing—you dedicate a lot of time to your growing and canning season and I hope that means more quilting when this is all over 🙂

  28. 32

    Linda in NE says

    I think you’re smart to keep things on hand. I do too. As a matter of fact I had enough stuff on hand late last fall, including toilet paper & paper towels that I haven’t done a major shopping trip since the middle of January…and that was only because I had a meeting within 15 mi. of Norfolk & the nearest big stores. I really need to go soon, but not in this heat & humidity, so I’ve had to fill in with things from the local store, but hey, they need the business too. My mom always kept extra groceries on hand because where we lived we could get snowed in for a week or in the spring the mud could be awful for weeks on end. She never had to rush to town to get groceries just because bad weather was predicted.

  29. 33


    Thanks for sharing the photos of your pantry and your storage system. I love being a fly on your wall and learning new things.

  30. 34

    Cynthia H., El Cerrito, CA says

    It looks absolutely wonderful, Judy. Canning gives great peace of mind, doesn’t it?

    Our garden is a complete bust this year; our blackberries, even, are at least a month behind due to the cold weather (ironic, I know; most of you are roasting your … ah … behinds off). But there’s a produce market less than a block away, and a word to the owner will get me a BOX of in-season produce that I can “put away for later.”

    If tomorrow’s job meeting goes poorly, I just may have lots of time for canning real soon. And quilting. And other things. Like looking for a new job–organizing my kitchen just a little better!

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    • 34.1


      Some years gardens do better than other years. My squash didn’t do well and my peppers did worse but tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans did great this year. Good luck with the job meeting.

  31. 35


    Impressive spread! I’ve been wanting a pantry forever. I have shelves in the basement that are just not the same. With 4 boys worth of other stuff down there it just feels cluttered. We also have a potato bin that has my empty canning jars in it. I only do tomato juice although I did do pickles this year(just because I wanted cucumbers on my salad and got tons of them instead)
    My grandma told me of her mother insisting on have over 200 quarts of peaches and other things each year just to make sure they had enough. My mother always tried to get 52 quarts of corn, lima beans, green beans, and peas-one for each week.
    You give me inspiration to get better organized!

  32. 36

    Bec says

    Judy-can you come to my house and make that happen. Lol-I’ll pay you in belly button lint and undying gratitude. I think your pantry is awesome. I kind of do what you do but on a much smaller scale-lol-mostly because my pantry space is much, much smaller than yours-you’ve given me something to aspire to!

  33. 37

    Liz says

    In reviewing some of the comments – we all have to be prepared for a disaster. I have at least 3 days worth of food that do not need to be heated and enough liquid to drink. It may not be the most enjoyable meals, but I can survive. If I was more rural, I hope I would be more prepared.

    There have some areas of rural OK that had to deal with 3-4 weeks of no electricity due to ice storms.

    I am not an “alarmist”, but we do have to be prepared for an event that disrupt our normal way of life. I have been glad that with snow and ice storms, I have been able to stay in my house for over a week, without needing to go to the store. I am at a loss to understand those reports of people stocking up at the very last minute.

    When I was stuck in Florida during a hurricane, I sent my sister to get supplies while I took care of my aunt’s house. I ended going back for additional supplies – I did get several pints of ice cream to enjoy during the storm since I knew we would not have electricity for a while and the stuff would melt at the store. My sister was happy with the rum raisin ice cream. I was happy with getting the extra candles and peanut butter.

    BYW – Where is that extra bottle of bleach? I am still looking for the ideal emergency water purfication system… anyone?

  34. 38

    Quiltinggranna says

    Am constantly amazed at how much you get done. All that canning would wear me out. But knowing you are prepared for the months ahead with much less need for grocery shopping must really feel good after a canning session! I recognized instantly the Danncy clear vanilla bottles and have been searching for it as I am out. Where do you get it? Would love to finally have a source again. Looked for your email address to send you a message but do not see it listed on the blog anywhere. Would really appreciate that info.

  35. 39


    Reminds me of both my Gran’s basements! Can I move in next door to you?

    I have a walk-in pantry and am trying to build a basic food stash but haven’t got nearly the organizational ability nor the food growing and preservation ability you have.

  36. 40

    Darlene S says

    Judy, I loved seeing your pantry too. I have a nice pantry but my DH thinks that half of it should be where he keeps his extra tools (so he doesn’t have to go to the garage to get them)! When my garden was producing lots of veggies a few years ago, I did a lot of canning too — not nearly as much as you, but my DH is not a farm boy and he will not eat some of the things I grew and they would go to waste. I still am eating some tomatoes I canned in 2008. They seem to be ok (at least I haven’t crocked yet).

    You didn’t mention peanut butter, but I could live all week on PB&J sandwiches. In fact, I ate this a lot as a kid. Makes me want to go fix one now! 🙂 Dar

  37. 41

    Darlene S says

    Opps, I meant “croaked” not crocked — really. I haven’t been hitting the bottle, honest!:)

  38. 42


    If you are the Ant, then i’m definitely the Grasshopper. Between going out to eat often and Keith being gone frequently, I shop usually for just 2-3 meals at a time. I do have some staples and can soup in my pantry but it’s kind of an odd assortment.I also tend to use fresh produce year round instead of frozen or canned so that’s another reason I tend to shop frequently.

    As you said, we each have our methods and I’m lucky that Keith is OK with mine, I know Vince must be happy with yours.

  39. 43

    Hilary McDaniel says

    Love the pantry. We just built a cellar. It’s a concrete room and will stay around 60,too. It’s built in the side of a hill. We’re organizing like you. We wanted somewhere to store all the root veggies as well. I haven’t canned potatoes and I like my beets steamed, not pickled. We grew some great carrots this yr, too. I buy basics by the case as I’m 40 min. from a grocery. I buy sugar and jasmine rice in bulk. I buy several kinds of flour and order by mail in quantity. I wish I was computer savvy enough to make a spread sheet. I just remember what I have and keep a running log of things to pick up when I finally go into town. I HATE to shop for most things. However, I can lose several hours in the Container Store and any fabric/quilt shop. Also I’m a lush for a great bookstore. I so love reading your blog. Tell hubby he looks great in the blue digs. Hilary

  40. 44


    Judy, totally unrelated to your post, but the quilt shop that I work in is moving to a new location in the next three months. I was wondering how important it is for our new shop to have color correcting lighting. Since we will be doing some remodeling, should we make it a priority? Thanks for any imput.

    • 44.1

      Cynthia H., El Cerrito, CA says

      Speaking as a quilter, if a quilt store has poor lighting, I’ll walk up to the owner or clerk on duty and ask to take a bolt outdoors so that I can see “its true color.”

      If you don’t mind having those experiences, then color-correct lighting isn’t important. OTOH, if being able to help quilters with color schemes, give classes on quilt colors, etc., is important, then the lighting may need to be examined more closely.

  41. 45


    I have a large room in my basement that is lined with shelving. It would look wonderful stocked with all that you have. Instead it stores my cake decorating and craft supplies and my batting and so forth. Unfortunatley I never learned to can a thing. I am sure I would kill us. Would love to try it some day but the other thing I never really got the hang of was gardening so my chances are pretty slim. Your pantry is quite impressive. No disdain here. Just Jealousy. Would love to try your jalapeno jelly.

  42. 46

    Deb says

    That is awesome. I have been reading with envy, as our gardens are shot. We have removed a few (the veggie ones) and plan to make new ones, which we thought we would get to 2 years ago. We are planning a temp. move now (for 3 years) so why bother now? I used to can, and do love it and it tastes SO much better, but a lot of stuff used to get stuck on the shelf. I didnt do enough to get the “feel” for what we would eat in a year or 2. I keep saying ‘some day” and by then I might be too old and tired. Right now, we have a pretty full pantry and freezer, but not with fresh stuff like yours. I agree, you have to be prepared for anything. My friends say they want to get lost in the woods with me, since I would have everything we need to survive for a month (probably in my purse…) I also keep MY truck stocked with things like tools, sleeping bag, and a “lugable loo”, ‘just in case”. My husband HATES it, since there is never any room to haul stuff. But we ARE in the north woods, and I travel a lot.
    That is also why I hoard fabric, non-electric machines, instruction books on everything, you just never know when you wont have power, or money….

  43. 47


    It’s so true about not knowing when you’ll have power or money. I’ve been unemployed for over a year now, but my pantry/ fabric hoarding habits (on a lower scale than Judy’s as I live by myself and have less space) have eased a LOT of stress about money and given me a purpose for using my time rather than just worrying away about my growing collection of rejections…

    Two years ago Sainsburys supermarkets in very Central London had supply problems for a week, I have never seen so many empty shelves so quickly (in all stores) – when there’s a lot of people who live hand to mouth (by choice or necessity), it’s not a good idea to join them if you can avoid it!

  44. 48

    Patricia says

    Seems perfectly normal to me right down to the inventory spreadsheet. I love canning, our canning season is just getting into full swing and I’m lovin’ it. Thanks for sharing pictures of your pantry with us.

  45. 50


    I understand about empty shelves — we do a majority of our shopping at a military commissary. You never know what you will find – empty shelves, filled shelves, notes posted indicating shipping problems…. I have my food stores, although not as wonderful as Judy’s. When I lived in Michigan I canned much more – in Arizona, I mostly can jams – I found a delightful recipe for diabetic strawberry jam — and Judy’s Carmel Apple Jam is to die for!!! (If only I could come up with a diabetic recipe). I have a good size pantry, two freezers and have taken over the floor in the front coat closet for extra paper goods from Costco. My DH laughs, but he knows that there will always be food here and paper products….I think the stocking up goes back to the miserable Michigan winters. In the fall I also organized my sewing projects for the winters when it was just too nasty to be out – or go out.

  46. 51


    Wow – that is impressive. My garden nor indoor storage space isn’t near big enough to create that kind of a pantry but it should certainly make “making dinner” a cinch with all your favorites on hand.

  47. 52

    Laura says

    Wow. All I can say is I’m jealous! I DREAM of having a pantry like that! You go, girl!

  48. 53

    Sandy Gail (Sandra Neel Hutchins) says

    Wow! This post has certainly elicited a bountiful crop of comments. Your garden and canning seems to bring memories back to many. My parents raised huge gardens. When they canned all they wanted for their use, they canned many dozens of jars more of green beans, tomatoes, apples, etc. to give to those less fortunate. They did the same with their garden produce. They picked and took the produce to the homes of the less fortunate. They never expected any kind of recognition or reward other than that of doing a good deed. Just like the many, many quilts that you make and give to charitable causes. You are a great blogger and an even better person for your generosity to others.

  49. 54

    Perry says

    what a wonderful pantry ! You certainly deserve kudos for being so industrious! I wish I lives closer so I could come for sinner. Is the house down the street still available? Lol

  50. 56


    All I’m thinking is WOW!! And umm, can you come organize my house so I can feed 3 starving boys and there dad 3 times a day? They *neeeeeeed* you!!!

  51. 57

    Becky R says

    Hey, I like those shelves. Are those the same ones you use for your fabric? They look like they will support a lot of weight. Can you tell me if those are from costco? I need some strong shelves and those look like would work!

  52. 58

    Shari Heath says

    Judy I do can for DH & myself as well as extras for my kids but I am in awe of how much you have accomplished. AZ isn’t the best place to garden…at least I haven’t mastered it yet…but we have some very nice farmers’ markets to supplement what we manage to put together from our garden. It always tastes so much better than anything you get at the store. I also remember growing up “putting food by” from the farm for my great grandparents, grandparents, aunts & uncles and finally the “youngsters.” Good memories. I’m also jealous of your organization.

  53. 59

    Stef says

    It all seems logical to me. It would be nice to be able to can fresh vegetables and have them throughout the cold New England winters. Rock on Judy!