Well Stocked Pantry Project I

Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

Several years ago, I told you one of my big strategies for achieving things was creating projects, giving them a code name, setting a deadline, and tracking them in Things task management software.  At any given time, there are main projects that span several quarters, or in some cases, years, with several sub-projects underneath them.  I have’t talked about many of these projects but there seems to be quite a bit of interest, judging by the mail bag submissions, in how I go about organizing and executing these plans so I am going to try to post some of them this year whenever I have a moment.

[mainbodyad]Right now, one of my active projects is named “The Well Stocked Pantry”.  Several years ago, I read a story about a family that had no income for more than twelve months after the sole breadwinner lost his job in the housing crisis.  The wife, who ran the household, had a habit of maintaining significant stockpiles of food and rotating through them so nothing ever went bad and she was able to use fresh ingredients from the store to pair with the base foodstuffs she kept on hand.  She was so well organized that her family ate well for that entire year, living off her food reserves, while the dad looked for work.

I was so impressed that it stuck in the back of my head.  Not only would such a system be great in the event of an emergency or major natural disaster, it would help ensure there was less waste in the cooking projects.  This would mean stocking more than half a dozen different types of flours, multiple types of sugar, several different types of grain, nearly ever spice imaginable, dried fruits, dried nuts, and a host of other reserves that would hold for at least a year, without the use of preservatives

Combining This Idea with the Radical Simplicity Objective Seemed Like a Sure Win

Then, came my radical simplicity objective.  On Wednesday night, after having coffee for a few hours with friends who were back from England, I decided that I could combine the goal for zero clutter with the pantry project that had been in the back of my mind for all this time.  The spouse and I drove to some local stores, where I bought out almost the entire Oxo sealed container inventory, went home, and began emptying everything out of a side storage room off the kitchen that had served as a random place to stick cleaning supplies, candles, and unopened crates of cookware still not put in the cabinets from the home renovations last year.

All of the kitchen pantry cabinets were emptied entirely, and anything not absolutely necessary – I own probably 12 coffee machines – is going to charity.  We then began slowly building a checklist to figure out what the base necessary components of such a pantry would be, sorting in a way that there was very little clutter, everything was visible from the moment you walked into the space, and it would be easy to see if something were running low.  We are about 40% done but I am tired and need to take a break so I am posting pictures of our work thus far.  We put in a couple of hours each night planning, organizing, and moving around the system to figure out what works most efficiently.

The space could be much better utilized if it were custom designed so this week, I’m meeting with some contractors to have bespoke shelving, storage, and cabinets priced.  That way, I can use every spare inch from floor to ceiling and quadruple the amount of food the room can hold given how tall the room is.  I also want a display for the pots, pans, and cookware that isn’t in the kitchen area and some of the lesser-used electronics, such as waffle cone makers, ice cream machines, backup dutch ovens, and dinnerware not currently in rotation.  I have no idea what it will cost or how long it will take but if this is going to be an area we use as part of the kitchen, it needs to match the woodwork in the kitchen.

Well Stocked Pantry Project I

Well Stocked Pantry Project  Phase I – We are organizing base ingredients, creating a checklist of things that aren’t yet in the house, and figuring out the expected shelf life of various grains so we can create a rotation schedule that ensures the freshest food possible.  We have taken measurements and are building diagrams of how we want the room to look for maximum efficiency.


Well Stocked Pantry Project II

Well Stocked Pantry Phase I – Until I can meet with contractors to redesign the space, we went to a home improvement store and had wood bars cut to serve as a stand that displays the spices, flavors, and extracts.


Grains and Oxo StorageGrains and Oxo Storage

Phase I – Everything from oatmeal and jasmine rice to cake flour and half a dozen types of vinegar are going to be base requirements.  This allows us to monitor existing inventory levels at a glance, knowing what we have and don’t have.  We also need to identify the base cooking wines that should always be on hand for 90% of the recipes we make.


Organizing Pots and Pans

Right now, I have pots and pans strewn throughout the house as we move things around, measure the space, and test different configurations.  Chairs in the living room, storage tables near the garage, dining chairs strewn all over the place … there are kitchen gadgets and tools everywhere.

This is one of those projects that may seem like it is inconsequential but the cumulative annual efficiency gains in 1.) money saved from not throwing away wasted food, 2.) time saved by being able to monitor food levels at a glance, not having to dig through cabinets and shelving, and 3.) the visual appeal of having zero clutter will be enormous.  

[mainbodyad]Going through day-to-day life doing this in every area you can imagine, from laundry to garage storage, is one of the reasons I am able to do what I want, when I want, how I want, quickly.  Life is much less stressful when everything just works.  Make it work for you.  If you don’t cook, a well stocked pantry program probably won’t be much use for you or your family, but figure out what will.  If you have hundreds of DVDs, burn the movies to a central media server and toss all of the cases and discs.  There is no reason to have so much stuff around that it needs to be maintained, cleaned, rearranged, or stored.

Shed the excess in life.  It is absolutely liberating.