Real Food in a Small Space: Storing Bulk Food - Modern Alternative Mama
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Real Food in a Small Space: Storing Bulk Food

admin April 25, 2015

Welcome to a very special Saturday edition of Real Food in a Small Space! Want to save by buying in bulk but feel you don’t have the room? Storing bulk food is possible in a small space!

Last week, I hit up Amish country, for the first time in almost a year.  It’s the first time I’ve gone since moving into an 1100-sq-ft. townhome, with no garage and no basement.  i.e. I have incredibly little storage space.

Still, buying in bulk really does save money (in most cases), so I knew it was time to go…and find a way to make it work.

Today I’m taking you on a little tour of my kitchen, showing you exactly how I’m storing all that food I purchased.  I definitely had to get creative!  I came away with 50 lbs. of wheat berries, 60 lbs. of chicken, quite a bit of other grains (oats, barley, etc.), honey, a full gallon of maple syrup, and a lot more.  The back of my van was pretty full!

Are you ready to see where I put it all?

A Tour of My {Storage Space} Kitchen

First, you should know, that I took these photos in a working kitchen.  It’s what my space really looks like.  That means it isn’t completely spotless.  The top of my freezer looks especially disorganized….  (But it’s kind of an important part of my strategy, so.)

This is just the tour of my storage areas.  Another day, I’ll show you the tour of where I keep my appliances and how I actually accomplish cooking in my small space.

Let’s dive in.

top of fridge 2

We’ll just get this out of the way first.  This is the top of my fridge.  You’ll see my glass pitchers, glass jars (from my milk farm), coconut oil, and my husband’s lunch bag, plus a few other odds and ends.  I keep the breakable stuff up here, mostly, to keep it away from the kids.

You’ll also notice the white crock with a yellow towel on top.  That’s my continuous brew kombucha.  It fits very well up there, and it’s not in the way or subject to little ones breaking it (it’s ceramic).  The top of the fridge helps it stay a pretty consistent temperature even through the winter, which is also nice.

The cabinets above the fridge (which are hard to get to with all the stuff on top of the fridge) are used for longer-term storage or items we don’t want the kids getting.  Matches, for example.  We also transferred the wheat berries into half-gallon mason jars and put most of them in these cabinets.

The stuff on top of the cabinets are my bags of herbs and spices (the extras).  In a perfect world there would be nothing up there, but frankly I need to use all the space I have.  Down the way, beyond the herbs, I keep a 10-lb. bucket of Real Salt, some extra baking trays and large mixing bowls, and extra empty mason jars.

food pantry left1

This is my pantry (mostly the left half).  On the bottom shelf, I store my oils and spices.  The spices are in half-pint or pint-sized mason jars, which are labeled with a Sharpie on the lids (this includes homemade blends I make).  My olive and avocado oils are here, too.  Basically, it’s the stuff I grab often when cooking.

Behind these items, mostly on the top shelf, are beans and a few canned items (organic pumpkin, tomatoes).  I don’t keep much store-bought canned food around.  There’s also my vinegar, kosher salt, and other pantry staples.  I also have some other odds and ends for baking — molasses, chia seeds, coconut flakes, etc.  These are also stored in quart or half-gallon mason jars.

food pantry right 2

Here’s the right side of the same pantry.  The bottom houses my whole wheat flour, wheat berries, brown rice, and other whole grains I use often, in half-gallon mason jars.  In the very back is my extra cane sugar (which I use only for kombucha right now — I keep a quart-sized mason jar in another cabinet, next to my tea and honey.  That’s the same cabinet that houses my pasta and all our prepared herbal medicines.  I don’t have a picture of it).

In the front, I keep onions and potatoes.  I know they’re not supposed to be stored together, but we use them so fast it doesn’t matter much.  In this picture, you can see onions, but we were out of potatoes.  They fit, though.

The top shelf is other canned goods that didn’t fit on the other side, sometimes extra flour, stuff like that.  I stack as many layers high as I need to, to get everything in.

real food in small spaces

Then there’s the deep freeze.

There’s no space in my kitchen for it.  I’m not allowed to keep it on my back patio (although theoretically, I could, since there’s an outlet back there).  So, I got creative and put it in my living room, right next to my TV.  Perfect?  No.  But I really needed this space.  The tiny little apartment freezer was barely cutting it for two weeks’ worth of groceries, let alone any long-term storage.

This freezer has a built-in drip tray so it won’t get the carpet wet.  (If it didn’t we would have needed to buy a tray for it.)  It also has some baskets so we can store smaller items on top.  We use these for small packages of meat or bags of homemade popsicles.  Things we’ll be eating fairly quickly, anyway.  Down below, we store things that I’d like to save for later — bags of bread, breaded chicken, and lots more.

(I’ll be sharing my pre-baby freezer meal plan in a few weeks.  I’m doing even more than before.  Of course, I’m feeding more and bigger people than ever before, too.)

I consider this a must.  If I had to put the freezer in my bedroom, I would.  It’s the only “additional storage” I have added to my small space, but I simply could not do all of this without it.  We found this freezer on Craig’s List for about $100 so it wasn’t even a ton of money.

While I’d love to have multiple freezers, tons of extra shelves, etc. like I used to, that’s just not in the cards right now.  Someday I’ll have a big pantry again.  Someday, I’ll need one, since we’re about to be a family of 7 and my kids already eat a ton (wait until they are teens…).  But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t doable right now.

I’ll most likely write a follow-up post on this in the fall since we plan to can foods again this fall.  In our small space.  With a newborn.  Finding the space to do it and the storage to keep it all will be interesting, for sure…but I can’t pass up organic, homemade tomato sauce for $1 – $2 a quart.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

I hope that you’ve been following the whole series this week, The Nourished Grocery Budget.  We have one final post (for now) on Monday, which is my ultimate budget-friendly meal plan.  I’ll share the most frugal meals that I’ve created in the last couple months and ideas on how to stretch them even further.  I’m actually really looking forward to sharing that because it will help me to organize my own thoughts and experiences!

What are your best tips for storing bulk foods in a small space?

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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