Now, on to Saturday, where The Beans shake things up. To truly appreciate this occasion, you need to know that Scott and I don’t really shop. Sure, we enjoy grocery store runs… but buying stuff for our house? Doesn’t happen very often. However, we’ve started a system in 2007 to spruce up our Bean Abode.
After living in an apartment in Provo so tiny that our coursework filled up every cranny… when we walked into our 3-story apartment in Columbus, our jaws dropped. What would we do with all this space? Our moving truck had one level of stuff about knee-high in most spots. We didn’t even have to stack boxes!
Based on financial limitations, lack of confidence in our capabilities relating to interior design, and busy-ness, we didn’t do a thing. Our bedroom consists of an alarm clock sitting on the floor, a very small dresser and our bed without a frame. Two built-in closets hold our shoes and clothes. No curtains, no fun paint, no pictures on the wall, nada. I should say here that we are not fans of buying stuff just to buy it… and we hate the idea of accumulating clutter. In fact, we both appreciate how open and spacious our apartment looks with uh, nothing in it. 🙂
That notwithstanding, we decided that starting January 2007, we would improve one room of our apartment each month. We didn’t suddenly acquire loads of cash or any creative talent whatsoever, but we did want to add some personal touches to our home.
For January, we picked the smallest room in the house: our guest bathroom on the main floor. It already contained the one picture hanging in our house, of mountain goats, incidentally. We decided to leave the goats but go with a sort of Moroccan theme. We spent around $15 and purchased a rug, two fun towels, and a $1 garbage can. I didn’t blog about it at the time because, well, who DOESN’T have decent towels and a garbage can in their bathroom?
You’ve already met the goats, here’s the rest of the gang:
February was dining room month. We didn’t manage to put any pictures up, but I did buy lots of cute things for our dining room table, remember?
March is… drumroll…. kitchen month! Oh boy, why move on? Let’s just keep kitchen month forever, mkay?
WARNING: Very detailed recap ahead. Click through at your peril.
We started our shopping extravaganza at Costco, where we had a 2 for 1 coupon for organic diced tomatoes. Oh wait, you don’t care about that! (I do though, man it’s nice to find a bargain on something healthy…) 🙂
We did stumble across an unexpected gem at Costco, however. A stunning 5 qt. saute pan with a thick aluminum disk at the bottom, stainless steel finish (brushed in the inside, mirror on the outside). We have been wanting a pan like this since before we got married. However, they are typically over $100, so we had always assumed that such a pan would have to wait. Not so. This beauty was $30 at Costco and we had enough money left on a giftcard we received for Christmas (thanks Nancy!) to purchase it. Woot!
Next, it was on to The Container Store to buy… containers! We had long struggled with the plethora of twist-tied bags piling up in our grain cupboard in our kitchen. Despite having a few tupperware containers to put things in, our brown sugar would still dry out… lentils would spill, flour would seep out the corners of its paper bag, etc. Basically, our storage was sloppy and practically invited bugs to come and feast on the bounty. Luckily, we cleaned up our act before the bugs were any the wiser.
We did our research and discovered SnapWare containers. They are 100% airtight and watertight, have a silicon seal, and a lifetime guarantee. We decided to invest in good containers now, so that we could enjoy an organized and safe cupboard for years to come.
We ended up buying 3 different kinds of SnapWare, and several glass jars at the Container Store. Altogether, they ran us just over $100. Definitely spendy, but they’ll give me peace of mind regarding bugs, Scott peace of mind regarding organization, and both of us a good start towards building up a pantry to be proud of. 🙂
Note: The Container Store had a LOT of containers to choose from, as the name of the store implies. We quickly narrowed down our choices by requiring that our containers be square, rather than round, to maximize cupboard space. Also, we looked for airtight containers that came in big enough sizes to accomodate our large family. Ok, there are just two of us so far, but we dream big!
First, the glass jars. You’ve probably seen these before. They’re a bit cumbersome with the swing-open lid and trying to get it latched properly, but they are airtight and best of all… they don’t smell like plastic.
Our old tupperware-type flour, sugar and oat containers smelled like plastic and I could smell it in our sugar and oats after a while. Yuck! So, Scott humored me and agreed to glass containers for our white sugar and oats. (And one to grow on… perhaps for my dough conditioner?)
Next, we moved on to SnapWare “Airtight Canisters“.
They are best for dry goods that you can pour out, because they don’t have a wide enough mouth to use measuring cups in them. Also, they are designed so you don’t have to constantly unscrew the lid.
We cleaned The Container Store out of the largest size they carried, the 120 oz square grip on this page. We filled them with (from the left) the cornmeal (09 update – this is now split peas), lentils, brown rice, whole wheat couscous, and quinoa we had on hand.
We have recently discoverd our local spice shop, Penzeys. It’s right down the street from us and they have decent prices on fabulous spices. We’ve bought 5 spices lately from them in bulk, 1 oz bags for herbs, or 4 oz bags for powdered spices. For some, they were replenishing the containers we’d emptied on our spice rack, for others, they were spices we didn’t yet have. Even after filling up the empty containers, there was plenty of extra in the bags and they created chaos in our spice cupboard. Snapware to the rescue!
Those little beauties inspired me to clean up our spice cupboard, combining repeat spices, tossing the oldest of the old, relegating “extras” to the basement, and organizing it in a logical way. Even with a spice rack taking up coveted counter space, this cupboard used to be crammed with stacking spices that would topple whenever you reached for something near the back. Now, the ones we use are (logically) placed near the front, with seasoning blends in one spot and “sweet spices” in another.
We decided on Snapware’s MODs for our wide-mouthed storage.
These were $4 more (each!) than the snap-topped ones, so we only bought the essentials: white flour, wheat flour, and brown sugar. They snap down on all four sides and have a silicon seal. Here’s what a lid looks like, unsnapped and flipped over:
Here’s a shot of all of them, nicely lined up:
Ok, ok… so that’s not ALL of them. We also bought a big, round (non-snapware) bucket that was cheaper but still had a good seal. It’ll be used to store opened bags of wheat later on, but for now joins an un-used snapware in containing our odds and ends:
Those are less pretty, so we don’t like to talk about them. They are necessary, however, because we still had plenty of loose twist-tied bags despite all our snapware goodness. Examples: split peas, sticky rice, brown basmati rice, wheat bran, bulgur, buckwheat flour, etc. They don’t really deserve their own fancy shmancy container (aside from the fact that The Container Store ran out of containers, and we ran out of money in our kitchen budget)… but they shouldn’t be allowed to roam free in our cupboard.
But wait, there’s more. After our uber-successful visit to The Container Store (had to use “uber”, Scott was there after all), we headed to our beloved Trader Joe’s for our grocery shopping. Oh how I love that store… but that’s another post for another day.
As soon as we got home, we rolled up our sleeves and washed all our loot with hot soap and water. Rinsed WELL, and were pleasantly surprised to find that the snapware containers smelled neutral. No raunchy plasticy smell. Whoop!
Next, it was time to clear out the grain cupboard, wipe down, fill up the new stuff, and get it put away. At the same time, we used our brand new pan to whip up some fabulous black beans and brown rice. While we did the dinner dishes, I cleared out the spice cupboard and every other cupboard in our kitchen. Scott wiped and I flung and we ended up with a much neater, cleaner kitchen.
I’ll tell ya, it feels really good. Did I blog about this to boast? Not hardly. Six months of twist-tied bags before finally pulling ourselves together and doing something about it is not worth bragging about. However, our kitchen (and therefore our home) feels much better today than it did a week ago, Scott and I had a fabulous day together, and all it took was some motivation and some well-spent moolah.
By the way, we sauteed up some onion and red bell pepper in chicken broth and a bit of canola oil, added leftover brown rice, a couple of cans of black beans, some cumin and a generous amount of the (fabulous) Adobo w/o pepper seasoning blend. Voila! Enough burrito filling to last us 5+ meals. We wrapped the beany-rice goodness in whole wheat tortillas from TJs, added Costco salsa and guacamole, and some leftover fresh cilantro… Mmmm…