Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Kitchen Storage Renovation

Levi and I spent the first year and a half of our marriage dreaming of our ideal kitchen. Words like "rustic," "open shelves," and "spice racks" dominated most of our searches on Pinterest, but there were very few images that matched what was floating around in our minds. The two best ones we could find were these pictures:

We really liked the latch-top glass jars and the custom-made shelving. See how the smaller jars have a shelf perfectly sized for them? Perfect!

And this one:

Here, we really like entire shelves filled with unprocessed food. You know how people love the look of a library, with rows and rows of books filling a wall? That's sort of what we imagine for our kitchen someday. Rows and rows of various grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, flours, dried fruits, chiles, pastas, etc. Those anchor jars are really beautiful, but we wanted something airtight, like those latch top jars at the top.

So! Fast-forward to the start of 2014. We'd saved and budgeted, and after a generous Christmas gift from some family members we decided to take the plunge and do it all at once.

After making our lists, we were finally on the hunt for:
1. 75 assorted latch-top jars
2. 80 square glass spice jars
3. A budget-friendly spice supplier

The first things we found were these great IKEA Korken latch-top jars. They were by far the most affordable jars we could find, but they also had everything we were looking for. They are made entirely of glass, with stainless steel latches, and a natural rubber gasket.

Because these jars are only sold in stores we ventured down to the Twin Cities for our very first trip to IKEA. That's an entirely separate post on it's own, but we finally made it out of there with three pallets full of jars. We packed them carefully into our car, and they made the three-hour drive home without cracking of breaking--phew!

The jars took up our whole kitchen table for a few days as we carefully rinsed, washed, and dried each jar.

While that was going on, I happened to be hanging out in the kitchen one day while Levi was at work, just staring at our kitchen cabinets. We're renting our current place, so we can't really make any big changes to the kitchen, but after looking at the cabinets, I began to think that they might work well as sort of make-shift open shelving. Our cabinets are more like long shelves running the length of the wall with doors added onto the front.

'What could it hurt?' I thought to myself. So I just grabbed our screwdriver and took off a cabinet door. This is what I was left looking at.

It was pretty easy to get it off, and it seemed like it'd be pretty easy to put it back on. Also, please do not mind the mess all around the kitchen counters! Anyway, I went ahead and took the rest of the doors off the cabinets.

A very promising beginning!

As you can see, we had some food containers already, these OXO POP Containers. They are excellent containers, and we really liked them. We probably would have continued using them for many years, but it made more sense to buy all our glass jars at once, so it was time to say goodbye to our trusty containers.

We also has lots of bags in our cabinets which I couldn't wait to replace with those jars. Also, if you'll notice all the various oils and vinegars on the bottom shelf, we couldn't put our liquids into jars at the moment, so those had to be moved to the one cabinet with a door still on it.

And then our spice cabinet was still waiting on a transformation that was pretty badly needed. Especially if it was going to be on open shelves....

Also, Levi has a bit of a complex when it comes to tin cans. Something about a college class where a professor once asked his class how much garbage they produced each week....and then he explained that tin cans were one of the biggest culprits of that....or something? I'm pretty much neutral about food contained in tin cans (and I'm way on the PRO side of canned tomatoes, because, wow, convenient), but Levi was crazy proud of us when he saw how many tin cans we had in our cabinets.

That's right. Two cans. We usually have one or two cans of diced tomatoes on hand, and that can of tuna was at least six months old at the time of this picture. We have since eaten it in an amazing salad made with apples, walnuts, and cranberries. Yum!

Anyway, it was finally time to start putting things in jars. After putting all the food we had in our jars, our shelves looked like this.

It already looked crazy beautiful!

Part of our budget included money for the various grains and pulses, etc. that we wanted in our jars, so I made an extensive shopping trip that ended up being more bulky than it did expensive (most bags of grain and beans are pretty cheap), and our shelves suddenly became a thing of beauty.

Our shelves were halfway done!

Then Levi took on the endless task that is looking for spice bottles. Have you ever looked for spice bottles? There is so much to consider, and there are so many options out there. Plastic lids or metal lids? Glass bottles or plastic bottles? Shaker tops or open tops? Rounded or square jars? The options and the possibilities go on and on and on and on....

We finally settled on square, glass jars with metal lids with no shaker tops. Levi found these jars from a site called Specialty Bottle, and we got them ordered. About a week later, they finally came in.

If we were excited for the latch-top jars, just imagine how excited we were to get these little beauties!

Levi had also labored for countless hours to create the perfect labels, and I let him do all the work because his ideas were very, very specific. When it was time to reveal the final product, well, I'll let you judge for yourselves.

Awesome, right? What a creative man! He even made the scrollwork on his own by finding a small piece of clip-art and flipping it a few different times. Oh, and the scientific names make total sense because, duh, he's a biologist. We did end up making the background a little more brown because they looked a little peachy on the jars.

We realized that without shaker tops on the jars it might be a little difficult to accurately get pinches of our various mixes and spices (the jar openings are too small for our fingers, plus, sanitary issues, people). So we searched our local specialty kitchen retailer until we found these sweet little guys:

Love them!

The last thing we needed? The spices, of course! We had many spices already, but if you can remember the beginning of this post the last thing we wanted to find was a budget-friendly spice shop. And we found it! The Savory Spice Shop is amazing! You can find a lot of unique spices and herbs there (charnushka, anyone?), and they will sell spices in bags rather than jars. This allowed us to order the exact amount of each spice we wanted without worrying about extra jars floating around. It also allowed us to get more spice for our buck since each spice and herbs costs much less without a jar.

We made our order, and a few days later (they ship their goods like lightning!) our kitchen table looked like this:

We began the process of filling the jars...

.....and making new and unique spice mixtures we'd been wanting to try for ages.....

.....until everything was finally done!

It's been such an exciting time for us. We spend most of our time in the kitchen, and we love it when that place is comforting and attractive. We've been using this system for almost a month now, and it's been fantastic.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. That is amazing Mary Beth!!! Beautifully done :-) Now all I have left to do is google half those spices to find out what they are! haha! We are just beginning our food and spice journey together!

  2. I found your blog on accident, looking for whether Ikea's Korken jars are good for canning, but you guys remind me of me and my husband - we've been married for 14 years, and have three kids, and we didn't meet on eHarmony, but we're still joyfully in love, and I just wanted to encourage you to keep on keeping on! Keep short accounts with each other, have fun, and pray for your marriage every day, and you'll continue to thrive! Blessings on you guys! - Heidi

    1. Thank you so much, Heidi! I'm sorry that it took me so long to reply to you. No excuse. :) I hope you'll keep stopping by now that I'm determined to keep this thing going!