Thrifty Living: The Pantry

12 Sep

In order to spread the love of thrift store shopping, I thought it might be kind of nice to give you a tour of my home in some of the small, simple ways I use secondhand items in my daily life.  While the Thrifted Home Tour featured ways of incorporating vintage decor into a modern home, I hope this series will show you how secondhand items can be both lovely and useful, something I try to emphasize in my shop, as well. It’s one thing to have a lot of vintage items in a home that looks like it was preserved from the 1950s, but what I’m after in my life is blending vintage with items I already own in a way that’s workable and lovely. I don’t think homes are meant to be museums, even if they are very lovely.

Some of my most useful finds are these two, in my actual pantry itself, the chrome napkin holder and the Japanese octagon-shaped vase.  Originally I was going to use the napkin holder for letters on my desk, but its so much more useful holding index cards in my pantry. I use them for quick grocery lists, or if friends are over and we need to make a food run, or to write down ideas as I have them, or sometimes I’ll just grab a card and a pencil while I’m cooking and hand them to Isobel for five minutes of toddler-free cooking. The vase is perfect for holding pens because it’s sturdy and because it’s a vase the sides are tall enough that it’s never fallen over. I like to keep sharpies on hand in this vase for labeling things that go in the freezer.

I love the vintage teardrop-shaped bowl of monkeypod wood and often use it to hold cherry tomatoes. It’s so pretty to use at parties. But what I really wanted to show you in this picture were the tins. I have several vintage Daher tins that I love because they are so beautiful. I keep my favorite teas on hand in the brown tin below (with the rest stashed away in a red tin that used to hold biscuits). The blue tin holds large variety of teas, including teas I’m really not fond of, and this is the tin I get down when I have friends over. It makes me feel like a stunningly capable hostess, and this way everyone gets their choice and is happy. 

I keep a number of vintage tins lying around the kitchen and use them for a rotating cast of uses: homemade croutons keep better in a tin than in a plastic bag, I have one currently holding Isobel’s alphabet magnets, and another filled with beans. I use vintage tins for storage all over the house, and I don’t predict I’ll stop singing their praises anytime soon.

I admit I bought these adorable salt and pepper shakers for looks more than anything else. Instead of shakers I use a salt cellar and two pepper grinders. But since I keep these on the toaster it occurs to me I could fill one with cinnamon and one with sugar for instant cinnamon toast.

This vintage viking jewelry box is actually my salt cellar. I think little ceramic boxes like these make the perfect salt cellars. Whenever I find one  for the shop I always suggests its use as a salt cellar. Mine does its job perfectly.

Over here are my two pepper grinders, one a vintage Peugeot and one from Ikea. My eventual plan is for one to hold regular black pepper and for the other to hold more exotic peppercorns. In front of them you’ll note The Fish, a vintage bottle opener that came from my late Papa and Nana. When we have groups of people over for dinner it’s not uncommon to hear people asking, “Where’s The Fish?” Everybody knows The Fish.

I originally bought this cheerful yellow scale for the shop, but I couldn’t part with it after accidentally setting it down in the pantry and seeing how lovely it looked in there.  Strange how that happens! Salter is a really trusted brand for scales, and I compared it to my digital one and it is right on the money.

I feel that soap dishes often get overlooked in thrift stores. I don’t have an actual need for soap dishes in my house because we use refillable liquid soap everywhere, but I’ve seen such truly gorgeous vintage dishes that they are worth buying and finding another use for. I use this milkglass soap dish to hold our sponge.

It’s lovely and a better alternative than buying something new. Soap dishes could also hold jewelry, business cards, or keys.

I have kind of a Thing for vintage utensils, and not just because many of them are better made than what you can find now (although that’s true), but because everything on this counter came from various members of my family. You could plot my whole family tree just by tracking down the original owners of things found in my kitchen cupboards. This is true.

Giving the utensil bin a cursory glace while thrifting is always worth it, because of the quality of many of the older goods. I’ve seen lovely, solidly built nutcrackers for 19 cents! And look at that potato masher. It doesn’t fuck around. It’s heavy. The only thing to watch out for is rust. You can salvage an item that has a bit of rust if you work out of it, but you never want rust to contaminate your food, so be careful.

I really want to make at least a brief mention of the bowls I keep on my counter here, although I probably should cover them in more detail in another post. Mostly because my sweet potato has sprouted it kind of horrifies my husband. Also the grapes are halfway to raisins and I’ve left all the bottles for my various medical conditions out. There it is, folks. Now you can see what it takes to keep me relatively healthy and in good enough health that I don’t have to bitch about it on the internet all the time. But all these bowls on the counter are thrifted and they play a vital role in my kitchen.

I am lucky enough to have a large counter with bar seating. This means I can stack my lovely thrifted bowls on the counter in a way that hospitably offers snacks of fruit and maybe some nuts to visitors and also keeps vegetables handy so I know what I have to cook with. This set up also encourages healthy snacking in my family.  I have two vintage wire bowls. I am all about these bowls. I had similar heart bowls that were in my shop for awhile.

Well, I think that covers the pantry. As you can see, I use vintage and secondhand items in my daily life all over the house. Not everything you find while thrifting is going to be a huge score, but you might find something that turns out to be so useful it’s worth what little you paid for it many times over.

10 Responses to “Thrifty Living: The Pantry”

  1. Lolaleelu September 12, 2011 at 4:46 am #

    Great post as always! Quick question though…did you mean that your potato masher doesn’t *muck* around? All good if you didn’t!! Both works definitely convey your message 🙂

    • LittleBig September 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

      Nope, I did not. 😀 Pardon my French!

  2. Kerry September 12, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    Super cute! And the cinnamon sugar S&P set is ingenious!

    • LittleBig September 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

      I keep them right on top of the toaster, too, so it’s perfect.

  3. K September 12, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Your potato masher comment made me laugh out loud. I have an old school chopper (my mom used it mostly for chopping walnuts for baking) that will go TO TOWN on whatever is placed inside of it. It doesn’t play. Plus I love it because I remember it from when I was little.

    • LittleBig September 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      Exactly. This is exactly why I love the old stuff.

  4. Cameron September 12, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Love all your stuff!! I really hate to be the person who comments with some annoying judgey-sounding factoid, but since I only recently learned this (at age 35) I thought I’d mention that once potatoes start to sprout they release a chemical that isn’t good for you (of course I can’t remember any details though). So maybe plant the sweet potato instead of eating it. 🙂 That is quite an impressive sprout! [And just to assure you I’m not judging, I once put an entire 5-lb bag of red potatoes in the pantry and didn’t remember they were there until they started to rot and stunk up the whole pantry. BARF.]

    • LittleBig September 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

      Oh Cameron. I love you. You are caring, not judgy. Don’t worry, I know all about potatoes and their sordid connection with the Nightshade family and the risks of poison. I really like sprouted sweet potatoes, and I’ve had some really lovely plants going from them, all to my husband’s horror.

  5. Anne September 12, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    I was so pleased to see your bowl system – I do the same thing! My bowls aren’t quite so fancy (just from our dishes) but I love having fruit and veg out where I can see what I have.

    Also, I think I am going to have to go thrifting this afternoon. You have inspired me!

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