This pantry makeover was inspired by moths. (Jennifer Bardsley)

This pantry makeover was inspired by moths. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Careful organization turns small cabinets into a pantry

A moth infestation inspired her to break out the Tupperware and label maker for a well-sorted kitchen.

My kitchen cupboards have been the backdrop to massacres, both of the pestilent and budgetary nature.

Five or six years ago, I reached into the baking cupboard to pull out a bag of oats and my fingertips brushed against something that squirmed. Moth larva crawled everywhere, chewing through grains and forming chrysalises. It was a science project right there in the flour cabinet. If I hadn’t been shrieking so hard, I could have pointed at the creatures and said: “Look, kids, metamorphosis in action.”

My husband and I spent days cleaning out cabinets and throwing away hundreds of dollars’ worth of contaminated food. We bleached out the cupboards just to be extra careful. But then, like the second flick in a horror film franchise, the moths came back.

See, we had tossed away everything we had thought was contaminated, but we had kept the canned goods, not realizing that larva could crawl underneath the labels of canned soup or beans and start the life cycle all over again. We were back at square one, only this time we lost even more food. Necessity required us to rip labels off of canned goods until the only thing left in the cupboards were stacks of shiny silver cans with their contents marked in Sharpie.

I bought moth traps and stopped purchasing from bulk bins, but lived in fear of the moths returning. One day, I saw a woman post her before-and-after pantry organization online. At the time, my husband was out of town on a business trip, which is important to the story because when he returned, one of the first things he said was: “You spent how much on Tupperware?”

Reader, it was a lot. But not as much money as we had lost from the moths. I also purchased a label maker because that was critical to the new system my new friend, the Tupperware saleswoman, had shown me: “Don’t buy almonds unless the container labeled: “Almonds” is empty.” That would keep me from overbuying things that would go bad before we could eat them.

She taught me other tricks too — things that made me feel ridiculous for not knowing. I had stored chopped walnuts in the baking cabinet, and whole walnuts with the snacks. She taught me how to group all of the nuts in one place so they would be easy to find. Breakfast items go with breakfast items. Tea goes next to hot cocoa. By the time she was done transforming my kitchen, I felt like it had been renovated. For weeks and months afterward, I’d open up the cabinet doors and stare in amazement.

This week I brought out my label maker and did a quick freshening up of this organizational system that has served us well for several years. My 1984-style kitchen doesn’t have a pantry, but the cabinets provide plenty of storage now that they’ve been sorted out. Plus, I’m happy to report that we’ve never had moths again.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

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