How Moth Infestation Led to Pantry Organization

How moth infestation led to pantry organization

About a month ago my husband was eating a store bought granola bar and found a worm/caterpillar in the bar. In fact, he took a bite out of it. Yuck! We thought it was a fluke and didn't think anything more about it. Then about 2 weeks ago I found a moth in the pantry. Hoping it had just flown in from outside (with three little kids our outside doors are held open a lot). I killed it and didn't think about it again. Then I found a great big caterpillar when I was taking out the trash (which is kept in the pantry) and then a few days later, another moth in the pantry. Now, I fully realized we had a moth problem. I quickly took to Google to research how to remedy the problem. I carefully studied this post from 100 Days of Real Food

How I Tackled Our Moth Infestation:

  1. We went to Home Depot and bought the Safer brand pheromone traps.
  2. Set a trap up and went to bed dreading the cleaning task ahead of me.
  3. Woke up and realized this was a great opportunity to organize my pantry which was a complete mess and set to work cleaning. ( As they say, when life gives you lemons...) This meant the kids got to watch TV all day long! Here are some before pics of the pantry.

Side Note: Our pantry is located underneath the stairs, so it is deep but not very tall. We have lived in our house almost three years and I've never been happy with our pantry organization, but I have been too busy with little kids to make the time to tackle it until now.

4.  Next, I emptied the pantry. I washed the mop head, aprons and cleaning cloths in the washing machine. Took out all food containers. The air tight ones were sprayed down with vinegar and wiped off. I examined any food in plastic bags (dried fruit, nuts, crackers, granola bars) and threw away any that looked questionable (I didn't find any adult moths or caterpillars in my cleaning, thank goodness!). Moths can chew through plastic and get by screw top lids, so any food or spices in plastic bags or jars with screw top lids that were not trashed were put into the freezer for a week. So thankful for our deep freezer in the garage! 

Once I had all the food out, I threw away my lovely woven baskets because they would have been impossible to get fully clean. Moths can lay eggs in any crevice. I vacuumed walls, crevices, corners and floor, and then emptied the vacuum cleaner. I scrubbed the floor, shelves, hanging brackets, screws and hooks with vinegar.  This literally took me all day long. Here is a picture of the clean pantry.

5.  Now I let my food sit in the freezer for a week. Anything not in the freezer was on the kitchen counter. My kitchen looked like a bomb went off, but there were no signs of moths at the end of the week!

6.  Since we appeared to be moth free, nothing was caught in the trap, I started moving things back in. I bought Sterilite ID containers at Big Lots and Walmart (they are sold in sets on Amazon) to contain food items by type. These are easily emptied and wiped out and give the pantry a more uniform look. I also made sure everything was in an airtight containers. Although I really want to buy these lovely Italian glass jars all to match, we just don't have the money for that so I made due with what we had, plus a few new Rubbermaid pieces. Not quite as pretty as I would like but a huge improvement. Here are pictures of the pantry today.

I still need to move the trash and recycling back in so it won't stay quite this pretty but I am well pleased with the improvement. 

7.  Now ALL food must be kept in air tight containers or in the freezer. This is especially true for "real" (unprocessed) food, like nuts, seeds, dried fruit and grains. These are common food items to bring in the moths from a grocery store or warehouse like Amazon.

A little more about the organization of the pantry

The first shelf has our store bought cereals for when I need a fast breakfast or snack. For more information on choosing healthier boxed cereals check out this post. The larger cereal dispenser is from Rubbermaid and it holds one of the large boxes of cereal from Sams Club. The smaller dispenser and container with Wheat Chex I already had. I also buy one box of graham crackers and one box saltine crackers per month. These are processed foods that my family enjoys, so we eat them in moderation. My husband and I both really like chips and salsa so we also buy tortilla chips every month. The large Rubbermaid containers hold the chips and crackers perfectly. 

The second shelf has a utility caddy (I've had it since college) with oils on one side and vinegars on the other. This is working out perfect so far! Before I kept oils and vinegars on a lazy susan on the second shelf, but it wasn't big enough to hold them all, so there was constant overflow. 

I have kept all my baking supplies in a basket for about a year. This saves so much time when baking (which I do a lot; check out my pancake post). I just make one trip to the pantry for this bin which contains flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, honey, molasses and vanilla. My spices (salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc), which are also used in baking are kept in  a drawer in the kitchen. I decided to use a similar bin to group grains and pastas together instead of having several jars/containers on a self. They are all contained in one Sterilite ID bin. 

I'm just starting to get into essential oils so I only have a few. I had them in a tiny basket before, but the small Sterilite ID bin works great too. I was even able to put the lid on to further protect the oils from light.

The bulk spices/add - ins bin contains bulk cinnamon and ginger, arrowroot powder, nutritional yeast, tahini, kombu (a sea plant - I use in my chicken broth). The can/jar bin contains applesauce, all fruit jam, pasta sauce (one thing I don't make homemade, but see this post for how I increase nutrition in store bought jars), canned seafood (tuna and salmon), and dried fruit transferred to Ball jars (we currently have raisins, blueberries, and apricots).

So that is it.  Whew, what a process!  It was hard to deal with a messy kitchen and most of our food in the freezer for a week, but we got through and now have an organized pantry to boot!  I hope this post helps you avoid a moth infestation at your house and gives you some pantry organization ideas. 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Any purchase, leaves your price the same but sends me a small commission to help cover the costs of this site. Thanks for your support! Also below are Amazon links to the products I used to organize and clean my pantry.

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Erin Marie

Posted on August 24, 2015 and filed under Organize.