If I were to title this post it would be... When Bad Things Happen to Good Pantries.
My kitchen cabinets had a never-anticipated situation last weekend when the container of coconut oil leaked. By the time we realized it, there was about a quarter inch of a gooey mess on the bottom of everything on that long shelf!
It took two days to clean, replace, and get everything back to order.
This was not my worst pantry disaster, that one happened about fifteen years ago when I lived in the larger house and my pantry filled a small basement room. It was an expensive lesson in listening to the experts.
I had read that the newer plastic gallon containers had been re-engineered to disintegrate over time. So I should not have been surprised when I entered my basement pantry only to find one of the gallon water containers had indeed sprung a leak.
I never thought they could disintegrate within a few months. (These are the same gallon containers one buys milk and water in at the grocery store.) What was also a surprise was how much damage a gallon of water could do to everything on the shelf, much less disintegrate the press board shelf itself!
Perhaps the biggest lesson I took from that mini-flood was to take seriously the advice offered by pantry experts. There is something about human nature that we think "I can get away with... whatever".
Now, you can't protect yourself from ever pantry disaster. I still haven't a clue why the coconut oil developed a leaked. But most of the time we can avoid spoiled food, insects, and leaks.
Most of the battle is won by storing the food properly and/or purchasing food prepared for storage. For instance, that is why I mentioned before that if you want to store dried milk for a very long time, it is worth the extra money to purchase it prepared for long term storage. But most of the time, we'll stock our pantry from the grocery store or our own garden produce.
Which is why the deeper we want to keep a pantry, the more careful we must become in how we set it up and maintain it. I have lots of links to excellent information on the sidebar (scroll all the way down). There is always something one can learn!
We also learn from what we do... once again talking about gaining experience. I'll be certain not to set my coconut oil in the back of the shelf again "just in case". But it is also from experience that I've learned not to assume things cannot go wrong... like when I try to store brown rice in a hot garage.
My extended pantry is on a set of shelves in the garage since we don't have a lot of room in our kitchen. As soon as it warms up a bit, I will be taking a few days to sort through the cans, bottles, and boxes on those pantry shelves. (It isn't that I have so much, I can only work a little at a time.)
In my part of the world, late winter or early spring is the time to check the pantry shelves in the garage. I look for anything which should be brought to the front to be used soon, items to throw away (which hopefully don't happen often but there is always something), and to see if anything needs to be stored differently (like moving the wheat into a sealed pail).
This is also the time, before the heat of summer, I bring inside items that could not withstand summer heat... like chocolate chips!
Bad things will happen to good pantries but by giving them a little TLC once in awhile, we can prevent most of it. :)