How to determine the best pantry storage for your space. Options abound for pantry storage containers; here’s what to consider (and why).
Cooking real food from wholesome ingredients means keeping those ingredients at the ready for when you need them. If you’re like me and buy some of those ingredients in bulk, you’ll need a way to store them easily.
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What to consider when choosing pantry storage containers
There are several things to consider when picking out pantry storage containers, but the most important is that they are airtight. Of course, some pantry storage containers are more airtight than others.
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I live in a high humidity region. Grains of salt left out on the counter will quickly turn to puddles of water. Yes, really. In other parts of the world, the air is so dry that a person can simply set a slice of bread out in the open and it will air dry and be good for making bread crumbs. Airtight (really airtight) containers are critical for me. People in drier regions can probably get away with less air-tight options for short-term storage. If you’re storing food long-term, aim for air-tight so the food lasts longer.
Food stored in an oxygen-free environment will last longer. An airtight container coupled with moisture absorbers is a good plan for home kitchens. [Here’s how to make your own moisture absorbers.]
If you rotate your pantry stock pretty regularly, light is less of a problem. Light can degrade food items stored for long periods. Most pantry storage jars and containers are clear; storing them in a dark cupboard solves this issue. If you plan to keep a food storage container on an open shelf where light can be a problem for longer-term storage, consider opting for opaque storage jars like these.
Opt for metal, glass, ceramic, or food grade plastic containers in order to avoid chemicals that could be harmful to your health. This is especially true if you’re using plastic containers. The material used to make plastic pantry storage containers can vary widely.
Square containers utilize space more efficiently in the pantry. Unfortunately, square pantry storage containers are harder to come by than round ones, especially if you prefer to avoid plastic. Another thing to consider is the height of your storage jars. It doesn’t make sense to choose a tall container for an item that you only use by the half cup.
Choose containers that are suitable for the amount of food you’ll be storing to get the most of your pantry space. As I discussed in this post about bulk food storage, I tend to buy some items in such quantity that they won’t fit in a small pantry or kitchen cupboard. I store large amounts of bulk grains and beans in food-grade buckets with these amazing lids. But I don’t want to have to haul out a five-gallon bucket every time I cook, so also parcel out more reasonable amounts into pantry storage containers that are easier to access.
The best storage jars
Jars used for home canning can also do double duty for storing dry goods. These glass jars with lids come in varying sizes from 1/2 pint to half-gallon, with options for regular or wide mouths. The great thing about canning jars is that the lids are interchangeable. This saves time searching for a matching lid that only fits one specific jar. I use canning jars for storage a lot, because I have an extensive collection of them. When storing dry goods, I often use the plastic lids that are available for them, since they won’t rust over time like the metal lids and rings will.
Wire bail jars
These glass jars with lids have a glass lid that swings closed and latches with an attached wire. A rubber gasket assures an airtight seal. I’ve gathered a collection of these over the years and they are reliably airtight, as long as I replace the gaskets when they start to get too worn. These come in a variety of sizes, from small spice jars to this one-and-a-half-gallon beauty.
Gallon-sized pantry storage containers
For dry goods that you use regularly, a generously-sized storage jar makes sense. It’s easier to access than a five-gallon bucket, but won’t need to be replenished after every meal. These are available in glass with a plastic lid, with a lift off metal lid, or of course, plastic.
Square pantry storage containers
Square containers make great pantry organizers for small spaces. Being able to fit more storage containers per shelf is a boon. While there are some square glass jars, there’s a bigger selection in plastic. Personally, I prefer glass, but you’ll need to weigh what’s best for your situation.