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I bet if you haven’t had the chance to spruce up your pantry yet, it’s on your to-do list.
Before you get started beautifying your cupboards, I want to share some tips that will help you make the most of your investment and prevent you from having to re-do it all in the future.
Money is a big factor in such an endeavor, so it’s something I’ve chosen to do gradually. If you can do it all in one fell swoop, more power to you—just plan on spending roughly $100-$200.
DON’T throw your money away on plastic or metal.
Whether you choose opaque or transparent canisters is entirely a matter of preference, but by all means, skip the plastic ones. The main reason to avoid plastic is because it harbors odors that are difficult to get rid of. The other reason to steer clear of plastic is because it tends to scratch and get foggy over time which means your once crystal-clear, transparent containers will be no more. Metal is odor resistant but it has a serious tendency to rust after it has come in contact with water, which is bound to happen when you wash your canisters. Glass or ceramic canisters are truly an investment because while they are more expensive up front, they will last a lifetime. Glass and ceramic stay odor free and do not rust. Just be sure the canister has an air-tight closure.
DON’T choose a design that will be discontinued.
While stores like Target or Ikea have a large selection of cute canisters, they also have stock that is rotated frequently. Ever-changing displays means when you decide you need a few more canisters 6 months after your pantry renovation, you will be forced to choose something new, which won’t match what you have.
DO select canisters with wide mouth openings.
You want something with a wide enough opening to dunk a measuring cup in. This means your canister is doing double duty. The unfortunate alternative is pouring your ingredients into a measuring cup held over a bowl where it’s nearly a guarantee that the dang powdered sugar is going to avalanche onto everything but your measuring cup. Being able scoop right from the canister saves so much hassle!
DO purchase sensible canister sizes.
So many of the beautiful pantries I have seen on Pinterest just make me roll my eyes for the simple fact that no one needs a gallon size jar of lentils, or dried beans. I mean, sure, there is that 1 in 400 chance that you are obsessed with grinding your own chickpea flower, so you need pounds and pounds of dried chickpeas to make all of those socca “pizzas” Gwyneth Paltrow told you about in her latest cookbook. For many foods, a gallon size jar is just wasteful, because not only will you shell out way too much cash just to fill that jar to an aesthetically pleasing level, but you will be throwing that money in the garbage months or years later when your jar’s contents have gone rancid, or bugs have found their way in (Lord forbid, but it happens). So, bottom line: know what you use often. Buy large jars for that. Buy smaller jars for things you use less.
DON’T buy canisters for foods you use up in one meal.
While it may look cute to store all kinds of fun pasta shapes or cereal in matching pantry canisters, it isn’t very practical. Most of the time you need to boil a full 16 ounce box of elbow macaroni for a recipe. So you dump out the macaroni and you recycle the box. Done. Emptying a box into a canister just to empty the canister into a pot is silly. You could stock up on noodles somewhere, like Aldi, and combine 3 or 4 boxes into a large canister, but then you have the inconvenience of re-weighing your pasta for a 16 oz portion. On the topic of cereal: while it may have enough volume to fill a canister, the fact is, if you are a cereal eater, it is gone in a matter of days. What’s the point?
DO choose a canister large enough.
Above I mentioned not buying canisters that are too large, but you also don’t want to buy canisters too small. The point of a pantry revamp is to have something that is clean and clutter free. If only half your bag of flour fits in the canister, then you not only have to find room to store your canister, but also the leftover half-bag of flour. It becomes a cluttered mess quickly, and then you have to keep tabs on what to use up first. When you are choosing your storage containers, make sure the design that appeals to you has a canister large enough for your highest volume foods.
DO use open baskets to group small items.
Crackers, dried fruit, nuts, nut-butters, protein bars, and popcorn are all small packaged items that change with frequency and are taken out of the cabinet frequently. These items can be grouped together in baskets to streamline their appearance and make it easy to find what you are after. Having used both solid baskets and wire, I personally prefer wire (except for produce), or something else that allows you to see everything in the basket. When I can’t see everything, I tend to forget what I have, and accidentally buy multiples.
DON’T keep boxes for individually packaged snacks.
Items like bars, microwave popcorn, fruit snacks, baby food pouches, etc can be grouped in baskets, they will stay together without the space-hogging box they came in.
In My Cabinets
I discovered these adorable labels by June & Lucy. You get to customize them to say anything you want! I love that! Not everyone wants “coffee” “tea” and “flour” labels. With these you are not paying for labels you won’t be using. June & Lucy have several fonts available which is a great way to give your pantry some personality. Getting mine made me want to label everything in sight.
(Update: Unfortunately June & Lucy no longer offer labels, but many other etsy sellers do!)
I’m also in love with the Gallon and Half-Gallon Ball Mason Jars. I can fit a bag of flour in the gallon size jars, and brown sugar and powdered sugar work great in the 1/2 gallons. The mouth is plenty wide for dunking a measuring cup in. Ball Canning Company also makes an array of smaller jar sizes that coordinate with these large canisters and at this point I would bet money that this company will be making products like this for generations, as they have been, so there is little need to worry about discontinuation. Sometimes colors change but the overall profile has stayed the same.
Not every shelf in my cupboard looks like the pictures you’ve seen. I’ve got a whole shelf dedicated to canned items and a place for replenishment items (like an extra jar of mayonnaise).
You don’t have to make every shelf magazine worthy, but if you streamline and beautify the spaces and products you use most often, you’ll have an overall sense of order and maintenance that feels great.