Following on from a previous post about pantries, let’s talk about pantry organising with containers. This is a divisive issue and please accept my disclaimer that I have never suffered from an invasion of the dreaded pantry moth. (knocks wood furiously).
I think putting all your pantry staples into designated containers is not necessary. There, I said it.
Pantry organising with containers is aesthetically pleasing
And it makes for a terrific Instagram pic. Especially if you have matching containers and colour-coded lids. Oh, and beautiful handwriting that looks like a casual-yet-playful font.
Pantry organising with containers also keeps out the aforementioned dreaded pantry moth. (knocks wood again)
But I know that my dumb brain would constantly want the containers to be at least 80 percent full to maximise the aesthetic and practical benefit. Why have the cupboard laden with half-empty containers? Pantry organising real estate is too precious for that. And rule no. 1 of storing perishables is you have to use up your old stock, so you can’t just keep topping up. A sensible refill entails emptying the container first and putting the new product at the bottom. Laborious.
Alongside this issue, what does one do with the refill-in-waiting? Some people put the next pack behind the container. Which is sensible, but it means that lurking just beneath the surface of your immaculate setup is the mayhem you were trying to avoid. And the pantry moths are on their way, they can smell the paper packet of flour which is yet to be decanted into its canister.
Another method is to put all the new or half-used packs into a bigger tub somewhere else. Frantic rummages in this box before going to the supermarket ensue. Do we need more sugar? Oh god I swore there was a spare in here somewhere. All the while half-opened packets are slowly emptying into their shared vessel as you fossick.
Pantry organising with containers also entails having to wash the containers, then wait for them to dry before refilling. So there goes more precious physical and mental energy.
Also crucial packet info is lost if it is not painstakingly transferred or preserved somewhere. Best before dates, recipes and ingredients. Stickytaped onto the container? Written on an adjacent blackboard with matching playful font? As my day slips away I sink more time into this process, telling myself the Insta pic will be worth it.
And no amount of planning and purchasing will get you the correct amount of containers for everything you store. If you are like me you go through stages of experimenting with different staples. Like when it was cool to put protein powder in smoothies, or use that big ugly pearl cous cous that my kids ended up hating. Container models are discontinued. Colours change. Container use can never be a fixed matter and I have no idea how to manage this.
Imagine the distress of a newly purchased packet. Initially it was delighted to be welcomed into the pantry, only to find there is no container available. Like going to a new school and not having a uniform, or starting a new job and having no desk, instead using the janitor’s cupboard as home base. Oh the shame of it.
Or equally, a collection of retired containers whose lids are faded and whose contents are no longer required or refilled. They see out their days in the shed housing potting mix and screws.
Putting the feelings of inanimate objects to the side, I just don’t think this Insta-trend has enough return on investment for me. I’ll change my mind when the pantry moths arrive. It won’t be long now.
Edit September 2021: My family is now mowing through a particular cereal blend which I mix myself, justifying decanting it all into a container before shaking vigorously. The lidded plastic is much nicer to deal with than a cardboard box so the process is worthwhile.
Conclusion: If you have a spacious pantry and the energy to maintain the system, go ahead – pantry organising with containers looks brilliant, maintains freshness and keeps bugs out. If your pantry is small and/or you want simplicity, be cautious but if still keen, stick to decanting just one or two products which are in high rotation.
If you want help pantry organising with containers I am here for you. Actually I would love to help. Because the setup is the best part.