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Mar 1, 2012 09:23 AM

food storage for open pantry

i live in a small apartment with an even smaller kitchen (sigh). needless to say, for the avid home cook, over a period of years this has become a total storage nightmare! i'm now investing in some chrome wire shelving that promises to restore my sanity.

i'm thinking of open storage (ie, instead of bins), since the space is small enough as it is. i think i'd like to get some glass jars for flour, sugar, other dry goods... but while these items are all over the place, i'm wondering about a few things:

1) has anyone ever bought from a wholesale kind of place, like the webstaurant store? for something like this, for example:
these are SO much cheaper... i'm wondering if they are as nice or if when you buy something in a 'case' quantity you're asking for crap.

2) from a food safety perspective, is there some advantage to getting something from container store or chefs catalog, etc, vs. just getting cheap glass jars at IKEA? i've always kept things in their bags (and then in a freezer bag) so i don't know anything about these and i don't want some dreaded flour bugs, etc.

3) is glass going to be ridiculously heavy with 5 lbs of flour/sugar in it? i just think it's so much prettier than acrylic.

any suggestions on storage, styling chrome wire shelves so it doesn't look like my kitchen is a garage, etc, etc welcome. :) i'm sure there are some fellow small-kitchen owners here who can commiserate/share innovative storage ideas...

thanks in advance!

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  1. Whether you're pantry is open or closed, sealed containers are a good idea. I have had trouble with pantry moths, and they are a nuisance!

    I like glass jars with a wire bail, and the Italian Fido jars the best:

    Buy them by the case and they are much less expensive:

    There are also French jars, which are essentially the same but have a different look.

    I also have a couple of larger glass containers intended specifically for pantry storage, but they aren't any better than the wire bail jars except for their size.

    4 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      pantry moths! that sounds awful AND terrifying!

      thanks for the tip on the fido... i was leaning towards those. i like the gasket as well so you know it is sealed.

      are the french jars that you refer to the "le parfait" ones? those are super cute as well.

      1. re: poochiechow

        Yes, le Parfait is the common one. More of a country look compared to the modern Fido look.

        1. re: GH1618

          sorry, one more question... can you stack the fido jars? i'm thinking some of the shorter, wider sizes might work, but it's not totally clear...

          thanks for all your help!

          1. re: poochiechow

            The top has a raised rim, but the bottom is not designed to nest in it, but sits on the rim of the jar below, so slides around. I wouldn't stack the larger sizes. I think the short half-liter size could be stacked (2 jars only) if a rubber disk of suitable size were used between them, but even then it would be best if it didn't have far to fall (one jar height). They will not roll far if they fall, as they are square.

    2. Oh, I definitely can commiserate! I use the IKEA glass jars for storage, and have not had any problems with bugs. Now maybe we are lucky, who knows? reagrding question 3, I don't find the jars particularly heavy, but I am not able to fit an entire 5 lb bag of flour in the largest ( I think) IKEA jar.
      I also just purchased the stainless steel kitchen cart from Container Store which has two shelves and love it! Top shelf fits all my IKEA jars, and botton shelf is my booze shelf! I also purchased the ELFA over the door system for a door in the kitchen. Love this unit! Small baskets for spices, large for sodas. And no need to drill, best plus in my opinion! That's all I can think of at this time, but let me know if you have any questions.

      2 Replies
      1. re: andieb

        thanks! do you have the IKEA ones with the wire bail, or the ones with the screw top/regular lid?

        i'll check out the ELFA over-the-door thing, too. good tip! my kitchen is not only super tiny, but limited for what i can do since 1) i'm a renter and 2) the open wall seems to be made of something i cannot get nails into... ?

        1. re: poochiechow

          I have the ones with the regular lid.

          I can't recommend enough, it takes less than five minutes to put up. And I figured the amount I saved at IKEA, I could splurge at Container Store. Your walls may be concrete, and if that's the case, you would need a carpenter, or someone who knows what they are doing to install. Definitely not the case for me! :)

      2. The biggest suggestion I can give you is to make sure your shelving is not too deep. Twelve inches, max. Any deeper and it's an organizational nightmare. Also that the shelves can be adjusted and placed fairly close together OR that whatever you're storing in stacks securely. Most wire racking I've seen kinda sucks for pantry use for all of these reasons.
        OTOH, IKEA's tall, shallow "high cabinets" are cheap and great for this purpose. Note that you can buy just the carcass and add as many shelves as you'd like, which, IMO, is really key. Doors are sold separately and thus, optional: And example:
        They come in 15 and 24" wide.

        There is no difference in glass vs. glass, food safety-wise. I REALLY like the IKEA hinged lid glass jars because they seal airtight and the gasket is silicone vs. rubber (which deteriorates with age). The drawback is that they are available in a somewhat limited size range and they don't stack.
        I wouldn't count on the jar you linked to be airtight at all. It's probably fine for storing stuff that can't go stale or get bugs though.
        YEs, glass is going to be pretty heavy with 5lbs. of flour or sugar in it, but whether it's tolerable, YMMV. I still keep flours and sugar in snaplock plastic bins, but mostly because I haven't found airtight seal glass containers that are big enough for 5lbs and can be scooped from.

        1 Reply
        1. re: splatgirl

          thanks for the tip on the silicone gasket... i had no idea. and really good point on having the jars be widemouth enough to get a scoop into...i suspect many of these are incredibly tiny.

        2. Just another consideration when selecting these containers.

          TAKE YOUR LARGEST MEASURING CUP WITH YOU! I bought several containers that I thought looked great and thought the tops were wide enough . . . I was WRONG.

          You will want to be able to scoop right out of these jars, trust me, so make sure you can fit your hand and the measuring cup into the container comfortably.

          1 Reply
          1. re: thimes

            I guess one other recommendation - I'd go with square containers that have flat tops so that they can stack. If you have very limited space the round containers take up more room than they need to.

            I know these constraints will likely push you into plastic containers but . . . .

          2. I'm cheap so I hate to buy containers. I wash out jars that I buy food in and re-use them for pantry storage. Plus there's the sustainability thing... reuse rather than have something new made for you.

            You want to standardize on just a couple of sizes so you're not hunting for the right lid.
            I use the "mason" jars that spaghetti sauce comes in.
            Costco sundried tomatos come in a nice big jar with a wide mouth for scooping.
            I had the people in my company's cafeteria saving big gallon jars - like pickles came in - for me. Or you could ask at a deli counter.
            Save little pill bottles for spices from the food coop.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Dave_in_PA

              ohh yea. Never pass up something edible that comes in a good jar to reuse! Costco artichoke hearts, especially before they switched to a two-pack of smaller jars. They used to come in a big jar with a mouth of the same diameter. I have a couple of these that are great for leftover soup, chili or whatever. I do not depend on these being 100% airtight/bugproof in the pantry, though.
              Mason jars are really my default if all of my IKEA wire bale jars are busy. With a metal ring and lid, also airtight.

              1. re: splatgirl

                this is a really good idea too... i do want the ones that sit out to be somewhat pretty/interesting, but i could certainly clean up old jars (paint lids, etc).