Canisters in the Pantry: To Decant or Not to Decant

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Have you heard the news? All the cool kids are decanting their packaged food when they organize their pantries these days. What’s decanting, you ask? It’s pouring your dry goods into another container, such as canisters. But why decant? And what should be decanted and what shouldn’t? I have thoughts. Let’s break it down so you can decide for yourself whether you’d like to decant your pantry goods.

Do you decant food in your pantry? Here's why you should consider decanting dry goods into canisters!

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Benefits of Using Canisters in the Pantry

As with anything, there are benefits and downsides of using canisters in the pantry. Let’s break it down.

It’s Pretty/Less Visual Clutter

Decanting your food in the pantry is just plain… pretty. Most food is natural, neutral colors. If you decant into clear jars, the food itself almost becomes pantry art that you can cook for dinner. It’s quite nice to look at.

Related Post: What is Visual Clutter?

Visual clutter is one of those distractions that you don’t see until you do, then you can’t unsee it. Visual clutter is basically all the things in your field of vision. The more mess, the more clutter. When referring to a pantry space, visual clutter can mean all the different shapes, colors, and wording you see when you open your cabinet or door. While it feels normal to us because that’s what grocery stores are like and what our pantry always looks like, once you reduce your visual clutter it’s sooo much more peaceful.

Which is nicer to look at, this glass jar of almonds or a loud plastic bag?

Think about a bag of trail mix, for example. My grocery store sells their Monster Mix in a NEON green package with obnoxious writing. But the actual trail mix is pretty. There are tans and browns with a few pops of colors for the M&M’s. I’d much rather look at that.

Quickly Take Inventory

Having pantry items decanted into clear canisters allows you to quickly take inventory of the contents of your pantry. If you have something in a clear canister in your pantry, you can look at it and see in a half a second how much of that item you have.

You know whether you can make pizza dough with the amount of flour, if you need to add granola to your grocery list, or if you can make rice as your side dish for dinner.

Efficient Use of Space

How much space is wasted in your pantry?

Taking items out of bulky boxes and adding them to canisters when you organize your pantry can help you use every inch wisely. You can get pantry canisters that are rectangular or square, small skinny jars that fit in your door organizer, or any other container that fits your space — last time I checked, food manufacturers were not asking the dimensions of your pantry before packaging their items.

Related Post: How to Organize a Pantry

Related Post: Maximizing a Small Pantry

Maintain Freshness

One word (fine, two): Brown Sugar.

How often have you reached for your brown sugar to make chocolate chip cookies, only to find a fossilized chunk of what used to be brown sugar? Mmmmhmmm.

While not all food canisters are created equally, many canisters are air tight and keep food fresher longer.

Protects Food from Pests

No elaboration needed for this one, friends. Putting dry items in glass or plastic keeps the critters away.

Negatives of Using Canisters in the Pantry

If there are benefits to something, there are usually downsides, too.

We’re friends, so I’m going to give you a quick, truthful rundown of the negatives, then you’ll probably have more understanding of why I’m picky about what I unbox in my pantry. Keep in mind, a lot of these negatives are POSSIBLE negatives, not definite negatives.

  • It can be expensive (but it can also be free)
  • It can be more work.
  • It can take up extra room (I’m looking at you “backstock”)
  • You can lose instructions/expiration dates (but there are solutions for this)
  • If it’s yummy and visible, your kids will ask for it a lot (this can also be a benefit when they grab the healthier stuff)

For some, the benefits outweigh the negatives. Others have work arounds, and the negatives are inconsequential.

How do you decant?

Decanting food to organize your pantry is quite simple.

  1. Decide what you’d like to decant (see below for how I decide).
  2. Grab yourself a set of canisters (this is actually the hardest part. See below for some fabulous options).
  3. Match the pantry canister to the product you’d like to store. Make sure it’s air tight for items that might get stale and large enough to hold a decent amount your item (example: you don’t want a pint-sized jar for a 5-pound bag of flour).
  4. Pour the goods into the canisters. Use a funnel if the opening of your canister is small.
  5. Add a label (or not if it’s easy to identify) (My favorite ways to label) (How I decanted my spices)
  6. Consider attaching cooking directions or writing a few notes with a white paint pen.

My Rules for Decanting into Canisters

I like efficiency and I don’t enjoy making more work for myself. With these thoughts in mind, I have specific criteria or rules for what I decant and what I don’t decant when I organize my pantry.

Having a system in my pantry that works for me is KEY. If a system breaks down, that means more work for me when I have to pull all the items out of my pantry and reset the entire space. When I can count on a specific item in a specific space in a specific sized jar, maintaining my pantry organization is MUCH simpler.

Poorly Packaged Items

I decant…

  • Items packaged in containers I don’t like — like those plastic bags that are “resealable” but always rip or you can’t get them shut.
  • Foods I buy in bulk and want to keep a little at a time accessible.
  • Items in vessels that won’t fit into my space nicely.

That being said, I DON’T decant poorly packaged items we will eat quickly, because I’m not about to pour food into a canister just to have to wash it 5 minutes later after my family sees it and devours it.

Items We Eat in Portions

I decant items we eat in small portions, like rice. We use one to two cups of dried rice at a time. A 5-pound bag of rice is unwieldy. It’s much more likely to spill, not fully seal, or take up a lot of extra space. Portioning a few cups of rice into a glass canister in my pantry allows me to dip into that canister a few times a month to make my rice.

Keep scrolling for more examples.

Healthy Snacks

Have you heard the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”? The opposite also holds true. When something is visible and accessible, it’s more likely to get your attention. For this reason, I like to decant healthy snack options in my pantry for my kids—such as almonds and granola. We keep the less healthy snacks in opaque bins.

We use canisters and decant items we eat in portions.

Foods I Decant

  • rice
  • quinoa
  • breadcrumbs
  • sunflower seeds (no shells)
  • almonds
  • trail mix
  • granola
  • popcorn kernels
  • pistachio nuts
  • spices
  • flour
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • chia seeds
  • chocolate chips
  • vitamins
  • cornmeal
  • powdered sugar
  • coffee
  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • dog biscuits

With all these items, we use just a little at a time. This prevents me from doing extra dishes when we fly through a snack.

Foods I Don’t Decant

  • Chips
  • Cookies & Candy (my kids don’t need to see these)
  • Crackers
  • Cereal (takes up too much space)
  • Snacks (eaten too quickly)
  • Pasta (we eat a full box at a time, decanting would just make extra work and dishes)

Tips & Tricks for Using Canisters

Removing items from their original packaging to store in your pantry might be pretty, but is it practical? Those boxes contain a lot of helpful information such as ingredients, cooking directions, and expiration dates. Luckily, there are a few simple tricks you can use to keep this information available.

Label Your Canisters

If you have several versions of the same food that are hard to tell apart, labeling your canisters is important. This is especially true if you have health concerns like allergies or intolerances..

Expiration Dates

You’ll still need to keep track of when foods in canisters expire. You can write the date on a piece of washi tape or a full-stick post it and stick it to the bottom of your canister. You can also just write on the bottom of the canister with a chalk marker or paint pen, both of which are removable with rubbing alcohol.

Write expiration dates on the bottom of canisters you use in the pantry.

Include Directions

I try not to repackage food that has cooking instructions, but if you’d like to, you can snip the directions off the box of food and tape it to the bottom of the jar or the back of the jar. You could also just stick it in your jar. If the directions are very simple, use your paint pen (above) and jot a line or two about what you need to do.

I can NEVER remember how to make oatmeal. I made this little label with my label maker – problem solved!

Avoid Sticky and Greasy Foods

While foods like raisins or chips may fit my criteria for foods I transfer to canisters, I wouldn’t recommend trying it. Foods that are gummy or greasy are going to muck up your glass canister, making it cloudy and dirty looking. Plus, it will be more difficult to clean if you want to use the jar for another food in the future.

Create a Backstock Spot

If you purchase large containers of food you eat your way through slowly, consider transferring some food to canisters in the pantry and storing the rest in a specific spot or bin.

Take sugar, for example. I purchase a large bag of sugar from Costco. It’s large, floppy, and takes us months to get through. I don’t want this large bag of sugar front and center in my pantry, so I decant a bit into a glass jar next to my coffee pot and store the larger bag up in the top shelf of my pantry. Every month or so I climb on a bench to grab the bag and refill my sugar canister.

To Decant or Not to Decant in the Pantry

So there you have it. My best tips and personal rules for using canisters in the pantry, otherwise known as decanting. Obviously there’s no one right answer. You need to do what’s right for you, what’s right for your family, and what’s right for your pantry.

Do you decant? Leave a comment below and let me know what you decant, what you don’t, and what your “rules” for decanting are. I’d honestly love to know!

Using canisters in the pantry isn't new, but it's becoming more popular again. Here are my rules for what I decant and what I don't and why.

4 thoughts on “Canisters in the Pantry: To Decant or Not to Decant”

  1. This was wonderful! Thank you for sharing your experience. It would be nice if a QR code was available to snip and attach to a canister for nutritional info and directions.

  2. A really good read! I am about to tackle my pantry and this was a really nice motivator. I have very limited space in my kitchen so it is very important for me to use it optimally. Decanting also helps you be able to stack items on top of each other without it falling over or looking messy.

    I’m excited to get it done. Thanks

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