Why It's Time to Replace All the Round Jars and Canisters in Your Pantry
Two hints: Way more space, way fewer spills.
When I remodeled my kitchen, I fell prey, as so many of us did, to the "elegant photographable pantry" trend, and with that, the siren song of the charming latch-lid glass jar. I saw those elegantly rustic containers, in every size from 4 to 96 ounces, as the perfect intersection of affordable and aspirational, and I invested in enough of them to fully transfer all of my pantry supplies as well as a label maker to ensure they were effectively identified. It looked amazing. For about a month. And I have regretted it ever since.
The problem with round canisters
Here's the thing about round canisters. They waste valuable storage footprint. They are not easily stackable. They are made of glass, which makes them heavier than they need to be, especially the large ones, and dangerous when dropped. The lids on the smaller sizes tend to be heavy enough to topple the jars if you aren't careful while removing ingredients. I cannot tell you how many times I have cleaned up a pile of corn starch or cocoa powder from an overturned jar. The round openings often are too small for measuring cups to get into. Every few months I would try to reorganize, shift, rejigger. But ultimately, I have had to accept that I made a storage decision that was a little style over substance, and unless I wanted to spend the rest of my life in an organizational battle with my flours and rices and chocolate chips, I was going to have to admit defeat and start anew.
The solution: rectangular canisters!
Not wanting to completely give up on having a pantry that looks good in addition to being functional, I decided to do a bit more research. I realized that what I needed was going to be clear plastic containers, with airtight easy-to-use lids, that were rectangular to make the most of my shelf space, and stackable to make the most of the airspace. They would need to come in a wide variety of sizes, so that I could effectively transfer all my supplies, from the small jar of dried blueberries left over from a recipe to the giant one of confectioners' sugar. And they would need to be easy to use while cooking, for measuring and minimizing mess.
The best rectangular containers for your pantry
I had recently gotten some Rubbermaid Brilliance glass storage containers for use in my fridge and had fallen in love with them. So, imagine my delight when I realized that they come in plastic versions as well! These things are a game-changer. You can get them in terrific and affordable bundles, which is ideal for something as major as a pantry re-org project, they come in all the sizes you could want, and the airtight lids are recessed for easy stacking. They are easy to use with measuring cups, and I love that the lids have a little release valve built in so that they are easy to open. I was literally able to consolidate the contents of two shelves onto one shelf just by swapping out these containers for my old round glass jars. I was able to convert about three-quarters of the inventory in my pantry into the various sizes, gaining space and sanity in the process.
For small items that tend to float around and become a nuisance, like packets of gelatin or yeast, boxes of pudding mix, envelopes of spice mixes or small jars, I grabbed some stackable lidded rectangular bins to keep them wrangled and efficient.
The best storage system for rectangular containers
For some of the items that I use all the time, like all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and baking soda, I found a new system that has completely streamlined my baking practice. The PantryChic System is a combination storage and dispensing system that is ideal for both pantry organization and cooking and baking. The base unit serves as an electric dispensing unit with built-in scale, which works with their SmartCanisters to automatically dispense your ingredients into your bowl, with serious precision. No more scooping and leveling or spooning from a canister into a bowl on a scale. The canisters are airtight, rectangular and stackable, so they fit seamlessly into the new pantry plan. To use, you just place the canister on the base unit, set the measurement you want from your recipe and press a button. The dispensing system serves as an auto-sifter, so no need to add that step, and it can give you precise amounts from fractions of teaspoons to pounds or kilograms. The large canisters will hold a 5-pound bag of flour or 4-pound bag of sugar, the smaller ones about a pound. You can even link the canister system with an app to help control the unit automatically and keep track of inventory with notifications of when you are running low on supplies.
Between these two systems, I finally have a pantry that works as good as it looks. (Now I just have to figure out what to do with all these pretty, round jars.)
Best rectangular canisters and storage systems to buy
Want a pantry like mine? Don't blame you. Find a set of rectangular canisters that work the way you need them. Use my favorites to shop for a new system that works best for you.
Rubbermaid Brilliance System
Rubbermaid Brilliance Pantry set has 10 lidded canisters including some tall ones for long pasta and larger ones for flour or sugar. The 44-piece bundle gives you containers in every size from half a cup to 9.6 cups. Or you can buy the two bundles together! Once you have these you can determine if you need more sizes to fill in for specifics.
Buy it: Rubbermaid Brilliance Pantry Organization & Food Storage Containers ($45.44), amazon.com
Buy it: Rubbermaid Brilliance Storage 44-piece Set ($79.92), amazon.com
Buy it: Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage plus Pantry Set ($125.36), amazon.com
iDesign Storage Bins
These stackable storage bins with lids can be a godsend for helping to wrangle small jars, boxes, envelopes, and spices in your pantry.
Buy it: iDesign Storage Bins with Lids ($27.99), amazon.com
The PantryChic starter kit comes with the base dispensing unit with built-in scale, one large SmartCanister, and two small SmartCanisters. You can add extra canisters as needed.
Buy it: PantryChic Starter System ($399.95), amazon.com
Buy it: PantryChic Large SmartCanister ($44.95), amazon.com
Buy it: PantryChic Small SmartCanister Set of 2 ($49.95), amazon.com