We’ve all seen the pictures of pantries with shelves neatly lined with labeled canisters in different sizes. It is very tidy and it looks so pretty, but is it realistic for you and your family?

Before deciding to use canisters, there are a few things to consider:

The Pros of Using Canisters

Using canisters does look beautiful. If all of the containers are matching, it creates a cohesive look that allows you to easily see what’s in your pantry.

Canisters are also airtight, so they will keep your items fresh and will keep bugs out. Weevils love flour, pasta, and rice, and canisters can prevent an infestation.

The Cons of Using Canisters

The downside of using canisters may be different for everyone, depending on your needs, style and budget.

The material. Canisters usually come is glass, plastic, or acrylic.

Glass canisters can be absolutely stunning on a shelf. However, most glass canisters are round. If you are trying to maximize the space, square or rectangle canisters are modular and fit closer together on the shelves. Glass canisters are very heavy, and they can break. Be aware of this if you are having to carry your canisters from the pantry to the counter to do any measuring.

Plastic canisters are the most durable canisters, but they aren’t completely clear. If you are looking for a transparent canister, you may not like the look of these.

Transparent canisters are made of acrylic and look nice, but are more fragile than plastic canisters. They can break if you drop them.  However, they look the most like glass canisters and are less heavy and a little more durable.

The upkeep. Keeping up with the canisters takes work — not hours of time — but you have to be someone who’s going to keep up with it.

  • Are you willing to decant items you’ve purchased from the store regularly? You have to pour items you’ve purchased into the designated canisters once you get home from the store. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a half-empty canisters and the newly purchased items taking up double the space.
  • Will you keep up with the inventory? For instance, you can’t buy more flour until you have used what is in the canister or else it might not all fit. Plus, you don’t want to put fresh flour on top of old flour.
  • Canisters require you to create a system to keep up with expiration dates. This could mean cutting out the original expiration date from the packaging and taping to the back of the canister or using a labeling system.

The price. Canisters range in price on average from $5-$25, and you’ll want to consider that when figuring out what you need to buy. It’s easy to get roped into buying canister “collections” that are boxes that contain a variety of sizes and shapes of canisters, but beware!  You may not need the sizes that are included in the box. It may end up being cheaper in the long run to buy exactly what canisters you need.  You can do this by figuring out exactly what items you’ll be putting into canisters and how much you usually buy of each item.  For example, do you the Costco-sized cereal boxes or a regular size?  This will make a difference on the size of the canister you should buy.

Additional Tips for Using Canisters

Use a labeling system. Each canister should be labeled so you can keep track of what is in there. Please don’t assume that you will remember because you won’t! There are several ways to label. Some choose to cut the original label from the item and tape it to the outside of the canister. Some buy Avery labels and use printable templates to make adorable labels. Just note that every time you need to update the label, you will need to be willing to pull out your computer and printer to make a new one. A label maker might be easier than having to use a template and print a new label every time. Chalkboard labels are popular right now, but can be a challenge because the writing wears off so quickly. You can use chalk markers to make them last a little longer.

Consider using recycled jars. If you want to go for a budget-friendly option, consider using old pickle jars and jelly jars. Some of them are big enough to store flour and sugar. The benefit is that you are not spending extra money and you are recycling. You could also scour thrift stores for glass jars if you’re not concerned with each one matching.

Bins are also an option. If canisters aren’t your thing, you can organize your pantry by using bins to sort like items. Make sure to add labels to them to keep an organized system. Using bins allows for more generic groupings (such as “chips” or “salty snacks” or “baking”) so you wouldn’t have to change the label as much. And if you are worried about bugs, you can put your items in ziplock bags to help protect them.

Again, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to canisters. It’s really just about knowing if this is a system that would work for you and your family, depending on how you use your pantry. Disorganization occurs when the system starts to break down, whether it’s not refilling the canisters or not keeping up with the labeling.

So what do you think?  Are you a canister person or not?