Learn when and how to decant food into pantry storage containers so that your pantry and kitchen stay neat and organized!
One of the first projects we did when we moved into our house was to organize the pantry. I'm thrilled to say that the organizing systems we set up are still working well!
But since we used containers that we had purchased at our last house, which were almost six years old, the seals on them were starting to go, our food wasn't staying as fresh, and it was time for an upgrade.
Since I have gotten a lot of questions about decanting over the years, I figured that since I was making the switch anyway, it would be a great time to talk about all of the ins and outs and pros and cons of decanting pantry items.
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Not sure what "decanting" is? No worries! I've got you covered!
How to Decant Food into Pantry Storage Containers
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Decant Food: Supplies
Here are all of the sources for the items in our pantry:
- 20 Piece Set- OXO Pop Containers
- OXO Pop Container- Tall
- OXO Pop Container- Short
- Half Cup OXO Scoops
- Adhesive Business Card Holders
- Pantry Shelf Bins
- Narrow Pantry Shelf Bins
- Pantry Floor Bins
- Bin Clip On Tags
- Cricut Explore Air 2 (for making labels)
- Adhesive Vinyl (for labels)
- Spice Jars
- Water Bottle Organizers
- Closet System
I know not everyone is a fan of video, and I have you covered too! If you're more of a reader and like to look at photos, read on!
What is decanting?
When it comes to the pantry, "decanting" is just a fancy word that refers to moving food items out of their original packaging and into containers that are often clear and matching.
So if you get home from the store and pour your flour into a plastic container, that is decanting. If you store pasta in a tall glass jar rather than in the box it came in, that is decanting. And if you like to dump granola bars out of the box and keep them in a snack bin, that is decanting too!
If you've never done any of these things, you may be wondering... Why would anyone want to decant their items?
Decant Food: The Pros
There are many upsides to decanting.
- Storing items in clear containers makes it easy to see exactly how much of an item we have. When we're getting ready to go to the store, it only takes one quick look to figure out which items we need to buy.
- When we use airtight containers for our decanting, food can stay fresher longer in the containers than it does in its original packaging.
- Being able to get rid of excess packaging and using matching containers instead gives the pantry a neat, streamlined look because it reduces visual clutter.
- Decanting items also often takes up less space.
I love decanting for all of these reasons! But there are also some reasons that people may choose not to decant...
Decant Food: The Cons
Some drawbacks to decanting may be that...
- Decanting takes extra time. It takes a few minutes once we get home from the store to pour/dump items into their appropriate containers.
- Containers cost money. It can be a bit of an investment to get all of the containers necessary to implement a decanting strategy in the pantry.
I don't want to spend tons of time moving items from their original containers into matching ones. And I definitely don't want to go broke trying to get all of the containers I need. But I still think that decanting in the pantry can be extremely valuable for organization.
So I like to strike a balance between not decanting anything and decanting every single item in my pantry.
What should I decant? What should I not decant?
This is a question that is going to rely heavily on personal preference! There is no one right or wrong answer here.
I really like to decant my baking items like flour and sugar. These are items that tend to be in my pantry for a longer amount of time, so there's not a ton of turnover. The original bags that they come in are kind of a pain and tend to rip easily, so I like to get rid of those. And I love being able to see exactly what I have available.
Another category I like to decant is pasta. When it comes in boxes, they take up a lot of space and don't really sit neatly/look nice in the pantry. When it comes in bags it is really a pain to store. So I keep plenty of clear containers available for pasta in our house.
I decant our spices as well. And I will freely admit that it is mostly because I like how pretty it looks when all of my spice jars match. 🙂 But there is not a lot of turnover when it comes to spices, so it's not like I'm spending tons of time constantly filling our jars.
As far as snacks go, when I have individual serving snacks, I will take those out of their big box and put the individual little bags or bars into a snack basket. But I do not decant big bags of chips and pretzels and cookies and things like that.
This is mostly because we go through those types of snack foods more quickly when we have them. So if I was transferring every bag of chips, I feel like I would constantly be shuffling food through containers, and I don't want to spend that much time on it. Instead, I just leave chips in their original bags and put them in a bin on the floor of our pantry.
I also do not decant cereal in our house. This is partly because we are just not big cereal people and don't often have it in our house. But similar to snacks, I feel like cereal is something that you use more quickly and I don't want to be shuffling it from container to container all the time.
(If you are a cereal person but don't want to decant, one way to save space is to just store the inner bag of cereal in a bin like I do with chips and get rid of the big cereal box.)
So those are MY personal preferences when it comes to decanting. Yours can be the same or they can be completely different! It took some trial and error for me to find that sweet spot between decanting some items so our pantry would be neater but not decanting everything so I wasn't spending tons of time on it. So feel free to try it out and see what works for you!
How to Decant Food: The Process
Okay, so once we've decided that we want to do some decanting, how do we actually make it happen? Here's the process I went through recently when I tweaked the decanting in our pantry...
1. Make a list of everything you want to decant.
Like with many of my organizing projects, I started by making a list! I took a look at my pantry and made a note of everything I wanted to put into a container.
While I was at it, I also wrote down how much space each type of item would take up. I figured this out by looking at the standard size of the package that the item usually comes in.
So for example, flour usually comes in five pound bags. Sugar usually comes in four pound bags, etc. If I wasn't sure how an item was usually packaged, I looked it up on my grocery store's website.
2. Choose your storage containers based on your list.
Only AFTER I determined what items I wanted to decant AND their measurements did I start looking at containers. This is important because ideally, I want to pick container sizes that will fit an entire standard package of my item.
I decided to use the OXO Pop containers for my decanting because they are high quality and airtight. AND they have the bonus perk of a sizing guide on their website that tells you exactly which of their containers works well for each type of item.
Because nearly all of the containers I needed were included in OXO's 20 piece set and I found a great deal on it, I started with that. Then I only had to purchase two individual containers to round out what I needed for my decanting.
If it's helpful, here is a list of the containers I used for each of my items:
- Flour- Big Square Lid, Medium (4.4 QT, 4.2 L)
- Sugar- Big Square Lid, Short (2.8 QT, 2.6 L)
- Pancake Mix- Big Square Lid, Short (2.8 QT, 2.6 L)
- Baking Powder- Rectangle Lid, Mini (0.6 QT, 0.6 L)
- Baking Soda- Rectangle Lid, Mini (0.6 QT, 0.6 L)
- Cornmeal- Small Square Lid, Medium (1.7 QT, 1.6 L)
- Powdered Sugar- Rectangle Lid, Short (1.7 QT, 1.6 L)
- Brown Sugar- Rectangle Lid, Short (1.7 QT, 1.6 L)
- Bread Crumbs- Small Square Lid, Short (1.1 QT, 1 L)
- Rice- Small Square Lid, Short (1.1 QT, 1 L)
- Lasagna Noodles- Big Square Lid, Tall (6.0 QT, 5.7 L)
- Spaghetti Noodles (2)- Small Square Lid, Tall (2.2 QT, 2.1 L)
- Smaller Pastas (2)- Slim Rectangle Lid, Short (1.2 QT, 1.1 L)
- Smaller Pasta- Rectangle Lid, Medium (2.7 QT, 2.6 L)
Another thing I really like about the OXO Pop containers is the ability to add a half cup scoop! It slides right on to the bottom of the button and stores neatly within the container.
Once I had all of my containers, I used a post-it note to mark them so I knew what was going into each one.
3. Label containers if desired.
Since we are taking items out of their original packages, we're most likely going to need some sort of label so we don't accidentally mix up baking powder and baking soda or something like that!
My favorite types of labels to use for this are the ones I make with my Cricut Explore cutting machine + adhesive vinyl. (I have a tutorial for how to make these kinds of labels here. The font I use is called "Crushed.")
I like the vinyl labels because I can choose any color and font I want. And all of my labels will be uniform and will fit my containers perfectly. I can also wash my containers with the vinyl labels on them, and they will stay on.
4. Decide how you will handle instructions/expiration dates.
Two of the questions I get most often when I show our pantry with our decanted items are, "But how do you know the expiration dates of your items? And what about the instructions that were on the boxes?!"
I have handled that a few different ways in the past. This time I decided to use adhesive business card holders on the back of my containers.
I cut out the instructions from the original container, write the expiration date on the back of them, and pop them into the business card holder.
Then when I get a new package of an item, I can throw out the old instructions and/or expiration date and put the new ones in the little pocket.
5. Decide how you will handle excess once you decant food.
Another question I get a lot when I talk about decanting is, "What do you do with any of the food that won't fit into the container?"
I try my best to nip this problem in the bud by selecting containers that will fit an entire standard size package of whatever I'm storing. However, no matter how much I plan, there will inevitably be some instances where I have some excess that won't fit in my container.
In the rare case that I do have some extra, I have a "backstock" bin on the floor of my pantry where I store the excess. And I try to use up the excess first so it doesn't stay there long!
6. Decant food into containers.
Okay, once I have all of the little details worked out, then it's time to do the actual decanting! The "mouths" of the OXO containers were wide enough that I was able to just dump everything into them easily.
For spices-- or if you're using containers with a smaller top-- I use a funnel to help get the food into the container easily without making a big mess.
7. Arrange containers on shelves and enjoy!
Then it was time to put everything back into the pantry and admire our work! I ended up having two different heights of OXO containers that I used, so I just put the taller items in the back row and the shorter items in the front. (A few of the items in the back row were stacked, but the OXO Pop containers I used were meant to be stacked.)
Since I knew I would have these two rows, I was sure to put my labels near the top of each container so I could still see them even with another container sitting in front.
Here is what our final pantry looks like:
(My 12 year old son looked in the new pantry right after I had organized it and said, "Pink?! Why are the bins pink?!" As the only girl in a house of all boys, I have to sneak it in where I can! 😉 )
Our backstock bin and bin for non-decanted snacks (like chips) have a spot on the floor...
Individual snacks and other small items were corralled by type in bins. Everything gets a label! Keeping like items together helps me find everything quickly and easily.
All of our decanted items are within easy reach on the middle shelf, along with two smaller bins of items.
Baking supplies and cans each have their own bin...
...with spices sitting right in the middle.
And the items we don't use as often are up on the top shelf.
What items do you decant in your pantry? Let me know in the comments below!
If you're going to decant food in your pantry, be sure to pin the image below so you can find this post later:
And if you could use more pantry organization ideas, these posts can help:
Thanks so much for following along! Have a wonderful day!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.