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When to Decant Food into Pantry Storage Containers (And When Not to!)

Learn when and how to decant food into pantry storage containers so that your pantry and kitchen stay neat and organized!

When to Decant Food into Pantry Containers (and When Not to!)

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.

Organized pantry with decanted baking items, pasta, and spices

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Not sure what “decanting” is? No worries! I’ve got you covered!

How to Decant Food into Pantry Storage Containers

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

I made it one of my goals to try to make more videos in 2021, so if that is your preferred medium, here ya go! Be sure to subscribe to my Abby Organizes YouTube channel while you’re at it!

Decant Food: Supplies

Here are all of the sources for the items in our pantry:

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.

Decanted items in an organized kitchen pantry

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.
Organized pantry with decanted baking items, pasta, and spices

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.

Decanted baking items sitting on a kitchen island

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.

Pasta decanted into OXO Pop containers

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.

Spices decanted into matching 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.

Snack bin with non- decanted chip bags

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.

List of pantry items I want to decant

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.

Pantry items in their original packages

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.

OXO Pop Containers, set of 20

If it’s helpful, here is a list of the containers I used for each of my items:

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.

OXO Pop container holding sugar with scoop accessory

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.

OXO Pop containers with post it notes

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.”)

Empty OXO pop containers with adhesive vinyl labels

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.

For my individual bins that hold snacks and other small items, I used these clip on tags. They are compatible with dry erase markers, but I used my vinyl labels on them so everything would match.

Labeled bin holding baking items

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.

Adhesive business card holders

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.

Instructions in an adhesive business card holder on the back of a pantry container

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!

backstock bin on floor of organized pantry

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.)

Organized pantry with decanted baking items, pasta, and spices

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:

Organized pantry with decanted items and matching bins

(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…

Snack and backstock bins on the floor of an organized pantry

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.

Organized pantry with decanted baking items, pasta, and spices

All of our decanted items are within easy reach on the middle shelf, along with two smaller bins of items.

Organized pantry with decanted baking items, pasta, and spices

Baking supplies and cans each have their own bin…

Cans in a bin in an organized pantry

…with spices sitting right in the middle.

Spices decanted into matching jars

And the items we don’t use as often are up on the top shelf.

That’s it!

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:

Decanting 101: Creating an Organized Pantry

And if you could use more pantry organization ideas, these posts can help:

25+ Brilliant Pantry Organization Ideas

Setting Up the Pantry in Our Current House

Creating a Pantry in Our Small Townhouse

Thanks so much for following along! Have a wonderful day!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

20 Comments

  1. Caroline L says:

    This looks beautiful, Abby! Thanks for walking us through your process.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      Thanks so much, Caroline! So glad it was helpful for you! Have a great weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  2. Miranda Mann says:

    Such a helpful and inspiring post! Thanks!

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Miranda! Thanks for stopping by. Hope you’re having a great weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  3. Karen Mary @ CaretoKeep.com says:

    I love how you always give us all the deets we need to make it happen! Love the pink baskets. I sneak pink (my favorite color) in every room. A lamp in the guest room, a throw in the bedroom, flowers in the living room. . .I once painted a large dining room pink. I loved it but learned that not everyone does, so now I use it in smaller doses. Anyway, love your pantry; thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you! And I’m with you.. give me all the little pink touches! 🙂 Hope you have a great weekend!

      ~Abby =)

  4. OMG! I love the idea of using adhesive business card holders to keep instructions! I’ve been slowly adding decanters to my pantry since last summer, purchasing a few each month, so I stay within my monthly budget. Thanks for the awesome tips, Abby!

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Tere! Love to hear that. Hope you’re having a great weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  5. Oriana Nydia says:

    Great post. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you! Have a great evening!

      ~Abby =)

  6. Rebecca Rambow says:

    I like the spice container you have. Do you remember where you got those?

  7. These are such great tips and a very easy-to-follow step-by-step explanation on how to decant pantry items. I don’t decant as much as I’d like to, but I do find putting baking and cooking items in containers really helps with space use and organization!

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Lydia! Hope you’re having a great week! <3

      ~Abby =)

  8. Stephanie says:

    Great explanations fir all of the items. I was just starting this process, but did not find your video first. I invested in the Tupperware modular system. The clear oxo are so pretty! Anyway do you have any suggestions for labeling for those of us who are not crafty?
    Looking forward to reading more of your posts! Thanks! Stephanie

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      Hi, Stephanie! A simple way to make pretty labels would be with a handheld label maker. (I have the DYMO MobileLabeler: https://amzn.to/3f01mqU ) You will still get neat and tidy labels, but don’t need to get the more expensive machine or go through the whole process with adhesive vinyl. I hope this helps! Have a great week!

  9. Jenni Brown says:

    I have the OXO top containers but they all crack down the sides after a while, even though I don’t open/close them a lot. It seems to happen more frequently with sugars. Any tips, am I doing something wrong??

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      Oh no! So I have used OXO containers to hold items under my sink for several years (dishwasher tabs, rubber gloves, etc.), but I only just started using them in my pantry a few months ago. I haven’t experienced any cracking yet, but again, I haven’t been using them for food for long. If you’ve had that issue with several of them, I would probably reach out to the company to see if there’s anything they can do to rectify the situation. Those containers are not cheap and definitely shouldn’t be cracking on you like that! Hope you have a great week!

  10. This is a great post. I organized using your method into my kitchen cabinet. I only went one container deep, saving the back for items I rarely use. I also used square spice jars, because they nestle together neatly and compactly. I have a ton of spices, haha.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Jackie! Have a wonderful week!

      ~Abby =)

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