Organize Your Pantry — with Glass Jars!

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Organize Your Pantry with Glass Jars | I have an obsession with glass jars! I don't know what it is about seeing all those beautifully God-made organic foods neatly lined up that puts a smile on my face. Maybe memories from great-grandma's cupboards. Or the thought that my food is pest-free. Or that I don't have to worry about BPA, PVC or other toxins. Interested in using glass for your pantry storage? Here's how to get started. | GNOWFGLINS.com

We buy in bulk. It’s less packaging, less expensive, and more food for our growing family, but logistically it can be difficult to find a place for that 25-pound bag of buckwheat or brown rice. We use 5-gallon buckets with gamma seal lids for the majority of our bulk storage, but we also use glass jars. I have an obsession with glass jars and there isn’t any help line for that. It seems that all forums just encourage the use — so I indulge. ;)

I don’t know what it is about seeing all those beautifully God-made organic foods — neatly lined up in the pantry and peeking through clear glass — that puts a smile on my face. Maybe it’s the memories from great-grandma’s cupboards with food stored in recycled jelly and mayo jars.

Or maybe it’s the thought that my food is pest-free. Ants, weevils and the like have a hard time finding their way into glass jars, properly sealed (unlike their plastic counterparts). And, did I mention you don’t have to worry about BPA, PVC or other toxins?

Interested in using glass for your pantry storage? Here’s how to get started in two easy steps!

1. Gather and Prepare the Jars

Glass jars can be acquired from several places. Your family’s size and needs will determine what size jars you need. For a single or two-person household, your standard jelly and mayo jars will do. Families with two or more children may find it easier to use recycled gallon glass pickle jars in which to store food.

One easy way to start collecting jars is to ask family and friends to save their old jars for you. If you prefer jars that are uniform in size, purchase pint, quart, or half-gallon mason jars — all at once or a dozen at time as your budget allows.

Want to use recycled jars but don’t find the brand’s logo appealing on the lid? No problem — carefully spray the lids with some funky or classic colored spray paint to match your kitchens decor. Be careful to not get any paint inside the lid as you don’t want it coming into contact with your food.

Pesky labels won’t come off? Try this trick that Jami shared with us.

Organize Your Pantry with Glass Jars | I have an obsession with glass jars! I don't know what it is about seeing all those beautifully God-made organic foods neatly lined up that puts a smile on my face. Maybe memories from great-grandma's cupboards. Or the thought that my food is pest-free. Or that I don't have to worry about BPA, PVC or other toxins. Interested in using glass for your pantry storage? Here's how to get started. | GNOWFGLINS.com

2. Organize the Pantry

Some of you are blessed with walk-in pantries and won’t have to put too much effort into this part. But if you’re like me, with no actual pantry and only cabinets… you can do this, too! While I prefer to store food in half-gallon or gallon jars because of my family’s larger-than-average size, it’s not always doable.  The largest jar to fit into any cupboard of mine is a quart jar. And so I make do.

A 2-pound bag of organic coffee beans will fit nicely into three quart jars stacked perfectly into a row. I fill quart jars with raw honey from the 6-gallon bucket we buy annually, three fitting into a row. Organic popping corn, quinoa, arrowroot, and other frequently used items get stored in quart jars as well. Organic coconut oil, cinnamon, pepper, and real salt get stored in pint jars. Spices and baking powder or baking soda are easily stored in half-pint jars.

The grains and legumes go in gallon jars on a shelf in our kitchen. Not only is this pretty and an eye-catcher to all who enter, but it’s easy and convenient to make a batch of rice or black beans.

For more information on how to get started with bulk buying from food co-ops, click here.

Want more ideas? See how Wardee organizes her pantry staples here. Surprisingly, Wardee reports this hasn’t changed much in 7 years, though she has added a rack of jars next to the kitchen (pictured below) and there are more bulk food storage places elsewhere in the house now, too!

Organize Your Pantry with Glass Jars | I have an obsession with glass jars! I don't know what it is about seeing all those beautifully God-made organic foods neatly lined up that puts a smile on my face. Maybe memories from great-grandma's cupboards. Or the thought that my food is pest-free. Or that I don't have to worry about BPA, PVC or other toxins. Interested in using glass for your pantry storage? Here's how to get started. | GNOWFGLINS.com

Do you use glass jars for storage in your kitchen? What are the biggest benefits you’ve come across to using glass?

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!

Comments

  1. says

    I love using glass jars for storage (yes, I am an addict, too!) My mother uses Tupperware and sometimes when you open those containers there is a distinct plastic smell – you definitely don’t get that with glass jars. Plus, it’s easy to see what you have and what you might need to get more of.

  2. jayne says

    Have you more information on how to be certain reused glass jars are thoroughly and safely sealed? This is my concern. Also, are there places to get replacement lids when needed? And last, I have had a pickle jar or two that I have wanted to re-use….but even months sealed with baking soda didnt get the original contents odors out. More suggestions? Thanks!

    • says

      Jayne,
      Good questions. If you are wanting to reuse recycled glass jars for canning purposes, you would need to make sure the jar fits with a standard wide mouth or regular mouth canning lid and band. If you are wanting to use them for dry storage this is of less importance, unless you have a problem with pest invading your pantry. I use recycled glass jars that have a little rubber seal on the inside of the lid. Most metal lids in which the contents were canned (commercial salsa, jam, jelly, etc.) have this inside the lid. That little rubber piece will ensure a complete seal, unless of course you’ve used the same jar for 5 years and the seal has been worn out. Finding replacement lids for all the various sizes of jars out there is difficult. This is when I throw them into the recycling bin (they were in fact free after all). Jars with lids that don’t give a complete seal would be peanut butter lids. These plastic lids generally fit standard size regular mouth canning jars, but the plastic doesn’t provide a complete air tight seal like the metal lids with an inner rubber lip.
      As for the pickle smell in the lid this is what I do: Wash lid with soap and water, score it with baking soda (leave the baking soda in the lid, do not wash it out) and let it sit in a sunny window seal for about 2-4 weeks. The sun really helps to bring out any off smells in lids (I’m not sure why but this method has worked for me for years). If the lid still has a faint pickle smell, and I need to use the jar I will put a piece of plastic wrap over the jar mouth then screw the lid on. This prevents the lid’s odor from mixing with the contents in the jar.

      • Kathy says

        Just to let you know Azure Standard carries some replacement lids. I am not sure of the sizes, but you could check. Also most places carrying canning supplies have plastic lids for narrow and wide mouth canning jars.

    • says

      Leslie,
      Yes, light can harm the contents in the jar. This is when you want to look at where you store your food items and the size of container you choose. Some of my jars are in cabinets where it stays dark 90% of the time. This is where I choose to store oil and spices which can be affected by light more than say grains which I keep on a shelf.
      For jars that are open to light make sure you use all the contents within a 30-60 day period which will keep your foods fresh. Choose your jars size that can make this realistic. If you can’t go through a gallon of popping corn in 60 days but you can go through a quart jar in 60 days it may be best to store your popping corn in a quart jar if it will be in light. Hope this helps.

    • Karen Blackburn says

      If you’re worried about light affecting the contents use a dark glass paint on the OUTSIDE of the jar covering all except a thin strip from top to bottom. This keeps out the vast majority of the light but leaves enough clear glass for you to see what’s in the jar and how much is left. I paint the outside of glass lids as well or glue fabric circles onto metal lids, making sure the circle is just larger than the lid to form a slight ruffle/overhang to cover the edge of the lid. Looks nicer in the cupboard/on the shelf. Just because it’s practical doesn’t mean it can’t look good as well, besides they make good presents for others at christmas etc..

  3. says

    I love storing food in jars and have done it for years! I can see everything in the jars easily and they are easy to wash and clean up if I decide to change what is in them. I really like the wire shelving you have for your jars Wardee! We are just building a new pantry and I want wire shelves so they are easy to clean. :)

  4. says

    Nice article! I also switched to glass storage for almost everything over the last few years. We had a year of fighting pantry moths that were coming into our home via organic bulk foods, and it took that entire year to fight them off, mainly by storing everything in glass jars with tight-fitting lids. Whew! :)

    • Karen Blackburn says

      Growing up in NZ mum would frequently find wevils in the bags of flour from the supermarket so I grew up learning that all flour needed to be sieved before use to remove the insects. If you’re finding your dry products are contaminated I suggest automatically sieving everything as soon as you get home and putting it in new airtight containers. Once you have wevils or any other infestation in your pantry they’re almost impossible to get rid of because the eggs hide in the most inaccessible places.

  5. says

    Love using glass jars here too , have a crazy assortment of recycled ones .. a few even dating back over 20 years :) Currently saving all my coffee jars to create at least one uniformly arranged shlf :)

  6. says

    The glass jars are a great idea and they look good too. I had a whole box full of glass jars in the garage and now i can’t find them. Hopefully I will be able to find them soon.

  7. Beka says

    I ? my jars! They are my first choice for kitchen and pantry storage. I mostly use Mason jars, which I always have on hand from canning projects. I love how fresh they keep things like nuts, that go stale easily. Small ones are also great for salad dressings and dips in the fridge.

  8. says

    YES! I am a glass jar fan as well. It’s my primary food storage container. Love all your ideas! Thanks for sharing! Fun to see you here at GNOWFLGINS! Love your new site redesign. Blessings, sweet friend!

  9. Janknitz says

    We store everything in glass, even in the fridge. Canning jars come in varying sizes from tiny half pints to gallon and beyond, and generally have either a regular width opening, or wide, so only two sizes of canning jar lids are needed (for the most part, I prefer the wide mouth jars).

    The glass washes nicely, but if smell from previously stored items is a problem, replace the lid. There is BPA in Ball/Kerr canning lids, so it’s best to avoid having the food in the jar come in physical contact with the lid.

    I also seal my jars with an inexpensive hand-held vacuum sealer made by Foodsaver and using canning jar adapters in both sizes available on Amazon. This keeps things fresher even longer. I don’t seal everything, but anything that might oxidize quickly like nuts and seeds.

  10. says

    I love using glass jars also. I have too many to count. I love using them for all kinds of reasons but one of the best…you can see quickly how your stock is holding up when you are taking inventory.

    This is a great article. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Christine says

    Yes, I put everything in jars too! Love them, you can see what and how much is in them. I put flats under the lids to help seal them better and for things I don’t use as often I put the flats on and then use my food saver to suck all the air out of the jars. Works great.

  12. kathleen says

    Christina, What are the “flats” which you put under the lids?

    I do love storage which you can see into. I collected a lot of plastic nut (square) canisters from the Costco nuts. And I filled them with assorted nuts, seeds, grains, and beans. I had a lot of fun doing that. I cut and taped the labels onto the containers and lined them up where I could enjoy looking at them. That was before I started looking hard into the plastic concerns. I do not think the plastic is a big issue for dry goods, especially when there is air around the product such as for those items. But letting light in is a concern, and then I realized that some of those really should be refrigerated or kept frozen to prevent their becoming rancid. Luckily those containers fit on my freezer door. So I’m keeping all but the ‘going to use right away’ amounts in my freezer. That includes all nuts, and rices. Perhaps the rest of my grains and seeds should be there too but there isn’t room in the freezer for them just now. What I’ve recently been collecting glass containers for is my ferments, kefir (water and milk), sourdough starter, sauerkraut, etc. Those are acid and storing them in plastic is a serious concern. My beans I’ve recently started keeping in my gamma seal bucket. They can dry enough to become slow to soak and difficult to soften. That is primarily due to moisture loss. The other issue is that taking them out of their original container can lose the expiration date. I’d prefer to simply replenish on top, but that’s unwise. Rotating your stock is important. I stockpile enough stuff that I really need to keep track of that. Thanks for this article. Interesting that others get as much pleasure from organizing as I do!!!!

    • Karen Blackburn says

      Do you need to freeze rice because I was under the impression it didn’t go rancid. I know the Chinese would keep dry rice in large containers/jars, often in cellars and similar places in case of attack in the future thus ensuring they would always have a form of food in case they needed to take shelter. If rice needs freezing then I’m more than keen to know as I’m about to buy it in bulk. Also, do you need to freeze items like flour, because I know that it starts to go rancid within hours of being ground so it would make sense, but only if you can buy it freshly ground. I used to buy it as plain corn by the sackful and then grind it at home once a week which worked really well.

      • Shell91 says

        I freeze my rice for about 2 weeks then put it in jars. Freezing kills any little critters that might be hiding in the rice. Once it’s in the jar I put in an oxygen absorber/moisture absorber and vacuum seal the jar

  13. says

    I’m definitely in love with glass jars for food storage. However, I need to find jars with bigger openings for my flour. The openings for our current jars only fit 1/2 cup measuring cups which makes for fast calculations when scooping flour for recipes. ;)

  14. says

    I have often used see through plastic container but like you said a transfer of toxins is likely to occur. Not only that but the darn things crack when the kids throw the empty ones around.

    With glass there’s no transfer of toxins and I will definitely not let the kids play with glass jars – whether full or empty!!

  15. says

    One gallon glass jars from your local deli make great storage jars for dry goods; lentils, beans, rice, rolled oats, popcorn, quinoa, flour, etc. The jars are usually put into the deli’s recycle bin or thrown out. By supporting your local businesses you may have opportunities to glean the items they discard. We also collect used coffee grinds from local coffee shops for use in our garden and landscaping. Instead of being thrown out these two items can be reallocated to useful purposes.

  16. Leslie b says

    The only tip I would add with this is that when you use the white Ball plastic caps you can write on their tops with dry erase marker for clear labeling!! Best trick I know ;)

  17. Fran says

    I collect glass jars also, for many reasons, but I use mostly because they’re free, they don’t stain, they are odor-free, and you can get many sizes. The downside is sometimes the lid rusts, and the DOWNSIDE is: glass breaks! I live on social security and need to save money when and where I can. I love to buy the spaghetti sauce that comes in mason jars, but I found some of them are too small for even regular lids, so I use them for air tight sealing. I also have a hand held jar sealer that I use to seal fresh produce and salad greens in and it keeps the produce fresh for a month, until next grocery day, as I try to buy in bulk when I can. I can only shop every month when I get paid because as much as I plan and live frugally I live from payday to payday. I am 70 years old and have learned to make a lot of foods I use to buy at the grocery store in jars and boxes. It better for me also. I make condiments, cleaning supplies, cook beans and freeze for future meals, anyway, anything I can for my health and to save money. Any hints you and send me? Any budget recipes or menu ideas? Thank you very much for your kind attention to my note, God bless you.

    • Karen Blackburn says

      The only ideas I can give you are those from a friend who also lives on a very tight budget, although like me she gets paid weekly but that’s because in Republic of Ireland pensions/disability benefits get paid every week. Given that, like my friend Zorka, I’m also on a very tight budget because whilst I’m on disability benefit no-one else in my family works, because of illness, so I have 4 adults to support on a single income. I would recommend either growing basic vegetables either on a patio or a window sill, as I child I would grow lettuce in the 1 litre ice-cream containers from the supermarket. Plastic bottles, which you can drill holes in the bottom of, are good for carrots, parsnips or radish, while larger plastic containers are ideal for growing cabbage and other larger vegetables in, including peas and beans which can easily be grown in a large plastic pot under a window with a support behind it for the plants to grow up in front of the window. This should help to keep costs down as well as providing a ready supply of fresh produce which is essential. Another alternative is to do what I’ve done and made friends with my local fresh produce supplier. A van comes round once a week where I live and I get all my fresh fruit and vegetables from him, which saves a lot of money compared to buying them from the local supermarket or shops. Cheap meals during the week are easily made from using either chicken legs or mince (800gm or about 2lb) which I add a mix of fresh vegetables (carrots, potatoes, paprika, onions or whatever you have handy), a tin of tomatoes with a dash of tomato puree/concentrate and then a bag of green or yellow beans. I season with dried paprika, pepper and universal vegetable seasoning to taste and then when cooked I thicken with either cheap gravy granules (remember they can be salty to under-season and adjust at the end) or dry mash potato. This will feed 4 of us for at least 2 meals, sometimes 3 depending on how I serve it, I will frequently serve with cooked pasta or salad to eke it out. As I pay 3 euro for the mince or chicken and probably another 3 euro for the vegetables and 50c for the pasta (1lb which will do 2 meals for the 4 of us) this enables me to feed 4 adults for 2 main meals for only 6 euro. Zorka does similar one pot meals and after eating it for 2 days freezes what’s left for later. If you add in dry beans you could probably bring the price down even further. Another cheap meal is to make your own filo pastry (you need to be able to roll it out tissue paper thin and one secret to this is to roll it out on either a tea-towel or a sheet depending on how good you are at rolling out filo pasty) which is just flour, an egg, a dash of oil and water to mix. When rolled out place the filling along the edges and roll up into a large roll, putting more filling down as needed to make multiple rolls of pastry which you cook in the form of a spiral on a tray, after brushing them with oil. Depending on how much pastry you make, and because you roll it out so thin it goes a very long way, and the filling you choose you can freeze it either raw or cooked. Look on the internet for recipes for Burek and you’ll find a number of different recipes for fillings. I usually use either diced potato/cheese/onion/seasoning, mince/onion/potato/seasoning or (in season) pumpkin/seasoning/onion/cheese depending on time of year and what I have in my pantry. Again this makes a very cheap and filling meal, and I can feed 4 of us for 2 days using a mix of cheese, potato and onion for the filling. Hope these ideas are of some help, I know exactly how it feels to try and eke out good meals on very little money.

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