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Posts Tagged ‘storage’

by Sarah Steimer

A guide on containers in the kitchen can get pretty broad, so I'm focusing on some of the best containers to use for scratch ingredients. From left: all-purpose flour, coriander, dill, dried chilis and ground coffee.

One of the best things about a modern grocery store is that almost all food comes in its own nice, neat container that is pre-labeled and sealed. So why take the time to move your ingredients from their convenient packaging to an entirely different container? Well, I can think of a few reasons: Visual appeal, freshness and reuse.

One common thread you’ll find for most of my tips is that I’ve chosen glass containers. This is for a number of reasons, but most importantly for health. There has been a lot of publicity in recent years regarding bisphenol A, or BPA. This chemical is found in plastics and is banned in some cases in various countries and a few states, particularly for its use in baby bottles and other child-related items. The FDA very recently decided not to ban the chemical’s use in the U.S.

There’s no conclusive evidence of BPA’s effects on the human body, but it has been shown to act like the sex hormone estrogen and lead to adverse developmental effects in animal models such as mice.

I haven’t made a full switch to glass, as many of my leftovers find themselves in plastic containers. I’m trying to start with food items that spend the longest amount of time in one container: Scratch ingredients such as flour, coffee and spices.

Visual appeal: I love seeing my containers all lined up and ready to go in the pantry. They look far more inviting in uniform jars instead of haphazardly squished in the bags they came in.

So maybe visual appeal is the weakest argument for choosing new containers – but it’s valid nonetheless!

Many people like to keep their flour and sugar containers out on the counter or, if you’re like me, you may have an open pantry that just about anyone can peek into. If you take the time to make sure your dish towels match you kitchen’s decor, why not make sure your containers do as well?

There are lots of stores that sell attractive and cheap bulk food containers. My jars are from World Market, but the Container Store and Ikea also have great options. If your kitchen has a retro look, try using old-school Ball jars. If you have a specific color scheme you can find matching lids for your containers.

This can even be taken a step further with a little customization. I took the easy route with my labels (also from World Market), but I’ve seen some really cool ideas for painting labels jars or printing custom decals in cool fonts.

Freshness: Most containers that food is packed in do not guarantee freshness, so it's important to keep that in mind when deciding what food items could use a new container.

Buying in bulk is great, but storing all those items in the bags you shoveled them into at the store isn’t so wonderful. Many bulk items such as spices, flours and nuts/dried fruit will store much better in an air-tight container.

Some of the best containers to keep food fresh in have a rubber seal at the closure point. The lids usually pop on or have clamp lids (such as the ones shown). These sorts of containers are especially helpful for spices that you want to access quickly without shuffling through little zip-lock containers.

Coffee is a great example of an item that should be in a well-sealed container for freshness, and it’s also another argument for using glass. If you guy your coffee by the bag, it’s pretty obvious that it won’t stay fresh because it’s nearly impossible to reseal a bag once it’s open. Keeping coffee in a tin or plastic container can also change the way the coffee tastes. A well-sealed, glass container is the route to go for fresh coffee – just make sure that if you use clear glass that it does not receive any direct sunlight.

Don’t pass up containers that seal well but maybe are not the ideal material. Use these to store smaller containers! In the picture above, I used an old Teavana tin that has a good seal on it, which is meant for keeping for tea fresh. Instead, reused it for my extra packages of spices. This takes us right to the next tip…

Reuse: Plastic containers are more commonly reused, mainly because most food is sold this way. When you have the option, plan ahead and choose the glass jar of mayo instead of the plastic jar.

A chance to recycle is alway welcome, so I like to keep a lookout for glass containers that can be reused.

In the picture above, I show two really great examples of glass containers that can be saved for something else: a canning jar and a simple glass jar with a screw-on lid. I love getting homemade preserves, which usually come in containers with a metal band and a rubber ring to seal the product, making them perfect for keeping other items fresh.

As with any container you reuse, make sure to wash it well. It sort of goes without saying, but the most important part is to get into any of those nooks and crannies in the lids with a brush so you don’t contaminate the next food item.

Some of the best items to store in these reused jars are leftover canned goods. In the picture above, I used a canning jar to hold extra chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. This is usually sold in a can that cannot be resealed after use, and I certainly didn’t want to throw away perfectly good food.

Looking for more cleaning tips and tricks? Check out our full Spring Cleaning guide here.

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