These expert tips for pantry organisation and storage will stop your food from going bad, but will also make it a more aesthetically pleasing space
Matching different foods with the appropriate receptacle, such as glass, plastic, ceramic or metal, is the key to creating optimum conditions.
Clear plastic containers are an excellent storage basic as they’re cheap, reliable and practical. Yet for those concerned about the chemicals used in the production of plastic, there are a myriad of alternatives.
Which material is best?
Breakage is the main disadvantage of using glass storage containers. Price can also be a minor concern. Glass jars are often bulky and rarely modular, leading to space issues for some. There are, however, plenty of good reasons to consider using glass. Besides the practical advantage of being able to clearly see what is stored in the container, and how much is left, glass is an excellent alternative for those who prefer to avoid plastics due to concerns over chemical leakage.
Most of the major homeware and kitchenware chains, and stand-alone stores, carry a good range of glass storage jars. Kmart is a good source for well-priced sets. It’s also worth checking your local hardware store for large, airtight preserving jars.
Far and away the most popular food storage material, plastic storage containers can be found in most kitchens. The major benefits of plastic containers are price and ease of both accessibility and storage. Modular containers can be stacked to make the best use of any space. Most plastic containers are also dishwasher, microwave and freezer safe.
There are some concerns around chemical leaching and plastic containers, but the official word at this stage is that provided proper handling guidelines are followed, there is no cause for concern. The major safety point is to check that a container is certified for microwave use prior to heating.
Enamel and stainless steel are popular storage materials for their robust nature as well as their aesthetic appeal. As with ceramic, metal containers can be lightproof as well as airtight. This is a particular bonus for storing fragrant ingredients such as coffee and spices that can be light reactive. Stainless steel also has the benefit of being entirely non-porous, making it an excellent choice for storing items that could stain or permeate plastic with their smell.
- Moisture control is an important issue in humid areas. Using a completely airtight container will help keep moisture at bay, especially if you include a commercial desiccant or a few grains of rice. Treating the humidity levels of the storage area itself is the best preventative step. An open container of bicarbonate of soda or a commercial desiccant can help keep damp levels down.
- An infestation of pantry moths is a seriously irritating problem. It’s important to clean the inside of the pantry and all its contents thoroughly to remove any trace of them. Check seals, lids and the tops of canned goods in particular. Once everything has been cleaned, place a couple of bay leaves in the corner of each shelf as a deterrent. One way to prevent infestation occurring is to place all newly bought packages of dry goods such as flour in the freezer for fifteen to twenty minutes to kill any weevils before decanting into airtight containers.
- A well-stocked pantry is an appealing environment to cockroaches. To keep inquisitive bugs at bay, try placing a saucer of Epsom salts and cloves in the corner of the bottom shelf and wiping the perimeter of each shelf with a cotton ball dipped in oil of cloves.
- To help you remember precisely what you’ve stored in each container, get into the habit of snipping the relevant section of the original food packaging and popping it into the jar. Try to either include the best before date on the clipping, or write the date of storage on yourself.
- Never add new supplies to the old. Finish whatever is in the jar before you open and decant a new package.
Good storage techniques will help prolong the shelf-life of most goods, but there is still a maximum period of time for most ingredients:
- Dried pasta will last up to a year.
- Flour for six to eight months.
- Spices (not ground) can last up to two years.
- Sugar for up to two years.
- Rice for six to eight months.
Photography by: Chris Warnes, Alicia Taylor / bauersyndication.com.au