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The sugar came in a 5 lb. paper bag. The cocoa came in a round tin. The dark brown sugar came in a plastic bag. The light brown sugar came in a paper box. Imagine storing these conveniently, side by side.
These are just a few of the items I keep handy in a cabinet close to the stove. I keep larger containers for some of these items as well, sugar for one. But, if I need a teaspoon of flour for thickening a sauce, or a half teaspoon of sugar for fried cabbage or hot cocoa, there is no need to get out the larger container. These smaller containers are at arms reach.
I find that keeping and reusing containers of the same size and shape helps keep the cabinet neater and the items are more easily accessible. And probably most important, space is gained.
As in the case of the brown sugar, I leave it in the plastic bag and put the bag in the container. Double protection plus stackability. Also, I think most foods keep better in plastic containers with tight fitting lids rather than in some of the original containers, especially paper bags and boxes.
Plastic containers can last quite a long time depending on use. If they become distorted or pitted from heat, cracked, badly scratched, etc.
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What is best airtight canister/storage container available to store things like, flour, rice, and meal in? I am looking for something that is airtight. I purchased Rubbermaid plastic canisters a year ago and I've noticed they are not as airtight as they were when I first purchased them. Is Tupperware better?
If you need large storage bins, check at a bakery counter at a big grocer and ask if they give away their 5 gallon "cake frosting" containers. They might offer them to you free of charge and probably will not have been cleaned of the frosting residue. Just don't take them without the lids if you need them for dry storage. Always helps to make friendly, sincere, chat with a responsive employee who may be able to "save" them for you.
For smaller storage containers, the plastic jugs that many coffee brands now use are handy for a number of dry storage uses. If you don't buy, drink coffee, find a friend that does and ask if he or she will save the plastic containers for you.
As well, the plastic, one gallon milk jugs are good, too, especially for things like dried beans or different rices that can be easily funneled in, and simply poured out, as needed.
Make sure all containers are cleaned and dried thoroughly before re-purposing.
I loved KC's ideas. Let me add another. If you can find the clear plastic containers that jerky and beef sticks come in and the store will keep them for you, that are amazing. You can keep little things inside in zip lock bags, and the screw on seal is perfect to keep them "double fresh".
This shot shows the snap on lid, but I couldn't find the other screw on kind. Those are the best ones!
I used to use all sorts of recycled containers until I had a terrible infestation of pantry moths! I now am investing in Lock & Lock storage containers which are bpa free in the plastic and also available in glass.
I use those large glass pickle jars to store my sugar and flour in. I'm going to try to find more of them for pasta, etc. They have worked great for me so far!
The absolute best containers I've found are called Lock & Lock. You can get these at a good price either at www.amazon.com or www.qvc.com. Just type in Lock & Lock and do a search. They're completely air and water-proof and I use them for just about everything. No comparison to the Rubbermaid or Pyrex containers I have - Lock & Locks are so much better! Actually saves $ by keeping things fresh longer :-)
I buy flour and sugar in ten pound bags. I put the bag inside a two gallon zip lock bag.
What I use, and is air tight is a FoodSaver. You use your mason jars, and seal it, and it stays sealed.
Lock & Lock without a doubt.
In my honest opinion, the best product for scent-free storage is glass, and you can find inexpensive ones that have hinged, tops with silicone gaskets and stainless steel locking. Fancy decal letters or labels can be found in Craft Shops; the clear glass also allows you to see how much of the product is on hand before beginning a recipe and finding out that you have to make a trip to the store. Another nice little storage item is the 'glass mayonnaise jar with plastic tops', perfect for small leftovers, easy identification and no rusty lids.
A spice that can be bought is dry bay leaves, and about five of these leaves dropped into any container (about a 1/2 gallon with lid) and will deter any bugs. I keep a large jar of rice on my shelf with bay leaves and I haven't found any bugs for at least 6 months. I can't say how long it will last because my rice is used up by then.