Are Clear Pantry Storage Containers Actually Worth It?
Search "pantry organization" on Pinterest and you'll get pages and pages of images of perfectly arranged, color-coordinated shelves—all filled with healthy ingredients and snacks, of course. It's pretty, but let's be real: The amount of time it takes to get a pantry looking like that versus the time it takes for an average family to mess it up again is disproportionate. Pantries are designed to hold food, and as such, should serve function first. Not all organization styles are right for everyone if they don't fit your lifestyle. And besides, who doesn't have a bag of half-eaten tortilla chips shoved in there? Those salty triangles don't exactly transfer well into a tall, slim, elegant glass vessel.
Where did our obsession with these clear containers come from, anyway? Netflix's The Home Edit and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo have a lot to do with it, sparking a wave of previously disorganized watchers to run to shops like The Container Store (Marie Kondo even released her own line for them!) and begin transferring every possible pantry item to an alternative receptacle.
Why Clear Storage Containers Are a Good Idea
Clear storage containers do have their virtues, of course. For one, they are key to getting your pantry in Pinterest-worthy, uniform shape, if that's what you're going for. On a more practical level, they enable you to more easily see what you have and what you're running out of (i.e., no more going to pour cereal for your three kids and realizing there's only half a bowl's worth left).
Another plus is that if you splurge on vacuum-sealed containers, they help tremendously in keeping your food fresh, says Kati Wadsworth, a professional organizer in Florence, Ala. That, in turn, helps reduce food waste, which is a good thing. Also, because they're greener than plastic baggies, they also (hopefully) help you cut down on your single-use plastic use. (Read our guide to making your containers last as long as possible to ensure you're keeping them in tip-top shape.)
There's always a flip side, though. For one, clear storage containers can require a decent investment up front. The high-quality pieces don't come cheap. For example, our favorite five-piece OXO set is around $50, while a 20-piece set from the same brand, which you might need to outfit your entire pantry, is more than $275. The satisfaction you feel from popping open a tightly sealed, aesthetically pleasing container has to outweigh the eye-popping money you're spending on them. But some argue the investment is worth it if you'll continue to use them for the long term.
The price says nothing of the cost of your time you'll spend actually putting the storage containers to use, too. Buying groceries, unloading them and putting them away is time-consuming enough; when you're adding the extra step of "decanting" new items from their packages into storage containers, it can feel like even more of a hassle, says Wadsworth.
One more thing to consider is the safety of clear storage containers. The best food storage containers are made from glass, because you avoid the risk of having potentially hazardous chemicals from plastic leak into your food, says Adrienne Nolan-Smith, founder of WellBe. Always look for the words "BPA free" on the packaging, as this chemical is still used in some hard plastic food containers.
If you have your heart set on clear storage containers, here are a few tips to make them work better for you.