Are Clear Pantry Storage Containers Actually Worth It?

Sure, they’ll get your pantry ready for a photo shoot—but clear storage containers have drawbacks, too.

Search "pantry organization" on Pinterest, and you'll get pages and pages 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. Is it really worth buying those fancy pantry organizer containers?

Blame home organization TV shows for our obsession with clear container storage. Netflix's The Home Edit and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo have sparked a wave of previously disorganized viewers 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. Here, we review the pros and cons of clear storage containers. And if your heart is set on them, we have six tips for using them like a pro.

The Pros of Clear Storage Containers

Aesthetic Value

For many, a pretty, organized pantry bestows a sense of calm and well-being. Putting your pantry in order can bring mental health rewards in a world where little else is in your control. Your boss might be a maniac, your car may be in need of repairs, and they may have just canceled your favorite TV show. But...ah, look at that lovely, perfectly organized pantry! At least your beans, grains, and granola are stacked beautifully.

Inventory Visibility

On a practical level, clear storage containers 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). If you're running out the door to the grocery store, snap a quick photo of your organized pantry, and you'll know what you need to buy.


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, Alabama. That, in turn, helps reduce food waste. Also, because they're greener than plastic baggies, they help you cut down on your single-use plastic use. (Making your containers last as long as possible will ensure you're keeping them in tip-top shape.)

The Cons of Clear Storage Containers


Clear storage containers can require a decent investment up front. Our favorite five-piece OXO set is around $55, while a 20-piece set from the same brand, which you might need to outfit your entire pantry, is more than $220. 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.

Time Consumption

The price says nothing of the cost of the 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.

Safety Concerns

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 a 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.

Tips for Using Clear Storage Containers

01 of 06

Know Your Inventory

Make a list of the items you plan to keep in clear storage containers and the quantity you'd like to keep on hand. This helps ensure that you get containers that are the right fit, advises Wadsworth. There's nothing as annoying as filling up a container with three-quarters of a box of spaghetti noodles and not knowing what to do with the remainder. And clear storage containers and nearly-empty boxes do not make for a pretty, organized-looking pantry.

02 of 06

Measure Your Space

Know the length, width, and depth of your shelves (or drawers) before buying containers to ensure you're getting the right sizes to maximize the space.

03 of 06

Label Everything

When you add food to a container, use a dry-erase marker to write the expiration date of that food directly on the container. That way, you won't forget how old a particular item is (since you'll be losing its packaging) and can use it up before it gets stale.

04 of 06

Save Cooking Instructions

Similarly, before recycling the original packaging, save any cooking instructions. You can cut them out and tape them to the back, bottom, or lid of the container to help you remember things like how long to cook your rice.

05 of 06

Work With What You Have

Instead of splurging on a new set, look at what containers you already have and how you can make them work. For example, our house is overflowing with Mason jars. These glass jars are extra sturdy and wash up well in the dishwasher. They come in a variety of sizes, and you can pick up a set of interchangeable plastic lids ($9;

06 of 06

Wash Them Regularly

Don't forget to wash your containers regularly, especially if you're reaching for them often. Hands touching the containers and lids can easily introduce germs to whatever food is inside. Most containers are dishwasher safe, but take care to let them air dry completely before adding anything inside. Just a few drops of water can cause a whole bag of sugar to clump up.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles