I love having a nice, organized pantry – and honestly, it’s essential for somebody who preserves and stockpiles as much food as I do!
Unfortunately, it can be tough to find reliable food storage containers that are not only affordable, but the right size and shape for the type of food I’m trying to store.
ne thing I have started doing is hoarding – I mean saving – containers that could eventually be used to store food later on.
This is a great and free way to not only provide myself with all the food storage containers I need, but to reduce or even eliminate the amount of waste I am putting back into the environment. It’s a win-win!
So without further ado, here are some of my favorite DIY food storage ideas – as well as some great upcycled storage ideas for your non-food items, too.
Use Plastic Buckets with Lids
Wanting to keep a stockpile of basic food staples, like flour, sugar, grains, rice and so on? Then you are probably wondering how to safely store these things to keep them fresh and free of bugs.
Plastic buckets with lids are the best way to do this, but you can’t just buy any bucket. You’ll need a Food Grade container; they are white, and have a #2 on the bottom.
You could buy these, if you don’t mind forking out $8 per bucket, but I found a better way, and it’s FREE!
All you’ll need to do is stop by your local grocery store and visit the bakery. Simply ask the nice ladies behind the counter if they have any empty icing or sugar buckets with lids.
Usually, they are more than happy to hand them over, rinsed out and everything. I was able to pick up three yesterday, and was told to come back Saturday afternoon for more (since this is their busy cake making day).
Once you get it home, wash it out well with hot, soapy water and make sure it is dried thoroughly before using. I’ve had sugar and flour stored for over 6 months now in these kinds of buckets, and have never had a problem with any sort of bugs.
I did freeze the flour for 3 days before storing, which is something that I would recommend doing… just to be safe.
As gross as it sounds, there is often bug’s eggs in the flour already, and if it is stored for a long time they could begin hatching. Freezing the flour before storing will kill any eggs that may be present.
Use Magazine Racks
A magazine rack is the perfect tool for stashing things like Tupperware lids, packets of spices, or seasoning mixes. You can slide all of your like items inside, and the magazine rack will keep them separated and organized.
Cereal Box Food Storage
Cut the top off a cereal box (and one corner) and use it to create a magazine-style organizer just like the one in the tip above. You can use it to stash small, flat items that tend to get lost in the shuffle of your kitchen cupboards.
Use a Binder Clip to Hold Together Bags of Cereal
Since you’re ditching the box of cereal to be used as a food storage container, you might as well do something with those extra bags, right?
Hold together the half-full, opened bags with binder clips. You won’t have to worry about cereal bags spilling all over your cupboards and it will save precious space, too.
Use Soda Racks for Canned Goods
One of my biggest pet peeves is that nobody in my family seems to like to rotate out the canned goods! They always take the freshest ones first and leave the old stuff in the back.
Before long, our pantry is filled with canned goods that are no longer edible because they’ve been forgotten about. To avoid this, use a soda rack! This will let you add new cans and they’ll be sorted immediately to the back, while the old ones will be pushed forward.
Don’t have a soda rack? You can make your own out of an old 12-pack soda container (the long, rectangular ones).
Dump the Dog Food in a Trash Can
If you have a dog, you know how annoying it can get to have to lug around a heavy 20 lb bag of dog food! Instead of tripping over it in your entryway, consider depositing it into a large trash can.
As long as the lid seals tightly, you won’t have to worry about pests (including your dog!) getting inside.
Use Mason Jars or Save Other Clear Glass & Plastic Jars
One of the biggest and best pieces of advice that I have for anybody looking to store large amounts of food is that you’ve got to invest in clear jars! Having opaque jars ends up being a real pain because you’ll have to open the jar to see what’s inside.
Instead, use old mason jars that might not be good for canning any more to stash all of your dry goods. You will be able to tell what’s inside with ease.
If you can’t use a clear jar, at the very least, make sure you’ve written the name of the contents (and the date you added them) on the outside with permanent marker.
Pour Laundry Detergent into a Glass Decanter
If you make your own laundry detergent or simply don’t like how laundry detergent bottles look cluttering your shelf, consider pouring them into glass jar style beverage dispensers.
No more lugging around a giant bottle of detergent! Just make sure the spigot locks so it doesn’t leak all over your counters.
Use Old Baskets for Paper Products
If you have a few baskets lying around, you can use them to stash your toilet paper, paper towels, and other paper products.
Use a Shoe Rack as a Snack Station
It’s easy for a pantry cupboard to become a dumping ground for piles of packaged snacks. That’s no longer the case! Instead, hang a shoe rack inside your closet, and you can stash little packets of cookies, seasoning mixes, or whatever else tends to clutter your space inside.
Save Old Apothecary Jars for Bathroom Items
While you can easily stash your bathroom toiletries, cosmetic, and other gear in the medicine cabinet, why not leave it out on display?
You can use old mason jars or even gorgeous apothecary jars with fun shapes to store bulk items like cotton balls, Q-tips, and more.
Use Plastic Containers for Non-Acidic Foods
You shouldn’t store acidic foods in plastic containers that you’ve saved, like margarine or yogurt tubs, as the acid can cause chemicals to leach from the plastic. But for things like dry goods, an old plastic container is perfect!
Store Spices in Canning Jars
If you buy bulk grains, spices, seeds, or oats, you may want to stash them in an old-fashioned canning jar. This will not only make your shelf look more attractive, but it will help you keep tabs on what you actually have, too.
Hope that’s helpful to ya! Let me know if you have any other ideas for scoring some free food containers!
updated 05/14/2020 by Rebekah White
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.
9 thoughts on “13 Clever Ways to Re-purpose Food Containers”
We use spackle buckets cleaned out. 🙂
I also use the gama seal lids. I have five of them. All in different colors so I can tell at a glance my flour, sugar, rice, and different beans. Then I have other buckets with my regular bucket lids on them. When I run out I just rotate in more flour or sugar. I use the buckets with the gama seals to refill all of my kitchen containers. They work great and are so much easier to get into than the regular lids.
If you have a large bakery in your area you might also check with them. The one in our area has given me over 50 buckets free. I have used them for everything from using in the garden to hold the weeds that I pull, to making nesting boxes for my chickens. Not to mention all of the food that I store in them.
thanks for that tip…I had to pay $1 but I saved more than that by being able to get the 25 pound bag of sugar
I’ve been storing food in buckets since 2004. It’s true buckets do work great. A few more tips; you can add an oxy pack to just about anything except sugar to make the food last longer. You can get some from WaltonFeed.com I like Walton Feed. They have a huge selection of grains and other food storage items. Plus, if you really want to save, they allow you to do group buys and this will also help on the shipping price. 🙂
Also another thing, since I rotate my food storage and I am constantly using my buckets over again, I found that it is a good idea to invest in gamma seal lids. Like these; http://freckleface.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/gammaseals.html
Gamma seal lids are lids that you place on the buckets and then the upper part of the lid screws on and off. It’s really a good investment in my opinion because they’re easy to open and close, they seal better than the regular lids, and don’t break as easily as the regular lids do. Plus, with the gamma seal it keeps the food dry even when the outside of the bucket is wet.
I currently have 2 1/2 years of food storage items for my family. It’s not easy. But well worth the effort especially if you plan for rotating the food items. I find that having food storage will save a great deal of money.
I have two large freezers and since one of them is not full, and it is best to keep them full, I always keep my flour, meal, rice, etc. that I get on sale in the freezer until I get ready to use it. I have never had any to ruin yet. Great to get it on sale and not ever have to pay full price!
Back when I lived in town and couldn’t have a garden in the yard, I used these for container gardening! You just put holes in the bottoms for drainage. I had to pay for mine from the bakery, but only 50 cents each.
I have a friend that works at the bakery at Albertsons, and I’ve gotten a few of these buckets from her, they work great!
I’ve heard the same thing about rice….that there are usually larvae in the bags. You can freeze it as well, but I’ve heard you’re supposed to freeze it for longer in order to kill the bugs. I hope it’s only 3 days, as that would be much more convenient, but I heard something like a month is what’s recommended.
I have done this too! I love the buckets!
I didn’t know that about bugs though…gross!
Thanks for the tip!