The Pros + Cons of Decanting Food from

Do you decant?

Picture an organized kitchen. Does the image in your mind include a pantry full of matching, neatly labeled containers? For a lot of people, the answer is yes. In fact, shelter magazines and Pinterest are filled with photos of pantries and cabinets stacked with uniform, beautifully labeled canisters.

When I see these pictures, two things happen. First, my heart goes pitter-patter. Everything looks so neat and pretty. Those images really appeal to my love of order and my dislike of visual clutter.

Then I think, Whoa, that’s a lot of work!

There are pros and cons to decanting kitchen staples and other items. Here are few.


It looks good

There’s no denying the beauty of a closet or cabinet filled with nice containers. Storing items in their original packaging, even if they’re well organized, certainly looks more jumbled. And a lot of packaging is just plain unattractive. Plus, using your own containers offers opportunities for fun or pretty labels, which you might enjoy creating. For many people, the visual appeal of matching or attractive containers is a great motivator to keep things organized.

It’s easy to see when supplies are running low

If you use clear containers, it takes only a glance to see when you need to restock the contents.

It can save money because you can buy in bulk

It’s often cheaper to buy supplies in bulk and to decant into smaller containers as you need them. (Of course, you might need to pay for those containers.)

It uses space more efficiently

By keeping items in containers sized to fit your storage areas, you are often able to make better use of your space.

It keeps items fresher and protects them from pests

Transferring foods into airtight containers can help them last longer and will defend them from insects or other pests.


It’s more work

It takes extra time and effort to fill and refill containers, then reseal and store (or dispose of) the original packages. You also need to decide what to do when items run low. Do you wait till you use every last bit? (And then possibly have to refill immediately, because you don’t have enough for your recipe?) Or pour fresh supplies over the old ones? Or transfer the old stuff to a bowl, pour in the new, then dump the old on top? You’ll need to wash your containers periodically too.

It takes extra room

If you buy in bulk, or even if you have regular-sized packages that you’re waiting to transfer to containers, you’ll need extra space to store the original packages. For smaller kitchens or homes, this can be an issue.

It can be expensive

Although you may save money by buying bulk goods, you may need to spend money on new containers. You might be able to reuse some old containers, but it’s likely you’ll need to purchase at least some—and possibly a lot—especially if a coordinated look is important to you.

You lose the instructions from the packaging

If you decant a product with complicated or unfamiliar instructions, you won’t have them handy. (A solution is to cut off the instructions from the box and tape them to your container, or tuck them inside, although that creates more work.)

It can be challenging if you don’t always buy the same types of food or the same sizes

Decanting can get complicated if you vary the types of items you buy from week to week. You’ll either need a lot of containers or a lot of room.

What I do

You’ve probably already guessed: for me, decanting is seldom worth the effort. I don’t care what the insides of my pantries or cabinets look like, since the doors are always shut. I stock a couple of kinds of clips to keep packages closed, so my food stays fresh. If I lived in a different climate, I might be more worried about pests, but so far we haven’t had that issue.

When do I decant? Aesthetics do matter to me if the objects are out in the open, and I find labels visually jarring. So I do transfer dish soap, hand soap, hand sanitizer, and the baking soda I keep at my kitchen sink. (I mostly use old containers whose labels I’ve removed.)

I also decant sugar and flour to make scooping them quicker. I love how easy it is to level my measuring cups right over my own containers, which I chose because they have nice wide openings. And I’ve found that borax and oxygen bleach tend to clump up in their original packaging, so I decant those as well.

As with all things organizing, this is a personal choice. Do what works for you. If pretty containers make you happy, fill your cabinets with them. If it seems like too much of a bother, then don’t decant.

Do you keep decanting to a minimum, or do you do it a lot? Which items do you transfer to new containers, and which do you leave as is? I would love to hear how you handle this issue!


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Nancy Vorsanger loves how her organized home makes her family’s life easier. She opened her own organizing business to help other families get—and stay—organized, with practical, no-fuss strategies tailored to their own needs and lifestyles. Nancy also loves coffee, word games, blogs, her husband, and her children—not in that order. She lives in central New Jersey.

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