Glass Jars in the Kitchen Pantry

We don’t have much built-in storage space in the kitchen for food. We have one cabinet in the kitchen for most of our food, but I have to stand on a chair to reach the back of it. I was really tired of not being able to see what we had in the back of that high cabinet.

We had blank wall space under the cabinets, so we made the most of it by adding a couple of open shelves. Since everything was on full display, I wanted it to be visually appealing as well.

We buy a lot of our food such as rice, beans, and flour from the bulk bins at the grocery store, and when I first looked for canisters, I couldn’t believe how expensive they can be! It makes no sense to me. They’re only glass jars, right?

Instead of buying canisters, I decided to go with canning jars in an assortment of pint, quart and half-gallon sizes.

Why I love them:

  • Inexpensive (one or two dollars each, sometimes free)
  • Glass doesn’t absorb food odors or stains
  • No concerns about plastic
  • Stackable (in the wide-mouth size)
  • Easy to see if you’re about to run out of something
  • Versatile to hold utensils and other odds and ends
  • Smaller sizes store leftovers or snack portions

Putting the jars on display really warmed up the space, and they made the whole kitchen look better. The jars can be found at Ace Hardware and some grocery stores, and I stick with the same lid size so they’re interchangeable. Sometimes I label them with a piece of scotch tape and a permanent marker.

We put up two shelves ($5 from IKEA), one on each side of the stove. With anchors in the wall, they’re very sturdy to hold six quart or pint jars. It’s so much easier to just reach for something you need, and have it right there.

We’ll share more small space solutions this month, and if you have any specific requests, just ask!
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I am struggling with storing all of my spices. I have them in 3 different places in the kitchen because the cabinet I was storing them in was narrow and tall. I can never find what I’m looking for. Any ideas you can share would be GREATLY appreciated!

  2. I like the fact that you’re using the jars for storage of leftovers, etc. Are they microwaveable? It makes sense to use those instead of plastic.

    • the jars are microwaveable…they are glass! oven tempered…can even bake in them….before plastic was glass:)..I still use glass for all my storage needs. I have plastic just for a few things… but stainless steel and glass are my basics.

  3. Rachel,

    Thanks for the wonderful idea. It’s just in time for the clean up, un-clutter feeling that hits me right after Christmas!

  4. Slackerjo says:

    I like your spice system as it does not clutter up the counter and you can move the lower bottles for quick cleaning.

    @cinda, I am big on magnetic spice racks as my kitchen prep area is next to the fridge. My main spices are attached to the side of the fridge. The not used very frequently spices are in a cupboard above the stove. If you have a big kitchen, you can sacrifice one drawer and put all your spices there. There are plenty of organizers for drawers on the market Or if your drawers are deep enough, you can place the bottles standing up.

  5. I love canning jars for storage. I have just recently started using them to freeze things like stocks, soups, extra raw milk and tomato sauces. I was scared at first because of the glass, but have had very little problems. Plus I love not using plastic and not worrying about the chemicals and the fact that it isn’t sustainable.

    We are in a small rented space as well so I am looking forward to more of your small space storage posts.

    • as long as there is space at the top u will be ok. think of a vodka bottle in the freezer…nothing happens….glass is very durable..:)

  6. I’ll be back for more. My kitchen is tiny! I like what you’ve done here, it is lovely.

  7. I love these!
    So cute.
    I have been looking for something like this and never thought of them!

    Coco´s last blog post..Welcome 2009

  8. I recently received my grandma’s canning jars, lots and lots of canning jars. Since my pantry is in the garage, I’m using them to safely store everything – flour, pasta, crackers, etc. I cut out a bunch of circles to fit between the lid and screw ring. When I fill a new jar, grab a circle, write the content, and put the lid together. Works great and looks pretty cool.

  9. we even use jars as our drinking glasses. My husband picked up the motherload of jars at a garage sale – I’m making the most of them. My family wanted to buy us glasses for Christmas – I said I have glasses please don’t : )

  10. I love using canning jars, too. Do you just live with the two-piece lids or have you found a food-safe way of permanently sealing them together?

    • I have one piece lids….they are available.. I save my mexican salsa jars…perfect size and they are canning jars to start with!

      the two-piece would be if u did your own ensure the seal is intact for longterm storage. Important air does not get in ..

  11. Love the look of the permanent marker right on the jar.

    Can’t wait for more helpful solutions/tips!

    Naomi´s last blog post..Revitalizing Facial GIVEAWAY!

  12. I’ve just started doing the same thing. I don’t have very many canning jars – and it’s not the season for garage sales – so I’m repurposing applesauce jars! Our county doesn’t offer recycling for glass – so I’ve gathered quite a collection.

    At some point in the future – I might take a few moments to paint the lids. But for now the fact that the jars are all the same size and shape makes them look orderly enough!

    • u could make cute cover lids with elastic … nicely done in italy…so simple..and u could vary the blend in with your kitchen decor…

  13. Mrs. E, the glass is microwaveable, the lids are not.

    Tina, I think the lids are fine for storing dry food.

    Ruth Ann, repurposing jars is great, I do that too for some of the food in my cabinet.

    Slackerjo, I like your idea of putting spices in a drawer standing up. You could label the tops of the jars to see what’s in them.

  14. I love using Mason jars! I use them for everything!

    Dana @ Letters to Elijah´s last blog post..And I’m Loving It!

  15. I’ve done this before but have gotten away from it. I have some old, old Mason jars that I use for storage on our open shelves in the kitchen — they’re blue w/matching glass lids. Have you ever done a tour of your kitchen? I’d love to see it in its entirety if you’d care to share.

    Nancy´s last blog post..Improvising

  16. I am looking forward to doing more cooking from scratch this year. Rethinking how I store my food is a natural place to start. My basic dry ingredience use to be back behind all my store bought boxed food. I have moved them (in their plastic containers) to the front but I think pretty glass canning jars right on the counter is so much more inspiring. Thanks for the great idea.

    Lia´s last blog post..Lazy days

  17. Nancy, you can see an old photo of my whole kitchen in the soap tutorial. It really wasn’t much to look at – very basic apartment cabinets and painted walls.

    We made a few changes to improve storage above the cabinets, and added the shelves. Perhaps I can share a new photo of it.

  18. Functional can be beautiful! I wish I had the wall space to do this, but such is the fault of an “open kitchen”. LOL!

  19. Our kitchen is 36 square feet (currently remodeling), so I love hearing about your small space solutions. The truth is that I wouldn’t want my kitchen any bigger… but it certainly takes some creativity to make it work!

    Katie at´s last blog post..Our Favorite New Kitchen Toys

  20. This is a wonderful idea, and it looks great! :o)

    Charity´s last blog post..Reflection

  21. Beautifully simple.

    Alana @ Gray Matters´s last blog post..I’m Sew Excited!

  22. great idea! it looks fantastic too. I have a bunch of small canning jars that I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with, I’ll give this a try soon

    Casey´s last blog post..Whirl Into Winter Quilt Blog Giveaway

  23. Instead of buying mason jars, you can wash out and reuse glass spaghetti sauce, peanut butter and jelly jars.

  24. love this! Looking forward to more small space ideas…my kitchen is tiny.

  25. I agree, reusing jars is a good idea. (Except for pickle jars — the pickle smell never quite goes away.)

    • I use white vinegar or baking soda to clean out smelly jars..especially with brine. I also use 20Mule Team Borax for everything…to clean with…including the jars also and tough grease…all natural….works miracles…and much much cheaper to use! It is the secret ingredient in all these name brand “natural cleaners”….:) as well as very expensive cleaners on the market. Hope this helps! You won’t go back to anything else….

  26. Ditto, love using canning jars for food staples, making tea, making sprouts, large batch cooking, they are the best.

  27. Oh, I love that, so pretty. Jars are the best cheap, nice-looking storage solution. I have some retro jars from the thrift store that I am just in love with.

    No reason a rented space can’t be beautiful, also. I like the Ikea shelves, too. Rustic and cute. :)

    liz @ perspicacious´s last blog post..keeping track of ribbon

  28. Slackerjo says:

    Mmmm pickle juice. Some might find that a bonus.

  29. wow. you read my mind! i’ve started to use my bread maker a whole lot more and need to keep some more ingredients closer on hand [vs in my storage room downstairs] and was about to go buy a bunch of containers. i like this jar idea so much more.

  30. love it!
    neat and tidy and a joy to look at.

  31. Love this idea. I will be looking at it again in the future when it is time for me to do something like this.

    Liz´s last blog post..Accomplishments & Goals

  32. Oh, please more of these kitchen pantry ideas. I, too, really only have one cabinet for food and have such difficulty organizing it because it is a corner cabinet and things get lost. I really like this idea, though my counter space, too, is also taken up. I had an incident with my bead machine catching fire a couple of weeks ago because I used my stove top as counter space while rolling out dough because we just don;t have any space! My poor bread machine. :0)

  33. Great idea! And I agree…more space saving solutions, please! I love ideas like these.

    Keep up the good work!

    Courtney´s last blog post..Happy New Year!

  34. I love the way this looks! Another advantage is if a jar breaks, it can easily be replaced. You don’t get stuck with a weird set that has a missing piece that can’t be matched.

    My small space problem is a too small breakfast room. I have a small dining table with 6 chairs. The table is still too wide for those sitting on the end against the wall. They can squeeze in but its tight. We’re empty nesters now so we don’t need breakfast space for six. Do they make furniture for small places? Where do I look? I’m a home decor dork in case you can’t tell!

    I love your blog by the way.

    Mary´s last blog post..Just for today …

  35. I like this storage solution! We’re moving into a place where the kitchen will take some juggling, and this idea may come in handy.

  36. I have used the canning jars for a very long time. I had never considered how pretty they could look, I was just using stuff I already had…:O)

    I love jars, they are incredibly versitile!

  37. This idea is fabulous. I may just get to clean out a cupboard for a bit more room! Thanks for posting this!

  38. I picked up some jars just yesterday, from the thrift store, 59 c’s each for the small, 79 c’s for the larger ones. I got them cause they have that nice pattern on them, knowing I would use them for something. Now if I was a kitchen diva it would be for staples, as I don’t cook, I burn, I will use them for art supplies and sewing items. Love your shelf, and the blog. Congrats on the coming anklebiter.

  39. The jars are a great idea and you can store as much or as little as you have.

    Geri´s last blog post..Healthiest Diet

  40. Hillary Hess says:

    I love this. Thanks for all your fun posts. I really enjoy your ideas.

  41. I love this idea! I use canning jars for all sorts of things – particularly in our learning/craft room. My favorites are Mason jars that I found in a 1/2 gallon size – they’re great!

  42. I love love love organizing and space saving ideas. I am a smaller space person. I just prefer cozy. If I were a billionaire I would still live small. These articles really speak to me. =)

  43. rachel,

    i read this entry not too long after you posted it. what a great idea!

    just a note to let you know that i linked this article to my blog love roundup.

    thanks again for all of your wonderful tips!

    na0´s last blog love 1/21/09

  44. This idea is fabulous! Our home is very country looking which I love and this idea will fit in perfectly. I have quite a few canning jars just sitting around (my summer canning of tomatoes was mostly a flop). This might be a better option for those jars. Thanks for the ideas. Keep ‘em coming!

    Christy´s last blog post..My Most Recent Best Buy

  45. Marianne says:

    I too use jars for staples. My Dad buys pickles in really LARGE jars at Costco. I cannot imagine eating so many pickles, but I am occasionally a jar beneficiary. I love to see others organize economically. After all I am not trying to stage for The Parade of Homes, I am simply trying to raise a family in a tidy small home.
    Thanks !