Investing in Airtight Food Storage Containers
Are you organizing your kitchen and/or pantry and looking to invest in airtight storage to decant your food items but don’t know where to begin? Here is everything you need to know!
First of all, you should know that I mainly use OXO's for airtight storage, but there are two kinds of OXO's depending on where you buy them. I'll also give you some other options for airtight food storage containers that my clients have loved. Read more below! And I recommend also watching my IG Live "All Things OXO" where I show you all of the different containers I talk about here.
OXO Pop Containers
What's the difference between the Container Store and Costco OXO's?
Both the Container Store and Costco sell OXO Pop airtight food storage containers and the OXO sets are more affordable at Costco. However, even though they're made by the same company, they look different and come in different sizes.
The main visual difference is the height of the white lid. The Container Store OXO lid is a little bit thinner than the Costco OXO lid. That's why, if you were to buy a Costco set (because they are cheaper) and then supplement with Container Store OXO's, you're going to notice the difference when it's sitting on your shelves. If that doesn't bother you, then go for it! But I try to avoid using different products side by side like that.
I like to keep the product consistent when I can. I like to use all Costco or all Container Store OXO's just because it bothers me that the lids are a little bit different and they're already so expensive that I would rather it look perfect. If you have the earlier OXO models (like the ones in my pantry that have a more rounded white lid), then you either don't or can't have completely consistent product.
The other thing that is slightly problematic when I get into talking about the sizes is that the Container Store sells 18 different sizes and Costco only sells 4 (in a 9-piece set).
Tip: always measure cabinet shelves and pantry shelves before you buy, including the height so you can maximize vertical space with taller containers when possible.
Container Store OXO Lids
There are 4 different sizes of lids, which is how I describe all OXO's. There is a big square, a rectangle, a small square, and a slim rectangle. These lids make all of the containers big enough (even the rectangles) to fit measuring spoons and most measuring cups for scooping. I really like the slim rectangle sizes because they're great for decanting when you have limited space, you can get more containers on a shelf and still see everything.
Container Store OXO Heights
Once you have your big square, rectangle, small square, and slim, there are four different heights. Not each lid has all four heights available. There's a tall, medium, short, and mini. Both mini options look really nice stacked.
A cool thing to know about Container Store OXO's is that they're modular. For those of you who don't know: one medium and one mini equal the same height as a tall, and two shorts equal the same height as a tall. I love that they're modular so you can stack them. When I'm organizing I like to create nice, clean lines whenever possible. Whether they're staggered or all different sizes, I like the line of sight to be even. You can mix and match to create a nice, even line a lot easier with Container Store OXO's.
Tip: What I prefer to do when organizing shelves is to use the tall OXO's as much as I can, especially in pantries. Depending on the depth of the shelves, I will try to stagger and stack. Usually the shelves are not deep enough for three OXO's but I like to have a tall size in the back and a medium size right in front so I can label each front side on the very top (right next to the lid) so you can see what you have in both the front and in the back (even though the medium is in front of the tall).
Learning these sizes makes such a big difference, especially once you know that they can stack and create nice, neat lines and they can stagger nicely. When I'm organizing I don't like things to look haphazard, it just makes me really happy when I can create nice lines. So I can come up with a setup where things will look nice together from the front, it's kind of like playing Tetris, so in the end I can create a nice and cohesive look.
Like I said before, the Costco have different sizing, it's essentially the tall size and the short size. I'll explain sizes first and then I'll come back to why Costco is different than Container Store and why you're going to be limited when buying the set.
Unlike the Container Store, the Costco OXO's only have two heights and only sell you a few sizes. There are a few "tall" (closer to Container Store medium) and a few short, which is fine and it doesn't look bad if you wanted to stagger them in the same way, one in front of the other on a shelf, but you're a little limited. They don't give you any of the Container Store's big square OXO's, which are my favorites.
This isn't to say that you should never buy OXO's from Costco, just be aware of the differences. Personally, my favorite OXO's are from the Container Store, I prefer the lid's slim line. Plus it's easier to buy a set and supplement with individual containers rather than having to buy multiple sets with only 4 sizes from Costco or supplement with OXO's that don't look exactly the same.
Costco only sells sets, does the Container Store sell individual sizes?
Yes, they do! The Container Store sell a lot of OXO sets and I recommend starting off with a set but it's really convenient to be able to supplement the set with the additional pieces you want. When we do a project, the reason why I am still able to use Costco OXO's, is because I buy tons of boxes so we mix and match for our clients and we're not limited to just those 9 products. Otherwise, it would end up looking kind of funny because we'll use a row of tall squares from Costco for lasagna, linguine, and other pastas on the back and we're able to make it work. I totally get why you might want to go with the Costco ones. But if you want to have all the options and make it perfect, I recommend just going with Container Store.
The Container Store also sells matching OXO slant jars (or cookie jars), that are really cute.
Another plus with choosing the Container Store OXO's is that they have a ridged circle on the bottom of each lid, which is how we attach brown sugar keepers or scoops to the lid. If you aren't using OXO's, you can buy a terracotta stone from Amazon to place in with the brown sugar or just leave a piece of bread or a jumbo marshmallow in the container to keep the brown sugar from going hard.
Container Store also makes cereal containers in two sizes. If the height works for your pantry, I much prefer the taller cereal container (4.5qt) to the shorter one (3.4qt). The tall cereal container can fit one of almost any sized bag (not two bags from Costco), which is really nice because then you are not left over with funny little amounts.
How airtight are OXO's?
This is a quick tip I am going to give you to help make OXO's more airtight: I have gotten a lot of questions about how airtight they really are and finding that sometimes the seals do not work. I have gotten that feedback a lot. I know that can happen, especially when they get dirty. If I try to pull the lid off I have to use a lot of force to pull it off or if you have a completely full large container and lift it only by the lid it will come off.
Overall, I feel like they are pretty snug and airtight. However, when doing fine powders (e.g. corn starch, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, powdered sugar) sometimes it gets messy and it comes up around the edge of the container and around the rubber seal and that will affect how airtight it is. So I just make sure that both the rubber seal and the inside lip of the container is wiped clean. But it does not seal quite as well when there is any sort of residue from the powders there.
How long does food stay fresh in OXO's?
I do not know how much longer food can stay fresh in here versus in their original packaging, but I know they stay fresh longer. Cereal, for example, will get stale if the kids don't roll and clip the bag well enough or if the wheat thins crackers box is left open. But I would probably still go off of the original expiration dates that come on the packaging and then just know that your food is going to stay more fresh in the airtight containers.
How do you track extirpation dates when decanting?
I do recommend tracking expiration dates if you are not going through your food as quickly as they go bad. I like to use dry-erase tape (you can buy it from Amazon) and a wet-erase marker. Dry-erase markers tend to get rubbed off on accident sometimes. You can put it on the bottom of the container, the bottom of the back side of the container, or you can put it on the bottom of your lid. That way you can write the expiration date on the tape and rewrite it when you refill the container. You can also use chalk markers so you can write it directly on the container.
What if the original box does not fit into the new container?
Often times in pantries, I will designate a basket that is either up high on a shelf or down low on the ground for backstock. For example: say you buy a 10lbs or 20lbs bag of flour and it does not fit into whatever sized container you have designated for flour. Whatever excess you have gets rolled up, securely clipped, and put it in a food storage section that is separate (if you have room for that, I know not everyone does) or in a bin that is designated as backstock. That way you're not digging into that huge bag every time you need flour.
Why are they so expensive?
That is a really good question. I used to think that they were so overpriced and I guess I still do, I have just gotten used to it. I do think that they're an investment. If you buy the right ones, create a system ahead of time, and take care of them, then they should last a long time.
Can you replace OXO parts?
OXO's do break sometimes but I'm not aware of a way that you can replace parts, like buying a new lid. I think you have to just buy a whole new container, unfortunately.
They are hard to clean and dry, do you have any tips?
I do not recommend taking the lid apart clean it because it's kind of hard to put it back together and sometimes it don't seal the same way once you re-assemble it. I recommend gently cleaning the underside of the lid with a damp cloth and washing the plastic container with hot soap and water.
Are they dishwasher safe?
No, they are not dishwasher safe. They will warp if you put them in the dishwasher so stick to handwashing with hot water and soap.
What's a cheaper alternative for people who don't like OXO's?
These are two alternatives I've found. There are a lot of brands on Amazon that make plastic or glass containers with four latches, the ones I have are from Chef's Path. They are great, they're affordable, they come in a lot of different sizes, they're airtight and snap shut, and you can still create a consistent look and label them. But they aren't my first choice because I feel like they look like Tupperware or leftover food storage containers. You can look into them and do your own research on if these would work better for your kitchen and/or pantry.
My second recommendation is a product that one of my clients introduced me to called Brilliance by Rubbermaid. She'd had OXO's but they kept breaking and she didn't feel like the seal was working the way she wanted it to. Because she already had a bunch of them when we organizing her pantry, we supplemented to what she already had. You can buy these from Target and Amazon. There are only two clasps instead of the pop top. It's just really clear and clean looking and these come in even more sizes than OXO's I think. Just like OXO's, you can buy them in sets and supplement any set you get with individual products. They come in lots of heights, they are very similar heights to the OXO's, and they have a really great capacity. So these are a great alternative if you've tried OXO's and really don't like them.
The Brilliance containers do feel more durable (like the Rubbermaid brand food storage containers), whereas the Container Store OXO's feel a little more brittle. If you're looking for something that could hold up better to being dropped on the floor (no guarantee), I think the Rubbermaid Brilliance line would hold up better than the OXO's would. The Brilliance containers also come in glass (not as many sizes) but with the same plastic lids. I use those as my food storage/Tupperware.
Is the Container Store available in Canada?
You can order OXO's from Amazon, it's just easier for me to do it from the Container Store because I'm in Utah. You can also order OXO's from Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, and more. A lot of places sell them (but the Target OXO's are the same as the Costco OXO's).
Even organizers who have been working with me for months can get confused by the sizing. It can get really confusing and overwhelming if you go to the Container Store to shop and these containers can go for at least $18 each. It's expensive and adds up so quickly and if you're going to create a pantry with a lot of containers then you want to make sure that your investment is worth it. But when OXO's all come together in a project they really do look beautiful. I think they work great but there are other options out there as well. I hope this has been helpful and can be a useful resource if you are looking into making that investment into your kitchen and/or pantry.
Jen is the founder of Reset Your Nest, a Professional Home Organizing business in Utah (Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden, Logan, Utah County, and St. George), California (Bay Area, Los Gatos, Hillsborough, Atherton, San Jose), Denver, CO, and Phoenix, AZ. She loves creating order and systems out of chaos. Her specialty is finding a way to continue the aesthetic of any home to every cupboard and drawer. She shares her tips and tricks on Instagram @reset_your_nest.