The Neat and Realistic Pantry: Part 2: Products and Safety
In this second part of my pantry reveal, I’m going to include links to the products I used and a little bit about plastic and safety. If you haven’t already seen it, check out The Neat and Realistic Pantry: Part 1 first.
I used the following (from top left, then doors):
- 15 quart Clever Store Containers from Rubbermaid
- 30 quart Clever Store Containers with Clever Store Organizing trays from Rubbermaid
- 5 liter bins from Really Useful Boxes (4 liter and 9 liter available)
- Large Ultra Baskets from Sterilite
- Deep Ultra Baskets from Sterilite
- 2″ binder clips (examples here and here)
- Under shelf baskets (example from Deco Brothers)
- 7.5 gallon Stacker Boxes
- Adjustable 8-tier Wall and Door Rack from ClosetMaid
White Baskets and Stacker Boxes from Sterilite
The white baskets are the Sterilite Large Ultra and Deep Ultra Baskets. I purchased the large ones back in 2013 and the smaller ones a little over a year ago in May of 2015, and I’m still just as happy with them as I was when I bought them. I love how well they have held up to our daily use. I’ve only had one that we use in the car break. The clear bins on the floor are 7.5 gallon Stacker Boxes. The lids, latches, and bins themselves are incredibly durable. I use them for heavier items such as rice, sugar, and big bags of flour. I may get more once we reorganize the garage. Unfortunately, I could only find Stackers with black lids at this time. The silver lids may have been discontinued. Also, please ignore the large amounts of rice we have. My husband may be a Prepper.
Clear Bins, Top Left and Center from Rubbermaid
The clear bins at the top on the left and in the center are from Rubbermaid. They are more lightweight and feel a bit less sturdy, so I use them for light party supplies such as paper plates and plastic utensils. The latching handles look a little different on Amazon, but I appear to have three of the 15 quart Clever Store containers and two of the 30 quart Clever Store containers with small Clever Store organizing trays. I do like the trays inside the larger bins. Also, because they are light, I can keep them on the top shelf without much concern for safety. This is especially helpful when I’m in the middle of a party and need something quick. We purchased them a few years ago, and they still look brand new.Clear Bins with Large, Blue Handles from Really Useful Boxes
I bought the bins from Really Useful Boxes at an office supply store because they were on sale, and eventually decided to use them to hold all of the tiny items that were floating around my kitchen (3 kitchens ago). They’re perfect, and I’ve just moved them from house to house as is. I use them for cake decorations, cookie cutters/decorations, and cute items that I use for cooking with the kids. I’ve had these bins for so long (2009?) that I don’t think they make the exact model anymore (5 liter). This 4 liter looks to be close, but it’s not quite as big. You might prefer the 9 liter here if your items are larger. They’re extremely sturdy and could take more abuse than they’re getting right now. Apparently, one could even run them over with a car without damaging them. I really like the latches, how well they nest, their size, and that they are clear.
White Metal Under Shelf Baskets and Hanging Door Shelves
Aside from plastic bins, I have also used white, metal under shelf baskets such as this one from Deco Brothers and hanging door shelves such as this one from ClosetMaid. My friend noted that, because they match the metal shelves already in the pantry, they even look like they’re a part of the original shelves. I’ve used six shelf organizers here, which cost me only about $6 each many years ago, but I see they are much more on Amazon now. I’ve found a 4-pack of varying sizes here for a little less, but you might want to check your local hardware store first. The hanging door shelves are cheaper now, on the other hand, so it evens out. I should note that each package of door shelves comes with 3 sections, but I’ve only used 4 of the total 6 sections in the pantry. The other two are in my bedroom closet where I’m using them to hold gift wrapping materials. I’ve seen much cheaper versions, but their shelves do not adjust. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to move them up or down to fit different products, so I would definitely pay a little more for adjustable shelves.Labels
For labeling the white bins, I’ve used 2″ metal binder clips. I bought these in 2012 and these when I needed more last year. Unfortunately, they’re both currently unavailable, but at least you can get an idea of what I used. Every office supply store will have them. They fit perfectly in the holes of the deep white baskets, but had to be altered/bent to an annoying degree for the shorter white baskets (different number of holes across). I might avoid the shorter baskets altogether just because of this annoyance. Also, I could only find the labels in black. If you can find them in silver, that may look even nicer.
Where to Start
I accumulated most of these items over time, so I didn’t feel the pinch when I purchased them. You may have a more reasonably-sized pantry and more cabinets, so purchasing everything at once may not hurt much. Most of the items here are quite reasonable. If I had to start with only a couple of items, however, I would definitely purchase the white Deep Ultra Baskets , labels of some kind, and the door shelves. The bins last, hold a lot of food, and are priced quite reasonably (only about $30 for 6 large baskets). The shelves are well worth the money in my opinion. One package contains the 3 sections, which fits on one door from top to bottom (I have 2 sections on each door).
Maintenance, Cleanliness, and Plastic
I know. I’m using a lot of plastic here. I don’t typically encourage the use of plastic for both environmental and health reasons, but in this case I embrace plastic wholeheartedly. First, we’re not eating directly from the bins or storing liquids in them, so the leaching of chemicals should be less of an issue. Also, when dealing with food, it’s of course best to keep everything clean for both germ and pest reasons. I must periodically clean the food bins because of an accumulation of crumbs and dust, container leakage, or mold from an out-of-date item at the bottom. After a little hot, soapy water, these babies are clean and back to new. I cringe a little when I see wicker or some other porous material coming in contact with food. I would never be able to keep those baskets clean enough. Ideally, we would be using glass for food storage, but that is just not practical here.
I want to be responsible to my family and you, though, before I fully endorse this pantry. In addition to my passion for organizing, I also care a great deal about the use of chemicals in our everyday products. I needed to know, to the best of my ability, whether one or more of these products would be hurting anyone.
This is what I found…Sterilite
According to the Sterilite website, their products are, “made of polypropylene and polyethylene that are safe for food storage. No PVCs, Latex, Teflon, Phthalates chemicals, fungicides, Bishphenol A (BPAs), or antibacterial chemicals are used in our manufacturing process.”
I was happy to hear that Sterilite plastics don’t contain these chemicals (especially phthalates). I have a lot of their stuff in my home, and always wondered. Phthalates are plastic softeners often found in beauty products (shampoo, lotion, makeup, nail polish, etc.), plastic toys, PVC pipes, polymer clays marketed to children, cars, rain boots and coats, backpacks, and other plastic items often found in the home. The FDA maintains that phthalates are perfectly safe, but I’ve read enough to wonder whether this is true. Unfortunately, these chemicals are thought to be endocrine disrupters, and have been linked by some studies to certain birth defects and diseases, so I’d rather not risk it. According to the CDC, “People are exposed to phthalates by eating and drinking foods that have been in contact with containers and products containing phthalates. To a lesser extent, exposure can occur from breathing in air that contains phthalate vapors or dust contaminated with phthalate particles. Young children may have a greater risk of being exposed to phthalate particles in dust than adults because of their hand-to-mouth behaviors. Once phthalates enter a person’s body, they are converted into breakdown products (metabolites) that pass out quickly in urine.”
I’m happy to know that it passes out of us quickly, and doesn’t build up in our bodies like other chemicals. Unfortunately, we’re so exposed that I suspect that there probably isn’t a time when we don’t have some floating in there. Because these softeners/molecules are not physically bound to plastics, that means they can leach into food and even just dust off into our air. The idea that my home has harmful dust floating around is almost enough to send me to my happy place (because where else could I hide?). I don’t even want to think about the flame retardants in our upholstery and naturally occurring lead that just makes its way in from outside, but I digress.Really Useful Boxes
Really Useful Boxes says that, “Our boxes are made from polypropylene, the most commonly used recyclable plastic, and can be recycled in recycling bins and centres.”
It’s nice to know that I could recycle one if it ever did break (unlikely). This did not answer my safety question, however. I’ve noticed that polypropylene seems to be in a lot of our household plastics, so I decided to look it up. Results were mixed. The consensus seems to be that they are generally safe. Even when used in cosmetics, the Environmental Working Group considers polypropylene to be a low-risk item (with a score of only 1), so I am satisfied for now.Rubbermaid
I had a difficult time finding a straight answer on the safety of the Rubbermaid Clever Store containers. On a page dedicated to consumers’ concerns regarding BPA, Rubbermaid states (at the bottom), “…no current Rubbermaid consumer food storage products contain BPA, phthalates, dioxins, adipates or other plasticizers—so they do not leach these sorts of chemicals under any circumstances, including microwaving and dishwashing.” Unfortunately, however, these Clever Store containers are not considered food storage containers by Rubbermaid. In response to one consumer question for the storage tray use with food, they state: “Our storage totes and clear boxes have not been tested for food storage. Products intended for use in contact with food comply with all applicable United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. Food contact products are identified as such by wording and illustration on their packaging. Products without such designation should not be used for food contact purposes.”
Fortunately, these containers include the handy triangle symbol with a 5 inside and PP below. This means that it is made from polypropylene (same as Really Useful Boxes), which is fine with me. I would have loved a straight answer from Rubbermaid stating that none of their consumer products contained nasty chemicals, but we can’t always have what we want.Door Shelves, Under Shelf Baskets, and Pantry Shelving
I visited the ClosetMaid Site, and was pleased to find that the door shelves are, “Material: Epoxy coated metal and wire.” The Deco Brothers Under Shelf Baskets are also “Made from heavy gauge steel” and “Durable epoxy coating.” Epoxy appears to be terrible for you if you inhale it or get any on your skin before it cures, or if you breathe any dust from sanding it. Otherwise, hardened epoxy seems to pose no known risks after it has hardened according to .
When purchasing coated metal products, avoid those that are coated with rubber. Natural rubber does exist, but the material known as “rubber” in most of our products is actually vinyl rubber (a PVC procuct). Vinyl rubber is softened by phthalates.
So, as far as I can tell, the products I’ve used do not pose any hazards when used as I am here. I still wouldn’t heat plastics of any kind in the microwave or use plastic to store or drink liquids. One day we might find that they contain a new, yet to be discovered hazard, but for now I am satisfied. [For the record, I know cans are lined with BPA-containing plastic, and this is really bad. The vast majority of our meals don’t involve canned foods anymore, but compromise is sometimes necessary.]
If avoiding chemicals in our everyday products interests you, I recommend checking out the Women’s Voices for the Earth. The information they provide is pretty thorough (and for men too, of course). I would also recommend checking out the Environmental Working Group. They are just amazing, and provide ratings for so many products from sunscreens and cosmetics to household cleaners. Finally, if you would like to read even more about chemicals and using responsible products in the home, please check out my “Health and Beauty” Pinterest board. I update it whenever I find reliable and interesting information on these topics.