metal kitchen canisters

Years ago, every kitchen had a set of kitchen canisters. I vividly remember the ones Mom and Grandma used. Mom’s were ceramic and Grandma’s canisters were made of tin and had striped labels identifying their contents as flour, sugar, coffee, and tea.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I see how storing these items in airtight containers made a lot of sense for women in Mom’s and Grandma’s generations. They always had these (and other) staples on hand and the airtight containers kept them fresher than a paper sack would. Also, very importantly, kitchen canisters with well-fitted lids kept pests like ants and mice out. And they were much prettier than boxes and paper bags!

I was surprised to learn that Mom’s and Grandma’s kitchen canisters — which I thought were vintage items — had never really gone out of style. All kinds of attractive containers are available today to match any kitchen décor. I’ve seen them made of materials as varied as ceramic, marble, glass, or metal — some even with a window so you can see the contents.

But for me, old coffee cans make great canisters. I use them to store my opened bags of grains, like barley and millet, and legumes, like split peas, and am confident they’ll stay fresh and bug-free. On the coffee can’s plastic lid, I write the contents of the can. And I put the lid from another can on the bottom to protect against rust stains.

Of course, I could decorate my upcycled coffee can canisters to make them as pretty as store-bought. I could paint them or cover them with pages from an old calendar or used wrapping paper. I could even wrap them with leftover yarn, twine, ribbon, or fabric scraps to add a decorative touch to my kitchen. So many possibilities for my upcycled canisters!

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By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.