(Alternate title: Did I ever tell you about the ants in the Cheerios?)
The deja vu set in almost immediately as I read this plea from Michelle:
Hello The Beautiful Pretty and Resourceful Mir,
This morning I was enjoying a healthy bowl of Raisin Bran when I noticed
little black dots floating in my milk. Upon closer inspection, they had
legs. LEGS!!! After bleaching my mouth, I tossed all of my boxes of
cereal, flour, etc. However, this has made it difficult to feed my cereal
addiction, but I would like to outfit my pantry with (cheap) containers with
will keep any future scavengers out of my food before I buy any more. I’m
looking for (cheap) stackable, space saving, sealed containers in a variety
of sizes. Everything I’ve found online so far is way to expensive for the
quantity I need to buy, and did I mention that I need something cheap? Can
you recommend anything? Websites? Coupons?
We’ve all had that moment, right? The one where we vow to hermetically seal every food item in the house or just stop eating? (Thank goodness no one’s ever found ants in the Ben & Jerry’s, because I still twitch a little in the presence of Cheerios….)
I want to talk about containers, yes. But first, I want to talk about some corollary issues, because it’s a full-service gig around here like that.
#&*@#! ants. I don’t care how clean your house is; at least where I live, no one is immune to a summertime ant infestation. It comes with the territory. There are chemical companies who will cheerfully offer to come spray your house exterior for a gazillion dollars and thereby completely prevent an invasion (or they’ll come out and treat again), but I don’t think that’s a very cost-effective option unless you actually have some sort of ant phobia. Less expensive is spraying around the perimeter, yourself (supplies available at your local Giant Hardware Store). Better still are the new outdoor poison discs.
They look a lot like the discs we all put around the house inside, but they have an attached spike for driving into the ground and they’re intended for outside. They’re cheap and (in my limited experience thus far) they seem to work. Rock on.
As for inside? There are a million ant remedies that don’t involve pesticides, and I certainly advocate things like a protective ring of boric acid along the baseboards and whatnot if you have the time and the patience and the planning to do so. On the other hand, nothing ruins my day faster than finding insects in my pantry. Every spring I buy a few packs of those poison discs and put one at the back of every pantry shelf. At least that way, the ants tend to go for the poison before the snacks.
Sealing up food. There’s nothing like a little infestation to make you want to triple-seal every speck of food in your house. I understand. On the other hand, for most people it’s just not going to be practical to put everything into containers. So here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Chip clips: You can get a package of 4 or 5 sturdy “chip clips” at your local Dollar Store for, well, a dollar. Have a bunch on hand in your kitchen junk drawer. Use them for things like bags of chips, absolutely. Also consider using them for your cereal; with the bag sealed by a clip, your cardboard cereal box is now just as “safe” as a fancy canister. We also use them for bags of cookies. Not that we ever buy cookies.
- Remember the freezer! Anyone remember this post about freezing things? In it I pointed out that the freezer is an underutilized way to keep things like rice and flours bug-free. If you have a big freezer, don’t forget about all of the dry goods you can be stashing in there.
- Zip it, zip it good: Never underestimate the power of a good Ziploc. Again; if you can afford to outfit your entire kitchen in containers, good on ya. But if you can’t? Ziploc bags will achieve a similar bug-barrier for a fraction of the cost.
- Recycle: More and more food items are coming in glass or plastic containers that can be washed and reused. So wash and reuse. (Duh.)
Alright, then! On to the containers themselves!
The first thing Michelle did, after asking me this question, was provide an excellent answer, herself, which I think was really overachieving-ish of her. My first thought was also the first link she forwarded to me—Ikea has a line of kitchen storage that won’t send you to the poorhouse. Unfortunately, it looks like their containers aren’t available for online purchase, so you’ll need a local Ikea to get your hands on those.
Some of my favorite large storage containers have come from playing the odds a bit; I haven’t seen them do this in a while, but Tupperware used to routinely offer $100 “surprise packs” for $10 or so. You never knew what you’d be getting, and it almost always contained an item or two that made me go, “Huh?” But I also got some large, expensive containers (in discontinued colors, natch) that way.
And of course, there’s clearance at your favorite stores. Sometimes you’ll find that Rubbermaid Container Shape 47 is being discontinued and you can get a good deal on it.
Don’t forget to check out your local Big Chain craft stores. They often carry the larger containers and also run a weekly 40% off coupon in the paper.
There’s still some time to go yard saling, but that’s chancy and also, how do you feel about used food containers? They can be washed out, but…. Well, it’s not for everyone.
Lastly, don’t forget the disposable storagewear like Glad and Ziploc containers. I’m not sure if they make containers large enough for things like entire bags of cereal, but it’s worth taking a look to see what you can find.
Most importantly, remember: Friends don’t let friends eat Cheerios with ants in them. Just sayin’.