Why I’m storing dry goods in a kitchen pantry with containers and bay leaves.

How to store dry goods in a kitchen pantry with containers and bay leaves to keep pests away.

Happy New Year! Anyone else dreaming about cleaning and purging? I admit, I have started with the Marie Condo method once again and hit my own closet hard! 

And even took a trip to the dump after giving my workshop a good clean after the table saw lesson from my brother Les.

Things are coming along quite nicely here! I want to start kicking up some real dust with renovating, but I want to return things that need returning and do some purging first so there’s room to move around, know what I mean?

However, my cleaning focus of clothing quickly changed course… this post is all about how and why I’m storing dry goods in a kitchen pantry with containers and bay leaves.

Chippy white, black and wood rustic kitchen

I really love my kitchen island.

It’s the central focus to my entire upstairs, and it also happens to be where I store all my dry goods thanks to some stationary and slide-out drawers. An island that stores lots is a good investment!

However it’s been hiding a dark secret that started in the new year.

In all the 10 years I’ve lived here, if I had a spilled bag of sugar or flour in the island, that just meant it was due to be cleaned up. Nothing more.

However I must have brought home something contaminated over the holidays, because it was as if overnight, I invited an entire village of critters to the island for a major feast.

And NO! I did not take pictures. I don’t even want to explain anything I saw. But let’s just say, those food bags could have walked out on their own.

(After freaking out), I started throwing everything out. FAST.

Then I vacuumed the drawers, and gave them a deep clean wash-down, as well as all surrounding areas.

Every single food can also got inspected. This was a good opportunity to throw out anything past due date as well, in which there were a few.

And of course, at that very moment, I wished I had hundreds of dollars worth of stackable beautiful perfectly matching Tupperware to make everything safe and airtight instantly.

In fact, I had just found a local Tupperware consultant and was lining up a meeting….

Then the threat of a snowstorm overtook the sky. Lovely. With no food in the pantry, I was forced to shop for dry goods not knowing how I’d deal with it once home. 

How to safely store dry goods in a kitchen pantry with airtight containers and bay leaves to keep pests away.

I used:

Price efficient Glad plastic containers


Masking Tape

Bay leaves

While shopping, on a whim I decided to pick up some of those cheap Glad plastic containers. Although not completely airtight, I remembered their seals being pretty good. I mean, for $20, I got quite a few and it was at least better than nothing for a start.

I don’t bake any longer (because I eat it!), but I do like to have a little flour, sugar and grains on hand, so this served me for the time-being.

I didn’t even bother to make pretty labels. A cluttered chaotic kitchen is something I avoid at all costs, so this was about doing this on the cheap, easy and FAST. So masking tape and a sharpie was my fancy label maker for the day.

How to safely store dry goods in a kitchen pantry with airtight containers and bay leaves to keep pests away.

Feeling better already! But, did you notice something on those containers?

Along the way, some tips online shared a few ways to avoid dry food pests.

And the most organic, instant way? 

kitchen island pantry cleanup with bayleaves and airtight containers-002

Bay leaves.


So I put it to the test. I found a critter and placed a bayleaf beside it. It came to inspect, then quickly dashed off in the opposite direction! Hot dang.

So now there’s bayleaves EVERYWHERE. On the containers and beside.

How to safely store dry goods in a pantry with added bay leaves to keep pests away.

How to safely store dry goods in a kitchen pantry with airtight containers and bay leaves to keep pests away.

Then everything else went back in.

All dressed up with bay leaves of course…

How to safely store dry goods in a kitchen pantry with airtight containers and bay leaves to keep pests away.

I use to store BIG bags of flour and sugar in this second island drawer, but no more! Maybe if I bake again, I’ll get outfitted with much larger containers for this area. After all the purging I did, I certainly have the room.

I could put more food in this area from another closet, however I want to get more containers before doing that. This appeared to be the only infected area.

How to safely store dry goods in a kitchen pantry with airtight containers and bay leaves to keep pests away.

And of course, I’m also now going to do the entire kitchen, in case. So far, I don’t see any major issues.

How to safely store dry goods in a kitchen pantry with airtight containers and bay leaves to keep pests away.

Being that this issue is a very first for me, I collected some other tips I found interesting…

Other pantry de-bug advice I found:

  • Ditch all boxes and place all dry goods in sealable containers. The bugs are attracted to the glue on boxes and can return.
  • Pantry moths can come from any dry goods and especially rice. Egads.
  • It doesn’t matter where you shop. Any critters can come from anywhere. Carefully inspect everything you bring home just in case. All it took was for me to bring home one contaminated box and it was game on.
  • You can ‘fog’ your kitchen, which is a bug repellent but you’ll have to leave your home for a few hours.

I’m sure there’s plenty of other advice on how to ditch this issue, however I am hopeful I caught it in time so I don’t have to do anything drastic. While this is a first, I’m hoping it’s a last!

While I didn’t anticipate on attacking the kitchen quite yet, it sure is feeling nice now that I did.

What are you currently working on? And do you have any tips to share on this issue?

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23 thoughts on “Why I’m storing dry goods in a kitchen pantry with containers and bay leaves.

  1. I use glass containers – antique jars, actually – to store rice, sugar, pasta, flour, etc. and have never had a problem. I’ve also read before that putting some things – flour, for instance – in the freezer for a few days after purchase will rid the packaging of any bugs that could be there. I haven’t tried that, so I don’t know if it works or not.

    • Margaret’s right. Putting your flour/corn meal and the like in your deep freeze after purchase will destroy any critters or critter eggs in the product.

      They’re in there so it’s a good practice. In fact the freezer is where I store my extra baking products.

  2. I have the same containers and use the same old reliable tape and Sharpie method for items that are not permanent items in my pantry. For the core items; they get a more permanent label from my trusty label printer. I’ve never heard of the bay leaf idea but if it works, fantastic. I’ve even ditched my old spice rack in favour of mini Glad containers because we have so many different spies and herbs now that our sons have developed tastes of their own.

  3. I can not abide crawling, flying, sneaking insects and dirty thIngs making a home in my pantry. Therefore, I too use glass jars, mainly canning. All of my pastas, rice, bread crumbs, etc have homes in them and if you don’t use them frequently they can be sealed with a bag sealer attachment. My sugar and flours are kept in glass gallon jars pickles used to come in. I also found that if you have a mouse problem, which we battle because of living next to a stream and woods, that whole cloves spread around will keep them out of your pantry.

  4. Like Margaret, I too use antique jars to store all my dry goods. I typically transfer everything to the jars immediately after return from the store. We have a few cats on our farm but still get the occasional mouse. I don’t know what’s worse, mice or bugs. I hate them both! Good luck with your new storage system. It feels so good to have everything clean and organized. I’m going to try the bay leaf trick just as a preventative. Thank you for the tip.

  5. I think pests in the kitchen pantry are the worst! I’ve had an Indian Meal Moth invasion before and it wasn’t pretty. I put my flour & sugar in the freezer for 48 hours before emptying it into my Rubbermaid containers. I found out where the meal moths came from – never ever bring birdseed into the house. Now I look around in the aisles of the store for any telltale signs of bugs before I purchase anything. Even our dog’s food is stored in an airtight container.

    On another note, I just received my latest copy of “Flea Market Decor” magazine and loved the article they did on you and your garage makeover!

  6. Over the years I have used several types of storage containers. Love glass jars and even had a dozen or more of the gallon size “pickle jars”, but they eat up precious space. Square and rectangle work best. I find box cereal the worst bug offender, if you have a cereal that sits around for a long time, nasties love it. I love the bay leaf idea, going to try it.

  7. HI Donna,
    I had pantry moths last year in my kitchen. It was awful!I I had to throw out so much food it made me sick. They were everywhere. They lay eggs anywhere they can find a spot. I even pulled back some of my wallpaper & they had payed egggs under the wallpaper. I threw out all my dry goods, stored everthing in the frig & washed everything with soap & water. The best advice I read was to use a mix of water/vinegar in a spray bottle & if you see anymore to spray them with the mix. I sprayed the areas where they had been too & that is what really helped to get rid of them once & for all.
    I hope I never have to go thru that again. It is really important to inspect your dry goods on a regular basis, especially items you don’t use regularly.
    Have a great weekend!

  8. I use stackable Tupperware and Ball Canning Jars. I’ve collected these over the years. I also use the sharpie method on items in the fridge (my kids know if they open a package to write the date on it — husband still has to learn, though. hahaha) For the jars and Tupperware I used a labeler. I guess since I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years I’ve never had a pest problem.

  9. I have been plagued with pantry moths and now always keep the triangle shaped moth traps in my cupboards. I think they came from a box of rice I bought. They also for some unknown reason seemed to flood my Bose CD player, worms and all. I always dusted but never paid any attention to the inside or bottom till I saw one fly out of the unit. It was teeming with the disgusting critters. I am on alert now all over the house. Haven’t found any more but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in there hiding! Good luck and check your whole house…they are sneaky. on my way out to buy Bay leaves! Happy New Year!

  10. Those bugs are horrible! Luckily I haven’t had the problem. BUT I’ll be vigilant and check the cupboard. My husband is not very good about sealing the Bisquick box and I haven’t paid much attention to that until you mentioned this now. I’m taking action! Everything else is either in plastic containers or the freezer or sealed in plastic.

  11. We have battled pantry moths twice now. They are horrible. We threw out a ton of food, washed everything down, put up tons of bay leaves and put dry goods in heavy duty Tupperware. But they came back – ANY dry good is vulnerable – brownie mixes in boxes, taco shell boxes. They are attracted to the glue. Repeated process and keep things like taco shells in fridge. I don’t buy mixes unless I know I’m going to use them right away. You can’t stockpile during sales, which isn’t fun, but if you tried, you might end up throwing it all out anyway. And, yes, put flour, sugar, cornmeal, etc, in freezer first!

  12. I have been doing some organizing of pantry items lately myself. Inspired by a friend who is working at ridding her kitchen of plastics, I find myself using canning jars. I always like to buy foods in glass, so it is a natural to use canning jars. They come in two quart, quart, pint and half pint sizes. And I re-use jars with good sealing lids for my spices that I buy in bulk.

    Consider glass. It is a good alternative.

    Also, I use the brightly colored painter tape to label the jars. When the food is used up the tape comes off without leaving a residue. And the jars go through the dishwasher, getting ready for future use. My friend also freezes food in canning jars.

    Just some ideas. I do prefer glass and re-use some and love the look of my collection of canning jars.

  13. Put your flour in the freezer for a few days. That will get rid of bugs. I do that before I put it into an airtight container.

  14. We had this issue in an old house that we rented as we were saving to buy our current house. I am not sure if it was an existing problem or one that was forced through odd weather patterns but YUCK. Cinnamon is a natural deterrant. If you have a lid or shallow container you can leave a few sprinkles in each and place in your draws. Also eucalpytus was a HUGE savior. We left bayleaves and eucalyptus all around our kitchen and in our draws. So sorry you are dealing with this! What a HUGE pain.

  15. We live in the “boonies” in TN. We have a few acres with woods on two sides and we all know that woods have critters. Lots of deer, bunnies, raccoons, an occasional fox, and lots of little mice that love to come inside when it gets really cold outside. A few years ago, after having to throw away half of our pantry items, we started buying glass jars and heavy plastic containers to store everything in. In 13 years, I don’t think we have ever had any bug type critters but I wonder if the bay leaves would deter the mice??? Anyway, love this idea and have already added bay leaves to my shopping list.

    Thanks for all of your great ideas – your blog is one of my very favorites.

  16. I feel your dismay Donna at those critters. I ran into a problem also with mice. A quarry has begun mining right across the street from our home and have been doing a lot of blasting. The blasting has driven many a critter over to the homes nearby. Deer, fox, rabbits, squirrels, snakes, mice. Mice was what we dealt with. And like you we resorted to storing all dry goods in tall glass containers and Tupperware, etc. It has helped immensely. Had to put out traps and eventually poison. The mice became educated about the traps and I think they put the word out because they became moot. As some of your followers do, I store a lot of my baking supplies in the freezer. Especially flour. It keeps very well. Our family lives in a rural area and it’s beautiful. The quarry is very well hidden. Many trees and ground cover muffle most of the sounds. But the animals sure got stirred up. Wish you luck in the future with unwanted visitors.

  17. These things will drive you crazy. I have pantry moths, they come in through the windows and doors. One year I got them (8 years ago) and they have never left my house. Gone in the winter, back every summer. We do all sorts of things, BUT they don’t get in my food. I have everything in plastic storage containers, they seal on all sides though. Moths can get into the gladware type containers, because they don’t fully seal. Unfortunately, I had to invest in storage containers. Moths can eat through any cardboard, plastic wrappers, so everything but cans has to be sealed away. I have not heard about bay leaves will have to look into that.

  18. I battled them for a few months. Between vinegar and water and strong bug spray I overcame the invasion. Also, bought out hobby lobby of all airtight glass containers. I purged my pantry and island, and after much searching online, realized they can come in on boxes, birdseed, cat and dog food, rice and all seeds and dry goods. They can also eat through plastic and paper. I read some truly horror stories bout what some people went through. I was determined to win!! So far so good, but I keep an eye out for any small flying moths.

  19. Don’t be surprised if some of your dry items, especially flour and sugar pick up the flavor of the bay leaves. I’ve fought the battle of the unwanted critters for many, many years. No bugs with the bay leaves, but the family would not eat food flavored with bay leaves. The neighbors horses were the beneficiary of the grains that we wouldn’t eat. I do think that using glass containers would help to keep both the bugs out and the flavor of the bay leaves out if you still used them. But, plastic anything just picks up the flavors on its own. Good luck. It is a life long challenge.

    • Thanks for your suggestions Sonja! Glass does appear to be the most suggested storage container! I had to grab something locally fast so this is what I was able to get on short notice. I’ll be changing out to glass eventually! But the good news is, I haven’t had the issue since, so this has worked! Yay!

  20. Donna, most thrift stores carry used canning jars and mine also keeps lids.
    a dip in a bleach solution and into the dishwasher makes them clean to use.
    I’ve even found square fancy jar containers with large rubberized lid/stoppers that work well for under a dollar. ann lee s

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