As a gluten-free cook and baker I typically have around 12 to 15 different flours and starches in my kitchen. From chickpea and coconut to sorghum and brown rice, organizing and storing them all was becoming a challenge, both functionally and aesthetically.
I spent a week researching and deliberating and found a solution that was simple, streamlined, and inexpensive.
BGF (Before Gluten Free), my flour collection consisted of a couple of five-pound bags. Now I have over a dozen flours and starches, which are fun to play with but harder to organize. I often buy Bob's Red Mill brand, as well as flour from Indian and East Asian grocery stores, and most of the flour is packaged in small plastic bags. After opening these bags I'd attempt to seal them with tape, rubber bands, or binder clips and then toss them into larger zip-top bags.
I like to refrigerate flour (for freshness and because I don't have much cupboard space) so all these bags-within-bags were piling up on the refrigerator door shelf. Not only were they becoming an eyesore, but it was frustrating to rifle through the bags to find the flour I needed. The headache continued whenever I had to measure flour out of the plastic bags. There had to be a better way.
My criteria for new containers included things like airtightness, refrigerator and freezer safety, and the capacity to hold about one pound of flour.
Although quart-size mason jars seemed like a good solution, I worried that even the wide-mouth jars would be too narrow to scoop out flour. As I searched for wider containers, I spent days on Amazon and the Container Store's website. I obsessed over reviews, took measurements, and fretted over whether I really wanted to spend a ton of money on the alternatives, almost all of which were made of plastic.
I kept returning to the mason jars because they were just the right size, made of glass, and inexpensive. I also liked the fact that they would be easy to acquire should I need more, and easy to repurpose should I change things in the future.
Yet there was still the pesky issue of the narrow jar openings ... until I discovered the existence of measuring scoops with narrow bowls and long handles. Problem solved! Except for the one-cup scoop, the scoops all easily fit into a wide-mouth mason jar. (Weirdly, the Norpro measuring scoop set does not include a 1/3-cup scoop, so I bought a separate one from Vollrath.)
With the mason jars a go, I replaced the metal lids and bands with simpler plastic storage caps.
Next I needed labels. I wanted to avoid regular stickers, which can be a pain to peel off jars. Luckily I found these easily removable "chalkboard" labels with a waterproof marker that can be wiped off using ammonia or vinegar. The perfect solution for an ever-changing array of flours.
The only drawback is that I can't fit every jar on my refrigerator door shelf. I currently have 13 jars of flour and the shelf fits nine. Depending on how many flours I have at any given time I might store those that are more susceptible to rancidity (such as almond and coconut) in the freezer, and less susceptible (such as refined grains and starches) in a cupboard. But not having all my flours in one place is a small inconvenience compared to the previous mess.
It's funny, after all that deliberation and research, the simplest and cheapest solution was the best one for me. Although the scoops and stickers weren't dirt cheap, the mason jars themselves were so inexpensive that on the whole I didn't spend too much. I love how streamlined the jars look and how easy it is to grab the flour I need. I can also quickly see how much of any flour I have on hand, and when I need to restock. I think I'll be doing even more gluten-free baking now that it's such a pleasure to work with my ingredients.
Originally published 4.16.2014
(Image credits: Emily Han)