Make easy canister labels

Do you ever have trouble remembering what’s inside your kitchen canisters?

When Jennifer and I were growing up, Mom used four metal canisters to hold flour, sugar, brown sugar — and tea, I think it was — in that order, from the largest to the smallest. They weren’t labeled, nor were they airtight. It was years before I realized that you were supposed to be able to scoop up brown sugar instead of chisel it with a paring knife.

Labels help you know at a glance what's inside kitchen containers.

Labels help you know at a glance what’s inside kitchen containers.

When I set up my own kitchen, I purchased airtight lime-green Tupperware® canisters. They came with nifty little preprinted labels to identify a variety of contents: flour, powdered sugar, rice, brown sugar, snacks, biscuit mix, tea, flour, coffee, cookies, sugar, etc. That was some thirty years ago.

As I gradually changed my eating habits, I started to get confused about the canisters’ new contents. The one that used to hold sugar now contained whole-wheat flour. What used to keep powdered milk fresh now rattled with popcorn kernels, ready for the air popper. I needed new labels for these items along with some for whole-wheat flour, oat bran, and steel-cut-oats. The preprinted labels didn’t include those options.

So I made my own labels. You can too. All you need is a sheet of paper, clear tape, and either a computer and printer or a typewriter — or the ability to write legibly, a skill I don’t seem to possess.

After keyboarding the names in a font I liked, I wrapped each in a box or rectangular “autoshape” (as Microsoft Word calls it), and printed the page of assorted labels. Then with scissors I cut out each box. Using a swatch of 2-inch clear tape, I attached them to the canisters. The tape protects the paper from splatters, and when you eventually decide to remove the labels, there’s no annoying sticky-paper mess left behind, as often happens with regular labels.

I like to use powdered milk when I bake. I can't taste any difference in baked goods, and the economical dry powder never sours.

Sample label: I like to use powdered milk when I bake. I can’t taste any difference in baked goods, and the economical dry powder never sours.

You may have noticed I have six lime-green canisters in the photo, two more than came in the original set of four. That’s because I pick up extras at yard sales when lime green isn’t such a cool kitchen color. The Savage Sisters don’t mind holding on to useful items until they come back into style — if they’re still in good condition and we liked them in the first place.

Of course Jennifer might have found a way to hot-glue flowers or lace on them to get them through the uncool period. I hope she has a chance between hospital shifts to blog soon about some of her amazing decorating ideas.


As you’re cutting out the labels, our legal department wants us to remind you not to run with scissors.

Written by Fiercely Frugal Savage Sister Diana

© 2009, The Savage Sisters

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5 Responses to Make easy canister labels

  1. carolyn says:

    I used to have those same lime green cannisters. Over the years, they seem to have disappeared. I only have two left and for some reason, since I’ve moved to the dry side of the state, the one I’ve used for years to store brown sugar no longer keeps it soft and moist. Any ideas?

  2. Colleen says:

    My mom always said to throw a piece of bread in the container with the brown sugar and that would soften it. Can’t hurt to try! On another note, I never thought about using dried milk for cooking. We’ve gone to drinking vanilla soy milk and that just doesn’t work for cooking. I dislike buying a full container of milk only to use a cup or so. Great idea!

  3. Linda says:

    I have heard that a slice of bread works. I have never tried it.

    I too had those Tupperware Lime Green canisters…I think I left them behind with my X-husband…….

  4. savagesisters says:


    Tupperware should be airtight, so it sounds like something might be preventing a proper seal. My first thought is to check where the lid meets the canister. Is the seal bad, or is there a small crack or hole somewhere? If it were me, I’d dump the sugar into another container, fill the Tupperware canister with water, and see if any water drips out. If I couldn’t see any water dripping from the canister itself, I’d turn it upside down to check the seal. (Do all this over the sink to prevent a mess. Yep. The voice of experience speaking.) The solution might be something as simple as a dollop of silicone or a layer of plastic wrap between the lid and container. I wonder if Tupperware still provides free replacements when their products don’t perform well? If you discover the canister to be damaged, I know that years ago Diana was able to purchase a single replacement canister when a waffle iron lid tipped back too far and melted a gouge into the flour canister. Of course, they might be out of that lovely lime-green color by now . . . .

    ~ by Jennifer for the Savage Sisters

  5. carolyn says:

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’d forgotten about the bread trick. I’ll give it a try. I’ll also do the experiment with the water. As for the lime green color–it was never my favorite, but hey, I kept the cannister out of sight. Also have a mustard yellow and bright orange, also out of sight. Come to think of it, I might try putting the brown sugar in one of those.

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