Jar Storage: Sheet Pans and the Space Under the Couch

March 17, 2015

living room couch

This is my couch. It once belonged to my grandparents and family lore dates it back to around 1960. When I was very young, it was covered in a burnt orange upholstery. Sometime in the mid-eighties, my grandmother had it recovered in the very pink fabric you now see.

under the couch

Some might thing that after 55 years of service, it would be time for a new sofa, but I disagree. I am never getting rid of this couch (though it may well get another upholstery job sometime in the new future). It is impossibly comfortable (it is ideal for napping, sleeping even my 6’4″ husband comfortably), is built like a beast (our Pottery Barn loveseat is falling to pieces after two years. This one has served for a half-century), and best of all, has magical storage space underneath.

sheet of jams

I’ve had boxes of jars and preserves stuffed under this couch for years now, but it was always a haphazard arrangement. It was hard to keep track of what was down there and fishing out the exact box I was looking for was forever an exercise in frustration. A couple times I drove myself crazy looking for jars from a particular batch of chutney, finally discovering they were tucked away in the far corner under the couch.

jars overhead

Then a solution fell in my lap. I ordered a lot of seven old sheet pans from eBay in my on-going search for good photo backdrops (well-worn metal being a prized surface among food bloggers). My original intention was to keep just one or two. However, once they arrived, I started wondering what other role they might be able to serve.

sheets of jars

In a flash of genius, I realized that I could pull all the boxes out from under the couch and replace them with the sheet pans. It would be easier to slide the jars in and out and since I already label my jars on the lid, I’d be able to find the exact jar I was looking for with a single glance.

jars under the couch

And so, I started pulling my various jar storage mechanisms apart. It was one of those projects that felt insane halfway through. I had boxes and jars all over the apartment. I categorized, purged elderly jars, and even found a couple preserves that had lost their seal. My husband made a comment about productive procrastination (I do have a book manuscript due in just six weeks), but endured the days of chaos without complaint.

butters sheet

What I have now is a really workable storage system for half-pint jars (my couch isn’t quite tall enough to accommodate anything larger). They’re sorted into jams, pickles and chutneys, butters and marmalades, and jelly, syrups and whole fruit. While this doesn’t house the entirety of my pantry, it’s a goodly chunk and for that, I am grateful.

Tips to Implement Something Similar

  1. New sheet pans are expensive, but old ones can be had relatively cheaply if you know where to look. I paid $40 for seven on eBay and there are more to be had for similar prices. You can also call your local restaurant supply store. Often they sell new and used gear, and might have a stack of used pans that they’d be willing to part with for less than brand new retail.
  2. One of the reasons this works is that my floors are carpeted. If you have floors made of scratch-prone material, I’d suggest putting some felt pads on the bottom of the pans. These will help them slide and will protect your floors.
  3. Make sure to label the pans. This storage method is going to serve you best if you know where various categories of preserves live. My groupings might not make sense for you, but make sure you create some order within the chaos.
  4. If you don’t have a similarly cooperative couch, consider using this same approach with the space under a bed or dresser.

Now, it’s your turn. What creative approaches do you use to keep your homemade pantry organized and contained?

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22 responses to “Jar Storage: Sheet Pans and the Space Under the Couch”

  1. Love it! I used under my dresser and under a sweater cabinet in the same way but using boxes – I love the sheet pan idea!

    I also have stored jars under shelving units

    I am in the midst of a kitchen remodel w/ all custom cabinetry and had shelves built for my wall sized exactly for jars repeating sets of 1qt, 1 pint and rm 1/2 pint shelves w/ just the barest amount of clearance between the jars and the next shelf- i live in 348 sq ft so there can’t be any wasted space! They should go up this week!

  2. I have half-pint jars stored in boxes under a folding bookcase between the kitchen and breakfast room, and I may take full advantage of your idea instead, but I also use a slider on top of a kitchen counter for my KitchenAid mixer – I put it on a cutting board which slides easier than the mixer alone. I keep it in a deep corner and pull it out easily when I need it. I also need to get the too-small wardrobe out from under my bed (stored in a clear plastic bag) and replace it with you-know-what! I am all over sliding things around for ease!

  3. So clever!! I am always fascinated at the solutions people come up with for storage in small spaces. And I love your sofa’s history.

  4. We are very fortunate to have a root cellar, which is where we keep all our jams & butters. My husband told me that our little nephew discovered it one summer when they were visiting and his eyes got very big “This is where you keep all the jam!” (He’s crazy in love with our blackcap jam) Then he asked “Does Aunt Juli know about this?”

  5. First off; I Love your sofa. Don’t blame you one little bit for keeping it. I would as well cause they just don’t build furniture like they used to.
    My extra storage area is under my bed. Got some old drawers from Habitat For Humanity; put small casters on the bottom ; added a drawer handle )already had old handles) and very easy to roll out and roll back under the bed. Out of site, out of mind. I do keep a listing on my fridge as to what I have stored and where.

  6. I have also used the under the sofa idea for many years, but the sliding pan is a wonderful improvement. I used a root cellar, the absolute best, when I lived in an old home for 20 years. BUT now, I am moving onto a sailboat to live for the next 5 to 10 years while I sail the world. I am already stressing how to store all my jars safely and conveniently. My husband tells me there will be “lots” of room, but I know better. Does anyone out there have any thoughts on how to store jars efficiently and keep jars from bumping at the same time? BTW, the husband is already dreaming of crazy jam in a remote location!

    • Marcia, I save the boxes the canning jars come in so that they are easy to move when bringing them to my brother’s for our Christmas party.
      There is also a fabric you can buy specifically for lining shelve on boats so that things will stay put. Can’t remember what it is called, but they sell it at Walmart in the household department. Some people use it to sew on the bottom of slippers so that they won’t skid. Worth looking into.

    • Look into jarboxes. They’re a molded plastic clamshell type case for jars that keeps them from bashing into each other and breaking. Bonus points for your situation – plastic cases wont disintegrate when they get wet like cardboard.

      • Thanks Rebecca! I will definitely look into jar boxes which we will probably store in the hull of the boat. The boxes that the jars come in are made of cardboard that not only will disintegrate, but it is a great place for roaches to make a home. Most sailors try to leave all paper/cardboard boxes on land and not bring any onto the boat, especially when in foreign lands.

        • I live on a boat in British Columbia. Try storing your jars with thick rubber bands around them to reduce rattling. Be careful of any fabric or foam as it will rot in the tropics. I keep my rings on a bungy cord hanging in a closet. You could store the rings on the jars but it might rust between the ring and the jar. Also your labels will mold in no time flat. Use masking tape or write on the lid. Otherwise you will have mystery jars that will need to guess at the contents. Have a great and safe trip!

  7. Seeing these images, I was reminded of Lucille Ball in The Long Long Trailer, she stored her canning jars under the sofa too.

  8. I have live in a raised ranch style house also known as a split entry. In the basement there is a shelf that lines one entire wall of both rooms. One room is a guest bedroom that stays kind of dark and cool all year round. I store my canned goods on that wall. It looks so pretty. They take up the part of the wall to the left of the window. The rest of the wall is family pictures. If I keep canning, I may have to find a new place for the pictures.

    I remember that Lucille Ball movie, too. Between the canning goods and the rocks she collected, I’m surprised they survived the trip. LOL

  9. I think it’s wonderful that you still have a couch from so long ago and it’s still in good condition. I’m on my second couch in 10 years. They definitely don’t make furniture like they used to.

    As for jar storage, I keep mine in the basement in numbered boxes with lids. I keep a notebook with the boxes where I log in the preserve, how many jars of it, the use-by date and which box it is in. This way I just need to find what I’m looking for in the log and then I know which box it’s in. Also, I can see what is oldest and needs to be used up. This system works well for me.

  10. This is fantastic! I have just run out of room and need to reorganize – hopefully next week while on spring break – and this is just what I needed to read! THANK YOU!!!!!

  11. Did you know that Mrs. Johnson (wife of LBJ) made pink a color of high fashion during LBJ term in office? My grandmother had a PINK bathroom; it was well PINK! She also had a grey hide away sofa that was over seven feet long and it slept great. Even after my grandparents passed we kept that sofa. I wish I still had it today; not only was it very well made; it was very comfortable to sit or sleep on. Your is beautiful just the way it is! Put a fitted cover over it rather than reupholstering it. It might be worth some $$ the way it is!

  12. Love this idea.

    Unfortunately the frame of my couch goes almost to the floor. And I have hardwood floors throughout the house. Everything (except the couch) is open to view.

    I suppose I could put them under the dresser in the bedroom, but that is a long trek and doesn’t really make much sense.

    I have put more storage in my kitchen. I put shelves in a broom closet and have a sideboard in there against a blank and otherwise useless wall.

    But then again, I don’t produce jars at the rate you do so a shelf in the sideboard (half the shelf really) is plenty of room for what I make.

    I have had buying half sheet pans on my list of things to do for quiet some time. A full sheet won’t fit in my vintage O’Keefe and Merritt oven. A half sheet will probably barely fit. But I really want a good, heavy duty half sheet pan that will NOT warp. So I’m still looking.

  13. I save shoe boxes with attached lids – or really any box that has a lid that is attached – and store most of my jars on shelves in the basement. We don’t have air conditioning, so it stays cooler there in warm weather, and is always dark. A lot of my canning is for gifts, so this also keeps us from eating the Christmas presents. I have a shelf in the pantry for us.

  14. Those sheet pans are about $11 for a 2 pack at Sam’s Club. I have been using some of mine for 25 years and buy them for gifts pretty often.

  15. Ha! Love this storage idea! We tend to have way too many jars around and the new home we’re moving to doesn’t have much kitchen storage space or a large pantry! Thanks for the idea 🙂

  16. I have used heavy plastic pet trays, meant for the bottom of a pet pen, for this. The sizes are varied enough to find the right one for any spot. I buy them at Farm and Fleet for 6 to 20 dollars.

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