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After you've spent time preparing a delicious meal, you want the leftovers to stay just as fresh and tasty as the day you cooked the food. Good food storage containers are essential to ensure that food tastes just as good on the second or third day. The airtight quality of the best containers preserves fresh foods in the fridge and prevents dry foods from getting damp or infested with weevils or other pests.
But with hundreds — if not thousands — of food storage containers on the market, how do you find the right type for you?
At BestReviews, we're dedicated to helping you find the perfect products to fit your individual needs. We know one size doesn't fit all. As such, our goal is to share the information you need to make an informed purchase and pick a product you'll love. What's more, we never accept free samples from manufacturers. So you can be sure that our reviews are fair, thorough, and unbiased. Not only have we performed extensive research and analyzed customer reviews and data, we've also talked to registered dietitian Jessica Cording to get the lowdown on food storage containers.
If you're ready to buy right away, the product matrix above displays our top picks. But if you need more information, please read on to learn more about which food storage containers are right for you.
Should you buy food storage containers that are plastic or glass? Would you appreciate containers with locking lids? Below, we investigate the options.
Basic plastic food storage containers come with snap-on lids and can hold a range of wet and dry foods.
Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian, nutrition communications consultant, and writer with a passion for helping others experience a happier, calmer life through drama-free, healthy eating. Through her writing, consulting, public speaking and counseling, she works with individuals, food companies, healthcare companies, and the media to help make delicious, nourishing food approachable and enjoyable.
Pros of Plastic Food Storage Containers:
Plastic containers are very affordable.
They generally come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.
These containers are durable and unlikely to break or chip.
Plastic is usually microwave safe.
Cons of Plastic Food Storage Containers:
Plastic snap-on lids can leak if turned upside down or on their side.
Plastic can be stained by strong odors and colorful food.
Not all plastic containers are BPA-free.
BPA (short for Bisphenol A) is a chemical used to make certain plastics and resins. There are concerns about some adverse health conditions from BPA seeping into foods and beverages.
This type of food storage container is made from sturdy glass — Pyrex, for example — with a plastic snap-on lid.
Pros of Glass Food Storage Containers:
The main body will always be BPA-free, though you'll have to check product specs regarding the plastic lid.
Glass food storage containers can be placed in the oven (without the lid) to reheat food.
Glass containers are heavy-duty and long-lasting — as long as you're gentle with them.
Cons of Glass Food Storage Containers:
Glass can smash or chip if dropped.
These containers are generally quite heavy. If you want to take food on the go, the extra weight could be a problem.
Have leftover casserole? Put it in a glass storage container and reheat it in the same dish.
These may be made of glass or plastic, but regardless of their material, they have special lids with double seals and tabs that lock at four points around the edge of the container.
Pros of Locking Food Storage Containers:
The locking design helps prevent leaks, even when the container is turned on its side. As such, this type of container is ideal for lunch on the go.
Locking containers can generally be found in plenty of sizes, both round and square.
Cons of Locking Food Storage Containers:
These containers usually cost a bit more than food storage containers with snap-on lids.
Locking food storage containers are leak-proof and can be used for transporting wet foods, such as soups and stews.
If you want to store dry goods, such as pasta or lentils, look for containers marketed specifically for the storage of dry foods.
Pros of Dry Food Storage Containers:
Dry food containers can help you keep your dry goods fresh. This includes pasta, beans, cereal, and more.
These containers come in a range of shapes and sizes, including upright varieties.
Certain models have "doors" in the lids to easily pour out food, like breakfast cereal.
Cons of Dry Food Storage Containers:
Dry food containers aren’t leak-proof, but this shouldn't matter if you only want to store dry goods.
Not all of these containers are BPA-free.
Dry foods stay fresher longer when kept in a food storage container rather than the original packaging.
It's wise to own food storage containers in a range of sizes. Why? Our expert, Jessica, explains: "Having a variety of sizes helps make storing food and packing meals so much easier."
For example, if you only have large food storage containers, saving a couple tablespoons of salad dressing in a two-quart container is hardly space-efficient. In that same vein, you can’t conveniently store a pot of stew you made for the week if you only have single-portion food containers.
Even if your food storage containers are marketed as safe for the dishwasher, you may wish to clean them in the sink with a rag, soap, and water. Frequent dishwasher exposure may loosen the seal and erode overall durability faster than if you’d washed them by hand.
Should you buy containers that are round, square, or another shape? We offer these pointers.
Select round or oval food storage containers for storing sauces and anything that needs to be stirred before use. It's hard to properly stir food in a container that has corners.
Unless you need to stir your food, choose square or rectangular containers to maximize storage space.
Choose upright containers for dry goods that you plan to store on a shelf or in a cupboard. They consume less surface area and line up neatly, so you can easily see what's inside each container.
Square and rectangular food storage containers are more versatile, but you'll want a few round containers in your arsenal to store soups, sauces, and dressings that need stirring before use.
Easy-stack food storage containers have special ridges around the edge of the lid.
When you place one stackable storage container on top of another, it lines up neatly and won't slide around or topple the stack.
If you plan to stack a number of food storage containers on a shelf or in your cupboards or fridge, stack-friendly ridges on the containers come in handy.
These tips will turn you into a food storage pro before you know it.
When storing empty food storage containers, nest smaller ones inside larger ones. Stack the lids separately to save space.
Even when food storage containers claim to be dishwasher safe, they sometimes don't seal as well after a number of hot cycles through the dishwasher. For best results, wash your food storage containers by hand.
Using the right food storage container to suit your needs can help you stick to the habit of preparing your own food and serving appropriate portions.
Avoid using a container that’s larger than you need, as the air trapped with your food can cause it to go bad faster.
Quickly rinse plastic food storage containers right after emptying them to help prevent stubborn stains and smells.
Prep and store vegetables in advance to make weeknight meals faster. Chopped, raw veggies should last for four to five days in an airtight food storage container.
Not all containers are appropriate for use in the freezer, microwave, and dishwasher. Check the label or company website.
The price you pay for food storage containers depends on a number of factors, including size, material, and whether you're buying a set or individual containers.
Inexpensive food storage containers are generally made of plastic with snap-on lids.
The cheapest out there may be fairly flimsy, so beware. Expect to spend $0.25 to $1 per container.
If you're buying all new food storage containers, we recommend purchasing a set that features a range of sizes.
Mid-range food storage containers include most plastic locking containers and larger plastic dry food containers, such as those designed for breakfast cereal.
Expect to spend $1 to $4 per container.
To minimize your exposure to BPA, select products with “BPA-free” on the label, and avoid heating food and beverages in plastic containers.
Expensive dry food containers include those made of glass and rigid plastic. These are designed to last many years.
Expect to pay $4 to $8 per container.
Q. How can I avoid staining my food storage containers?
A. Certain foods, such as tomato-heavy dishes or curries containing turmeric, can stain plastic food storage containers. Try spraying a little cooking spray into the container before adding items that might stain. Or, simply use glass containers for the offending foods.
Our expert, Jessica, says: "Foods seasoned with turmeric and other brightly colored ingredients (like beets, for example) may stain many plastic containers when reheated in them. It may be better to reheat those foods in glass containers."
Q. Should I look for microwave-safe food storage containers?
A. Even food storage containers that are labeled "microwave safe" are likely to degrade quicker if they're regularly nuked in the microwave. Transfer the contents to a microwavable plate or bowl when possible. That said, it is handy to have microwave-safe food storage containers, just in case.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.