The best food container
Food containers are likely a part of your everyday life. You probably keep leftovers in them, tote them to work, and pack them in your kids' lunchboxes. Because they're such a big part of your routine, it helps to know the best type for your needs. Glass or plastic? Round or square? Snap-on or click-on lids? Clear or colored? Our buying guide helps you cull through the endless variety of choices and takes a look at our favorites, including our top pick from Rubbermaid, a quality set of glass containers from a trusted company.
Considerations when choosing food containers
Plastic vs. glass
Deciding whether you're team plastic or team glass comes down to a couple of pros and cons for each material. Regardless of whether the body of the container is plastic or tempered glass, the tops will be a type of plastic.
Plastic containers are lightweight, easy to tote around, shatterproof, and inexpensive, but may take more work to clean compared to glass. Glass is long-lasting and best for storing leftovers at home, especially food that stains or has a strong smell. However, glass, on extremely rare occasions, may shatter.
There are two types of lids: snap-on or tabbed, which latch down. It's mostly a matter of preference; however, there's a subtle difference in how each cover affects the storage capacity of a container. Some snap-on lids are designed to take up a bit of room in the interior top of the container, which in theory, keeps food fresher as the cover displaces air. Tabbed lids usually allow you to put more food up to the top of the container. Both types of lids are likely leak-proof.
Nesting containers are designed to help you stay better organized in tight spaces, drawers, and cabinets. Plastic tends to stack easier than bulkier glass containers. Consider stackable covers as well, which are easier to organize and access, so you can grab one in a pinch.
Portion control and meal planning
If you're planning portions and meals to take on the go, consider a bento box, which is a durable container designed with multiple sections to hold various foods. If you prefer your food in separate containers, consider a set with numerous individual sizes from tiny to large. For example, take a snack in a small one- or three-ounce container, rather than putting your pretzels in an oversized plastic resealable bag.
Food storage container prices
In the $3 to $10 range, you can find good-quality plastic sets of three to six food storage containers. Between $10 and $20, you'll find larger sets of better-quality plastic containers and single or small sets of glass containers. For more than $10, you'll find large sets of glass containers and bento boxes for meal prep and portion control.
Q. How can I prevent my glass containers from spontaneously shattering?
A. It's extremely rare that a tempered-glass food container will spontaneously shatter. That said, tempered glass is still glass, and glass is unpredictable and prone to breakage. Tempered glass may break if it's exposed to extreme thermal stress, which means different parts of the container are different temperatures, which causes stress to the glass. With glass containers, for example, don't take them from the freezer directly to the microwave and vice versa. In short, always maintain and treat glass food containers with care.
Q. Are all plastic food containers BPA-free?
A. Most plastic food containers are now BPA-free but not all. The chemical, bisphenol A, was used for decades in food-container manufacturing for its stain-resistant properties. Today it is a known cause of health concerns. Most of today's food containers are made from newer, safer BPA-free and stain-resistant plastics.
Food containers we recommend
Best of the best: Rubbermaid Easy-Find Lids Glass Food Storage Container Set
Our take: A large quality-made glass food container set of various sizes from a dependable and enduring manufacturer.
What we like: BPA-free product with leak-proof lids that seal with one press of a finger. Lids snap onto the bottom of the container, so you don't have to search for the right one every time. Lids also snap onto each other to keep them better organized.
What we dislike: Lids could be better designed to sit tighter and to free up more interior space.
Best bang for your buck: Utopia Kitchen Food Storage Containers
Our take: An enormous selection at a jaw-dropping price for 40 containers and matching lids that are 100% BPA-free. For those who use containers on a daily basis.
What we like: Snap-on lids stay secure. Containers nest nicely. A little heavier than cheaper plastic, but sturdy for everyday use.
What we dislike: Containers aren't as thick as top brands, but they still do the job.
Choice 3: Popit! Food Plastic Container Set
Our take: The beauty of these containers is the lid, which gives you maximum interior room to pack more food to the top.
What we like: Lids lock down using tabs; users say they're leak-proof even when dropped. Containers nest inside each other for easy storing.
What we dislike: Tabs can be awkward to use if you're used to snap-on lids; tabs can also prematurely weaken.
Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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