Three best meal prep containers
You make too much dinner and you need a way to store the leftovers. Or you're trying to cut back on your fast-food lunches, so you plan your meals at home and bring your lunch to work. There are dozens of reasons why you might need meal prep containers, and it's no surprise that nearly every household has some.
But not all meal prep containers are the same. Cheaper ones can break or warp over time, forcing you to throw them out and buy new ones. But how do you keep from ending up in the same position in another few months? By carefully choosing the best meal prep containers to suit your needs. This guide can help you identify the most important features and considerations when shopping.
Considerations when choosing meal prep containers
Here are the most important points to pay attention to when shopping for meal prep containers.
Plastic: Plastic meal prep containers are light, shatterproof, and more affordable than other materials. They're a popular choice for people who need a lot of dishes and anyone packing lunches for children. However, plastic meal prep containers aren't as durable as glass, and they tend to retain smells and stains, providing a good breeding ground for bacteria. Plus, not all plastic containers can be washed in the dishwasher or placed in the freezer or microwave.
Glass: Glass meal prep containers are typically more durable than plastic, and you don't have to worry about them warping or cracking in the dishwasher or freezer. However, glass containers are more expensive than plastic, and they will break if you drop them. But a good set of glass meal prep containers is still worth investing in if you want high-quality dishes that will last you a long time.
Silicone: Though less common, meal prep containers might also be made of silicone. Silicone containers are your best bet if you don't have a lot of kitchen storage because they fold flat when not in use. These are also flexible, so they won't break or crack. However, they tend to be expensive.
Stainless steel: Stainless-steel meal prep containers are also less common than glass or plastic ones. These are typically leakproof, and they're a good choice if you plan on heating your food in the oven. These containers hold up well over time, and they're easy to keep clean. However, metal containers can't be used in the microwave.
Most meal prep containers come in a set. Some sets have identical containers while others contain several different sizes. Think about what size containers you use most often and look for a set that offers those. If you just need to store leftovers, you might be able to get by with several large containers. If you're packing lunches and you want to keep your main course separate from your snacks, it's helpful to have some larger dishes and some smaller ones.
If portion control is a priority for you, you might want to look for meal prep containers with compartments rather than a set with different sizes. This can help you to save space because you won't need to carry as many dishes.
You'll also want to pay attention to how easy it is to keep track of the containers and lids. Most meal prep containers are stackable, so they'll take up less room in your freezer or drawers. Some also come with stackable lids that snap together, so you won't have to hunt around for one when you need it. Other meal prep container sets come with color-coded lids that correspond to the different sizes of containers. This can also help you locate the right lid when you need it.
Meal prep container prices: You can pay anywhere from $10 to $50 for a set. The exact cost will depend on several factors, including the number of containers in the set, the size of the containers, the material, and the quality. Plastic meal prep containers are the least expensive. These usually come in sets with as many as ten containers and cost anywhere from $10 to $30. Glass containers in a set of up to ten pieces cost around $20 to $50, with most falling in the $30 to $40 range.
Don't use larger meal prep containers than you need. A larger container will trap excess air, which can cause your food to spoil more quickly.
Choose meal prep containers with tight, leakproof lids. This is especially important if the foods you're storing contain sauces or other liquids.
Check whether it's safe to use your plastic containers in the microwave, freezer, or dishwasher. The same goes for the plastic lids on glass containers.
Containers with compartments can help control meal portions. But they are a little more time-consuming to clean.
Q. How long can I leave my prepped meals in the fridge?
A. That depends on what kind of food it is and how cold your fridge is. As a general rule, if you don't plan on eating the food within the next three to four days, you should store it in the freezer.
Q. My plastic meal prep containers are starting to smell. What do I do?
A. If the manufacturer says the containers are dishwasher safe, you can try running them through the dishwasher. If you're wary about putting them in the dishwasher, you can always try washing them thoroughly with vinegar. Let them soak in vinegar for a few minutes, rinse them out, and wash them with dish soap and water.
Q. Can I heat my meal prep container in the oven?
A. Plastic meal prep containers should never be placed in the oven because they'll melt. Most glass meal prep containers (but not the plastic lids) should be able to withstand a little time in the oven, but make sure the container is at room temperature before you put it in the oven or the heat might cause it to crack.
Meal prep containers we recommend
Best of the best: Pyrex 18-Piece Simply Store Food Storage Set
Our take: If you're looking for versatile and durable meal prep containers, you can't do much better than this Pyrex set.
What we like: This 18-piece set comes with six different sizes of dishes to accommodate all types of meals and snacks. They're easily stackable, and both the glass containers and the plastic lids are safe for use in the microwave and dishwasher.
What we dislike: The plastic lids might warp or crack over time.
Best bang for your buck: Freshware 15-Pack Three-Compartment Food Storage Containers
Our take: You'd be hard-pressed to find a better plastic meal prep container set in this price range.
What we like: Each container in this set of 15 is divided into three separate compartments to enable you to easily portion your meals. They're made of sturdy plastic that can be stacked and placed in the freezer or dishwasher without fear of warping or cracking.
What we dislike: All the containers are the same size, so they aren't ideal if you need to store a very large or very small food item. A few complaints of receiving cracked products.
Our take: This is a nice option if you need a lot of dishes at a reasonable price or if you're prone to losing dishes or lids.
What we like: This plastic set contains 42 pieces in six different sizes, ranging from very small dishes for snacks or condiments to large dishes for main courses. When they're not in use, you can snap all the lids together so you can easily find them again.
What we dislike: While the containers claim to be safe for the microwave, freezer, and dishwasher, there are some reports of the dishes warping after being microwaved.
Kailey 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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