Everything About the Best Containers for Food and Meal Prep
Chances are that if you are here, you have probably jumped on the weekly meal prep team. Planning your meals in advance is one of the best ways to set up yourself for success and the best to achieve your health goals. But while you are working on mastering cooking and organizing your food, you may have noticed there are an endless amount of food containers to choose from. Should you buy new ones or stick to the ones you have?
Have no fear, we are here to help with our meal prep containers review.
Meal Prep Containers: Best Storage Solutions to Consider
What exactly constitutes a meal prep container, anyway? Isn't it the same thing as Tupperware? Well, kind of.
To get straight to the point, and then develop further on each aspect, the following 6 traits should be the main ones to consider when purchasing top meal prep containers:
- Glass or other heavy-duty material
- BPA Free
- Smart locking leakproof
- Microwave and oven safe
- Dishwasher safe
- A plus: stackable
However, because prep containers have come a long way and companies are continuing to create innovative solutions for meal preppers, let's take a look into these details to consider before looking at the best containers found.
If you want to skip all the details, jump directly to our top 10 list here.
There are many details to consider when looking at new prep containers and an array of options as to where to buy them.
Best Storage Containers and Their Nuances
Before we dive into which meal prep containers are the best for your needs, let's first discuss important specifics about the many new prep container options that exist out there, and their own different storage solutions.
Dishwasher Safe Containers
Finding a new great set of prep containers is one thing, but finding one that's easy to clean is another. If you aren't looking to hand wash your food prep containers each week, you will want to opt for ones that are dishwasher safe.
Not all plastic storage receptacles survive a cleaning in the dishwasher - some will melt or start to degrade. Glass containers or metal containers would work best in this instance.
Microwave Safe Containers
If you are planning to reheat your food at any point, you probably don't want to have to dirty up a new container or extra dishes. And not all prep containers can be used in the microwave for a quick reheat. Stainless steel and even some plastic containers are not microwave friendly. Check the label and look for "microwave safe," usually on the bottom of the package.
Similar to the dishwasher safe options, glass containers and some sturdier BPA free plastic containers are two possible safe options here.
Oven Safe Containers
If you aren't into using a microwave to reheat your food and prefer the oven, it is much more convenient to have new prep containers that are oven safe - this way you can just pop it into the stove when you're ready. And unlike microwave-safe containers, there isn't always an easily identifiable symbol on the container.
It depends on the brand and durability of the product. Most steel and glass can handle the oven, but plastic containers will melt. For your best bet, buy new containers that are advertised as oven-safe or labeled accordingly.
You may also want to consider if the storage container can hold your food frozen and how well they would retain cold temperatures.
This is extremely important if you are taking your food on the go. Leaky lids will not only get food everywhere but also, why would one bother purchasing new containers that can not be trusted to do their job? When considering buying new storage vessels, ask yourself: does the lid snap shut tightly? If you give it a good shake, does anything spill out the sides?
We stand one-hundred percent behind this suggestion: buy new containers with lids that click shut or lock into place.
This will protect your food from the hardships of travel and potential temperature variances. And airtight lids will keep your meals fresher longer!
At the end of the day, price matters. Don't feel like you have to spend a fortune on a container if it's not the right one for you. There are many affordable options out there that will stand up to the test and not break the bank. But if you are looking to invest in the best quality, make sure it's worth the money and going to last for the long-haul. Think of it as a long-term investment for your own sake and peace of mind.
If you have purchased any new reusable container set in the past few years, you have probably heard of BPA or at least seen marketing labels claiming their products are "BPA-free". But what is BPA? And should you be avoiding it?
BPA stands for bisphenol A, a chemical found in certain types of plastic that is commonly used in food containers, lids, and can linings. Concerns have arisen over the safety of BPA, with a few studies and consumer advocacy groups suggesting it can be harmful when ingested.
Even though food is not made with BPA, it is thought that small amounts of BPA may leach into the food during storage and heating. But research suggests leaching can vary widely from one brand to the next (1,2). And the FDA has declared BPA safe for use based on large, ongoing studies through the National Toxicology Program.
If you are concerned about using plastic, you can look for BPA-free or opt for glass or stainless steel containers.
In short, meal prep containers that have the ability to stack one on top of the other without tumbling down are the best solution for both transportation and storage in the refrigerator. This also makes storing empty and clean containers much easier, as typically the containers can be stacked inside each other while the lids are either stacked or stored well on their side for efficient and organized storage.
Types of Food Prep Containers: Glass, Metal, Reusable...
- Will this new meal prep container go the distance?
- How many times will you be able to store food and reuse it before it falls apart or needs to be tossed?
- Is it made with quality in mind, like stainless steel, glass, or thick BPA free plastic?
These are all good things to ask yourself when selecting a container. Durability is a key factor when it comes to something you are going to be using on a daily basis.
And it's important to look for choices that are made well, with materials that don't leak chemicals into your food and will withstand daily wear and tear. You don't want to ruin your day with broken or smashed meal prep containers and be left with no food.
Reusable Meal Prep Containers - Glass & Best in Class
Glass Containers & Heavy Duty Containers
Veteran meal preppers and newbies can both appreciate tempered heavy-duty meal prep containers. Not only are you skipping out on any potential BPA leaching, but glass is easy to clean, stands up well to heat and cold, and can be popped in the oven or microwave, travels well, and honestly, it looks tons better compared to other prep containers.
Note that not all glass is created equal—only tempered glass is 100% safe to put in the oven or the freezer, so make sure you check what type of glass your container is made before exposing it to extreme heat or cold.
Mason jars are an affordable and stylish solution to your meal prep container needs. Their lids screw on super tightly, which helps avoid leaks, and their slim shape makes them easy to stack or fit into small spaces. They can be washed thoroughly and won't retain any smells or food stains.
Note that most mason jars are not made of tempered glass so aren't safe to heat in the oven. If you want to freeze food in a mason jar, choose a wide mouth design that doesn't have "shoulders," and only fill it to "freeze fill" line, which is a few inches below the opening of the jar. The best use for these glass jars are cold ingredients like salads or a cold grain bowl.
Reusable Containers: Compartment Meal Prep Containers
If you're someone who counts macros or just likes to make sure you're getting an even balance of fat, carbohydrates and protein, 3-compartment containers are a smart new buy. They'll keep your portions in check and are a great reminder to keep your meals well-balanced. You can buy glass containers that also have compartments, but the price increases substantially on the price per vessel. Keep that in mind.
These are also a great option if you're someone who doesn't like your food touch. They'll keep your food items separate so you can enjoy them each on their own.
Set Mix - Buying Different Sized Compartment Containers
In meal prep, it can be good to have different-sized containers for different foods or occasions. For example, you may want to keep your snacks in a small container by themselves and your lunch in a larger 3-section container. And while larger containers are great for storing large meals or a week's worth of protein, they don't work for every occasion and can be difficult to transport.
You can buy a set of prep containers and then add smaller additional vessels to supplement your overall collection.
Disposable Food Prep Containers - Not Best in Class but Functional
Disposable Food Prep Containers - If You Have To
A set of disposable meal prep containers are generally only good for one-time storage use because they're thin and breakable or won't stand up to washing and reusing, similarly to what restaurants use for their carryout. If you absolutely hate doing dishes or don't have a dishwasher to clean your containers efficiently, disposable containers are an easy, no-mess option. You have nothing to worry about at the end of the day and can start fresh each morning.
These are also good in a pinch if you don't want to stain or scent one of your pricier containers. (Foods like curry or spaghetti sauce are notorious for ruining plastic containers). Buy them at your local wholesale Restaurant Supply store and store them until needed.
Disposable containers are generally pretty affordable, so they're good for beginners who may not be ready to fully commit to meal prep yet. Be warned that the price eventually adds up, so if you plan to meal prep for the long haul, you may want to invest in a reusable option at the get-go (plus this is also a good consideration for environmental concerns).
Compartment Meal Prep Bags: Best Storage Practices
Once you're into the swing of meal prep, you may notice that your old standard lunch box is not keeping up. With separate containers for breakfast, lunch and snacks, you need a bag with enough space to comfortably accommodate everything.
Enter: meal prep bags. These specially designed bags are made to keep your prepared meals organized and ready to go.
Meal prep bags are often insulated and come with reusable ice packs to keep your food cool and out of the temperature danger zone. This is the best safety practice. Some include separate sections for different-sized containers so you can quickly find what you're looking for.
Plus the extra real estate will keep you organized and help you avoid frustration. There's nothing worse than working diligently to prep your meals and then struggling to bring them with you.
These bags come in all kinds of styles, including duffle, backpack and or traditional square. So no matter your lifestyle or preference, there's a design for you.
Best Meal Prep Container Set: 10 Top Rankings
Taking all the previously discussed details, we went ahead and did the hard work for you and found the best meal prep containers out there.
We tested out ten different brands of containers for your meal prepping consideration. We weighed heaviest on leak-proof lids, durability, and price to find the toughest and most convenient option out there.
Here is the top 10 containers to consider:
- Prep Naturals Glass 10 Pack - 10 - 24 ounce containers for $39.99 (That's $3.99 each! Best deal out there with the best quality).
- Bayco Meal Prep Containers 8 pack - 8 - 30 ounce containers for $30.59 (That's $3.89 each and also slightly bigger than our first option; however, only 8 come per pack, making it a close second!)
- Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage - 5 - 25.6 ounce container for $27.65 ($5.53 each with BPA-free and smart lock technology)
- Six Pack Fitness - 3 - 20 ounce containers for $14.00 ($4.66 each BPA-free plastic, leakproof, and a wide array of cool bags for storage!)
- Tupperware Vent 'N Serve, with sturdy and leak-resistant options in an array of sizes that can be stored in the fridge or freezer. Their Vent n' Serve line is quite expensive but always a good brand to consider.
- Lunchbots - Stainless Steel Three Section Bento Style Container for $40.99
- Fitpacker - 16 - 28 ounce for $19.99 (BPA-free Bento style with tight locks)
- California Home Goods - 10 - 3 Compartment Container for $24.99
- Easy Lunch Boxes - Affordable 3-Compartment for $13.95
- Misc Home - 20 - 32 oz. 2-Compartment meal prep containers for $22.50 (Can be used once or twice)
Where to Buy Meal Prep Containers
At the end of the day, the best meal prep container is the one that meets your personal needs. If you eat more mixed dishes, a one-compartment container works great. If you want your foods to stay separated, several compartments are a must.
So where can you find the perfect containers for your needs? Click on the links above for all of our suggestions. Amazon has great search functionality that lets you target the exact specs you're looking for. eBay works as a close second option. Try entering keywords around material, size, brand, functionality and see what your options are.
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