If you've jumped on the weekly meal prep bandwagon, congrats! Planning your meals in advance is one of the best things you can do for your diet. And while you are working on mastering prepping foods, you may have noticed there are an endless amount of food containers to choose from. But have no fear, we are here to help with our meal prep containers review.
Meal Prep Containers: What to Look for
What exactly constitutes a meal prep container anyways? Isn't it the same thing as Tupperware? Well, kind of. But food storage solutions have come a long way and companies are continuing to create innovate solutions for meal preppers, including containers that come with their own insulated heat bag, travel bags and add-on container for dressings and sides.
Here are our favorite tips for what to consider when it comes to taking your healthy food on the road.
If you have purchased any reusable container 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 risen 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.
Regardless, if you are concerned about using plastic, you can look for BPA-free or opt for glass or stainless steel containers.
Finding a great container is one thing, but finding one that's easy to clean is another. Not all plastic receptacles survive a cleaning in the dishwasher - some will melt or start to degrade. 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 or single use only.
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 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.
If you aren't into microwaving your food and prefer the oven, it is much more convenient to have 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 containers that are advertised as oven safe or labeled accordingly.
You may also want to consider if the container can freeze your food and how well it holds temperature - keeping your food in a food safety temp zone as long as needed.
This is extremely important if you are taking your food on the go. Leaky lids will not only get food everywhere, but aren't very sanitary. Does the lid snap shut tightly? If you give it a good shake, does anything spill out the sides?
There really isn't even a point of storing your meals for travel if they spill out in the process. Lids that click shut or lock into place are going to best protect your food from the hardships of travel. 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.
Types of Food Prep Containers
Will this container go the distance? How many times will you be able to reuse it before it falls apart or needs to be tossed? And 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 a broken or smashed container and be left with no food.
Glass Meal Prep Containers
Veteran meal preppers and newbies can both appreciate a tempered heavy-duty glass container. 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 based on your preference.
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.
Portion Control Containers
3-Compartment Meal Prep Containers
If you're someone who count macros or just likes to make sure you're getting an even balance of fat, carbs and protein, 3-compartment containers are a smart buy. They'll keep your portions in check and are a great reminder to keep your meals well-balanced.
These are also a great option if you're someone who doesn't like your foods touch. They'll keep your food items separate so you can enjoy them each on their own.
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.
With storage sets, you get a few of each size and can mix and match as needed.
Disposable Meal Prep Containers
Disposable meal prep containers are generally only good for one use because they're thin and breakable or won't stand up to washing and reusing. 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.)
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.
Reusable Meal Prep Containers
If you're into saving money over time and being environmentally friendly, reusable meal prep containers can't be beat. While they generally cost a bit more than disposable containers up front, you can get many months' of use out of them while not contributing to landfill waste. They're usually sturdier and more secure than disposable containers too, so you're less likely to encounter spills, leaks or crushed containers.
Meal Prep Bags
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 prepped 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. 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 Containers Ranked
We went ahead and did the hard work for you and tested out eleven different brands of containers. We weighed heaviest on leak proof lids, ease of travel and durability to find the toughest and most convenient option out there. In first place was Meal Prep Society with quality glass containers that won't leak and will last you for years. Runner up was Six Pack Fitness with spill proof containers that can be used in a variety of stylish travel bags for on-the-go fitness. And Tupperware Vent 'N Serve, with sturdy and leak resistant options in an array of sizes that can be stored in the fridge or freezer. Check out all the rankings below:
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 best. If you eat more mixed dishes, a single paced container works great. If you want your foods to stay separated, compartments are a must.
So where can you find the perfect containers for your needs? Amazon has great search functionality that lets you target the exact specs you're looking for. Try entering keywords around material, size, brand, functionality and see what your options are. Here are links to our winning container brands:
- Meal Prep Society 35 oz. 3 Compartment Glass Container
- Sixpack Fitness - 20 oz. Sure Seal Containers (3 pack)
- Fitpacker - 28 oz. BPA Free Bento Style Lunch Boxes
- Rubbermaid - 3.7-Cup Containers with Divided Base (40 piece set)
- Lunchbots - Stainless Steel Three Section Bento Style Container
- California Home Goods - Reusable 3 Compartment Container (10 pack)
- Easy Lunch Boxes - 3-Compartment Bento Style Lunchbox
- Misc Home - 32 oz. 2-Compartment Meal Prep Containers
- Tupperware - 2-Compartment Plastic Meal Prep Containers
- Evolutionize - BPA-free - Reusable Food Containers/Bento Box with Lids
- Meal Prep Haven - Stackable 2 Compartment Food Containers with Lids
Still looking for the best meal plan to store in your favorite container? Or just want to cut down on cooking time? Make your meal prep a breeze with organic, nutrient-dense meals delivered right to your door.