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Replacing my hodgepodge of plasticware - What are your favorite food storage containers and why?

OK, it is January and it is time for The Great Purge. We are cleaning out everything in the house, from the attic to the closets to the drawers and the kitchen is getting a MAJOR overhaul.

My personal little corner of kitchen hell is the tupperware/plastic storage container area. We have a mishmash collection of all manner of plastic, some with lids, some without, some lids without bottoms - you all know what I'm talking about.

So as part of The Purge, I'm getting rid of almost all of it - most of it is seriously old and crapped out anyway. So what do you like to use for storage containers?

My criteria:
1. Every bottom must have a lid that fits tightly.
2. They must stack into each other well to take up a minimum of space. I don't have a lot of room to store it.

It does not have to be microwave safe, since I don't own a microwave. If I need to reheat something, it goes in a pot on the stove or in something into the oven.

Thanks, and wish us luck!

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  1. You may want to consider glass ... should last longer, can go into the oven, no leaching weird chemicals, etc.

    1. i just did the same thing in my kitchen. not more plastic lids pouring out everytime i open the cabinet!

      i really like the pyrex glass containers with the plastic fitted lids. they travel well, they can be used in the oven, and they're not plastic which makes me feel better about microwaving them. however, they don't stack as cleanly as plastic tupperware and i can't fit as many of them in a cabinet as i could with the plastic. most of my plastic tupperware was not being used and just taking up space so i'm ok with the fact that i can only fit 8 glass containers that i will actually use on a shelf rather than 16 plastic ones, of which i only would use 5 or 6 at a time.

      1. Recently QVC ran an hour(!) on the Lock&Lock food storage system:
        I considered it for a minute... Good luck w/your purge!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Sarah

          Don't buy those locking food storage systems unless you just enjoy spending more than five times the price for what you can buy on a supermarket shelf ... like Glad, Ziplock or Rubbermaid.

          I did a big test of various storage containers. They weren't bad, but just too pricy without better results.

          They don't meet the OP critera of being easily stackable either.

          I'm probably going to move soon and was looking at my plastic collection and just decided to get rid of it all. In my next spot I'll buy a few boxes of glass mason jars which are THE BEST for storing food the longest and supplement that with ziplock or whatever cheap container is on sale and stacks well.

          This way if it gets lost, warped or otherwise ruined ... no big deal. I'm kind of interested in those collapsing storange bowls but I haven't tried them yet.

          My Rubbermaid stuff I've been happy with. It lasted over 15 years, the lids for various sizes were interchangeable and it stacked well.

          As an aside, in the above link from August, I put some sliced strawberries in a glass jar. They molded out in plastic after a few weeks. The strawberries in the glass jar, which I finally threw out yesterday, never grew any mold. They released the juice and still smelled good ... however I wasn't brave enough to try them.

          1. re: rworange

            Haha...I can't believe you still had them!!.. I can't believe there still wasn't any mold...

            1. re: rworange

              I do like the locking containers and I trust them to keep out those little flour bugs and tobacco beetles, or whatever they're called. That said, I do tend to keep my pantry items (flour, beans, pasta) in glass mason jars. I have also reused a sizable collection of very large (probably 1' tall), plastic kimchi jars for larger quantities of flour, oatmeal, and various types of rice. These, too, are bug-proof, and they're also lightweight for their size. They aren't stackable, but then at that height, there's no need to stack.

          2. I like the glassware, too, and though I'm embarrassed to admit it, I really like the Martha Stewart Everyday stuff at K-Mart. I picked some up one Christmas, because there's a K-Mart crazy close to my house, and I've gotten pretty attached. I also like their plastic, heavier duty tupperware. I use a mismash of that, with lots and lots of disposable tupperware for freezing soup in single portions.

            1. There are these great glass containers that have these locakable plastic lids that you can find at most Asian markets. It is about $20-$25 dollars and the tops are plastic and the bottoms are glass. In addition Ikea has a nice tupperware set for about $5-$7. They have a bunch of small ones a few medium and large. The small ones are good for dressings, ingredients and the larger ones are tall and are good for storing liquids like soup. They have blue lids.

              1 Reply
              1. re: gooseterp

                I don't know if you're using the same Ikea ones I have (mine have brown lids) but I found that after once or twice in the microwave the lids on these wouldn't fit anymore.

              2. For large quantity storage, get a few containers from a restaurant supply house. I have some large square and rectangular ones with lids (they just sit on and don't lock) that stack in the fridge when full and nest when empty; they are available in a range of sizes. I also have some tall ones for soups and stocks that have tight-fitting lids and have volume markings on the sides; again, they nest when empty.

                For small quantities, deli supply stores sell the commercial version of the supermarket Ziplock containers for a fraction of the cost. The same lids fit everything from the small 8 oz. to the quart size. They are DW and freezer safe and so cheap that you don't care if someone doesn't return them. Find a place that sells them in less than case pack. I keep 8, 12, 16 and 32 oz ones on hand which I buy in 25 packs.

                Mason jars are great for small quantities of liquids, nuts, and many other things in the fridge and pantry. I keep dried beans, bulk-purchased items and many other items in them to keep out dust and bugs. Old mayo lids fit them or plastic lids can be purchased.

                2 Replies
                1. re: MakingSense

                  Thank you for the tip; I'm definitely going to look for a restaurant supply store around here that carries something like that.

                  1. re: dietfoodie

                    you can get the CAMBRO ones on amazon. i put them on my wedding registry :-)


                2. I have Rubbermaid and some Hefty stuff. I also bought a Food Saver. I have bags and cannisters and am going to get the canning jar sealer adaptoro. I like that the bags can be used several times, you can use them as boiling bags and nuke them. Worried about plastic and my food? Nah, that is just silly left coast (for the most part) hysteria. I don't buy into that sort of silliness.

                  1. Rather than throw everything out, what we did was find two sturdy cardboard boxes that fit in the shelves where we keep the plastics and keep them all in there, stacked inside each other. I sat down yesterday finding the matching lids, but only because I need enough to store a couple gallons of pea soup.

                    I recommend the supermarket throw-away/give-away ones, buying whatever is on sale and not working overmuch about pledging fealty to Rubbermaid, Glad or Ziploc, since they're going to change their designs in a year or two and then your old ones won't fit the new ones anyway. Gave a friend a Ziploc sandwich container filled with frozen pea soup this morning.

                    If you need to microwave anything, just use a covered glass casserole dish (we use our old corning ware), pull the lid off the frozen soup, put it in covered and upside down, and nuke one minute to loosen, then unmold and continue nuking the frozen soup brick while throwing the container in the dishwasher.

                    The glass containers with the rubber lids are nice as well. I've used some ramekins like that for shepherd's pie.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Kevin Andrew Murphy

                      I do the same thing with boxes (liquor boxes with the tops cut off). Not elegant, but it works. I'm too cheap to replace my hodgepodge but I do like Rubbermaid (only wish the tops were more interchangable) and some "disposable" Ziploc ones are going strong after several years of freezing, nuking, machine washing. Mostly I use the freebies.

                    2. Last week, I went through my 2 fridges to find I was saving such little portions that, I now realize would be waste anyway. Not enough there, essentially. On that thought, it was a great time to ditch those 1 or 2 cup containers. Those seem to be the size to only reproduce and not get consumed.

                      For now, I have no plans on replacing them. I still have some lided, wide mouth glass canisters that once used for bulk stuff I no longer get.

                      My advice is to keep food storage within reason, learning from the past. I added to my calendar Jan 15 to check the fridge over again.


                      1. yah - maybe nuking in plastic isn't really a threat -- but what about the resources it takes to make all of the plastic crap, and the fact that the stuff is going to be around in a billion years, and all it did was hold a few lunches before the top was irretrievably lost and it was thrown in the trash? C'mon.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gridder

                          I couldn't agree more with you. Plastic is in no way disposable, it will hang around in landfill for thousands of years. Add to this chemical leakage from plastic containers and there's really no good reason why we should use them anymore.

                          I keep everything in glass jars. Mason jars freeze very well.

                        2. I prefer to store food in glass, but I received a lot of Rubbermaid containers in exchange for filling out biannual corporate surveys.

                          1. Two comments and one question. Comments are, whatever else, I think square shaped ones are best because they fit together better in the fridge when you have a bunch of them to put in there, and second, I think modular sizes are best (ie as much as possible, get them with the same lid size just taller to increase capacity--this also helps with the fridge storage, since you can easily stack those of different capacity).

                            No matter what, try to avoid a hodge-podge of different sizes and shapes

                            Question is this--I once saw somewhere on the web some Polish made (I think) containers that had a built-in button to evacuate the air. It seemed like a good idea. There is a brand by Lentek that may be the ones I'm thinking of. Does anybody know anything more about these things, or whether they work well and are worth the price?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: johnb

                              Definitely agree about getting square ones - a better use of space and easier to stack. I have glass/pyrex type ones that I've bought at The Container Store and at Gracious Home (NYC store).

                            2. Mexican Nescafé Clásico instant coffee jars, in the 300 gram size, are pretty handy. But the most useful food storage containers are those in which the lids don't extend out and pop open when they are pressed against something in the fridge. I tend to agree with johnb.

                              1. Target has some really nice squarish glass jars in three sizes right now - the biggest looks like it holds about 3-4 quarts, smallest about 3 cups. I picked up a bunch of them to store pantry items like nuts, lentils, pasta and so on. For leftover storage I use the pyrex containers with the plastic lids, and for giving away stuff I use the deli containers that I get fresh mozzarella in. I also have about 20 jars that once contained marshmallow fluff (I make fudge. Lots of fudge. 80 pounds of it in December)which are incredibly handy for liquids, fats, and so on. I am strictly limiting the kind of containers so I don't end up once again with the wildly multiplying odd piece.

                                I now find myself putting everything in glass because we have periodic problems with pantry moths. Everything like lentils and grains gets put in the freezer as soon as it comes home from the market for several days, then into glass.

                                1. When a local Carvel ice cream store went out of business, the owner gave me a bunch of pint and quart plastic containers. They're not as heavy as Rubbermaid or Tupperware, but they're durable and nest perfectly. I've used a pint size one in the freezer for ground coffee for 20 years.

                                  1. Thanks for the suggestions - just for the record, again, I do not own a microwave, so I'm not looking for anything microwave-safe. I don't care if it's plastic, because I have no intention of buying "disposable" anything, but I'm interested in the glass possibilities. This will be stuff that I keep long term. I try to avoid disposable anything, as well as excess packaging. Definitely will be looking for square stuff, thanks for your suggestions. It IS a waste to use round containers in a refrigerator that's square, isn't it? Hadn't thought about that before, really.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Andiereid

                                      If you want somthing that will last go with glass. I haven't looked back! ;) I use pyrex storage/baking containers with the blue lids. I've seen a big set for cheap at Costco, maybe $29.99? I love the rectangular ones but also the round ones just as much for things I've mixed in it like salad dressings, deviled egg mixture, salads, and tuna sandwhich mixtuer for the hubby-I'd feel weird using the rect. The rect ones do seem to fit in the fridge a bit better but it's not by that much for me. I bake in them too.

                                      For storing my baking and ingredients I use Mason type jars.

                                    2. I have to say none of the results here fit my needs, which is that when I put something in a storage container it is often to take leftovers to work. Since I take the subway, glass is way too heavy, and I need something microwave-safe and airtight. Any ideas for things that stack well AND meet those criteria?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Produce Addict

                                        It's hard to know how safe microwaved plastic is, however, I haven't read anything about it that has convinced me never to do it. I have microwaved items in the locking containers, and they stand up quite well, as long as they aren't overheated with something with a high oil content inside. Most times, though, I empty the plastic container into a dish at work and heat the dish up. Tupperware and the locking containers have been the most durable and leak-proof containers I've ever used.

                                        1. re: Produce Addict

                                          Have you got an Asian market anywhere near? Many of them sell metal lunch boxes with stackable containers, keeping the food separate. They are very lightweight and you could just empty your lunch on a plate at work and microwave that.

                                          I would not recommend eating anything out of a plastic container that has been heated up, but I am aware that this is a health concern not shared by all.

                                          1. re: Produce Addict

                                            I just went out and weighed one of the pyrex dishes I use to take leftovers to work - I don't take the subway, but do park a mile away from my office and so I carry these dishes in my tote bag.

                                            Anyway, this is an oval dish with a flared rim, with a blue plastic cover with a microwave vent. I have several of them, they stack easily, and weigh 1 lb. 6 oz. each. This size is perfect for a good hearty salad, which i what I eat for lunch most days. I also have several of the smaller rectangular dishes in this series, about 4 inches by 6, the right size for a leftover chicken breast and some vegetables. I have smaller round ones which also stack well. I stick the container in a plastic bag in my tote bag or purse, and while it is heavy, I don't find it unduly so. I have a plastic crate in my cupboard for the lids.

                                            For me the tradeoff in weight and breakability is worth it for the inertness and the generally better seal and imperviousness to critters during long term storage.

                                          2. I would prefer not to use plastic, but my current system works so well for me that it's worth it.

                                            I found that the 2-cup containers from our favorite Indian takeout place and the bulk olive containers from the supermarket are perfect. They're compatible with each other (lids work on both), lightweight, go in the dishwasher, seal tight enough to take soup for lunch, nest when empty, stack neatly when full, and hold a lunch's worth of chili or pasta or soup. When we're putting leftovers away, we just dish into two or three small containers, and they're ready to go the next morning for lunches.

                                            I also freeze my concentrated chicken stock in them. One 2-cup container, when diluted, makes one big pot of soup, and they're easy to stack in the freezer. Square would be more efficient, but I can't have everything.

                                            I love having only one kind of lid and only one kind of container for everyday use. We do have two huge rectangular tubs for unusually large quantities, but we pretty much just use them at Thanksgiving.

                                            When we run low on containers (rarely), we just get takeout or olives, and we're good to go. I realize this might be a regionally specific solution, but it's worth a shot, especially if you're already buying things that come in containers that could be reused instead of chucked.

                                            1. I use these: http://www.amazon.com/SMART-SPIN/dp/B...
                                              Compact, orderly, interchangable and inexpensive.