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These food storage containers are driving me crazy!

You know the containers I'm talking about -- they come in all shapes and sizes, Glad, Rubbermaid, Ziploc and others. They're supposedly priced so as to be disposable, or of limited use, but I can't bring myself to toss them. But where/how to store them is an ongoing challenge. There are a gazillion containers and just as many lids, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's a lid for every container, or vice versa. The storm-related power outage we experienced last week left me having to toss the contents of containers full of stuff from the freezers, so now I have more containers than I know what to do with.

Does anyone have a system for storing these containers? Where do you keep them? What do you do with them when they overrun their designated spaces? If I don't find a solution soon, I may just selectively toss them out. Help!

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  1. I keep them in a big lower cupboard that doesn't seem to work well for anything except a jumble of containers and my large wooden salad bowl. Once a month, I sort through them all. Any lids and containers that don't have mates get moved to the kids' play kitchen or (depending on size) the drawer where I keep their plastic plates and bowls. From there they migrate outside to the sandbox, garden, etc.

    Then whenever we do yard cleanup, the ones outside get tossed.

    If you don't want to throw them out, you might contact a local preschool, daycare, or kindergarten. They can re-purpose the widow plastic containers into all sorts of things!

    1. I have made the decision to only buy two sizes/shapes--round with screw on lid and rectangular with snap on lid. That way there is no confusion about what goes with what. I also now store them with their lids on and that has ended the clutter.....any more than will fit in the deep drawer is more than I need.

      16 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        +1.... I buy 3 sizes that are different shapes. Long rectangle, small bowl and large square. No more lid confusion.

        1. re: escondido123

          I second this - store them with their lids on, and don't keep more than will fit. I keep about 6 at any one time and recycle the rest. I call the drawer they are in The Tupperware Ghetto - it can be a really rough neighborhood....

          1. re: Lotsofscots

            THERE is the solution -- "...and don't keep more than will fit. I keep about 6 at any one time..."

            But then, what do I do when I make a huge pot of chicken stock and need about a dozen pint-size containers? Answer: I go out and buy more containers!

            1. re: CindyJ

              I use canning jars for freezing things like stock. These plastic containers will crack and break if you freeze them a couple of times. I know they are free, but they may not be the best choice for storage.
              I had to clean out my mother's estate this last summer. Imagine hundreds of plastic containers crammed into every nook and cranny of her cupboards, plastic clamshell packs from any baked good she purchased, and foam meat trays all neatly washed and dried. Toss the stuff, recycle it, purchase from the bulk bins to avoid purchasing too much packaging that you just can't throw away, otherwise your children will be moaning to complete strangers that her mother saved garbage!

              1. re: Lotsofscots

                I don't save the free containers from salad bars, olive bars, etc. They go right into the recycling bin.

                I use canning jars in various sizes for storing dry pantry items, but not for freezing. I also buy the screw-on plastic lids, both wide mouth and regular mouth, to use in place of the two-piece lids that come with the jars. I have my Mason jars pretty much under control. It's the plastic ones I'm struggling with for now.

                1. re: Lotsofscots

                  reminds me of cleaning out my mom's house; she had saved the "dinnerware" from the first plane ride she ever took: cup and saucer, dinner plate; and used in microwave,,,i guess living through the Depression makes one wary of throwing things out!

                  1. re: betsydiver

                    Ah............but did she have the drawer that had old bag ties, bread tabs,bits of string, and other almost useless stuff? I swear, some of those bread tabs were probably antiques!

                    And Cindy, I have long since given up on the containers that are stashed in a lower drawer. Making itt even more frustrating is that it seems some of the manufacturers altered their molds at some point and tops don't always fit tight! The Recycle bin in Popcopson is looking better and better

                2. re: CindyJ

                  Ball makes freezer "jars" that are actually freezer safe plastic. They are nicely weighted and the lids screw on. I get mine at the local grocery store. Available in a variety of sizes.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    I try to stick to one brand. I nest them and store the lids like files in a box beside the stack.

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      i reduce the stock, portion out into ziploc freezer bags, and freeze the stock flat.

                    2. re: escondido123

                      I like my containers, but not so much that I'm willing to give them a drawer of their own. And, how in the world do you store them with their lids on? If I did that, I'd need an entire shelf-lined walk-in closet.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Nest all the containers of the same size together, then stack their matching lids on top. It's the only way I can get mine to behave!

                        1. re: iluvcookies

                          I can see that part of my problem is that I've acquired a collection of too many different brands. Similar shapes and sizes but not compatible with each other. That was one of the things I liked about Tupperware, back when I was buying Tupperware -- the same lid would fit several different containers.

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            Some of the Ziploc lids fit several of their containers... I think the square ones fit all the squares in their line.
                            I weed out my collection a few times a year, tossing the tomato-stained ones and the "misfits" that I acquired from my mom or friends.

                      2. I store them in the recycling bin. Problem solved. No reason to keep something you don't use.

                        1. I feel your pain. I threw out the whole affair more than once. I have resolved to buying only one brand.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: cleobeach

                            I put a lauindry tote in the bottom corner cabinet. Try to keep lids on, but if I find a lid/bottom seperate I date it...After 12 months I take it to goodwill...

                            1. re: annfaulkner

                              I basically buy one brand. Glad, because their tops stick together. I date them and throw them away a year later. Problem is, I am having problems finding the Glad containers in myocal stores. Kroger is carrying more of their own brand and few of the other brands. Walmart just does not have many Glad brand ones. Don't know why.

                            2. re: cleobeach

                              Exactly. Whole colelction and the different sizes tend to stack well into each other. But I switch to this a few years ago when I needed to replace all my old plastic ware.

                            3. First of all, find a brand you like and stick with it. That's the only way you know the large bowl lids really will fit the large bowls.

                              Weed out and recycle the ones you're rejecting.

                              For the ones you are keeping, check for stains, split lids (these containers get very brittle and break when frozen if you're not super careful) and other evidence of wear. Toss out the worn or damaged ones.

                              Now start matching lids to bowls. Recycle the extras. Do not keep any unmated pieces. You will not use them.

                              Once you've got your happily wed sets, stack the bowls one inside the other. Stack like with like, keeping the lids all in one pile, largest on the bottom. Straighten this drawer every week or two.

                              (If you really want to be anal, use a sharpie and number each bowl and lid, making sure to match them every time you use them.)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Isolda

                                You sound like a good organizer, Isolda. Would you like to come over and help me whittle down my various collections of seldom-used items?

                              2. A deep drawer is the only way to go. I used to keep them on one of the shelves in an upper cabinet in the kitchen, but found that too many fell and got lost in the back.
                                A deep drawer, with like shaped bowls and squares stacked in/on top of each other. Then I also stack the lids. Only takes seconds to find the ones I need. I have to reorganize the drawer every once in a while, but all in all it works so much better than the cabinet method!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mem53

                                  My drawer is very deep and that's how it can hold all the containers with their lids on. I have stopped swearing at the containers because of it.

                                2. Most of mine are the same brand, from Costco... I forget the name brand but they have lids that snap on. My BF happened to have the same set so at least that part of merging our things worked out well.

                                  I prefer a drawer as well, but I don't have those in my house, so I keep them on 2 shelves in an upper cabinet. I stack the lids according to size, and then stack the containers according to size.

                                  I also have a small amount of the cheap ziploc ones, in two heights, but both are square, so they all stack in one stack together, and then I stack the lids on the the top of the stack. I mainly use them if I'm taking food to someone's house and I don't want to leave my nicer containers with them. I also have a few round bowls with lids, I just stack those with the lids on.

                                  At my mom's house, she had very limited counterspace and quite the collection of various sized containers. I stacked the containers as best I could, in a lower cabinet, and then I put the lids in a larger plastic rubbermaid container, so she could pull it out sort of like a drawer.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                    Ooooh... I'm liking the idea of a large container -- or a covered tub, even -- that I can keep on the floor of my pantry closet. I can pull it out easily, get what I need, and cover it up again to contain the containers. That'll absolutely work for me. All I need to do is clear some floor space.

                                  2. When I kept a larger number of containers, they lived in two boxes, one for rectangular, the other for round. Ovals ended up in both boxes :( Periodically I would sort the boxes and ensure there were still lids wedded to containers.
                                    Now I have one basket/tote of containers (nested for compact storage) in the long-term storage, and a few containers in a handy kitchen drawer.

                                    1. I store them in a clear garbage bag in the laundry room. I stack them. One trick that works a charm: With an indelible marker I put the same letter code on the lid and the container. I keep the lids separate from the containers. When I need, say a yogurt container that has 'BBB' on the side all I need to do is look in the bag of lids and find the 'BBB' lid. Works a charm every time.

                                      1. I have two things that i use. I have some pyrex containers and it is very easy to see what lids goes with what. They are sitting on a shelf. The glass pieces are stacked, matching sizes together and I sit the coordinating lids on top of each stack. I also use load of freezer safe, wide mouth, glass canning jars. There are only two sizes of lids of those so no mistaking what goes with what. I store the jars in baskets with the lids on.

                                        I think that in order to not be frustrated you really do need to choose just a few sizes that you want to use of any container type and stick with it. The less you have to choose from, the less confusion thee will be. Keeping every container you come across and saving it, and also buying a lot of different sizes/brands as they go on sale will just drive you bonkers when you need something.

                                        1. I KWYM. I hate to just toss them in the trash but you only need so many. Last year at the holidays, I made chex mix, packaged it in 2 and 4 cup Ziploc containers, slapped a bow on top, and passed them out to neighbors and coworkers. I thinned the container herd significantly. I'm sure most of them ended up in the trash/recycle but I didn't have to do it personally.

                                          1. I have one deep drawer that holds a fixed amount of them and minimize brands. I am always sending food so I need quite a few. When I need more, when I cook ahead, I use zip lock bags that I can fill and freeze flat.

                                            1. If I have a container that no longer has a lid, or vice versa, I automatically TOSS into recycle container. Only "orphans" I've kept have been R-maid that were the right size for a house plant to sit in.

                                              I have some of those stacking plastic drawer units (maybe 8-9" deep) that matching lids/containers that I use a lot live in. Many are used to take lunch to work and go in microwave... where container eventually gets a bit funky from hot stuff. A little tough for me, but I TOSS them once they're no longer "smooth" inside.

                                              1. Ah... one of the mysteries of life. what happened to the tops and why do I have so many widows an orphans. ? Kind of like the missing sock from the laundry

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: JoanNYC

                                                  Sounds silly, but I kept the lidless bottoms in the car. If I went to a yardsale or goodwill that had a box of lids for free, I'd try to match......

                                                2. I make stock periodically so need lots of containers at that point. So I have those extras--all the exact size and shape--nested together with lids tucked in for that particular need. All the rest, top attached to bottom, get tucked into a single deep drawer.

                                                  1. Periodically I go through my plastic containers and toss odd lids or lidless bottoms. Why keep them?
                                                    The stuff can go into recycling, so that's what I do.

                                                    I use a drawer for these, but if you don't have enough drawer space for so many, cull them and keep them in a smaller drawer. You can use food storage bags to take up the slack. You can often use them a couple or three times before tossing.

                                                    1. Mostly, I nest the containers and stack the nest on top of the lids.
                                                      I have lots of different brands -- difficult to buy the same thing year after year.
                                                      I make a lot of soups and freeze the soup into portion sizes (1.5 cups).

                                                      I've never bought the disposable because they seemed to good to dispose of.

                                                      1. I use only one brand, Rubbermaid Premier (the BPA free ones). I buy the basic set, though they have some sets with some specialized sizes (really tiny containers and one pretty large container), which I don't care for because they mess with my system.

                                                        The 1.25 cup and 2 cup containers nest with each other (ie., have the same footprint, but the 2-cup is deeper than the 1.25 c) and their lids are interchangeable. And the 3 cup and 5 cup nest with each other and have interchangable lids. I stack the containers and keep them in a deep kitchen drawer. I have a deep skinny kitchen drawer that I use for the lids. They stand on end, as if they were files in a file cabinet.

                                                        I don't know how these containers evaporate, but I've bought maybe four sets over the past 3 years. (I had an older set, in black, but gave those away when I found out they weren't BPA-free. I probably bought 4 sets of those over the course of 3-4 years).

                                                        I also have a couple very large containers, but those aren't really for every day use so I keep them with my turkey roasting pan.

                                                        When new, nonstandard containers creep into my collection, as they inevitably do, I take them to the basement where I keep a collection of misfits that I periodically give away to charity or use if I have to give some as gifts or send off with a dinner guest, etc.


                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          Bingo! Absolutely agree -- Rubbermaid Premier is the best line of food storage containers I know of. I have a fair amount of the old black top ones (I don't spend my "worry allowance" on BPA) and a lot of the newer red tops as well (the new non-BPA ones). I store them much as you do. They are extremely easy to keep organized and are very space-efficient.

                                                          Problem is I have had a hard time finding them lately. Costco was selling some with blue tops recently (same as red no BPA) and I bought a set of those for my daughter (it has the little ones you mentioned). There are also glass ones available under the Premier name, but those are somewhat different.

                                                          Mine have been through the DW countless times to no ill effect. The square footprint is ideal for space-saving in the fridge, and they stack well both in use and when stored in a drawer. Highly recommended IMO.