Whether you need them to pack lunch or for picnic trips, storing food around the house, or keeping your cereals and flour tucked away in the pantry, no kitchen is complete without storage containers.
Before we talk about all the storage containers you’ll need for your kitchen and about my recommendations, I feel like it’s important to discuss storage containers themselves. What are most containers made of? What are the different styles and types available in the market? Maybe knowing the answers will make your quest a little easier.
Different Uses for Storage Containers
Storage containers are supposed to be there for you when your china bowls fail you and you know that chocolate cereal isn’t going to stay fresh in the cardboard box for long (true story).
They’re supposed to be there when you accidentally go grocery shopping while hungry (another true story), and when your kids (or you) have more Halloween candy than you know what to do with.
But to tell you everything that a food container can do for you and what they’re good for, here’s a list.
They Keep Your Food Fresh
There are certain food items like berries and cookies that stay a lot more fresh in airtight containers than they do when left lying around the house. My grandma likes to store all her dry fruits like walnuts and cashews in airtight jars where they stay fresh, but they turn soggy and taste strange if you leave them out for too long.
Kitchen Storage and Organization
One of the biggest tips I give anyone who needs help organizing their kitchen is to have a set spot for everything. If you drink tea, it might be a good idea to store your tea bags in an airtight container.
The same goes with any coffee beans you have, and for baking equipment like baking soda, cocoa powder, flavorings, colorings, brown sugar, and all kinds of other stuff.
Back when I didn’t use small storage containers and Tupperware to store all this stuff, my baking cabinets were a mess, but now I have small containers that I keep in baskets that are easy to organize and use.
Sometimes you barely have time to cook for yourself during the week – especially if you work. I’ve come to find out that eating takeout all week isn’t really the healthiest way to live, but an easy solution is to prep your food for the week in advance.
Use storage boxes and freeze-prepped food in the freezer, ready to be cooked and eaten during the week when you’re too busy to be cutting vegetables and making everything from scratch.
If you have kids who go to school you probably already use Tupperware and lunch boxes to pack their lunches. They come in handy on trips and picnics too – if you have the right kind of Tupperware, picnics can be super easy.
Organize Stuff in the Fridge
A lot of cuisines all over the world have heavily spiced food with strong aromas, and I’m sure there are some items in the average American kitchen that have the same issue.
Putting these things in the fridge without covering them properly can ruin everything else in there – I remember buying a particular kind of melon one summer and I put it in the fridge for a single evening to cool before I ate it. Even my ice smelled like those melons later!
This is why it’s a great idea to make sure you store things in the fridge in airtight containers whenever you can, especially if they’re supposed to be in there for a long time.
There are countless other uses for storage containers, but you probably get the idea. These things are vital, but you can easily amass a huge, useless pile that you only needed in theory, so you have to be smart about the kinds of storage containers you buy.
Types of Storage Containers
I could give you a whole list of suggestions for storage containers I use or would suggest you use, but the best thing to do here is to tell you what all your options are and then give you my suggestions. As it stands, here are some common types of storage containers used in kitchens.
Glass containers are a great option if you want to display things on shelves or on the counters. They keep your food safe and make it look pretty, but personally, I wouldn’t recommend them unless it was for aesthetic purposes.
There are much better materials for storage containers out there that weigh less and won’t break after a single fall, which is important when you remember how most important stuff in the kitchen is stored on high cabinets and shelves. Most glass storage containers won’t even be able to take a fall from the kitchen counters!
Plastic containers are one of the cheapest and most popular choices for most kitchens. They don’t break as easily as glass containers do, and you can find ones that are microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe pretty easily.
They’re falling in popularity though because plastic isn’t very environment friendly, with glass and metal containers being preferred. People who want to live a no-waste lifestyle or who want to avoid plastics usually buy glass containers though, and so do people who own open shelves in their kitchens.
Low quality plastic containers have a tendency to absorb smells and colors, but there are certain types of plastics out there now that look almost as good as glass and don’t spoil easily.
Stainless Steel Food Containers
Stainless steel food containers and lunch boxes used to be pretty popular a decade ago, and they’re still around. Some of these storage containers are designed specially to keep food warm, and there are many thermos flasks out there that have stainless steel in the design.
Most of these containers are safe to use in the dishwasher but don’t put any metal utensils in the microwave.
These are a little less common but they’re so useful for things like frozen items that you need to keep in the fridge.
Think about it like this: you bought a packet of six chicken nuggets from the store and only ate four. Now you have two frozen nuggets. Sealing them in a bag like this before you put them in the freezer will be a great idea to keep them safe and frozen, and it’ll take up a lot less space than a storage container would have.
That’s what these bags do. They save space and keep everything airtight.
Silicone Food Containers
Silicone is a popular material in the kitchen now, and while it’s more commonly used for baking molds and other tools, silicone containers are usually the best option if you have limited space to store your food containers when they’re not in use. Most are collapsible and flexible, and they’re usually microwave, dishwasher, and refrigerator safe.
These containers are known to not hold any odors and colors, and even though there are versions that are see-through, most are colored.
These are some of the most popular types of food containers out there, but there are many more depending on style, size, and intended purpose. Maybe I’ll write more about them later, but for now let’s move on to my top storage container picks.
Criteria For My Top Picks
Most of the top picks on this list have been chosen because of their popularity, trust with customers, the positive online reviews, and my own judgment of the needs of anyone who likes to cook often or is primarily responsible for cooking food for themselves and for their family.
Most of these picks are either something I personally wished I had in the past, or a better version of something I use myself around the house.
Now that we’ve covered almost all the basic things – let’s get down to business.
Best Overall: Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container
If you’re looking for a set of storage containers to have on hand around the kitchen and you don’t know what you’ll specifically use them for yet, I suggest the Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Containers.
These storage containers are leakproof, microwave and dishwasher safe, BPA free, don’t stain easily, and are overall a pretty great deal. You can pick a variety of sizes and sets and use these boxes to store both solids and liquids – most users agree that these boxes aren’t prone to any leakage.
In addition, they last a long while and stack easily when not in use. Even though the boxes are made of plastic they look clear and are made of high quality plastic that doesn’t break or chip very easily.
Take care to note the measurements listed on the website when you buy a set though, because some of the photos can be misleading when it comes to the sizes of these containers. This has been a common mistake when it comes to the sandwich and salad boxes in this particular set.
Best Glass: Pyrex 18-Piece Glass Food Storage Set
Even though glass containers can break easily, there’s nothing that beats the look and the versatility that they have to offer.
They look great on shelves and on dinner tables, and glass storage containers come in handy pretty often when you’re baking or serving things like lasagna – not everyone wants to buy dedicated glass cake pans when you can just buy a set of glass storage containers and use them instead!
The pyrex glass container set is pretty great. It’s safe to use in the microwave, dishwasher, and oven, which can come in pretty handy, like I said before.
The lids on this set don’t have any clips or latches. I think the manufacturers compromised on that in favor of keeping the lids slim instead, but that makes the square shaped containers prone to some leaking. This isn’t a problem with the round containers, and I think the stackability and small storage space they require when not in use is totally worth some slight leakage – you’re not likely to transport any liquids in a glass container across long distances anyway!
Best for Soups and Sauces: Ziploc Twist n Loc 10-Piece Set
None of the options I’ve talked about so far are great for carrying around or storing liquids, but that doesn’t mean you never need to put that soup or salsa in the fridge to use later. Where would I be if my aunt didn’t have any containers to send me curries and soups in? I don’t even want to imagine.
So with my curry loving spirit in mind I set off looking for a container that was either made specifically for liquids, or that stood out especially for being leak proof. These Ziploc Twist n Loc containers are the fruits of my labor. They’re even advertised as ideal for “puddings, yoghurt parfaits, and salsa”!
I think one of the things that helps these containers be leak proof is the round design – it’s always those straight edges that do you in! They’re microwave safe, and safe to put in the dishwasher – as any good storage containers should be.
One important thing to note here is that this set is a 10 piece set, but it actually has 5 containers inside it – get it? 10 pieces, but five of them are the lids. Pretty sneaky if you ask me, but technically not lies so I’m letting it pass.
Even though the manufacturers say that these containers are freezer friendly too, I’m a bit skeptical about that. Some users have reported that they broke in the dishwasher or that they aren’t made of very thick plastic.
Scraping frozen items off the containers might lead to breakage, but I guess if you actually wait for your food to defrost before removing it from the container instead of waging war against both the food and the container it’s in, you’ll be fine.
Best for Cooking: Pyrex Grab Glass Bakeware and Food Storage Set
I talked about how glass containers are great because you can use them to bake stuff, and the manufacturer of this set basically ran with that and put lids on classic baking dishes. Not only can you bake stuff in these containers and use them for marinating meats, but you can also store things in them and use these containers to make frozen desserts and cakes.
Even though these containers come with all the features of a good set – like being microwave and oven safe, being dishwasher safe and being freezer friendly – the most notable feature in my opinion is the shape.
That’s why these containers are on my list as the best for cooking, and why they might be a good addition in your kitchen if you like to bake and cook a lot in the oven too.
Best for Food Prep: C Crest Glass Containers
One of the best things about storage containers is how I can just prep my food for the next week and store it in the fridge with them, and these storage containers with partitions are ideal for keeping a single meal in one box. You can get a bunch and label them for all five days of the workweek, or you can even use them like bento boxes.
The most important things about meal prep boxes need to be that it’s easy for you to see what’s inside them and that they don’t stain or absorb odors since food might be sitting in there for quite a while. For all these reasons, glass storage containers are ideal for meal prep.
They’re freezer, dishwasher, and microwave safe. This means you can prep meals and freeze them, then microwave them and eat them straight from these boxes.
Here are some meal prep ideas that might help, but my favorite version of meal prep is cooking some curry and eating it with some fresh roti bread that I can make in a giffy, or to make some traditional rice dishes and store them in the freezer to be eaten at a later date.
Admittedly, I don’t always keep up with the whole meal prep thing and sometimes just cook up a quick mac n cheese, but these containers can be great for that too, being glass and all.
My only gripe with these containers is that the partitions aren’t movable or removable, since not all meal prep requires it.
Best for Lunches and Picnics: Porzu Bento Lunch Box
Bento lunches can be called the traveling relative of the recently popular bowl foods – it’s basically the same theory but you’re taking these lunches on the go.
If you’re thinking about going to a picnic or want to take lunch to school or the office, I suggest packing it in bento boxes or at least focusing on making sure the lunch can be eaten easily without any mess.
These bento boxes come with a handy fork and spoon, are microwave and dishwasher safe, and even come with a cute bag that you can put the lunchbox in along with some other stuff. I haven’t seen any complaints about the quality and make of this lunchbox, and I believe a couple of these in a large bag are way better than packing a traditional picnic.
Best Collapsible Silicone Containers: Super Dee Corp Collapsible Silicone Food Storage Container Set
If you have a small kitchen and are sitting there staring blank faced at the screen as I ask you to buy a set of 17 storage containers because it’s cheap, have faith. I have not forgotten about you, friend.
This set of collapsible storage containers will feel like it’s barely even there when not in use, but it won’t be a problem to raise it to full height when duty calls.
It comes with four different containers sized at 350ml, 500ml, 800ml, and 1200ml – I know my mom could have used the extra large one back when she’d cook biryani and send it to a relative, and you might find a use for it too so don’t knock it down just yet!
There are a few cons of using silicone containers though, one of the biggest ones being how difficult it can be to get the lid on because the only firm part on them is the lid area. Another issue is that it might get a bit droopy if you put something too heavy inside it.
Best Zip-loc Bags: Stasher Stand Up Silicone Bags
Ziploc bags meet storage containers in this standing silicone bag, which is ideal for people with small refrigerators and a great option for anyone who wants to give up using disposable silicone bags.
They’re airtight, microwave safe, and okay to put in the dishwasher, and they’re available in a number of colors from pink to blue to yellow. Another great perk of these containers is that you can cook things in them sous vide because they’re great at handling heat.
You can also just wrap up some green leafy vegetables in a damp cloth and then put them in this bag to store in the fridge – which is great because these bags don’t need to take up any space on the shelves. You can just put them on top of another container or prop them on the shelves in the fridge door.
This was my roundup of some of the best and most useful storage containers you can find on the internet today. At the end, you might have to compromise on a few features to get the most out of others when it comes to storage containers, so I would say it pays to know exactly what you’re buying them for.
There’s no harm in buying storage containers that are more versatile, but I find that they sometimes end up sitting in a corner taking up space because they’re just not right for what you need to use them for.
For example, if you need to stock things in the pantry, usually lunch box style containers won’t cut it and you may need to invest in some dedicated pantry storage. On the other hand, if you need to bake lasagna and then take it to a friend’s house, it would be impossible to do in a plastic container, but you can definitely use a flat glass storage container for it.