Review: Which Meal Prep Containers to Use and Why
For anyone who wants a more efficient cooking process, you may have wondered, “What are the best containers for meal prep?” From 3-compartment to super versatile food storage sets, we’ll share the ins and outs of some of the best food prep containers out there.
Although prepping your meals and ingredients ahead of time every week doesn’t sound like the most fun habit to implement, it truly makes daily life so much smoother. And, it has the added perks of taking the battle out of making healthy choices and saving money while you’re at it!
So, let us walk you through the benefits of meal prep containers, what you should look for in your storage containers, and the pros and cons of 6 different sets currently on the market.
Why Bother With Meal Prep Containers
If you’ve never gotten around to prepping meals and ingredients before you need them or storing your food in quality containers when you do, these benefits are going to get you pumped to try to:
- Prepare foods in advance so cooking always works with your schedule
- Save time each night by simply pulling out your prepped ingredients or meals that are at the ready
- Save money by avoiding fast food since your meals and ingredients are already prepped and waiting
- Stay healthy by sidestepping junk food and regulating portion control
- Avoid food waste and keep food fresher when you prepare ingredients ahead of time
- Protect the environment by avoiding single-use plastics and individual snack packs
Features Meal Prep Containers Should Have
Not all containers are created equal. Use this checklist to make sure you get the best containers for meal prep:
- Airtight and liquid-proof lids
- Microwave and oven-safe so you can reheat meals safely
- Freezer safe so you can safely store food, avoid freezer burn, and retain food integrity
- Dishwasher-safe so you have quick and easy cleanup
- BPA-free so the industrial chemical bisphenol A does not seep into foods and beverages
- Glass (optional) so you can can see contents, not have odors and stains seep into the containers, and help the environment by avoiding plastic
- Square or rectangular (optional) so you can utilize refrigerator and freezer space best
Review of 6 Meal Prep Containers
Now that you know the why and the what, we’ll give you the pros and cons for some of the best containers for meal prep that are out there.
1) Set of 9 Glasslock Containers
These FDA approved glass containers are super easy to use with their handy latching lids that prevent any accidental spills while transporting meals or stacking in your refrigerator. They also come in a convenient assortment of sizes (0.7 cup – 6.3 cups), with a nice ratio of 6 rectangular containers to 3 circular.
Pros: These stain and odor resistant containers are safe for the oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher. They have airtight and leak-proof lids that lock, and are also BPA-free. The price for the 9-container set (currently under $33) is very reasonable for durable glass containers that meet all of the must-have features of good meal prep containers.
Cons: Although glass is best for our bodies and the environment, it is heavy. This is something to keep in mind if you plan to take meals with you. The only other downside to these Glasslock containers is that mold can grow in the silicone rim, so it will need to be removed and cleaned regularly.
2) Set of 5 Pyrex Glass Storage Containers
These high-quality tempered glass containers are durable and their slim rectangular design is great for stacking in your refrigerator or freezer. They also come in an assortment of sizes (3 – 11 cups) that are well suited for single meals, batch cooking, and prepping a large amount of ingredients that can be stored in the same container.
Pros: These Pyrex containers glass won’t absorb food odors or stains and are oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe. Their plastic lids are BPA-free and also freezer, microwave, and top-rack dishwasher safe.
Cons: Being made of glass makes this Pyrex set heavy. Unlike the Glasslock containers, this set has secure-fit lids instead of locking lids, so more care is needed during transportation of foods. This set is also a little pricey at $30 for only 5 containers.
3) Set of 21 Rubbermaid Containers with Vented Lids
Never ask “What size meal prep containers do I need?” again. Coming in a convenient assortment of sizes (0.5 cup – 7 cups), this large set of plastic containers are super convenient for all of your meal prepping needs. Since they are lightweight, they also let you take lunch with you anywhere without causing a backache.
Pros: These BPA-free plastic containers are durable while still being lightweight. They are microwave, freezer, and top-rack dishwasher safe. All of the lids and bases of the same size snap together to reduce clutter and aid in stable stacking. Also, the 3, 5, and 7 cup lids have venting buttons at the top for splatter-resistant microwaving. The price of $20 for 21 containers is a real steal.
Cons: Since these containers are plastic, they are not oven-safe, can absorb smells and stains, and can be harmful to the environment.
4) Set of 5 Glass Containers with 3 Compartments
These FDA and food grade certified containers are handy for portion control, separating meal components, and storing chopped ingredients that are best when they don’t mix. Their latching lids prevent accidental spills while transporting meals or stacking in the refrigerator.
Pros: The high-quality borosilicate glass of these containers adjusts to temperature changes well, making them microwave, freezer, dishwasher, and oven safe. Their airtight, snap-locking lids have silicone seals to prevent spills and keep prepped food fresh. Their 3-compartment portion control feature is a great way to stay on top of healthy, balanced meals and snacks.
Cons: Like the previous glass sets we reviewed, these are heavy as well. Although the built-in portion control can be helpful, the compartments are immovable, which make these containers less versatile for any type of meal, like soup or salad. Also, since mold can grow in the silicone rim, the rim will need to be removed and cleaned regularly. Like the Pyrex set, these containers cost $30, but for 5 all in the same size.
5) 21 Day Portion Control Container Kit
If portion control and weight loss / maintenance are in your top goals for the year, this portion control kit may be the perfect choice for you. The color-coded containers will help you know how much of each food group to eat so you can get the proper amount of nutrients while not eating too much or too little of any one type of food.
Pros: This set is BPA-free, DEHP-free, and is also safe for the microwave and top-rack of your dishwasher. The food icons on each lid and unique color-coding makes these containers identifiable at a glance, and their light weight makes them easy to take with you anywhere. At under $14, this set provides a budget-friendly way to portion control and reach your health goals.
Cons: Since these containers are made of plastic, they can easily absorb smells and stains and can be harmful to the environment. These containers aren’t as versatile as other sets because they are mainly useful for portion control.
6) Mason Jars with Reusable Plastic Mason Jar Lids
Before we wrap up our review of food storage containers, we can’t forget to mention a less conventional meal prep storing system that we love here at Cook Smarts. From serving beverages to fostering fun DIY projects, mason jars have made a huge comeback in the past decade. Whether you have already collected a stash from sauces and jams long gone or are ready to buy a set like this, you can conveniently use mason jars to store all of your food prep.
We love using 4 oz jars for aromatics and small sauces, 8 oz jars for vinaigrettes and larger sauces, and 16 – 24 oz jars for chopped veggies or to make Mason Jar Salads or Mason Jar Ramen.
Pros: These reusable plastic lids are made of BPA-free, food-grade plastic and silicone. They are dishwasher-safe and have a temperature tolerance up to 240℉. They won’t rust like the normal metal lids mason jars usually come with, plus they’re so colorful! This set of 18 lids only costs $15, so it is affordable for almost any household.
Cons: As we’ve discussed, plastic can absorb smells and stains and can be harmful to the environment. These lids also only work on regular mouth mason jars, so if you have wide mouth jars, you may want to opt for this mixed set.
Now that you know the perks and drawbacks to several meal prep container sets, we hope you’re ready to start making your daily meals more healthy, easy, and organized. And, if you have any friends who have been talking about getting into meal prep, send this article along to help them get started!
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