October 29

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Best Meal Prep Containers

By Laura Nunemaker

October 29, 2021


Meal prepping is a great way to stay on track with healthy eating habits. Whether you're trying to lose weight, maintain a special diet, or just want some variety in your meals, meal prep containers can help make it easier for you! But, which containers should you use?

There are many options when it comes to meal prep containers so this article will focus on what I think are the best meal prep containers available today. You'll read about the pros and cons of each type so you can decide which ones are best for you.

The most popular types of meal prep containers

The 3 best types of containers are glassware, plastic, and stainless steel. 

Glassware is the most versatile because it can be reheated in an oven or microwave unlike containers made of other materials. 

Plastic containers are a great budget option and are fine in the microwave but can be a health concern depending on the plastic used. 

Stainless steel is often considered the best option because it doesn't leach chemicals into your food like plastics may do and it isn’t fragile like glassware. 

Let’s talk about the various types of meal prep containers and their qualities in depth.

How to pick the best meal prep containers for you

There are many different types of meal prep containers that you can choose from, including glass, plastic, and stainless steel. You need to consider how you will be using the containers to figure out which ones are best for you. You might even want a mix of different types to carry different foods. 

Here are some things to think about when choosing your meal prep containers.

For salads and foods that you eat cold or at room temperature, plastic or stainless steel are ideal. They are both lighter weight than glass and resist breakage.

If you want to pack food that you will heat up in the container, plastic or glass works best. Both can go in the microwave and glass containers can usually go in the oven, too.

Will you want to wash your containers in a dishwasher? Make sure the ones you pick are dishwasher safe.

Depending on how you carry your containers, you may want to choose a leak-proof option. Snap-lock glass and plastic containers are usually leak-proof.

Will you be freezing food in your container? If so, make sure the meal prep container is freezer safe and check to see if there are any specific instructions about reheating from the freezer. You may need to defrost the food first.

Is the lid mechanism easy for the user to operate? Think about this if you’re sending the container with a child or someone with mobility or hand strength issues.

What size and shape of containers do you need? Will you be carrying a big salad? Do you want compartments? Will some parts of your meal be heated and others not? Also consider storing your containers, empty, in your lunch bag, and in your refrigerator or freezer. Do you need stackable containers? If your space is limited, you may want square or rectangular containers to make the most efficient use of your space.

Different types of meal prep containers and their pros and cons

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Glass Meal Prep Containers

ello glass meal prep containers.

I’ve talked before about how I really like the Ello glass containers but there are many other options available. One downside to Ello is that the lids are not meant for the microwave. If you want to avoid using paper towels or plastic wrap to cover your food in the microwave and prevent splattering, look for containers that allow you to microwave the lid. Some lids even have a little vent in the top so the lid won’t pop off.

Pros and cons of glass meal prep containers

Pros

  • Easy to clean, usually dishwasher safe
  • They won't get crushed like other types of food storage containers and will protect your food
  • Glass is a great solution for storing food if you’re avoiding plastic
  • You can see what's inside them, which is helpful when you have multiple meals prepped in your refrigerator
  • They come in different sizes so you can pick the perfect one for your needs - some have compartments for separating protein from carbs and vegetables, while others are larger to hold more food

Cons

  • Glass meal prep containers are more expensive than plastic ones
  • The lid doesn't always fit securely so it's hard to transport saucy or liquidy foods
  • Glass is more fragile than most other containers
  • They are heavier than other types of containers
  • The lids can be hard to open
A few of the best glass meal prep container options

ConClusion

My preference is for glass when I plan to heat the food up in the container. I love that it doesn't stain and that I don't have to worry about chemicals leaching into my food.

Plastic Meal Prep Containers

a plastic meal prep container with compartments containing food.

Plastic containers are a budget-friendly option if you’re short on cash.  There are some trade-offs though. I like to use them for pantry food storage and to carry cold or room temperature foods.

Pros and cons of plastic meal prep containers

Pros

  • Plastic containers are inexpensive
  • They are easy to clean and dishwasher safe
  • These containers are lightweight but will still protect your food
  • Loads of different sizes and shapes to choose from

Cons

  • Plastic is not environmentally friendly
  • Colorful foods can stain the plastic when heated in the microwave
  • Plastic cannot be used in the oven
  • Most plastic isn’t clear so it’s hard to see what food is inside
  • Heating your food in a plastic container may cause chemicals to leach into your foods (Phthalates & Bisphenol A (BPA))
  • Sometimes retains odors of foods
A few of the best plastic meal prep container options

ConClusion

After throwing away all of my stained plastic containers, I've only kept a few for items that don't require heating. They are similar to the blue set pictured above but I think they were a Woot deal. They're nice for that purpose. I'm not even recommending the meal prep containers that are like take-out containers. They are not sturdy and I would be concerned about using them in the microwave.

Stainless Steel Meal Prep Containers

three round stainless steel containers containing food.

Personally, even though I love stainless steel water and coffee mugs, I don't use them for food storage. What can I say - I use the microwave so much that they're just not practical for me. But if I wanted to take warm food to a job and keep it that way until lunch, I'd definitely get a nice vacuum sealed thermos.

Pros and cons of stainless steel meal prep containers

Pros

  • Cute options! (Bento boxes)
  • Easy to clean, dishwasher safe
  • Unbreakable, great for kids
  • Lighter than glass
  • No concern with chemicals leaching into your food
  • You can get leakproof options

Cons

  • It’s more expensive than plastic
  • You can’t see what’s inside
  • These can’t go in the microwave
A few of the best stainless steel meal prep container options

ConClusion

For foods that don't need to be microwaved, stainless steel is wonderful. After looking at bento boxes for this post, now I want one even though I don't need it. I do have a set like the ecozoi above but I don't use it for meal prep storage. I use it for pot-in-pot meals in my Instant Pot.

Reusable Bags & Wraps

Sometimes you need to wrap up a sandwich or pack snacks. The U Konserve wrap below is my favorite for sandwiches. Each wrap will hold one sandwich. And did you know that Bee's Wrap makes vegan wraps that are not made of bee's wax? They're great for small odds and ends.

Pros and cons of reusable bags and wraps

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Comes in a variety of sizes
  • Wraps that open flat are easy to clean
  • Silicon bags are available in dishwasher safe versions

Cons

  • Isn’t very protective - your food can be crushed
  • Not for foods containing liquid
  • Most can’t go in the microwave
  • The zippers can fail on the reusable ziplock bags
  • Silicone can stain
A few of the best food bags and wraps

ConClusion

If you don't need to store something too messy, wraps and reusable zipper bags are great! Sometimes the zippers fail, so do keep that in mind. The stand up bags are better for foods that can spill and make a mess.

illustration of a knife and fork aligned horizontally.

Now that you know all about the different types of meal prep containers and their features, it’s time to pick one. Which type is best for you? 

It might be a good idea to have several options on hand so that you can switch up your food routine from day to day or week to week. Start by thinking about what kind of foods you like to eat and how often those are rotated in your diet. 

If this sounds overwhelming, no worries! You’ll find more information and reviews when you click through the links with the products mentioned above. 

Remember, each person has very unique needs when it comes to picking out the right set of meal prep containers. Your solution will be dependent on what types of foods you want to pack if you are going to heat them and your budget.

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About the author

Meat-free since 1996. Cow petter. Former vegan bakery owner. Full-time traveler for 5 years, usually in an RV, but not always. Half of VeganRV. Instant Pot lover. Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate, Completed January 2022, eCornell and T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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