All of us try to eat a balanced diet, but too often, good nutrition takes a back seat due to busy schedules, and hunger pangs are growling. It’s a smart way to save time and keep up with dietary targets by devoting a portion of your weekend to planning and preparing meals for the week ahead.
But depending on varied collections of mismatched takeout containers, it can be turned out into a disaster when it’s time to store your food. By storing food fresher for longer and keeping you organised, a good set of meal prep containers will reward your culinary efforts. But with hundreds of meal prep containers to choose from, it can be a struggle to find out where to start. Not to worry, we’ve got your back! Keep reading to find the best meal prep containers for your needs. In our buying guide, you can find what you need to know about selecting and using meal prep containers.
How long will food stay fresh in a meal prep container?
That depends on a number of factors, including what the food is, the temperature of your fridge, and whether your container is airtight. Most foods can be kept in the fridge for around three to five days, but many people draw the line at day four just to be on the safe side.
How many meal prep containers do I need to get started?
To figure out how many containers you need, consider how many of your daily meals you’d like to prep. Are you just looking for a lunchtime solution or would you rather have an entire day’s worth of meals ready when you need them? We recommend having at least four containers for breakfast, four for lunch, four for dinner, and four smaller containers for nuts, butter or salad dressing. Having a few extras on hand for snacks doesn’t hurt either.
When is the best time to prep and pack food?
Sundays work well for most people. Having all your meals prepped and packed for the upcoming week is a great motivator and leaves little room for slipups. However, there are some exceptions. Stay-at-home parents can’t always devote Sundays to meal prep and might prefer to wait until Monday when the house is quieter. Choose a time that works best for you.
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Weekday dinners vs Healthy lunches
Efficient meal prep means different things to different people. Busy parents might simply want to cut down on time spent in the kitchen, while health-conscious individuals often have more specific nutritional aspirations. Either way, you need to choose the right set of containers for you.
Weekday dinners: Dreaming of drama-free family dinners? Several larger glass containers will keep chopped veggies, pre-boiled rice, or marinated meats fresh until you’re ready to cook, allowing you to whip up nutritious meals in record time.
Healthy lunches: If you’re more interested in meeting certain daily nutritional requirements or beating temptation, opt for multiple lightweight meal prep containers so you can easily take your lunch and a snack wherever you go.
Best Meal Prep Containers
Best Glass: Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Containers
The internet is full of BPA-free plastic meal prep containers that are safe to buy, but some shoppers prefer glass containers to completely avoid potentially toxic materials. Many glass fans also believe these containers are easier to wash and keep clean compared to their plastic counterparts. This particular set of glass meal prep containers is made of durable Borosilicate, which helps the containers withstand temperatures up to 840 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven and microwave (they’re freezer-safe, too). And not only do the locking systems on the bases and lids keep food fresh and leaks at bay, but happy customers go so far as to call them “arthritis-safe,” meaning they’re easy to open and close. This highly-rated set comes with five single-compartment glass containers that can each hold up to 30 ounces of food.
Best for Freezers: Ez Prepa 20 Pack 3-Compartment Meal Prep Containers With Lids
When it comes to finding meal prep containers that fit anyone’s needs, “freezability” is key—you might not get to every meal you prepared for the week because of work or family situations. Thankfully, you can preserve your healthy hard work in the freezer with this best-selling collection of reusable containers that hold up to 32 ounces of food across three compartments. Customers say that they stack well—good thing, since this set contains 20— and that the lids are secure, helping to prevent freezer burn compared to other methods of storage. Once the chaos calms down and you’re ready to eat, the BPA-free plastic containers are microwave-safe (just leave the lids off to extend their life). “After freezing and microwaving, the food tastes as if it was just cooked!” raves an online customer who was one of thousands to leave a five-star review.
Best Budget-Friendly: Sistema Klip It Food Storage Container Set
If you’re just starting out with meal-prepping, this Sistema container set of three containers that each hold up to 12 ounces is a great place to start without spending a lot of money. Aside from their reasonable price, a major draw of these three-compartment containers is the easy-locking clips—reviewers were pleased that for both kids and adults, opening the containers was, well, a snap. Their BPA-free plastic is “nice and thick,” says one online customer, and their flexible inner seals help food stay fresh longer. Each box stacks nicely in the freezer, and, of course, they’re dishwasher- and microwave-safe. “These containers are the perfect size for snacks and light meal portion control,” according to one satisfied customer, while another mentions that they’re “the perfect fit in my bag and not too bulky either.” Note that these meal prep containers are recommended for more solid, snack-like foods—think sliced cucumbers, carrot sticks, and crackers—and that each compartment is about the depth of a hard-boiled egg.
Best 3-Compartment: SimpleHouseware 3-Compartment Container Boxes
An Amazon’s Choice product for customers looking for meal prep containers with compartments, this colorful BPA-free option touts durable lids that are tight but flexible, meaning what you put in one section won’t seep into another (after all, how disappointing is it when your tomato slices leak into your brown rice?). Gushes one satisfied shopper in one of more than 500 customer reviews: “I filled the compartments with water to see if there were any leaks when I shook it, and not a single drop got out. Just like the ‘popular ones,’ I haven’t had any problems with the compartments leaking into each other.” Like many of the options included here, these containers are microwave-, freezer-, and dishwasher-safe on the top rack.
Best for Organization: Vremi Collapsible Silicone Food Storage Containers
Meal prep isn’t Tetris, which means, you don’t need awkwardly stacked plastic clutter falling out of your cabinet every time you open the door. Instead, pick up this collection vremi meal containers with four colorful, collapsible, rectangular containers that expand to hold between 11 and 40 ounces of food. The bases, which are made of BPA-free silicone, fold down to one-third their size for simple storage. Each solid plastic lid snaps onto its container securely and has a built-in air vent for easy microwaving, and all pieces are safe to put in the dishwasher and freezer. An Amazon’s Choice product with more than 850 reviews, the “cute, convenient” set has customers raving.
Best for On-the-Go: Lucentee Reusable 3-Compartment Food Storage Container Boxes
With more than 1,000 online reviews, these hearty plastic bento-style containers appeal to meal preppers mostly due to their size: Each of its three compartments is slightly deeper than the average, allowing the container to hold up to 39 ounces of food in total. (Sandwich lovers, rejoice—you can fit a whole sandwich in the main section, according to customers!) However, its lightweight BPA-free plastic and colorful leak-proof lids make them perfect for carrying a few at a time. Both lids and containers can withstand the dishwasher, the freezer, and the microwave, and with seven containers included in the set, you’ll have more than enough storage for a week’s worth of office lunches.
Best Leak-Proof: Fullstar Leak-Proof Plastic Storage Containers for Meal Prep
With more than 500 online reviews and an average 4.8-star rating, these meal prep containers have shoppers hooked primarily because they’re spill-proof. The brand’s innovative four-hinge snap-lock system closes the non-toxic lids tightly over the containers, allowing you to carry pasta with sauce or soup to work or school without fear of spillage. Each stackable container—this set contains five that hold 30 ounces apiece—is made of leak-proof BPA-free plastic that holds up in the microwave and dishwasher, meaning you’ll really get your money’s worth from this impact-resistant collection.
Best for Portion Control: S Salient Bento Box Glass Lunch Containers
These glass meal prep containers have three food compartments that help you stick to serving sizes for grains, proteins, vegetables, and more when you’re eating on the go. The extra sturdy, heat-resistant glass kits are microwave-safe, freezer-safe, and even oven-safe. Each container has a locking lid with clasps that comes with sturdy utensils attached to it, making it convenient for taking lunch with coworkers in the office break room. Reviewers love the set’s utensils so much, they overlook the slightly heavier weight of its solid glass as a trade-off.
Best for Families: Freshware Meal Prep Containers, 3 Compartment With Lids
Built to last with quality in mind, the 21 identical bento box-style meal prep containers in this collection have three compartments, so everyone in your family can enjoy their main meal with a side of veggies and a little dessert packed ahead of time. Each holds a total of 24 ounces of food and is made of high-quality FDA-approved and BPA-free materials. You can wash the reusable leak-resistant containers in the dishwasher, pop them in the freezer or microwave, or stack them neatly in a cabinet when not in use. Customers like that for a reasonable fee, everyone in your home can eat better together.
Best for Kids: By Caleb Company Bento Box for Kids
Kids can benefit greatly from meal prep as well, and yours will be the coolest at the lunch table with these sleek bento boxes available in a variety of eye-catching pastels. These containers hold up to 39 ounces and are unique because they have removable compartments, so depending on what your children want to eat, it can be a one-, two-, or three-compartment box. If you opt for multiple compartments, food from one won’t spill into another, and there’s little risk of anything leaking into your children’s backpacks from the airtight containers. Finally, they’re built to withstand the extreme temperatures from the fridge and the microwave.
Buyer’s Guide: What are the different types of meal prep containers?
Most meal prep containers are made of plastic or glass, but you’re likely to come across a handful of made of stainless steel or silicone, too. Different materials have different strengths and weaknesses. To help you find a good match, we’ve outlined the advantages and drawbacks of each.
Easy on the pocket and highly portable, plastic meal prep containers are a popular choice for many.
- Easy to acquire the varied collection
- Microwave safe (many)
- Freezer safe (many)
- Dishwasher safe (many)
- Nontoxic, BPA-free options
- Fairly durable
- Retain odors and stains
- Not all are non-toxic, BPA-free
- Scratches, scrapes can harbor bacteria
- Heating damaged containers can leach chemicals
Price: Plastic meal prep containers are hands down the most affordable with sets of 15 or more containers costing anywhere between $10 and $30, depending on size, quality, and features like compartments and appliance compatibility.
Glass meal prep containers generally cost a little more, but if you’re concerned about the safety of plastic or simply want a more versatile option, these are a great alternative.
- Dishwasher safe
- Microwave safe
- Oven safe (many)
- Don’t retain odors or stains.
- No BPA or other chemicals (but check lids)
- Heavier than plastic
- Not completely shatterproof
- More expensive than plastic
Price: On average, a set of nine glass meal prep containers of varying shapes and sizes costs between $25 and $50, depending on individual container sizes and overall quality.
3. Stainless steel
While meal prep containers made of stainless steel aren’t as popular as plastic or glass, they do have some unique advantages.
- Naturally resistant to bacterial growth
- Don’t leak
- Dishwasher safe (most)
- Oven safe (most)
- Maintain temperature longer than plastic or glass
- Not microwave safe
- Show dings and dents
- Damage can affect the fit of the lid
- More expensive than other options
Price: If you find the appearance or durability of stainless steel appealing, hold onto your hat – a set of three meal prep containers typically costs between $20 and $40.
Relatively new to the market, silicone meal prep containers have a unique collapsible design that allows for easy storage. While this space-saving feature works well for home use, we don’t recommend using these for meals on the go.
- Don’t require much storage space
- Don’t crack, shatter, or chip
- Freezer safe
- Microwave safe
- Oven safe
- Don’t leach chemicals in high temperatures
- Not the best option for take-along meals
- Can be expensive
Price: If you’re short on space and think that collapsible silicone meal prep containers might be a good solution, you can expect to spend around $15 to $40 for a set of four.
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Features of consider before choosing meal prep containers:
There’s more to meal prep containers than just lids, holders, and whatever you decide to put between. Depending on your needs, the following features are worth noting.
- Leak-proof lids: If you’re prepping a week’s worth of grab-and-go lunches, tight-fitting lids are a must. There’s nothing more disheartening than taking the time to prepare and pack a nourishing meal only to have it ooze out of its container and destroy the contents of your bag.
- Compartments: Compartments make it possible to pack foods into a single container that you’d normally pack separately (like a sandwich and raw veggies). Although this isn’t a priority for everyone, keeping food groups separated also makes for neater presentation and cleaner flavors.
- Stackable storage: Nesting food prep containers require less storage space and are less likely to end up in a jumbled mess of missing pieces.
- Microwave oven, and freezer-safe materials: At the end of the day, meal prep is supposed to make a healthy living just a little bit easier. Meal prep containers that are easy to heat and/or freeze offer the most versatility and convenience.
- Easy to clean: Nobody wants to eat food that tastes (or smells) like last week’s lunch. Suspicious aromas and aftertastes can ruin your meal, so keeping your containers and lids squeaky clean is essential. Many meal prep containers can go in the dishwasher. Nonporous materials like glass and stainless steel are easy to clean, but food particles and fluids can hide in crevices around the seals on plastic lids. Compartments can also make cleaning a bit trickier. If you’re washing by hand, be sure to give corners extra attention.
- Container shapes and sizes: Uniformly shaped containers are easier to store and can reduce clutter in your fridge. However, having containers of varying shapes and sizes in your meal prep arsenal comes in handy, too. Tiny containers might seem useless until you find yourself poking at a naked salad and longing for a tablespoon of low-calorie dressing to liven it up. Whole fruits, low-carb muffins, and other grab-and-go snacks still need to be properly packaged but don’t fit in shallow containers. While you might not use every size every day, having them can help keep things interesting.
- Portability: Size, shape, lids, and weight all have an impact on the portability of your meal prep containers. Slim, flat containers are easy to slide into a bag alongside other everyday essentials. If you carry a small lunch or cooler bag, stacking two or three containers of different sizes can offer a little more mealtime freedom. For commuting, lighter plastic containers will enable you to carry extras without adding unnecessary weight.
- Check that your containers don’t leak before using them. The easiest way to do this is to fill the container with water, snap on the lid, and turn it upside down (preferably over a sink).
- Keep microwave heating to a minimum for plastic containers. Repeated exposure to high temperatures can damage plastic and limit the usable life of the containers.
- Don’t use containers that are too large. Having a large volume of air trapped in with your food can cause it to spoil more quickly.
- Consider adding Mason jars to your meal prep equipment. These are great for things like salads, burrito bowls, overnight oats, or chia pudding.
Meal prepping can help you and your family save money and eat better over time. So, when you invest in specific meal prep containers, you want your money’s worth for a set that’s tough and long-lasting. What you’ll spend is just a fraction of what it costs to regularly order in or eat at restaurants, both of which typically serve food that’s more processed and caloric than what you’d make at home. In simple terms, finding meal prep containers that fit your needs can go a long way in helping you reach or maintain both your wellness goals and your budget goals. We’ve curated the best meal prep containers to help you with buying decision. Hope this article was helpful.
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