There are so many choices available when it comes to food storage, and it can be overwhelming to decide which food storage containers best meet your needs.
That’s why this guide provides a look into five reliable types of food storage containers you can use. You can use plastic containers, glass containers, silicone containers, and Pyrex containers and bags or pouches for food storage. Each one provides its own benefits to improve your food storage efficiency.
This guide analyzes each of these food storage containers to compare the pros and cons of each. You will learn about all the available benefits each product can off. We recommend utilizing a variety of each container of your kitchen to give you better versatility for food storage and preparation needs.
We’ve all been there, standing in the aisle at the grocery store, looking at all the food storage options, and asking ourselves, “which container is the right choice for my family and me?”
We’ve gone ahead and done the hard work for you and researched the top five food container preferences. Take a look at what we’ve found, and make an informed decision on how to best store your leftovers for maximum freshness the next time you eat!
5 Types of Food Storage Containers
The tried and true container resides in over 200 million households. Millions of families use plastic containers as their primary storage for their food-related needs.
This trend started in the late 1940s, with the invention of a plastic container that would change the way food was stored. Over time, plastic containers became king, with dozens of companies providing a plastic option.
Guaranteed you have some plastic containers sitting in your cabinet, so let's take a look at the benefits of these trusty containers:
Plastic is a safe option because it’s not breakable. Before plastic, storage options were limited to glass storage, which was breakable and not feasible for food that needed to travel in a lunch box or on long road trips.
Plastic provides a safe and lightweight alternative to bulky and breakable glass. Some companies have presented some metal and wood alternatives. However, metal warps and wood tend to get moldy, making plastic an attractive alternative.
The Price is Right
Plastic is a far cheaper alternative to glass, wood, and metal, perhaps why it is the go-to choice for millions of households. Plastic containers are found in literally any grocery store, bulk store, or bargain shop. These containers provide enormous value and are the preferred choice for shoppers.
Plastic containers tend to last a while. For the cost, plastic provides a great value when it comes to longevity. Most plastic containers last on average 2-3 years, which is an excellent investment for the buyer compared to the original cost.
Let’s talk downfalls. We’ve highlighted the positives of buying plastic, so let’s look at why plastic may not be a good choice for you.
Made with Chemicals
Plastics contain chemicals that can leach into the food you store, and many of these chemicals have been found to have extremely harmful effects on those who consume them.
Buyers beware when it comes to chemicals such as BPA, which have been found to affect not only the consumer but also their children.
Not Environmentally Friendly
Plastic is tough to break down. Although plastic may have that little symbol on it, that shows . that it can be recycled, only about 20% of plastic is actually repurposed and recycled.
Lastly, plastic is porous and tends to hold the flavor of food that has been stored in it, meaning your leftovers can take on the taste of food that has been stored previously.
Anyone who has saved spaghetti sauce in a plastic container and struggled to get that orange residue off knows that this is true.
So, let’s talk glass! Glass is an excellent alternative to plastic and was the preferred method of food storage for… well, most of human history, starting with the invention of glass containers by the Egyptians in 1500 BCE.
Pretty much up until the invention of plastic containers, glass was the only choice for storing food long term. Every food item was stored in either paper goods or glass, and some might say that those were the good old days of food storage.
Putting your milk containers out on the porch so the milkman could come by and replace them with fresh bottles of milk is a fond memory for many Americans.
Glass holds many benefits for food storage. What are they? Well, let’s take a look:
Glass is Not Harmful.
One of the reasons people prefer glass over plastic is because there are no harmful chemicals used to make glass. Plastics tend to contain toxic chemicals from petroleum to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are detrimental to your body.
Glass is not made of harmful chemicals that can be passed on to the food. It is also non-porous, meaning it does not store toxic chemicals or even flavors or residue from previously held food. Many people are advocating for a return to glass as it is a much safer alternative to plastic.
Glass is made from compounds that can break down easily over time. This means that glass will not be sitting in landfills or floating around in oceans because it eventually breaks down, which is better for the environment in the long run.
It Tastes Better.
Food stored in glass containers generally tastes better because glass does not have leftover residue from previously stored food. When you wash out a glass container, you can remove all food residue, meaning that the next meal you store will not taste like a combo of the last five meals to be in that container.
Also, other containers such as plastic leach chemicals into foods and liquids, giving them a plastic taste.
It’s Safe to Heat.
When reheating leftovers, glass is the better alternative. It is safe to use in the microwave and does not release harmful chemicals into your food when reheating.
While glass has many benefits and is the safer alternative, glass does have its drawbacks.
The first big drawback of glass is that it is not as easily portable as other alternatives. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to send your 6-year-old to school with their sandwich in a glass container.
Bulky and Easy to Break
The risk of breakage is high, and you need to be extremely careful when toting around glass containers. The next is that glass is pretty bulky when it comes to storage. Most plastic containers are easily stackable, while glass containers tend to take up a lot of room.
This is a container that has been causing a lot of excitement over the last few years. As people are growing more environmentally conscious, alternatives to single-use containers are becoming more appealing. This is where silicone containers come in.
Let’s list some reasons why silicone containers are all the rage right now, and you can decide if they’re right for you.
Silicone containers do not have the harmful chemicals found in other containers. They are entirely safe to use and are comparable to glass.
Food Tastes Better
Food stored in silicone containers does not have an aftertaste associated with plastic containers. Much like glass, there is no chemical aftertaste or the residual taste of previously stored food.
Easy to Use
Silicone storage is very convenient. The containers are machine washable, just pop them in the dishwasher, and you’re all set. Also, they’re microwave safe so reheating your food is a simple task.
They’re convenient to store, as they don’t take up a lot of room, and they’re a breeze to keep your lunch in and pop in your lunch bag. You don’t have to worry about breakage, and even better, they’re recyclable!
Fewer Options Available
Unfortunately, as of right now, silicone containers are only available as a replacement for single-use storage bags, so your food storage choices are limited to what you can put in a bag. Food that is easily smashed would not be easy to store in silicone containers.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Isn’t Pyrex the same as glass.” And while essentially Pyrex is glass, it is a specially made glass made for your cooking and food storage needs. It is heat resistant and resistant to certain chemicals that might break it down.
So let's take a look at the benefits of Pyrex:
Safe to use
Much like glass, Pyrex does not have harmful chemicals, so it is safe to use. What’s also pretty neat is that you can safely use Pyrex containers in the oven because it is resistant to high temperatures.
Because you can use Pyrex in the oven, it is a straightforward way to store your leftovers. Once you’re done cooking dinner, just pop a lid on the container and toss it in the fridge. No need to use another container, and fewer dishes for you!
Again, like glass, food stored in Pyrex containers just tastes better. There are no leftover smells or tastes from previous foods stored in the same container for an extended amount of time.
Although specialty glass and slightly more resistant to breakage than regular glass, Pyrex containers are still breakable. So using them for things such as tailgating, camping, or your kids’ lunches are not feasible.
Bulky For Storage
Also, although very convenient, they do tend to be bulky, so you need to have a lot of cabinet space if you’d like to store them.
Bags and Pouches
The last options we’re going to discuss are bags and pouches. These can be single storage bags, paper bags, or cloth pouches. They are the best options, especially for freezing food or as a way to maximize your storage space for flexible foods.
Let’s look at why these may or may not be suitable for you.
The benefits of single-use plastics are that they are super convenient, just throw your leftovers in the bag, seal it, and you’re all set. They’re also straightforward to store.
Also, you don’t have to worry about washing them because you can just toss them out after you’re done. The downfall of single-use plastic is that it is incredibly harmful to the environment.
Paper bags are useful for storing food items that are already packaged. They are easily recyclable but not a great way of storing food that isn’t already wrapped in something else.
Cloth pouches have grown in popularity over the last few years because of the Earth-friendly movement. They are seen as an alternative to single-use plastics and are an excellent alternative for toting around snacks and sandwiches. The downside of cloth is that you don’t want to store anything that might leak liquids because it will be a huge mess.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker