How Many Food Storage Containers Do I Need?


glass jars full of peanut

How many food storage containers do you have?

You know, I used to have a problem. Not a big problem, mind you, but a problem nonetheless.

I used to have a lot of food storage containers. So much, so things were getting out of hand.

My cupboard was an unsightly mess of Tupperware and other containers that were just waiting to fall on my head. My fridge looked like a Tetris game gone wrong. And to top it all, some of the lids were missing, making the whole thing, not an exciting experience.

So I decided to get back in control.

How many food storage containers do you need? The right number of food storage containers should be tailored to your personal food consumption and food storage habits. Having too many food containers may lead to food spoiling and overfilling your fridge and sink. Conversely, if the number of food storage containers is not enough, you will experience difficulty storing your food.

If all this hits too close to home, worry not.

I like to take a more practical approach, so below, I will share with you some tips and tricks I used to bring some much-needed order in my life.

Do You Need to Have a Lot of Food Storage Containers?

First, let me start with that there are no hard and fast numbers. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

I will give you some recommendations and examples, but you are your own best judge of how many food containers you may need.

Here’s the thing.

You need enough food containers so that you can rotate them.

This means two things:

  • That you will not be using the same containers all the time; and
  • That you will not have so many containers that you can keep stuffing your fridge until there is no space in it.

What you want is the right amount of containers that are tailored to meet your personal needs and food consumption. So the number should revolve around how much food you can eat before it went bad.

This adds some variables, so there is not going to be one universal one-size-fits-all number of food containers.

Why You May Need a Lot of Different Storage Containers

food Products in glassware storage

Several different things will affect the actual number of food containers you will need.

Make sure to note these down and take them into consideration.

1. What You Will Be Storing

The more food you will need to store, the more food containers you will need.

That is one of the main factors that will determine the number of containers you will need. Here you will need to ask yourself a few questions like:

  • How much food do I eat on a regular basis?
  • How many different foods, ingredients, spices, etc. will I be storing in my fridge, pantry, cupboards, and kitchen cabinets?
  • How frequently do I cook?
  • How many different foods will I need to store?
  • How often will I be able to clean the food containers?

2. The Type of Food

Depending on what type of food you will be storing, this can change things a bit.

You may need food containers with bigger capacity or specific design. We will get more into that in a bit.

3. The Number of People

If you are living alone, you will need fewer food containers. In that case, even three to five food containers may be more than enough to meet your needs.

However, if you have a family, you may need to get quite a few food containers. Depending on the size of the family, the number can easily reach and even exceed twenty food containers.

4. The Purpose of the Containers

The purpose should also be noted.

If you are looking to bring food to your workplace, you may need a lot of containers with smaller capacity. I used to have three food containers that I would bring to my work.

Whereas if you are not taking any food with you outside of your home – and just looking for something to store your food in the pantry or fridge – even one or two larger food containers may be enough.

What Sizes of Food Storage Containers Do You Need?

Using Glass Jar to store homemade canned preserved fruits and vegetables

You need a variety of food containers that are in different sizes: a few big ones and usually a lot of smaller ones.

For a single person, I would suggest no more than 6 to 10 food containers.

That way, you will be rotating the containers often and not just stacking them in the fridge or the sink.

Something that I found out with time was that when I have more utensils and kitchenware, things start to get messy.

It is a lot easier to pick up and use a clean plate than wash the dirty one in the sink. Even with a dishwasher, things do not always get easier.

I recommend using at least:

  • One or two 7-quart (or 224 oz) containers with lid;
  • One or two 4-quart (or 128 oz) containers with lid;
  • Two to three 2-quart (or 64 oz) containers with lid;
  • Two to five 1-quart (or 32 oz) containers with lid; and
  • One to three 0.5-quart (or 16 oz) containers with lid.

The smaller 0.5-quart containers are very versatile and can be used for storing smaller meals, leftovers, and serving food.

From personal experience, I have found out that I needed the 1-quart containers the most, whether it be for serving food, eating on the go, or for bringing food to work.

Sometimes I used the 2-quart for bringing food to work or while camping. So these proved very useful too.

The bigger 4 and 7-quart food containers are useful for keeping soups and other kinds of food that may be taking a lot of space. Depending on what kind of meals (and how often you prepare them), you may end up doing okay with just one, or you may need several.

With all that being said, you might want to get some even smaller containers if you plan on storing spices, cooking mixes, sauces, and other ingredients.

The number of food storage containers you will need can go up drastically if we need to accommodate the needs of a family. The numbers can go as much as two or threefold.

Also, depending on certain foods and food ingredients, you may have to get some extra large 160 oz (or even bigger) food containers. These will be great for storing, pasta, flour, rice, lentils, beans, and so much more.

What Are the Different Types of Food Storage Containers You May Need?

plastic-and-glass-food-containers-filled-with-food-and-herbs

There are three main types of materials that are primarily used for manufacturing food storage containers.

  • Plastic;
  • Glass; and
  • Metal.

Each one of these has its own pros and cons, so let us take a look at them.

1. Plastic Food Containers

Plastic food containers are super cheap and durable. You can get a full set of all the food containers, and this will not break your bank in any way.

Plastic is also super lightweight; even bringing a couple of plastic containers with you to work or while camping will not put any significant weight to your backpack.

Some of the well-known brands of plastic food containers like Tupperware, Reditainer, Rubbermaid, LocknLock, and even the Ziploc offer very affordable options (with Tupperware being a little on the more expensive side).

One of the concerns with anything plastic is that it contains toxic and harmful chemicals that can end up in our food and water.

This is why the majority of manufacturers are looking for BPA and phthalate-free alternatives. Unfortunately, this does not mean the plastic is still safe for use.

In the production of many plastics, different chemicals are used like the BPS, BPF, which, although different, may have the same qualities to BPA. The bad thing here is that they have not been studied as much as the BPA for us to know if they are harmful or not.

On the other hand, plastic is a porous material (it is also easy to scratch), and this makes it susceptible to absorbing smells and flavors and staining.

However, let me tell you a little trick here. Do you know who has the best experience with using food containers? The restaurants. I have experience in this industry, too, so with time, I started doing what they do.

Here’s the thing.

After I started using commercial-grade food containers (the ones that restaurants use), I felt such a relief. These are usually very sturdy and durable. Often they have a bigger capacity too. And best of all these food containers are usually freezer-safe and dishwasher-safe.

Some of the best food containers in that category are the ones made from Cambro. Often these are NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) approved, which means that these containers have undergone extensive testing and meets the NSF food safety requirements.

The restaurants and foodservice use NSF approved products.

I like these because they can bring order in otherwise a messy fridge. The downside is, of course, the high price.

2. Glass Food Containers

The alternative to plastic food containers is glass. And glass is one of the best materials that one can use for storing their food.

Here’s why.

Glass is the only packaging material that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes and considers as “GRAS” (Generally Recognized as Safe).

Glass can be used indefinitely. It is fragile and can be broken if dropped, but in terms of longevity, it is second to none.

Glass does not contain harmful chemicals, unlike plastic, which can contain BPAs, Phthalates, and more. What is more, is glass is non-porous (unlike plastic), so it does not hold on to or absorb any food flavors and odors.

Glass is 100% recyclable, and it does not lose any of its purity or quality.

Glass can be used with hot or cold food. It can be placed in the dishwasher and the fridge as well. However, it is generally not recommended to freeze liquids or food in glass food containers – As the content in the glass container expands, it can easily break it.

Glass does not change its shape. This means that the lids will fit better for longer; something that you may have a lot of problems with when using plastic food containers

Of course, the glass comes with certain downsides as well. It significantly more expensive compared to plastic. Glass also is a lot heavier. Especially when it comes to using glass food containers with bigger capacity. The weight can easily be a deal-breaker for many.

For the best results, a Borosilicate glass container should be used. It offers the best thermal shock and impact resistance. However, it is more expensive compared to the more widely used Soda Lime glass. The only downside is that the Soda Lime glass does not have the same thermal and impact resistance.

If you want both an environmentally and health-safe alternative, you need glass food containers.

One alternative to the standard glass containers is using Mason jars.

The Mason jars are cheap to get, and they come in a wide variety of sizes.

The nice thing about them is that the lids easy to use. Sooner or later, when you need to replace the lids, you will find out that they are easy to get and very cheap.

The 1-pint Mason jars can be quite useful as they are just the right size for a single serving of various foods like stews, soups, and more.

The lids on the standard glass containers are often either plastic (which can deform with time) or made from different materials like cork or metal. All of this means that you can potentially have leakage problems; one issue that you will not have with mason jars.

3. Metal Food Containers

Metal food containers are another alternative for storing your food. Metal has certain advantages and disadvantages, so let us take a closer look.

Most metal containers are made from stainless steel, which is a safe and non-toxic material.

Metal can be placed in the fridge or even on the stovetop to heat up your food. This is something that you cannot really do with glass or plastic.

Metal is going to be lighter compared to glass, but heavier than plastic.

Best of all-metal food containers are extremely durable and will last you a long time unless badly damaged or broken in some way. You can easily bring these metal food containers with you on a trip, or to your job without having to worry about it breaking.

If you like to travel, camp, or hike a lot, then you need metal food containers.

Metal food containers also very child-friendly too.

You will not have to worry about plastics because usually both the container and lid are made from metal.

On the negative side is that you cannot use your metal food containers in the microwave. If you do not microwave your food, then this may not be a concern for you, but for others, it may be a deal-breaker.

Stainless steel is usually a little pricier compared to plastic and sometimes even glass, so this is something to keep in mind.

And lastly, stainless steel is not transparent. You will not be able to see what is inside the food container unless you open it or label it in advance.

What to Look for in a Food Storage Container?

food-Products-in-glassware-storage

I have found out that not all food containers are created equal.

And although I have touched upon the different pros and cons of certain materials and what you can expect from them, there are a few more considerations that you should take.

1. Stackability

Metal, glass, and plastic food containers can be stackable to a certain extent.

This is almost a must-have feature because the stackable food containers can take very little space.

2. Rectangular (Not Round)

Another thing that I always look for is rectangular shaped food containers. These are a lot easier to arrange and usually save a lot of space.

The round containers do have their place in our lives, but they also take more space around them that can be used for better purposes.

3. The Lids

The weakest link in the chain is the lid.

Usually, plastic lids will start to bend and warp with time and use. Temperature changes can really speed up that process.

And as the lids warp, they will not fit as tightly as before, and there is a high risk of leakage.

Strictly for home use, this may not be a concern to you; however, if you are traveling a lot, things can get messy.

Screw lids are the best in terms of leak protection. But not all containers do have screw lids.

So as an alternative, you need to get food containers that have very sturdy and thick plastic lids. Look for lids that have silicone gaskets around the edges. These will provide superior leak protection.

Clam lids are also very useful and will seal your container tightly, but they can be hard to clean sometimes.

4. The Design

You do not need food containers that have edges and crevices that are going to be awkward to clean.

This is a pet peeve of mine.

Some containers have these little edges and notches that you need to pay extra attention to and focus on cleaning, and they can still remain relatively dirty.

Food sticks in there even mold can start growing if left unattended. I have replaced quite a few containers because of that.

5. Transparency

Transparent food containers will allow you to easily inspect the content of the container without having to open it every time.

This makes for easy and seamless storage and use.

Resources I Used:

  • http://www.bitesonbytes.com/food-storage-containers-need/
  • http://www.gpi.org/learn-about-glass/what-glass
  • http://www.andthebee.com/food-storage-containers/
  • https://www.reddit.com/r/BuyItForLife/comments/555txq/bifl_request_food_storage_containers/
  • https://www.reddit.com/r/Frugal/comments/1vm07d/best_food_storage_containers/
  • https://3boysandadog.com/how-many-food-storage-containers-does-a-woman-actually-need/
  • https://www.home-storage-solutions-101.com/declutter-food-storage-containers.html
  • https://www.kitchenstewardship.com/stainless-steel-food-storage-containers-review/

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