The Best Meal-Prep Containers, According to Food Network Chef Ali Clarke
The right container can make all the difference!
By Ali Clarke by Food Network Kitchen
Who doesn’t like to get ahead — especially when it comes to meals for the week? Sometimes the words “meal prep” can make it sound like something more than it is, but the good news is a lot of meal prepping is recognizing which foods you can prepare in advance. But, once you start meal prepping you will have a lot of prepared food that you are going to need to store in your refrigerator, freezer or pantry — and for that, we have you covered with the addition of a few products to set you up for meal-prepping success. First, there are a few things to remember as general rules:
- Air is the enemy. The less air that comes in contact with food, the longer it will last. This doesn’t mean you have to purchase a vacuum sealer, but always choose the container that will just fit what you are looking to store. For instance, avoid storing two cups of soup in a container that fits four cups.
- Buy the same type of containers (but many of them!). This helps maximize space in your fridge, freezer or pantry because the containers stack well on top of each other.
- Think about how long you want the food to last and what portion you want to serve before storing. Once you answer those two questions, pick the right container for that portion size. It’s especially important to portion food before freezing, so you don’t defrost more than you want.
With those tips in mind, here are our favorite storage containers for meal prepping.
For me, these win the award for most-reliable storage container. They store everything from liquids to solids and can go in the fridge, freezer, pantry and microwave. I use these containers over and over again as they are easy to clean and can even go in the dishwasher. Just make sure to get the heavy-duty plastic like the ones linked here. Besides the fact that they can be stored anywhere and at any temperature, they also don’t take up too much room and stack really well on top of each other. With all three sizes, you’ll be sure to find the right container for whatever you’re storing.
Getting the same type of storage container in different sizes has many advantages. First being not having to grab different lids trying to figure out which one fits. We’ve all been there, and one brand means one type of lid, so you just need to find the right size. In addition, this will give you a variety in sizes of containers in one purchase. Some containers have a single compartment, which is perfect for leftovers or bulk food storage, and some have multiple compartments, which are great to pre-pack your lunches for a quick grab-and-go. These containers are also microwave-safe, so no need to dirty a different container when you are ready to reheat.
Stasher bags have become a new favorite of mine. I found them when I began to stock my pantry with reusable, eco-friendly products as a substitute for disposable zip top bags. I clean soft herbs like cilantro, parsley and mint and wrap them in a paper towel and store in these bags. I find storing herbs this way makes them last up to four-to-five days longer. I also use Stasher bags when I meal prep vegetables as a quick grab and go snack or if I’m getting ahead on dinner. They can also store liquids, which makes freezing and storing soup easier with the option to stack a few bags of soups in your freezer. Essentially, anything you used your zip top bags for these can do as well.
The best for quick storage, these turn any cooking vessel you have in your kitchen into a storage container. Whether covering glass, plastic or metal these lids will adhere well and prevent excess air from reaching your food. They also come in a variety of sizes — just make sure you have cooled the food and the container completely before storing in your refrigerator.
This works just like plastic wrap, which is in constant use when meal prepping. A reusable wrap is the catchall for anything that cannot fit into a storage container. I use it when wrapping meats tightly and covering bread on the counter or leftover produce in the fridge. Just like a plastic cutting board, once I use a wrap for raw meat I’ll only use that for raw meat moving forward. These come in multiple sizes and colors, so you will always have the right fit. Wash them after each use and when you’re ready to dispose (after many, many uses) you can compost the wraps.
Salad dressing shakers are a bit of an exception to a general rule I have, which is not to purchase a product that only has one use. That said, salad dressing is something I always have in my refrigerator because I meal prep it in advance. I also love the convenience of building the dressing in the container and shaking it to emulsify before each use. This also removes the need for a bowl and whisk every time I want salad dressing.