I consider myself a pretty organized person (especially in the kitchen, which I use more than any other room in my apartment). That said, the Home Edit–style decanting of absolutely all food into clear boxes and jars is not my thing (and, practically speaking, is pretty unnecessary). Instead, I opt for a collection of food-storage containers that are efficient for my own way of cooking: many that nest tightly in my cramped cabinet, some that clean up especially well for messy leftovers, others that can go in the freezer, and a wide range of sizes overall so I can keep everything from salad dressing to a whole batch of brownies. The point is, having the right mix has made my pantry and refrigerator so much easier to navigate and food less likely to spoil. Here, I detailed my own favorites and consulted 15 experts (people who cook a lot and keep their kitchens together) to find out what they use to store dry goods, prepped foods, and leftovers.
What we’re looking for
Glass containers are the easiest to wash, and you can see through them completely. But they’re also the heaviest (an important consideration if you’re looking to transport meals on the regular). Plastic ones are transparent and lightweight. While they clean up well if you throw them in the dishwasher, they can be a bit of a pain to scrub by hand. Silicone is similar to plastic in terms of cleaning and weight, but you can’t see through it. Basically, there are pros and cons to each, so I’ve noted the material of all the containers below, including if the lids and bases differ.
Some people might like a uniform shape, while others might prefer to have a mix; it all depends on what you plan to use each piece for. For this, I say whether the shapes in each container set are uniform or a mix.
Again, this will depend on use (maybe you’re looking to organize all the dry goods in your pantry or you want to ensure your various leftovers stop going bad). For this, I also say whether they’re uniform or a mix.
Best overall food-storage containers
Material: Glass containers, silicone lids | Shapes: Mix | Sizes: Mix
While I’m a deli-container evangelist (more on that below), I have a smattering of Pyrex glass containers that have been with me, traveling from apartment to apartment, for nearly a decade. The sturdiness and longevity of Pyrex are unrivaled: These containers do not break or chip even when dropped, the lids haven’t warped at all, and the glass has stayed sparkling clear no matter what foods I’ve put inside it over the years (now, I clean them in the dishwasher, but that was the case even when I washed them by hand).
Pyrex came up most among experts, too. “The glass containers don’t absorb the smell or color of the food stored inside of them,” says recipe developer and cookbook author Jessie Sheehan. “I don’t want chana masala mixing with leftover egg yolks from baking.” She and cookbook author Erin Gleeson both note that all the pieces are dishwasher and microwave safe, even the lids, which is great for heating up food. “You don’t have to worry about putting a plate over the top,” Sheehan says. Mei Li, co-founder of Food Waste Feast, notes that “it really helps not waste food when you can see what’s in your containers.” But her praise of Pyrex doesn’t stop there. “Their lids fit well,” she tells me. “I find that some of the clip-on ones get warped over time, but these suction on nicely. Plus, they’re remarkably unbreakable.”
Pyrex makes a myriad of mixed sets that include different shapes and sizes, so it’s worth poking around to find the one that best suits your needs. Or you can be like recipe developer Desirée Daniels and get one with identical containers. Or, if you’re interested in storage that doubles as kitchenware, Sheehan notes in particular how “100 percent brilliant” the Pyrex mixing bowls are. You can cook in them, store in them, and serve in them. Li agrees. “If you have a dip or something like that, you can take it from the fridge to the table and then back into the fridge,” she says. “They look nice.”
Best (less-expensive) food-storage containers
Material: Plastic containers, plastic lids | Shapes: Uniform | Sizes: Mix
My personal food-storage containers of choice are restaurant-grade deli containers — incredibly durable, sturdy, and dishwasher- and freezer-safe. (I have the 32-ounce ones full of stocks, pasta sauces, stews, and more in my freezer at all times.) They hardly take up any room at all when empty, as they stack super compactly. But they also fit perfectly, one on top of the other, when they’re full. They’re lightweight, great for bringing to the office or on a picnic, and cheap enough that I never mind doling out leftovers to friends and saying, “Keep the container” as they leave. Perhaps best of all, the three different sizes use the exact same lid, so you’re never without one. Cookbook author Julia Turshen agrees. She uses them in many of the same ways I do, with the addition of decanting goods in her pantry. Plus, she has a great tip for using them to make salad dressing: “An immersion blender fits directly into one, so I don’t have to worry about dirtying a bowl and then later a container for leftover dressing,” she says.
Best large food-storage containers
Material: Plastic containers, plastic lids | Shapes: Uniform | Sizes: Mix
Chef and author Virginia Willis says Cambros are a remnant of her restaurant days. “They come in different sizes, but no matter what, they stack perfectly,” she explains. “And because they’re square, you’re not losing any fridge or cabinet space. If you have rounded containers, you lose that space in between. They’re also especially durable.” Willis likes the two-quart size, the smallest Cambro makes. She says it’s large enough to hold all the leftovers after dinner without being crazy big. But just for reference, that two-quart is twice the volume of the largest deli container — and Cambros go a lot bigger. Strategist contributor Sarah Leon has them in a range of sizes for leftovers and proofing bread dough, but for a year during her kitchen renovation, she used the 12-quart ones as a makeshift sink to scrub and rinse dishes. They “are not breakable, and they have handles so they’re easy to carry,” she says. Just note that you have to buy the lids separately.
Best collapsible food-storage containers
Material: Silicone containers, plastic lids | Shapes: Uniform | Sizes: Mix
If you’re low on space, or your main priority is commuting with food, consider these nifty Thin Bins recommended by Nikki Ostrower, founder of NAO Wellness. She has tried many containers over the years, and most proved to be impractical for her to carry around all day in her backpack, as well as difficult to stow in her small New York City kitchen. Finally, she found these collapsible silicone containers that can go in the microwave (without the lids), dishwasher, and freezer. Of course, best of all, she says, “when you’re done with your food, they collapse like an accordion.”
Material: Glass containers, tin-plated steel lids | Shapes: Uniform | Sizes: Mix
Beyond her Cambros, Willis endorses Mason jars. “I love canning and preserving, so I always have a lot of them on hand,” she says. Professional organizer Faith Roberson uses them too for pretty much everything — leftovers or prepared foods, of course, but also dry goods like lentils and beans; herbs and vegetables in water; and, when she’s on the go, salad ingredients with dressings in these handy cups that fit snugly inside so the components don’t mix until she’s ready to eat. No matter how many ounces, both Willis and Roberson like the wide-mouth jars best. “I can add a scoop if I want the jar to hold powders or smaller seeds like flax or chia,” says Roberson. “But if I want to put something bigger inside, like dried lemons, I can do that too. Plus it’s easier to stick my hand in to clean.” Her favorite thing of all is how multipurpose they are, from the kitchen to the dining room and beyond. “I always find a way to keep them occupied,” she says, “whether it’s for holding flowers on the counter or as candle votives for tea lights on my dinner table. I even put my makeup brushes and cotton swabs in them. And if I find I’m in desperate need of one to store food, I simply disinfect a used one in the dishwasher.”
Best stackable jars
Material: Glass containers, glass lids | Shapes: Uniform | Sizes: Mix
Weck jars are another popular choice for canning. Unlike Mason jars, which have a metal lid that I have found can be prone to rusting after a long period of time, these have glass lids with small metal clips that clamp down. They’re indented slightly at the top, which makes them stackable, a particularly useful trait if you’re short on cabinet or fridge space. “I’ve had other jars that easily slide around and fall and smash,” says cookbook author Kylee Newton. “These have that extra security.” She uses hers for pickles (the rubber seal ensures an airtight close, just like with Mason jars) as well as dried goods like oats, cereal, and sugar. “They’re also just aesthetically gorgeous,” she adds. “The prettiest jars out there on the market.”
Best food-storage containers with click-lock lids
Material: Glass containers, glass lids with silicone seals | Shapes: Mix | Sizes: Mix
When food writer Cathy Erway decided to get rid of plastic in her everyday life (including the takeout boxes she used to reuse), she landed on this set of Oxo containers. Ever since, she’s been a devotee. They’re made of glass — and therefore very sturdy — but the winning feature is the lids. They have a silicone lining and click-down handle on each side that holds tightly. “It’s really satisfying to hear that snap when they lock on,” Erway says, noting that, unlike some other glass containers she’s used in the past, these can be thrown into her purse without the threat of leakage. Finally, she says, the smallest round container is the perfect shape and size for transporting dog food for her pup (it holds about one cup). She can feed him anywhere, even in the car, with no mess.
Turshen is also a fan. She first mentioned them to us four years ago, saying they were one of her essential kitchen items — and that remains true to this day. She uses them for storing leftovers in the fridge, and last year, when she was commuting to work, she would bring lunch in them. Just like Erway, she says that the click lock ensured no spilling on her commute: “If it turned over in my car while I was driving, I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Best food-storage containers with pop-up lids
Material: Plastic containers, plastic lids with silicone seals | Shapes: Mix | Sizes: Mix
These Oxo containers are made from plastic but have another genius lid design that has made them a favorite of food writer and recipe developer Rebecca Firkser. There’s a round pop-in, pop-out button on the top that creates an airtight seal when you press it and then releases when you press again. The company makes this style in a vast range of sizes from 0.2 quarts (for spices) up to six quarts, but Firkser especially likes the larger ones for decanting dried goods like granola, oats, flours, and sugars. “Though they don’t stack on top of each other,” she says, “the wide base helps these containers balance easily in places that weren’t necessarily designed for food storage but are often used as such, like the top of the fridge.”
Best stainless-steel food-storage containers
Material: Stainless steel | Shapes: Uniform | Sizes: Mix
Cook and writer Tamar Adler has made a career of repurposing leftovers, so it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about keeping them as organized and fresh as possible. She first discovered Vigor while working in restaurant kitchens, but about four years ago, when she couldn’t take the mess of too many Mason jars in her own fridge anymore, she invested in a few of these in various sizes. “Their tops are metal, which means there’s no plastic anywhere,” she says. “They’re indestructible, and they’re rectilinear, as is a refrigerator, making them really space efficient.” While they don’t create an airtight seal, the lids (which are sold separately) fit snugly, much like a pot or pan. Adler says she makes sure to use her leftovers within a week, but if you’re unsure, you can consult CDC guidelines on leftover-food safety. And while they’re not see-through, Adler says she considers this an opportunity to buy tape and Sharpies for labeling, which “makes you feel Über organized.” “Not having to guess what something is is very helpful,” she says.
Best food-storage container bags
Material: Silicone | Shapes: Mix | Sizes: Mix
If you’re in the market for storage bags instead of hard-sided containers, Stasher is a Strategist favorite. We’ve written about them many times over the years. Contributor Alison Freer, who wrote about how she couldn’t stop buying reusable storage bags in general, says, “I have every size, shape, and fun color they make, and while they are pricey, I reach for them above all other food-storage options I have in my kitchen. They can go in the microwave, freezer, and dishwasher; absolutely never stain or leak; and even though I’ve washed mine in the dishwasher hundreds of times (with the high-heat drying cycle on, even), they haven’t fallen apart or degraded in any way.” Multiple sustainability experts told us they swear by Stasher for this story on environmentally minded kitchen products. And Gleeson named them too. “We use them for kids’ lunches,” she says. “The smaller ones fit snacks like pretzels, crackers, and fruit. The bigger ones fit sandwiches. They’re durable. We’ve had them for four years at least.”
Most stylish food-storage containers
Material: Glass containers, BPA- and BPS-free plastic lids | Shapes: Mix | Sizes: Mix
Strategist senior editor Chelsea Peng has used Our Place’s containers for nearly a year. The brand, known for its thoughtful designs that took Instagram by storm, sells sets in amber, teal, and clear with blue lids, all made from lightweight glass. Peng has the amber and says it’s “actually kind of happy-making to see them in the fridge” where the tinted glass can help make leftovers seem more appealing (and more likely to be used). She has taken to drinking water from the quart-size one, which the brand says can also be used as a vase, and stores smaller items, like partially used produce, in the others. While the lids aren’t quite secure enough to throw in your bag, “for storage, where things aren’t being jostled, they’re totally fine,” she says.
• Tamar Adler, cook and writer
• Desirée Daniels
, recipe developer
• Cathy Erway, food writer
• Rebecca Firkser, food writer and recipe developer
• Alison Freer, Strategist contributor
• Erin Gleeson, cookbook author
• Sarah Leon, Strategist contributor
• Mei Li, co-founder of Food Waste Feast
• Kylee Newton, cookbook author
• Nikki Ostrower, founder of NAO Wellness
• Chelsea Peng, Strategist senior editor
• Faith Roberson, professional organizer
• Jessie Sheehan, recipe developer and cookbook author
• Julia Turshen, cookbook author
• Virginia Willis, chef and author
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