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More and more people are becoming concerned over the use of plastic for storing food and are turning to options made from alternate materials, such as stainless steel food storage containers.
There are a number of reasons why. First of all, plastics are known to leach harmful chemicals into the food or drink it is storing. Even if you get BPA free plastic, there are other chemicals in it that may be just as harmful.
Second of all, more people are starting to become aware of the waste they are generating. Over 40% of the plastic created each year is for disposable, single-use items. This makes many people (myself included) wary of using Ziploc bags for food storage.
While plastic bags can be recycled, they cannot be recycled in home recycling bins meaning that you will need to collect them and bring them elsewhere. Single-use plastic bags are convenient, but it certainly is inconvenient to recycle them properly, meaning many people are looking for a better food storage system.
I personally buy many things in bulk and freeze, including meat. Once a month, I buy a large package of ground beef at Costco, portion it out into individual containers in one-pound increments, and freeze. I got tired of using Ziplocs for this and sought out better alternatives.
We also freeze any food leftover from meals we cook that aren’t going to be eaten for lunch the next day. This helps ensure nothing goes to waste, and it’s nice to have individual portions of meals to pull out on busy nights (aka “Fend for yourself!” nights).
I personally use a mixture of glass and stainless steel containers in my home. Many people prefer stainless steel to glass because it is much more durable. There are some downsides, like not being able to put them in the microwave. But overall, stainless steel is a practical and convenient option for food storage.
Here are some awesome stainless steel options for various food storage purposes to help you toward a healthier and lower-waste kitchen.
Note: Not all of these containers are 100% stainless steel. Some of them have silicone lids, and some have some plastic on the lid. Because this plastic is reusable and doesn’t come into direct contact with food, I am okay with this. However, if you are staunchly against plastic in any way shape or form, some of these will not be for you (but some of them will be perfect! Just check out my descriptions).
For Snacks, Leftovers & Portion-Control Meal Prepping
These Home & Harvest Food Containers come in four different sizes and have 100% leak-proof silicone lids. They are perfect for packing snacks for your kids to take in their lunch boxes or when you go out and about running errands.
They can help protect certain foods, like berries or crackers, from getting smashed in bags. They are freezer safe and dishwasher-safe and have a lifetime guarantee.
They are round containers, and certain things may fit better in rectangular containers.
If you prefer rectangular containers, this set of 3 Bento Boxes with leakproof lids is perfect for leftovers.
The lids have a smart air-tight clip to help make sure you get the best seal possible. They are lightweight, dishwasher safe, and freezer safe. The larger ones can also be used for storing and freezing portions of raw meat (see more options for that in the next section).
These containers do have plastic lids, so they may not be an option if you want something 100% plastic free. Keep reading for more suggestions!
For Meat Bought In Bulk
If you buy your meat in bulk or get it from a local butcher shop, you have a little more control over how your portions are stored. You can divide up the meat into the amount you need for a recipe–I typically aim for about one pound increments.
Many butcher shops have the ability to tare their scales so you aren’t charged for the weight of the container. Most butchers will be more than happy to fill up your container with your meat selection.
If you want a budget-friendly stainless steel option that could hold about one pound of ground meat, check out the Meal Prep Crew Lunch Box. This container has NO plastic! The lid is made from stainless steel for a silicone seal to help prevent leaks.
It is pretty economical compared to many other stainless steel containers out there. Also, since about one pound of ground meat is almost all it will fit, this will help eliminate excess air getting trapped inside and causing freezer burn. It will also save space in the freezer.
Another option that holds a little more than the Meal Prep Crew Lunch Box is this Homefavor Stainless Steel Lunchbox – this could comfortably hold 1-2 pounds of ground beef or some chicken breasts with room to spare.
The lid click-locks into place. The silicone seal makes this container leak-proof and airtight, but the seal is removable, so that means the lid can go in the dishwasher, too!
For larger cuts of meat, like medium-sized roasts, this Rectangular Stainless Steel Container (3 Liters) is a great option. This container is leak-proof and airtight due to a silicone seal. It would also work well for freezer meals (see more suggestions in next section) or for keeping salad greens crisp and fresh.
Sometimes I prefer to freeze raw meat in something other than stainless steel because I am terrible at remembering to get things out in time for it to thaw properly. I often rely on the defrost setting on my microwave (I have a newer microwave, so it doesn’t actually do too bad of a job), so thick glass containers, like glass Snapware containers are awesome for going straight from the freezer to the microwave.
Another plastic-free option (though not necessarily zero-waste if that is important to you) is butcher paper. This Brown Kraft Butcher Paper Roll is unbleached, unwaxed, and uncoated. It is a healthy and natural option for wrapping up your meat to freeze.
However, freezing raw meat in stainless steel containers is perfectly viable and the above options work very well for raw meat.
For Freezer Meals
When making freezer meals, you want high-quality containers that will help protect the integrity of your food when in the freezer. Many freezer meals sit in the freezer for a long time, and you want to protect them with the highest quality containers so your food doesn’t go to waste by getting freezer burned. Life Without Plastic sells some top-of-the-line containers to make this easier.
Life Without Plastic Gallon Airtight Container is a rectangular option that holds one gallon. It has a silicone ring for an airtight seal. Not only can it freeze a meal, but you can store fruits and veggies from the farmers market, or even freeze those fruits & veggies to enjoy local produce in the winter months.
The container is dishwasher and oven safe. The lid is not due to the non-removable silicone seal, so you must hand wash the lid and remove before putting in the oven.
If you don’t need one quite that big, the Airtight/Watertight Bowl is a great choice to save a little bit of money while still holding a good amount of food (it holds 2 liters). They have many other sizes available for both the rectangular container and bowl containers, too. Check them out!
What is especially awesome about putting freezer meals in stainless steel containers (especially the ones listed above) is that they are stove top & oven safe. It would be super easy to heat up food without messing around with switching containers!
For Dry Goods/Pantry Items
Many people like glass canisters so they can easily see what is inside, but glass definitely isn’t the most durable. The Tramontina Gourmet Stainless Steel Canisters and Scoops Set is the best of both worlds–it is a stainless steel body, but a clear glass lid to make it easy to distinguish one canister from another.
Another reason why these are my favorite canisters is that each size comes with its own scoop in a standard measurement. One of the most frustrating thing about canisters for me is when I can’t fit measuring cups inside the opening–this definitely solves that issue!
If you want a more budget-friendly option, these airtight canisters with glass lids is another great option. They are just as awesome as the previous set for half the price, but they don’t come with any angled scoops.
Stainless Steel Will Go the Long Haul
Investing in stainless steel food storage can be pricey up-front, but it can last forever. It’s a worthy purchase to help lessen the amount of waste your family generates and to help keep your food from leaching chemicals from plastics.
If the price of stainless steel is holding you back, check out another option for building a healthier and less wasteful home on a budget.
Do you use stainless steel containers for food storage? What do you love about it? Let me know in the comments!