In the Meal Prep process, there are basically three stages:
- Preparation, and
While meal planning and preparation have been well documented, some meal preppers may be neglecting the final stage as it’s pretty simple right? Throw the food and some containers and pop them in the fridge or freezer. Simple, right?
After all that time spent planning and preparing your meals, the last thing you want is to lose your food to leaky lids, melted plastic or freezer burn.
What you need is some quality containers, ones that won’t break or fold under the pressure of extreme temperatures both hot and cold.
Step 1: Understand the Risks
The containers in the shopping aisle may look all fine and dandy but what happens when you place these containers under the stress of a microwave and everyday life. Here are a few things you need to consider.
1. Leaky Lids
I’m sure at one time or another you’ve ended up spilling some food in your bag. Not only is the meal now contaminated, your bag and all it contains are now drench in sauce and other bits of food – yuck!
Some lids simply can’t withstand the pressure and others just don’t fit tight enough.
Another common issue is losing your lids altogether. I’ve definitely been there, sifting through the pantry trying to mix and match containers with their lids. Sometimes I end up using a makeshift cover or the wrong lid with just ends badly anyways.
When shopping for containers, don’t forget to look at the lids! Make sure it fits tightly. Put something with a little weight inside and turn the container on its head. Can it withstand the pressure? Chances are that your filled-up containers will turn upside down at some point and so you’ll need a lid that can handle it.
2. Melted Plastic
Ever put cling wrap over a dish and placed it in the microwave? You’ve probably experienced a bit of good ol’ plastic melt. You know the kind that burns a hole right through the wrapper?
Well, some containers are just not built for microwaving at high temperatures and if you’re not careful, you could get some of that melted plastic in your food. If you’ve been doing this a while, you’ve probably had your fair share of bent-up plastic tupperware containers that could take the heat – not cool.
Here at 3 Minute Meals, we stand by the FDA recommendation that suggests placing containers in the microwave only if they have been labeled for microwave oven use.
3. Freezer Burn
I don’t know about you guys but my heart breaks each time I see that spot of burn on an otherwise still half frozen piece of meat. Hell, it can be frustrating but it can also destroy the flavour, texture, and color of your precious creation.
While you can’t prevent freezer burn entirely, you can do a lot better by making sure the containers you use are freezer friendly. These kinds of tupperware containers can help reduce the food’s exposure to air, the main factor causing many of the unwanted side effects of freezing.
Step 2: Review the Benefits
Ok, so you now know what you don’t want your meal prep containers to do, let’s talk about what you do want them to do.
If you plan to take your food on the road – maybe to eat during work or for after a workout – you’ll need to consider portability.
Ideally, you want your containers to be only just big enough to fit the full size of the meal, any bigger and the container will maybe take up too much space and worse, the food will ruffle around in the container resulting in a messy pile by the time you eat it.
You want your containers to not only do a great job of holding in the food but of also being compact enough that you can store it easily on the go.
How many meals are you going to be carrying with you? How big is the bag that you plan to carry it with? These are things you need to consider before stocking up your entire kitchen with new tupperware!
You may not be dropping your containers from two story buildings (like this girl) but they’ll still need to withstand the wear and tear of everyday life.
Sometimes it’s a trade-off. Glass containers prevent contamination from melted plastic but they’re often heavier and more fragile. Drop one of those suckers from waist level on a hard surface and you’ll be faced with broken glass for lunch!
One of the other big problems with glass containers is that they can implode under freezing temperatures, making them the less ideal choice for meals that you might be hoping to put in the freezer.
3. Ease of Cleaning
Especially prevalent with cheesy recipes like pasta bake or shepard’s pie, by the time you finish your meal, you may find some crusty lines in the corner of your container. Unfortunately, sticky leftovers are almost inevitable with plastic containers.
An alternative material that’s both stronger and easy to clean is stainless steel. These kind of containers are definitely on the premium end of the spectrum. You can try glass containers as well but as we mentioned in the last section, they’re a bit more fragile.
Step 3: Make your Decision
Meal Prep Containers come in all shapes, sizes and materials, each with their own pros and cons.
We recommend Glass containers for those who:
- Are worried about melted plastic, and
- Plan to store your food exclusively in your kitchen fridge
Plastic Containers for those who:
- Are looking for a low cost alternative
- Need a quick and easy solution
And, Stainless Steel containers for those who:
- Want the best of the best
- Happy to pay a little extra, and
- Cut down time spent cleaning in the kitchen