Welcome to your meal prep container guide! Meal prep containers are a fantastic way to store food and to keep your food fresh, which means more healthy food in your belly, an easier time reaching your healthy lifestyle goals, and less wasted food (which will save you time and money)!
When I was growing up, our method of food storage was very lacking. We’d store prepared foods, like spaghetti, on paper plate, covered with aluminum foil or loosely covered plastic wrap. Food did not stay fresh, was messy, and didn’t seem like a legit way to save food. Often times, we didn’t even eat out left-overs, and I think that’s why.
Then, when I first moved in with Dustin. I got so excited when our parents gave us all their old Tupperware containers they didn’t use because I wanted to fix the paper plate and seran wrap problem. We got all sorts of plastic containers with different lids that would fall out of the “container drawer” and you couldn’t even find the dang lid you needed because it either melted or was the only one and was hiding.
NONE of this was helpful to meal prep or keeping food fresh for any decent amount of time.
As I started my clean eating journey, however, I learned more and more about “meal prep containers.” We ordered some plastic ones online that were cheap and we used the heck out of them. Since we were meal prepping for either the two of us or including the kids, we needed a lot of storage. These were also great because you could transport them and we even bought a special refrigerated meal prep container duffle bag that had spots to hold the actual containers.
Hopefully, the info I have shared below will help provide you with answers to all your meal prep container questions. In a nutshell, here are the portion control topics we’re gonna cover in this post:
- What To Look For In a Meal Prep Container
- Best Type of Meal Prep Containers
- Are Plastic Meal Prep Containers Safe?
- Plastic Meal Prep Containers: Pros + Cons
- Are Glass Meal Prep Containers Better Than Steel Meal Prep Containers?
- Steel Meal Prep Containers: Pros + Cons
- Glass Meal Prep Containers: Pros + Cons
- How Big Should My Meal Prep Containers Be?
- How Many Meal Prep Containers Do I Need?
- Lacey’s Meal Prep Container Recommendations
- Meal Prep Recipes To Get Started
Feel free to jump to any sections that may be of interest.
So, let’s get started!
What To Look For In a Meal Prep Container
From my experience, I’ve learned to look for the following characteristics in a good meal prep container:
Ideally, a good meal prep container will have most, if not all, the above characteristics. As I’ve really gotten into meal prep, I learned the best option for me was a glass meal prep container with an easy-to-lock lid. More on that (and why!) is later in this post!
Best Type of Meal Prep Containers
I’ll dive deeper into each of the categories below, but here’s a quick table to understand the different types of meal prep containers at a glance.
* If BPA-free
Are Plastic Meal Prep Containers Safe?
A big question about plastic meal prep containers is “Are they safe?” The answer is yes and no. The main issue with plastic containers is they can contain BPA (Bisphenol A) and some of that can actually leak into to your food, especially if the plastic is heated. While you’d have to come into super large quantities of BPA and other harmful plastic components to be at risk of serious health danger, it is possible.
Plastic Meal Prep Containers: Pros + Cons
Benefits of Plastic Meal Prep Containers
- less expensive than steel and plastic containers
- many shapes and sizes
Negatives of Plastic Meal Prep Containers
- possibly contains BPA that can leak into your food when heated
- not very durable
- not eco-friendly
That being said, if you choose BPA-free plastic meal prep containers and/or don’t reheat your food in your meal prep container, plastic meal prep containers may work well for your needs.
Are Glass Meal Prep Containers Better Than Steel Meal Prep Containers?
While I prefer glass meal prep containers over plastic and steel, that doesn’t mean the others aren’t safe or good to use, with some exceptions. A big benefit to using non-plastic containers, like glass and steel meal prep containers, is they avoid those plastic-related toxins and they are also greener because they reduce the amount of plastics being produced.
Steel Meal Prep Containers: Pros + Cons
Benefits of Steel Meal Prep Containers
- many shapes and sizes
- great for cold foods and snacks
Negatives of Steel Meal Prep Containers
- not dishwasher-safe
- not microwave-safe
- not freezer-safe
Steel containers are lightweight, durable, and can work great for foods, like salads, cold foods, nuts and small snacks, but they aren’t microwaveable, which is a problem for me.
Glass Meal Prep Containers: Pros + Cons
Benefits of Glass Meal Prep Containers
Negatives of Glass Meal Prep Containers
- heavier than steel or plastic
- can break easier than steel and plastic
So I choose glass meal prep containers because they are BPA free, clear so I can see what’s in them in the fridge without having to open them, microwaveable, dishwasher-safe, eco-friendly, and I think they make my food look the best, too – which is important if you’re caring about enjoying your meal.
The only real downside to glass is they are more breakable and they’re heavier.
How Big Should My Meal Prep Containers Be?
Size is important for your meal prep containers, but will depend a lot on how you plan to do the majority of your meal prep. Ask yourself the following questions when determining what size meal prep containers you’ll need:
- Do you plan to portion out individual servings for one person to grab and enjoy?
- Do you plan to keep large quantities of food cooked in bulk, like rice, quinoa, or grilled chicken, so you can grab a portion for yourself and reheat separately?
If you plan to portion out your meals, it’s best to get smaller, one-serving size containers so you can easily reheat your food quickly and you don’t have to fuss with anything, which is a big part of how I use meal prep containers.
However, if you’re prepping your food in bulk, I’d recommend looking into larger sized containers, since you won’t ever really be reheating the entire portion and you’ll just use it to keep your food as fresh as possible, while you take from it during the week.
I also recommend testing out different container sizes before going all in and buying a gazillion of the same one so you can experiment while you figure out your perfect meal portion size. Eating the right portion sized meals is integral to maintain, lose or gain weight.
How Many Meal Prep Containers Do I Need?
The next question is how many do you actually need? This answer is, again, going to be determined by how you plan to use them. Questions to consider when deciding this are:
- How many meals per week do you plan to meal prep? Do you plan to do 5 meals per week? Less? More?
- How many meals per day do you want to store? Are you storing just lunches? Or also dinners and even breakfasts and snacks?
- How often do you plan to meal prep? Once a week so you need all your containers available at that time or twice a week so you only need half of them ready to be used?
- How often do you want to have to wash your containers? The less you have, the more often you’ll have to wash them so you have enough…unless you buy extra to account for that.
- How many people are you prepping for? The more people, the more containers you’ll each need.
GENERAL RULE: The more meals per day AND the more meals per week AND the more people you’re prepping for, the more containers you’ll need (and vice versa).
For example, in a typical week, we meal prep a minimum of 2 full meals per week for both Dustin and I (usually just our lunches and dinners). That means we are using a minimum of 20 containers – 10 for me and 10 for him. I also keep extras on hand to hold any additional left-overs or foods for the kiddos.
Lacey’s Meal Prep Container Recommendations
Based off years of testing, here are the main types of meal prep containers I prefer and what I use them for:
1. Glass Meal Prep Containers
Glass Meal Prep Containers: We use these for lunches, dinners, and general bulk meal prep. They are our number one used container and I highly recommend them. We have about 40 of these but you don’t need that many – I just also need them on hand to make meal prep videos for you guys! At any given time, especially early in the week, about half of them are being used.
2. 1-quart Mason Jars
1-quart Mason Jars: We use these when we meal prep salads. They’re perfect for storing make-ahead salads since they keep the lettuce at the top (you can learn how to make these in my video). I also use them for storing liquids, like iced teas, infused waters, and even soups.
3. 16-oz Mason Jars
4. Re-Usable Silicone Storage Bags
Re-Usable Silicone Storage Bags: We use these for storing cut veggies or cheeses in the fridge, and they can also be used to freeze foods, like chicken pot pies or tomato sauce. They are flexible and replaced our plastic storage bags.
BONUS HELP: These re-usable mason jar lids are life-changing. Once size fits all and they come in a large pack so it super handy. If you’ve ever dealt with mason jar lids that are metal and are hard to clean and eventually get rusty, you’ll absolutely love these dishwasher-safe, re-usable lids.
I also have others I use occasionally here and there which you might see in my videos sometimes, but these are the core group of what I find to be super valuable and helpful.
Meal Prep Recipes
ALSO here are some of my FAVE meal prep recipes to get you started using your new meal prep containers!
- How to Meal Prep + 30+ Easy and Delicious Meal Prep Ideas
- Breaded Shrimp Meal Prep
- Easy Instant Pot Pulled Pork 4 Ways | Perfect for Meal Prep!
- Ground Turkey Meal Prep: Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash Noodles
- Easy Vegetarian Meal Prep: Chipotle Chickpea Taco Bowls
- Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Meal Prep
- 6 Best Overnight Oats Recipes & Easy Make-Ahead Recipes
- 5 Best Chia Pudding Recipes
- 7 Easy Make Ahead Smoothies For Fall
As You Get Started….
Keep in mind these have been added to my collection of meal prep containers over a long period of time, and they’re an investment I’ve made in the health and well-being of myself and my family. Don’t get worried and think you have to buy all of them right now. The main idea is that you cook clean, healthy food first. This is just a way to make that life even easier to keep you on track. The more healthy food you have available to grab and go, the easier your healthy lifestyle will be….even if it’s just one meal prep container at a time.
Got more questions? Check out my YouTube video and leave your question in a comment!