Food Storage Containers…You Need LESS

Food storage containers

I promise you that you need less food storage containers than you think.

Open your food storage cabinet and take a peek for yourself. I can give a pretty good guess what it will contain:

  • A huge stack of disposable containers
  • A pile of mis-matched Rubbermaid bowls. You have about half of the matching lids
  • A few good TupperWare pieces. You only have one or two of these lids. You know where each of these came from.
  • Most of the contents are stained.
  • Over half of the storage containers have dishwasher spots and very visible wear.

You will insist that you need ALL of them for various reasons. 

I can attest that you do not need all the food storage containers in your cupboard. Perhaps you will argue that you do. Here’s a few points to consider.

How many left-overs do you have, at one time, in your refrigerator?

If you are like most of my clients, you have about two meals worth of left-overs that are fit to consume in your refrigerator. You would need just a handful of food storage containers to accommodate this many meals.

Letting go of excess food containers frees up valuable kitchen space.

When I help clients evaluate spacial concerns in the kitchen, I like to gravitate to the food storage cabinet. Inevitable, there is lost space to claim if careful editing and organizing is done here. Very often, food storage frustrates the client and the containers get tossed “willy nilly” in frustration and end up taking up a lot of space. That space could be used for so many other things that would benefit the client more in terms of kitchen storage and meal preparation.

How often do you do the dishes?

Most of us do the dishes every day or pretty close to that. There is no need to keep a month’s worth of food storage containers in reserve, just in case the ones we are using are dirty. In fact, since food storage containers are so much easier (and more pleasant) to clean right after they are used, keep the bare minimum and wash out what you used if you need to refill them. Once again, this helps with storage as well.

I need to keep a huge stash for my family to use for packing lunches. In fact, I have two sets of everything…the old, disgusting set that goes to work/school and my “real” food storage pieces.

Do you realize how many pieces were are talking about? This mindset will fill your cabinets and drawers in a hot second! A few, inexpensive plastic pieces are reasonable to keep for this purpose. Consider having enough for each member of your household to pack one lunch…no more. Additionally, this “disposable” mindset conveys to the family members that you don’t care about the food storage pieces because there are so many. Who cares if they empty their lunch boxes when there are 100 more containers in the cupboard? Who would even notice if they lost your nasty, old CoolWhip container?

What if (gulp…) I don’t have enough storage pieces after I purge?

I can see the look of terror in your eyes. Firstly, this will enable you to know what sizes you truly are missing. Are you running low on a piece to put extra salad in? Is it a larger container for a side dish you are missing? Maybe you need a container to take a left-over to work. Instead of purchasing large sets with many sizes you will never use, consider purchasing the sizes you truly need. There is very little difference in cost because you are only investing in the food storage pieces you use most. Additionally, if you really get in a pinch and the panic begins to set in, you can:

  • use disposable storage bags as a temporary solution for many items. This actually can conserve refrigerator space if you need to store a lot of leftovers.
  • clean your fridge and reclaim storage containers by dumping unused left-overs. We all have them.
  • Canning jars make wonderful storage containers for many items. Don’t be afraid to get creative when you are in a pinch.
  • Cover a plate/dish with wrap or foil until the proper container can be acquired.

I don’t want to spend a lot of money.

I hear you. Food storage doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to buy everything you need at once. Once you have determined what you use and need, I would advise you to also consider five important points:

  1. Buy square or rectangular pieces. They maximize the space in your fridge and lunch boxes. They also stack much better in your refrigerator and cupboard.
  2. Purchase glass storage containers for left-overs. They are a little more expensive up front, but will not stain or get that “container funkiness” that plastic often does. Glass is dishwasher friendly, doesn’t leach chemicals when you warm it up and will last exponentially longer than plastic.
  3. Research before you buy a big set of anything. Check on Amazon reviews or with friends. What sets wear well and avoid leaking? If you really won’t use all the pieces in a larger set, consider gifting the extras to someone else or purchase the pieces you need individually.
  4. Ensure that your food storage containers are easy to clean and store. You want a type of container that is easy to maintain. Consider where you will be storing these new containers and make sure there is room to spare. A few dollar store baskets to contain lids or small, lunch containers is often helpful.
  5. If you have difficulty using your hands or small children will be using the containers, make sure that the latches are easy to open and close.

With the holidays approaching, I will need to be prepared for baking and large gatherings with reserve containers.

I advise my clients to purchase disposable containers for each event and not to store extras. Who wants to have Holiday themed GladWare set stuffed in their cupboards for the other 11 months of the year–just to be sure you have enough on hand in December? With the exception of clients who live in remote areas, far from shopping resources, consider purchasing disposable storage containers with your specific event in mind. This will enable you to also get the exact sizes and patterns you will need and not “make do” with whatever you discover in the back of your TupperWare cabinet.

Place more value on what you have and you need to own less. Toss those food storage pieces.

Here are some resources for left-over storage solutions. (Plastic may be preferable for packing lunches/child use.)

These are not affiliate links.

Amazon 20 Piece Snapware set

Amazon PopIt 12 Piece Storage Set

Amazon Glasslock 4-Piece Rectangle Set

Happy Organizing!

-Lorinda with Vacaville Organizer



  1. lonniewells says:

    Such a great job on this issue Lorinda. I always enjoy your excellent insights and suggestions. Thank you for the excellence you bring to all that you do. Love, Lonnie

  2. Amelia Fawson says:

    I ALWAYS read your ideas….I just never thank you! My favorite have been folding our tshirts in our drawers! Bob doesn’t dig through the shirts now! AND under the sink ideas….I did that too! YOU are so smart and have chosen a great field to work and help others. Amelia

  3. I started this article knowing that it didn’t apply to me, but I’d read it for information to pass on. My containers all match and are well organized. Man, was I wrong! I’m itching to dig in and purge now!

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