Meal prep containers come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. However, when it comes to glass vs. plastic, choosing the best meal prep containers becomes more challenging. Both types are useful and have been well-received by the community for years.
Today, you’ll find out how glass and plastic containers differ. All primary pros and cons can be found below as well. You’ll know what will best suit your needs after reading to the end.
- Plastic Containers
- Glass Containers
- Choosing the Container You Want
- A Wise Choice
Plastic containers are convenient and cheap, besides having many types for all situations. Of course, plastic doesn’t shatter when dropped onto hard surfaces. It may not be the best material in the long term, but you can easily replace it with another container.
The malleability of plastic means factories can form them into whatever shapes the customers’ desire. That’s why bento boxes have partitions for each distinct section of the meal. Besides creating a neat appearance for the food, it’s suitable for separating different flavors.
Many people agree that plastic containers are best for snacks and sandwiches, especially if the food doesn’t have to be heated. Microwave-safe plastics do exist, but it’s almost common knowledge that BPA in polymers can leach into our foods.
Since plastic containers don’t shatter, you can easily stack them atop one another. This arrangement helps conserve space in the fridge or freezer. Many containers are even designed to fit inside another of the same model, lids included.
Plastic Container Materials
Governmental agencies regulate plastic heavily, so only food-grade types are allowed for storing meals. Many different polymers are used to make containers, and they may not be the best ones to use.
PET is what your mineral water bottles and some other containers are made of. These containers aren’t reusable, though their convenience and light weight are beneficial for one-time products. One variant is CPET, which is PET that has undergone crystallization.
CPET is more flexible and capable of withstanding more heat. You can find it in oven-proof wraps or containing frozen dinners.
This plastic can stay intact even under high heat, especially when bombarded with microwaves. While it’s stiff, polypropylene isn’t as brittle as other food packaging plastics. The majority of yogurt and sour cream containers are made of polypropylene.
Today, some microwave-safe containers are made of this polymer.
Polycarbonate is usually harder and more durable than polypropylene. Its melting point is higher than polypropylene. Polycarbonate is shatter-resistant, too.
However, PC does tend to have more BPA than polypropylene. It’s still possible to find BPA-free PC containers.
Many authorities see these plastics as food-safe. However, it’s important to note that the risk of BPA leaching is always present. If you don’t heat these plastic boxes, the BPA won’t leak into the food as much.
Therefore, plastic containers have their place, especially for food that doesn’t require heating.
Plastic Container Types
There are many different plastic containers you can get for food prepping. They range from Ziploc bags to bento boxes.
Ziploc bags themselves vary in size and shape. They can store some smaller portions like sandwiches or sauces. However, it would be best if you didn’t use them for long-term heating since they’re only microwave-safe.
Only get name brand bags, as generic brands don’t necessarily have FDA certification.
The rectangle or circle plastic container is a common sight in many locations. They store rice, bread, and other portioned meals effectively. The best ones are safe to heat for short periods and keep your food fresh for consumption.
These are boxes that separate the internal space into several sections. You’ll find them an excellent choice for multiple foods, especially if you don’t want to mix different flavors.
Large Storage Containers
There are larger plastic containers that work well for large batches of food. They can be stacked safely and even heated in the microwave. Use these for solid foods or even thick soups.
Many people consider glass containers the best meal prepping choice. Glass is prone to shattering but doesn’t release any harmful substances when subjected to intense heat. It also doesn’t change or break down after prolonged use, so it remains the same over the years.
Glass is much better for the environment, even if many plastics can also be recycled. If you’re environmentally conscious, switch to a glass container.
Finally, you can microwave, refrigerate, and freeze glass containers safely. The food inside remains safe until you go past the ideal storage period. This is especially the case for airtight glass boxes or canning jars.
Some people have an open-style pantry, and glass containers tend to contribute to the aesthetic boost. Glass containers are usually a sign of sophistication and elegance, so bringing them to lunch can be a bold statement.
Plastic containers may absorb smells after extended use, and others discolor from washing or heat. Glass is stable and doesn’t suffer from these issues.
Not All Glass Is the Same
Many containers are made of tempered glass, which is reinforced to withstand drops. They can still break, but the chances are lower than standard materials.
Unless you have no choice, avoid untreated soda lime glass. It’s fragile and can even shatter due to thermal shock. It’s best used to store portions in the fridge.
Borosilicate glass is more brittle than tempered glass. However, it is the most resistant to sudden temperature changes. This characteristic makes it microwave- and freezer-safe.
Tempered glass is great for lunch boxes on the go, while borosilicate is perfect for home use where you can access microwaves and ovens.
Glass Container Types
Some plastic containers have partitioned sections, as the material is easier to work with. However, glass containers tend to be simple boxes or jars. Divided examples do exist, but they aren’t very plentiful.
Nevertheless, divided glass containers can be purchased affordably on Amazon and other online stores. Pick the one you want.
The humble glass lunch box without partitions is a common sight at home. You can carry these to work but exercise caution when doing so. You don’t want it to shatter into harmful fragments.
You’ll find these containers best for rice and other single-portion meals. If you use these for noodles, ensure they’re airtight and sealed. Leaks can be a hassle to deal with.
Some stores label these as glass bento boxes, and it’s an apt description. These containers have several sections for different foods. You can separate rice, salads, and other condiments as needed.
Most people won’t bring canning jars to work, but food preppers love them for long-term storage. The jars are perfect for storing soups, stock, and stews. They come in various sizes, but you typically only need one or two for smaller batches.
Larger batches will require more jars, but it depends on your needs.
Large Glass Containers
These large containers are fantastic for holding recipes like shepherd’s pie since you’re already baking it within the container. When needed, you can scoop a portion and put it in a smaller container for lunch.
Choosing the Container You Want
Since you have so many containers to choose from, some feel overwhelmed by the options. Don’t worry; we’ll help you make a choice and save time.
Glass is great for those with a larger budget and people who enjoy using the same container for years. You can choose tempered glass, which is more rigid than the usual kind. These aren’t bad choices if you’re not bothered by the material’s fragility. They’re a worthy investment that you won’t regret spending a little money on.
Plastic containers are cheap and easy to get, so they remain popular with the meal prep community. Nevertheless, some people aren’t comfortable using them because of environmental harm or BPA leaching. Safe products exist, but they still suffer from issues like deforming and discoloring.
After picking a material, it’s time to decide what kind of container you want. The regular rectangular or circular lunch containers will serve you well if you don’t mind their humble appearance. These are hard to go wrong with.
The prepper who likes to separate different foods will find bento boxes a presentable and elegant way to enjoy meals. They’re also conversation pieces due to their rarity in Western countries.
A canning jar or large box should be an essential part of any meal prep enthusiast’s kitchen, especially if you want to cook for the whole week or next few days.
Ziploc bags are for those in a hurry or who aren’t going to heat the food. You can combine them with most lunch boxes.
A Wise Choice
Choosing between glass vs. plastic and selecting the best meal prep containers always comes down to your situation and environment. Once you know which products match the checklist in your mind, you’ll be able to make an informed decision. You won’t regret investing in suitable containers for all your meal prepping needs.