Meal prepping allows you to “have everything available so you can be an automatic pilot” when you’re ready to eat a meal or snack, said Lisa Young, an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and a nutritionist in private practice. Instead of having to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can reach into your fridge and pull out pre-made food, eliminating time spent standing over the stove or chopping ingredients. And since meal prepping involves cooking multiple servings of a dish or larger quantities of food at once, you’ll need containers to store everything in.
SKIP AHEAD What type of container should you use for meal prep?
We talked to nutrition experts about deciding which meal prep container is suitable for you and the features you should consider when shopping for them. We also rounded up some of our favorite options, plus expert-recommended picks.
Top meal prep containers
- Budget pick: Bentgo Prep 3-Compartment Meal-Prep Container
- Splurge pick: Caraway Food Storage Set
- Editor’s pick for packing lunch: W&P Porter Lunch Box
How we picked the best meal prep containers
Below are a handful of meal prep containers to consider, some of which we’ve tried ourselves and others recommended by experts. When choosing our top picks, we looked at the following characteristics:
- Material: All of the containers on our list are BPA-free, as well as microwave-, and freezer-safe. We noted which ones are oven-safe.
- Size: Depending on the type and volume of meals you’re prepping, this is a personal preference.
- Care: All of the containers on our list are dishwasher-safe.
- Style: All the containers we recommend have lids, which reduces the risk of spills, leakage and bacteria growth on stored food, said Shelby Yaceczko, an advanced practice clinical dietitian in the Division of Digestive Diseases at UCLA Health.
Best meal prep containers with compartments
M Mcirco Glass Meal Prep Containers
Since I meal prep dinner for the work week, I bought this set of five containers so I could pack food for each night. The glass containers come with snap lock silicone lids and have two compartments inside that help me portion out food. I’ve had them for over a year and have found them to be super durable.
Material: Glass | Capacity: 4.5 cups | Compartments: Two | Oven-safe
Bentgo Prep 3-Compartment Meal-Prep Containers
Bentgo offers “great stackable, multi-compartment containers which can be used to build snack packs or multi-item meals,” Yaceczko said. The Bentgo Prep collection offers containers with one, two or three compartments in multiple colors. The containers and their custom-fit lids are stackable and can be used up to 10 times, according to the brand.
Material: Plastic | Capacity: 4 cups | Compartments: Three
Sistema Multi Split To Go Container
These meal prep containers from Sistema are a lower profile option compared to others on our list, making them particularly suitable for stacking in your refrigerator or pantry when they’re not in use. The containers have three compartments inside and their lids come with clips to create a leak-proof seal around the top, according to the brand.
Material: Plastic | Capacity: 3.5 cups | Compartments: Three
Best single compartment meal prep containers
Pyrex Freshlock 10-Piece Glass Storage Set
Yaceczko recommended looking for meal prep containers with an air-tight seal like those in Pyrex’s Freshlock collection — the containers’ lids are designed with locking tabs to create a leak-proof seal, according to the brand. This 10-piece set comes with five stackable containers (which you can also nest inside each other) and lids in multiple sizes. The containers are designed with built-in labels you can write on and erase. The containers are rectangular and square shapes.
Material: Glass | Capacity: Containers range in capacity from 1 to 6 cups
OXO Good Grips Smart Seal 12-Piece Container Set
OXO also offers glass containers with leak-proof lids, Yaceczko said. You can purchase a 12-piece set with six containers and lids in multiple sizes, and the containers come in rectangular and circular shapes. OXO says these containers are stackable for easy storage.
Material: Glass | Capacity: Containers range in capacity from 4 ounces to 3.5 cups | Oven-safe
Caraway Food Storage Set
After Caraway sent me some of their food storage containers to try, I quickly started relying on them for my weekly meal prep. The set includes one large container, two medium containers and two small containers — usually store protein in the large container and vegetables, cut fruits and grains in the medium and small containers. The matching lids create a very tight seal around the top of the containers, and I appreciate that the lids are made from clear glass that allows me to see what type of food is inside. The set comes with two 4-ounce inserts and two 9-ounce interests to hold toppings and condiments, plus two straps to wrap around the larger containers, adding an extra layer of assurance that they won’t open if you’re transporting them. You also get a storage system with your purchase, which neatly organizes the containers and inserts.
Material: Ceramic-coated glass | Capacity: Containers range in capacity from 4.4 cups to 10 cups | Oven-safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
Best meal prep containers for salad, snacks and smaller meals
Ball 16-ounce Mason Jars
You can use glass jars to store vegetables, salad and meals like overnight oats or parfaits, Young said. Ball Mason Jars are available in sizes from 4 to 32 ounces. Each jar comes with a screw-on metal lid and band to form a tight seal around the mouth, according to the brand.
Material: Glass | Capacity: 16 ounces
Stasher 4-Pack Storage Starter
Reusable silicone bags “take up minimal space and may be helpful if you have space restrictions,” according to Yaceczko. Stasher Bags — some of my favorite eco-friendly kitchen tools — are made from food-grade platinum silicone, according to the brand. They’re designed with the brand’s leak-free Pinch-Loc seal and come in a variety of styles, sizes and colors. Some models also have a flat bottom so they stand upright. Stasher’s Starter Kit 4-Pack comes with one 15-ounce sandwich bag, one 9.9-ounce snack bag, one 56-ounce stand-up mid bag and one 64-ounce half gallon bag.
Material: Silicone | Capacity: Bags range in size from 9.9 ounces to 64 ounces | Oven-safe up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
Rubbermaid TakeAlongs Twist & Seal Food Storage Container
To store condiments like dressing and snacks such as dried fruit and nuts, Young suggested using small stackable containers. These round plastic containers from Rubbermaid come in a pack of three and have a twist and seal lid.
Material: Plastic | Capacity: 2 cups
Best meal prep containers for packing lunch
I often meal prep lunch to bring to work in the Stojo Box. It’s made from premium food-grade silicone, according to the brand, and collapses when it’s not in use — this helps me save space when storing the containers in my kitchen’s limited cabinetry. Stojo’s Box has a four-clasp lid.
Material: Silicone | Capacity: 24 ounces
W&P Porter Lunch Box
I also love my W&P Porter Lunch Box to bring meal prepped food to the office. It comes with a divider you can move around the bowl, allowing you to change what size each compartment is or take it out entirely. The container also includes a removable tray you can place above the bowl to separate a sandwich from chips or a salad from crackers, for example. There’s a silicone snap strap that helps keep the air-tight lid in place when you’re on the go.
Material: Plastic | Capacity: 4-cup bowl and 2-cup removable tray
What type of container should you use for meal prep?
Deciding which meal prep container is best for you is largely a matter of personal preference. But there are a few factors experts recommend thinking about.
Rectangular, square and round containers with lids are best for storing large quantities of food for meals. You can separate each dish into its own container and serve directly from it, or you can portion out meals by adding a serving of each dish into separate containers to eat throughout the week. If you prefer doing the latter, experts suggested looking for containers built with dividers that create two or three compartments inside.
As for mason jars and reusable silicone bags, Young said you can purchase them in a variety of sizes and use them to store chopped vegetables, salads, cooked grains and snacks. I also meal prep smoothies in freezer-safe silicone bags by portioning out frozen fruit, vegetables and milk ice cubes so I don’t have to spend time measuring each ingredient later on.
What is the best size container for meal prep?
Determining what size meal prep container you need involves thinking about two factors, experts said:
- The purpose of your meal prepping: “Is it for snacks [or] one meal or will it serve to support a full day of your nutrition?” Yaceczko said. Small and medium-sized containers are usually sufficient for snacks and singular meals, while meal prepping an entire day’s or week’s worth of food could warrant larger options.
- How many people you’re feeding: “Is it just for you? Or are you going to be prepping for two people?” Young said. Meal prepping for one allows for using smaller or mid-sized containers, but you might need larger options if you’re cooking for two people or larger groups.
What’s the best material for meal prep containers?
Young said it’s important to consider whether or not meal prep containers are oven-, microwave-, freezer- and dishwasher-safe, factors that are usually dictated by the material they’re made from. If containers are oven- and microwave-safe, you can reheat food in them. And being dishwasher-safe gives you the option for easy clean-up.
Another factor to keep in mind while deciding what material you prefer is whether or not you can see through it, allowing you to view the contents inside the container. If you’re storing portioned meals made up of the same dishes, seeing inside the container may not matter. But if you’re putting each dish in its own container, being able to see what’s inside can be helpful when you’re serving.
Young also said some people prefer to purchase containers in multiple colors, or with different colored lids. You can designate a color for each day of the week or for different food groups, like one color for vegetables and another for grains.
Meal prep containers are most often made from plastic or glass, according to experts, although silicone and stainless steel options are also available. Each material offers its own pros and cons, which we broke down below. Remember that whichever material you choose, make sure it’s BPA-free, which means it does not contain the BPA chemical. Young said BPA is a concern because some research has shown that it can leak into food or beverages when stored in containers made with the chemical, leading to possible negative health effects.
Pros: Most glass containers are oven-, microwave-, freezer- and dishwasher-safe, making them highly versatile, Young said.
Cons: Glass containers are fragile, so if you plan on taking food with you on the go, they may not be the best option.
Pros: Plastic is a sturdier material compared to glass, making it better to travel with. Young said plastic containers are also useful for those with children who may be eating out of them or who like helping in the kitchen — if the container falls, it’s less likely to break.
Cons: Plastic meal prep containers are not always safe to put in the dishwasher, microwave and oven.
Pros: Silicone is a more flexible material compared to glass, plastic and stainless steel. Many food storage options made from silicone take up minimal space, Yaceczko said, and either lay flat or fold down when not in use.
Cons: Silicone meal prep containers are not always safe to put in the dishwasher, microwave and oven.
Pros: Like plastic, stainless steel is durable and easy to transport.
Cons: While many stainless steel containers are dishwasher- and freezer-safe, they’re not microwave- or oven-safe, so you can’t reheat food directly in them.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Lisa Young is an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and a nutritionist in private practice
- Shelby Yaceczko is an advanced practice clinical dietitian in the Division of Digestive Diseases at UCLA Health
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