When you first start to set up your zero waste kitchen, you might feel overwhelmed to think you need to replace everything you own with plastic-free alternatives. You start to price out your options and get confused by the variety and flabbergasted by the cost! Don’t worry – I’ll help you figure out your zero waste food storage situation the easy way.
Why is zero waste food storage important?
No matter what lifestyle you lead, you typically need some sort of food storage containers in your life. Whether you’re storing leftovers from dinner, packing a lunch, or making quick pickles, you need ways to store food. That’s just part of life.
But why is zero waste food storage important? And what does that mean?
Well, zero waste is part of the sustainable living movement.
It specifically addresses the products you bring into your home including how they are made and their packaging waste.
Many zero waste food storage containers are plastic-free to minimize our contribution to plastic pollution and to avoid any chemicals or contaminants leaching into our foods.
How to Store your Food in a Zero Waste Way
There are a few layers to zero waste food storage. Maybe you’re refilling your containers at your local bulk bin store and need to make sure your items can travel.
Or, maybe you’re just looking for a way to serve leftovers and kitchen projects without relying on plastic bags and plastic wrap.
Below, you’ll find the very best reusable food containers for any purpose.
The Best Reusable Food Containers for Your Kitchen
There are so many different types of plastic-free food storage containers! It’s kind of a lot.
If you’ve already read my post about zero waste plastic wrap alternatives, you’ll notice that many of these are familiar.
That makes sense since plastic wrap and plastic sandwich bags are simply disposable food storage containers.
Our Favorite Zero Waste & Plastic-Free Food Storage Containers
1. Reusable glass containers
There are so many options out there for reusable glass containers. We have a variety of Pyrex containers and Ello glass meal prep containers with silicone sleeves.
They all have their pros and cons, but this is my favorite way to store food.
- Glass will not leach chemicals into your food
- Easy to store and heat
- Incredibly versatile
When you’re trying to store something, first see if it will fit in your glass containers! If not, move down the line…
2. Glass mason jars
Glass is such a useful tool in a zero waste kitchen and you can get it so inexpensively!
We’ve purchased sets of glass mason jars for canning, but we’ve also purchased vintage ones at yard sales and at thrift stores.
You can also hunt for glass jars in your recycling bin! Many zero wasters have a secret shelf of random glass jars they’re saving for just the right project.
We use jars of all sizes from the tiniest ones for mini batches of jam or leftover diced onions to quart jars for canning, storing sauces and soups, and making milk kefir.
Although we know it’s not cool to recommend, we do use the leak-proof plastic lids for mason jars. They last forever and are more convenient than the regular metal lids.
If you’re 100% plastic-free, skip ’em.
3. Glass Fido Jars
Fido jars have a rubber or silicone ring and they close with a clamp, which creates a seal.
You might have grown up with these on your counter storing flour and sugar. They’ve been used for storing food forever!
They are not a USDA recommended replacement for canning though, so don’t try to use them in your water bath canner or to store perishables items.
Fido jars are great because that seal keeps the air out. They’re great for keeping dry pantry items fresh.
They are also ideal for fermenting things like krauts and pickles.
In fact, we purchased Fido jars specifically for fermenting because the airlock allows gases to release while keeping the outside air out.
You do not need any other fancy lid or gadget – just the jar. (Well, you might want a glass fermentation weight to keep everything submerged, but you don’t need a burper or nipple or one of these twisty things).
Just be sure to change out the seal between ferments or you’ll need to burp them once or twice.
This makes them super versatile because we can use them for dry storage in the pantry or for fermenting foods like water kefir, sauerkraut, and more.
where to find fido jars
Hit the thrift store to find old jars, but be sure to replace the rings! We ordered replacement rings for ours on Amazon (I know) and this is a great way to keep an older item in use.
We’ve also purchased some new from Target for making water kefir.
3. Eco-friendly silicone bags
There are silicone bags of every size and quality! The best silicone bags can be used in the dishwasher, microwave, and freezer!
Be sure to look for food-grade platinum silicone that is extra durable. We recommend Stasher bags for their high quality and that the company will take back damaged bags for recycling.
They do require an investment. You can often buy sets at a discounted rate.
I recommend buying only what you need, though.
For example, we don’t use a lot of silicone bags. We are trying to move away from large gallon-sized plastic bags that we rewash, though.
Instead of buying a whole assortment of bags, we only bought the mega stand-up bags to swap out the plastic bags we normally use.
If you don’t use little sandwich bags, it doesn’t make sense to buy them!
Read: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Something New
4. Cloth bags
Similar to silicone bags, cloth bags replace sandwich bags of different sizes. They are made from cloth and may close with a snap, zipper, velcro, or simply by folding.
For products like this, we recommend skipping the fussy closures that might eventually tear the fabric and purchasing a product that closes by folding.
This ensures your product should last a long time.
5. Zero Waste Food Wraps
These are beeswax wraps or vegan wraps made with soy wax. Essentially, cotton cloth is saturated in melted wax and allowed to cool and harden. Once firm, you can scrunch up the wrap to soften it in your hands and then seal a variety of containers.
You can fold beeswax wrap into a pouch, wrap a sandwich, seal a large bowl, cover a block of cheese or celery, etc. There are so many uses!
We made our own and like having a variety of sizes. We use it for covering cheese and wrapping homemade bread the most.
6. Stainless Steel Containers
Notice how far down on the list these are? Stainless steel containers will last forever! However, we don’t own any and don’t really plan on buying any. Why?
They’re expensive and they are not microwave-safe.
We like to be able to reheat leftovers and that’s a priority in a zero waste food storage container. Although we could simply use this for cold items, that’s another thing to remember.
It’s just not practical for us.
Many people have and love stainless steel containers though! Maybe I’m missing something. If you’re a fan, tell me what you love about them in the comments!
7. Baskets & Cloth Bags
For items that don’t need to be sealed, consider incorporating baskets and cloth bags!
I actually like to make my own baskets, but you could thrift some or order some from a basket maker. Perfect for a zero waste picnic!
Cotton drawstring bags can also be used purchasing items loose at the store and you’ll likely need more of these than you think, especially if you use them for storage!
Opt for organic cotton when possible.
8. Reuse your old plastic items
We don’t recommend purchasing new plastic items, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use what you have.
Unless you are removing all plastic for health purposes, make the most of the old bags, bottles, and tubs you have!
For years, we’ve washed and reused plastic gallon-sized bags for storing produce, cheese, bread, etc.
If you do buy items like yogurt that come in plastic containers, see how you can repurpose them! I definitely remember having to open like 5 Country Crock containers as a kid to find the one with the right leftovers.
This is a frugal and environmentally responsible practice. Plastic bags are very hard to recycle so this is a great place to start your eco-friendly lifestyle!
The Benefits of Zero Waste Food Storage & How it Can Help You Save Time and Money!
Although many zero waste food storage containers often require an upfront investment, they will last years and years. Especially if you’re on a budget, I recommend making the most of what you already have: upcycling bottles and jars from products you’ve purchased or wash and reuse plastic tubs, bags, and bottles.
Try taking your containers to your local store or bulk refill store to shop totally package-free!
Have any other zero waste food storage questions or tips?
I’d love to know if you have a favorite plastic-free food storage container. Is it on this list or did I miss it? Tell me in the comments!