Tupperware. Gladware. Leftover containers. Whatever you call them, they can easily be the bane of kitchen organization.
Leftover containers can be tricky to organize because it’s a lethal combination of mismatched shapes & sizes, they’re made to stack, but easily topple over and there are separate lids. Oi vey the lids.
The #1 tip that I give when asked about organizing food containers is to use uniform food storage.
By uniform, I mean sticking to one specific type or style of container.
Uniformity allows you to utilize space better – where containers are stored and when they are in your fridge. Stacking is doable because containers are made to fit inside of or on top of one another. And those pesky lids are easier to corral because they nest inside one another.
I’m not saying that the only way for you to organize this area of your home is for you to throw out your entire cupboard of containers and start fresh (although, for some, that may be the best solution). When the time comes to buy new leftover containers (in my experience, this should be done more than it is), think ahead and employ this principle from now on.
Research now and decide what type or set would work best for you. Then, when the times comes to replace what you have, you’ve already done the legwork and all you have to do now is purchase what you’ve already decided you need.
So, how do you know what type or set works best for you?
Leftover Container FAQ
GLASS VS. PLASTIC
This is a preference thing. Each has their positives and negatives. Glass doesn’t include BPA (there are plastic BPA-free options as well), doesn’t stain and lasts longer. Plastic is significantly cheaper, has more size options and needs to be replaced more often (which can be nice if you’re the kind of person who likes to change things up).
There’s no right answer for this one – which is freeing because you can’t go wrong. We use glass for leftovers (anything that will go in the microwave) and plastic for cut up fruits and veggies.
HOW MANY DO I NEED?
Not as many as you think you do. Most people have way more containers than they need or could ever use at once.
The ‘how many’ question is determined by your fridge space and your storage space. Don’t have or buy more than you can store at any one time. Add a few more for freezer and pantry storage and that’s it.
HOW DO ORGANIZE THOSE PESKY LIDS?
The best option is to stack them together and to contain them. There are many ways to do this, and it depends on the shapes and sizes of your lids.
Lid storage is one of the biggest reasons that I suggest uniform storage for leftover containers, because that means that you only have one or two sizes of lids for 5-7 different sizes of containers.
WHAT SHAPE IS BEST?
First, let me say this; Which shape you choose is not as important as choosing ONE shape and sticking to it. A combination of square, circle and hexagon containers (I’ve never seen a hexagon container, but I guarantee you that someone, somewhere has one) makes for tricky storage – both when the containers are being used and need to be stacked in the fridge or when they’re not being used and need to be stored together.
Personally, circles seem like a waste of space to me, but some people really like them. Again, the actual shape that you choose is a personal preference thing. Choose whatever excites you most.
HOW DO I CHOOSE A SET?
Okay, so you’re convinced to leave your old ways of buying mismatched sets on a whim. Start with the basics discussed above – glass or plastic, shape & quantity. Use those parameters as you’re searching through sets.
Go through your current leftover containers and pull out the containers you use most often. Write down their size and what you use them for. Make sure that as you’re looking through sets, you find a set that fills those purposes.
Look for auxiliary pieces as well. For instance, we have this set, but knew that we needed more 2.5 qt containers, so before buying it, we looked to see if we could buy more of that size individually.
What do you find to be the hardest part of organizing your leftover containers?
P.S. See how I use the containers in my fridge and read about why uniform storage isn’t just for your leftover containers