Monday, February 7, 2011

Topless Bottoms (The food storage container dilemma)

It's been a week of minimalist cooking at our place. Lots of soup and casseroles, the stuff you make too much of on Sunday on purpose, convincing yourself that having leftovers ready for the week will make life easier, but by the second day of tuna noodle, you're thoroughly uninspired, with 6 more servings to go, and a burning desire for a piece of pizza.

My food storage container situation is a bit like an end-of-season bikini sale; bottoms are not quite big enough to hold everything, and tops are either one size too big or small for the job. Nothing matches. This can be a source of kitchen rage for me. “Why did I have to pour the marinara into the ONE CONTAINER WITH NO LID????? How can thirteen rectangles be so similar but different and not one of them is the RIGHT SIZE???? Oh great, now I have to put tin foil over it, or plastic wrap that will never actually seal...or find another container and wash this one after I have JUST FINISHED doing the dishes...Where in the hell do the lids GO????? ” And the drawer in which they are stored is often hard to open and close because there is always something sticking up that should be nesting, while something else is toppling over.

If you can relate with this scene in any way, this week's downsize challenge is to tackle the unstackables and streamline your food storage containers. Whether you're using plastic, glass, or some other system, take a look at what you've got, see if the bottoms have tops, and figure out what you are really using and what might be best recycled or re-purposed.

Still using plastic but rethinking the whole idea of storing your food in containers that can leach estrogen mimicking chemicals? If you haven't already switched to a non-plastic storage system, there are lots of options, but this is a Downsizing Challenge, so I will have to look the other way while mentioning that a good friend in Vermont recommends this set:

If you want to learn more about what the science community has to say about BPA's and the safety of food storage, here are a few links:

Plastic (not) fantastic: Food containers leach a potentially harmful chemical - Scientific American article

Pots, pans, and plastics: A shopper's guide to food safety -Web MD article

Want to learn more about resin identification numbers (those numbers in the triangles on the bottoms of your plastics) and what they mean? Check out this article from The Ecologist:

Storing food safely in plastic containers

If you happen to be missing a top or a bottom, and you can't think of a purpose for one without the other, check the resin identification number and see if it can be recycled. (This will depend on where you live and what plastics are accepted.)

If you happen to have containers and lids to match, but you are thinking of retiring them from food storage, recognize their amazing potential for other uses.

Great for kids craft supplies, crayons, paints, pencils, glue
game pieces
small toys
sewing room notions, thread, buttons, needles
first aide kit in the car
bathroom stuff – cotton balls, sanitary supplies, q-tips, bandaids, cosmetics
nails, screws, bolts, batteries
office supplies

They are lightweight, airtight, and translucent, (unless you have microwaved tomato sauce way too many times) and they're good for so much more than leftovers.


  1. My problem lies more in convincing my neighborhood butcher and sundry other suppliers of good food not to give me plastic containers. I know I don't need that many (my freezer isn't that big, and I won't end up eating them if they accumulate too much) but not getting them is a real problem. I don't want streamlining the possessions to come at the expense of an involuntary diet..

  2. I had a wonderful solution to this problem. Grab a small child, sit them in the middle of the kitchen floor surrounded by all the tops and bottoms. Get them to match them up and set aside the ones that match - throw out (recycle) anything that does not have a match. Repeat periodically. When the kid gets a little older, you can ask them to assess condition in their matching efforts. Unfortunately, I am now out of kids in an age range I can con into this "game".

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  5. I bought plastic 3 drawers on wheels which fits perfectly on the side of my oven counter. I just pull out the drawer and have all the containers by size. Lids fit on the side of the drawer. No need for the wheels!Used to have a supply like yours but when we moved I gave most of the Tupperware away...some I kept for organizing drawers but I kept some for painting and different sizes make good stencils for crafts.
    Food Storage Containers