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Plastic food containers

Hi everyone, I’m writing a buying guide for plastic food containers for the CHOICE website, and would love to know how you organise and store your plastic containers at home. Do you keep them all in one place and if so where? Are there many missing lids? Have you ever had a good clear-out and got rid of any ones you don’t use regularly, or do you feel bad about throwing perfectly good containers out (maybe you recycle them?).
I am also interested to know if you have any that have lasted a particularly long time.

Many thanks,
Kim

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In 2 drawers, one for storage items and the other for ‘away lunches’.

Yes. Have you found any? Please send them.

(lids have broken sooner than their containers.)

Every few years, usually encouraged by a change of lifestyle. The last go was when the wife also retired so less demand for ‘away lunches’.

We sometimes save take-away containers for reuse. Not all are suitable. Not surprising that none of them are as sturdy as those we buy and they only last a few reuses; the lids and lips are fragile.

Unless they break they go to Savers or to hold bits in the workroom where they generally break after a while since they are not meant to hold heavy metal objects. That replacement algorithm has worked.

‘A particularly long time’ is a subjective term. We have some that are going for many years. Most failures have been lids, dropped on hard tile while full, and negligently putting in acidic foods and/or reheating those acidic foods that damages the polished plastics surface. We have since migrated to pyrex glass containers with snap-on lids for those foods.

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No organisation, stored in a deep (40cm deep) kitchen drawer…which is possibly the worst place to keep them as one has to sometimes empty the draw to find the exact container one is after.

Split between two drawers. Generally there is lids in one and containers in the other.

Yes. But, while there are missing lids the lids fit multiple volume containers so we keep the containers just in case that particular size is needed. Just means we can’t use all the containers at once as we don’t have enough lids to fit all.

If the container has a unique lid and there are none that fit, we repurpose the containers depending on their size. It may be to hold salt/pepper shakers or sauce bottles in the pantry, in the garden etc.

Did this recently. mainly because we moved and did a general clean out of ones which had cracks, had microwave damage (from food superheating and melting surface of the plastic) or no longer used (e.g. reusable takeaway containers).

If any could be recycled, they were placed in the kerbside recycling bin. One needs to check with their local council/recycling collection company to see if they accept such containers.

Never do…unless they are damaged beyond any functional use.

Tupperware does tend to last a very long time. My Tupperware lunchbox which still works perfectly is about 35 years old. Other Tupperware is also long lasting as well. Advantage of Tupperware is if it fails, one can get it replaced under its lifetime warranty. Just need to find a Tupperware seller to do this with (they are becoming harder to find).

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Do you keep them all in one place and if so where?
Yes in a drawer in the kitchen.

Are there many missing lids?
No

Have you ever had a good clear-out and got rid of any ones you don’t use regularly,
No, a few that got so nasty they didn’t look safe for food went to the shed to hold fastenings.

I am also interested to know if you have any that have lasted a particularly long time.
Some that are decades old.

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We keep ours in the corner under-counter cupboard. Most are divided & stacked into two large plastic food containers. We tend to stick with the one brand so stacking them is easier. We do have a few random sizes such as large low profile (cake?) containers which are stored in a pile in the back corner. They are accessed as needed.

We use the older containers to agglomerate things such as spice jars, baking items, oil bottles that we fill from the can, etc. Thus we have a surplus of lids.

Once the containers have used their use by date, they go to the garage where they are used to store stuff like hardware in the gargage.

I concur with the durability of the Tupperware, but we gave away the round ones to the op shops as not being tessellate they waste too much space.

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I had to google ‘tessellate’…knew of the word in relation to tiles, but have never seen it used like that. Thank you - I’ve learned something new!

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Thank you, this is all very useful. Watch this space, as we have more content around this coming soon!

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Organise & store. I have “ClipFresh” clear plastic containers from The Reject Shop which stack. 3 different depths, and lids fit any size. I have deep cupboards and store them in cardboard boxes that I pull out to access. The top one is rectangulars, the middle are my Tupperware herb & spice collection, the bottom is my eclectic collection of mismatched sizes and rounds. The rectangular boxes are used to store lunch foods - Mr Z knows to pull these out and help himself without fear of seeing foods he doesn’t like. The box marked 124 is one of about 7 disposable boxes - I got frustrated with lids that didn’t match, so I numbered them with a texta eg lid 124 fits box No.1 but not No.3 or 5.

One Place - Mostly Yes. In a kitchen cupboard. My mother had a “plastics” cupboard and I followed suit. Plastic food tubs, disposable boxes, we save and use most, but mainly for garden or workshop use.
Missing & Clear-out - I am frugal - I don’t usually buy things unless I have a planned use and system - I am not an impulse buyer, so these were well researched. I married late in life and my husband and his late wife were both hoarders, unable to let anything go and she loved shopping from stores, catalogues, on-line, and buying lots of oddments from Op Shops. It has taken me 15 years and one house move to cull: 1.things with missing lids or bottoms, 2.cracked or broken, 3.oddments, 4.bulky items with little use. I would have culled earlier, but as she had died he had to do his grieving, even over inconsequential items such as cracked & tarnished containers she bought for 20cents from Vinnies. I donate things in good order to charities and recycle the rest. Parting with them does not worry me. If they have no use, they are better off with someone who needs them, or if not suitable, then used in the workshop or garden.
Lasted - Tupperware - my mother is still using hers bought 55 years ago. I have a cupboard full of storage containers - mostly Modular Mates and spice shakers. These rarely, if ever, go into the dishwasher. Much cheaper are ClipFresh boxes, although the Reject Shop seems to no longer stock them. They are the workhorses, used daily and through the dishwasher daily. I need clear, because Mr Z can’t find it in the fridge unless he can see it. We also do lunches in them. The could be up to 10yrs old.

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In a cupboard, above the part of the kitchen bench where I do all of my cooking

No - always stack them with their lids

(lids have broken sooner than their containers.)

Not often.
Take-away containers are saved for reuse. They are especially good for portioning food before freezing. They don’t last forever, but at least they were free and were put to some use, rather than being single use.

I would really love to know when a plastic container is no longer safe to use. Some start to peel or flake after a while, and I’m never sure if I should throw them out at this stage or if they’re still safe to keep food in. This is especially true of containers that have been used for cooking or reheating food in the microwave.

I buy the ones that are sold in supermarkets (Decor brand, I think) and keep them for several years, but I do have a niggling worry that perhaps I shouldn’t keep them that long for storing food. Some are relegated to the garage if we need some there.

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HI Kim, I keep my plastic containers in the dishwasher as I do not use it (there is only me and the dog in the house). Chinese take-away types are used for dog dinners (I make a bulk batch and the containers are meal sized and frozen for use.- then put in the recycle bin when they crack). The others are used for left overs, storing pulses etc. as they stack well. My oldest plastic is a tupperware cereal container which I have had more more than 25 years. Any ‘odd’ lids or containers go in the recycle.

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I gave away all of my sets of containers which required different sized lids about 10 years ago in favour of buying sets from decor which had containers of varying depths so that they all took the same sized lid. These were easy to store as the containers stacked neatly with the lids stored alongside. They were cheap enough not to worry about breakages or leaving them at friends’ houses. They were a great idea but unfortunately decor discontinued them a few years later which was frustrating. I only have a few left so I have had to buy other containers which means I am back to square one with having to sort through multiple lid sizes.
I’m not too concerned about discolouration so I keep containers until they break or lose a lid, which can be several years, even for cheaper brands.

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I replaced all my odd ones with Decor colour match a few years ago - most important feature was that they stack together - and as Sue Purrb says, can get different depths which take the same size lid and stack together. I have 3 colours in 3 stacks, fit neatly into one drawer now (previously took 2 drawers). Lids on the bottom or side of the stack. The lids can crack - particularly if you don’t warm up after being frozen - but I have fixed these with two part epoxy (araldyte) on the outside and repair still sound after many uses.

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Do you keep them all in one place and if so where?

6 big 900x150ish drawers. (I may have formerly been employed by a large manufacturer of these types of products and have far too many). Ideally I like to have them categorised, stacked and stored together with their lids and parts, but my family is NOT with that program, so its a big jumble.

Are there many missing lids? Have you ever had a good clear-out and got rid of any ones you don’t use regularly, or do you feel bad about throwing perfectly good containers out (maybe you recycle them?).

If I feel a piece is truly surplus to requirements and in good condition (like 10 of the 15 sandwich boxes we had…) I donate to charity shops or give away to friends and family. Other pieces are sent to the shed, or for recycling.
Having pieces all primarily from one brand does make it easier because the lids can be interchangeable. If I really like a piece and the lid is truly missing I buy a replacement part.

I previously was big on the warranty replacement - before that company began charging for warranty returns. It was actually a big reason why I ceased working for them. Having to pay to return a piece invalidates a “lifetime warranty”. I also saw the company begin to find ways to wriggle out of warranty obligations when they had previously been very accomodating. For the true lifetime warranty and service, the premium price seemed worth it, but not without it.
I’ve recently switched to purchasing Sistema products, which have been functioning very well.

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A few things I look for in plastic containers - durability, stacking (both empty & full), non-staining (any foods that do stain, like baked bean sauce, get their own which isn’t used by other foods), don’t discolour with age, dishwasher safe, available for years.

So far, ClipFresh have lasted years of daily use and the plastic has resisted staining (except for baked beans), no breakages, dishwasher survivor, stacks well, although I notice some lids in recent purchases are a tight fit on the older ones. They used to be available singularly or at a discount in packs of 3/5, but recent purchases I could only get a set which contained sizes I didn’t need at that time. They are cheap.

Tupperware Modular Mates - expensive, but have endured. Some lids split, but still serviceable. These rarely, if ever go in the dishwasher and are kept for storage of loose pasta or packets (eg flour to keep weevils out). Not used as often as ClipFresh. My gripe is the range keeps changing, can’t get the same lid colour, occasionally only available as part of a set with items I don’t use. I had a problem some years back where I paid for items and never received them, the agent quit and left town, but a year or so later Tupperware replaced the missing items. At least with a store you have them when you pay.

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Found the Clip Fresh - I use 3 rectangular sized from the Eazy range. http://www.clip-fresh.com/series/eazy/

I don’t do any re-heating / cooking in these, and rarely freeze, but they have survived quite well. Tupperware is used for pantry storage only.

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We had a Tupperware grater which consisted of the grater plate and 2 oblong plastic bowls which the plate fitted over for a great many years and the plastic grater plate split a few years back

I approached a Tupperware agent’s display in a local shopping centre to ask about it and I was advised to contact Tupperware.

The model had long since been updated to a better design and Tupperware promptly sent out the complete new model free of charge.

When some companies state “Lifetime Warranty”, they actually mean it.

image

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We keep all our containers in two drawers. We mainly use branded “plastic” (Tupperware) that can be recycled / replaced.
Periodically I’ll go through and any that can be returned for a replacement, gets returned. Any that is broken and can not be returned/replaced we find another use - plants, nuts and bolts and last of all it will make it to the bin.
Take away containers are recycled until they literally fall apart and margarine tubs are used for making large ice block - ideal to put in the Esky.
We do not appear to loose lids - they are stored in a separate pile.

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Those of our plastic containers not currently on active duty in either the fridge or the pantry live in the large kitchen drawer with their lids on the shallow drawer above it.

We mainly have Decor Tellfresh and Sistema ones in various sizes.

We have had to to dispose of some Decor ones that became unable to seal properly, and some of the new smaller siize ones can be impossible to seal as they are too tight, but an older lid will usually fit

No such problems with the Sistema ones.

The only other ones we have disposed of are ones that became too unsightlly, especially after being used to store curries, bolognese sauce, and such like.

No missing lids and none disposed of due to lack of use.

Some of our Decor ones are probably around 30 years old.

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We store all the food containers that for in a single drawer in the kitchen. I use Decor Tellfresh as they stack beautifully both empty and full. Sadly not every size I use is readily available. In particular I use the 125ml ones for stock and they are VERY hard to come by.
Some lids have broken over the years, so like others have more bottoms than lids. But that is mainly because they are brittle when frozen and if they drop in that state it is invariably the lids that suffer. We keep the containers until they break too. (a rare occasion). We also have takeaway containers in the same drawer. They get used for pizza dough (round ones) and to give food away to friends and family.

I also have some systema containers but find them useless for food. And they don’t stack well empty so they get used for other things. mostly small bits around the house.

Containers don’t get thrown away until they are broken beyond usefulness. That usually only applies to takeaway containers. We do toss miscellaneous sized ones though if they don’t store well. By toss, I mean they go into recycling. We live in an area that accepts all “hard” plastics for recycling. I only hope they do the right thing with them.

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Thanks again, all. Plastic container usage habits are certainly interesting! We have been putting these sorts of containers through their paces, and it’s been a fun exercise. I can’t say much more at present, but there will be some interesting audio/video to go with it! I also think many of you won’t be surprised with some of our conclusions.

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