Shrink Your Food Container Pile

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Arianne Cohen of Woman's Day

Don’t let your collection of kitchenware turn into an overhead hazard. Avoid the monstrous pile of empty plastics by heeding a few simple strategies. From choosing the right space to embracing strategic stacking, read on for WD’s must-know organizing secrets.

  1. Purge: Recycle anything you haven’t used in the last 3 months and anything without matching lids, says Helene Segura, a professional organizer at LivingOrder San Antonio. Also toss scratched, damaged or warped plastic; it can leach chemicals into your food.
  2. Abandon cabinets: Food containers are for deep drawers, says Barry Izsak, past president of the National Association of Professional Organizers. He’s right: Those piles and nests are much less prone to chaos in a drawer, and you can easily see what you’re grabbing. If you don’t have drawer space, use shallow shelves.
  3. Stack it right: Pile by shape, with containers horizontal, lids vertical beside them.
  4. Store like with like: It’s OK to mix in other related kitchen supplies. The sandwich container drawer might also hold lunchboxes, and the casserole-size Pyrex dishes can be stored with other casserole dishes. This is the best defense against that out-of-control container drawer.

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Great info; great blog.

I question the "purge if you haven't used something in 3 months". We go through cycles in our home. Soup and chili are a staples in the fall but the re-heat Tupperware soup containers are dormant during summer months. I'm not pitching these items which we use weekly in the fall just because we didn't take them out for three consecutive months during the summer.

We have two lower cabinets that have pull-out shelves. (We lucked out as it came with the house!) Everything stacks nice and neatly, including my stainless mixing bowls, Corning Ware and microwave shields. For the lids I used a plastic shoe box like a previous comment. These pull-out shelves make it easy for my young son to put away all the "plastic ware" when it's clean, too.

Pyrex is a great option, but we have mostly Corning Ware with lids -- oval and square -- which I don't think they make anymore. That how we store most of our single-serve left-overs for reheating on "Left Over Night".

Containers with lids are easily stored with the lids on them. They even stack easier on shelves. It prevents losing or misplacing the lids, and it saves time when looking for a container for leftovers or lunch. Report
Out of Control - my method is open the door - toss it in and try to shut it before it falls out!

Thanks for the tips! Will go home tonight and start purging! Report
Pyrex is my goal as I seed out (recycle) my older containers. Report
I invested in the Pyrex containers too and I'll never go back -- they're heavier to tote to work, but I consider that part of my strength training, lol! The biggest plus is that they get really CLEAN! You never have that "reaheated spaghetti orange" color on your containers again. :) And I stack them by size, but just put all of the lids in an old shoebox-y type tupperware, on their sides; it's easy to find the lid I'm looking for without having to rummage thru the Pyrex. Report
I switched to Pyrex with Christmas gift cards. It is GREAT, they are heavy duty, have multiple uses including oven-microwave-refrigerator! Another bonus: no gross chemicals that plastic leeches into foods when warmed. Just warm up without the lid and you and/or you're family is much better off. The initial investment is a downside, but once those bowls start running low you know it is time for a left over night/ fridge clean out. :) Report
The ones that are scratched or warped, I check to see if they are recyclable - if not, they get tossed. Not very many non-recyclable containers in my 'collection'.
If I have a bunch of small, like items that need to be stored then I use one of the old containers. If you are painting something or making your own tempera paints - these older, clean containers are a good option.

I have been trying to buy 1 glass or ceramic dish for every two old plastic dishes...buying over time.

LOL. I always hated the pile of odd sized and shaped containers in my cupboard and purged a huge pile (took them to my church's kitchen--people use them to take home leftovers, so they get used up fast.) Then I joined Sparkpeople and have never needed so many containers. I started big batch cooking of low-salt, full of veggies, diet-friendly foods--3 to 4 containers per batch (cook three soups on weekends=a dozen containers), measuring my portions means I have extra servings to be refrigerated, cooking frozen vegetables leaves three extra servings to be refrigerated ( I like to have 2-3 different pre-cooked vegetables handy at all times,) started keeping a container of chickpeas handy in the refrigerator to add legumes whenever and wherever, then there's that low-cal chicken salad I make ahead to put on toasted deli-flats for lunch, etc. Since joining Sparkpeople I never can find a clean, empty container when I need one--I may have to go buy more. Sparkpeople has been good for the container business. Report
My partner has not yet mastered the 'stacking thing' lol. I'm trying to insptre him and be patient at the same time :-) Report
Good blog but please repurpose or recycle! The landfill is not the place for used up plastic. Report
Great blog! I'm into decluttering my kitchen this week..out with the old mismatched containers. Report
i AGREE, containers without lids/ caps need to be thrown. I renewed my kitchen from all old, mis matched glass containers to new plastic ones (my granny was really angry) ! But now, everybody is happy with the better and new change in our kitchen Report
Wonder if we could send all of our "extra" food containers to people in Africa?? Some day, the way the world is heading, we may not need to worry about having to deal with too much food. Just a thought is all........ Report
At our local Marsh and Krogers you can take in your own container to the deli for them to fill. just have them weigh it before filling and try to go at a time when its not as busy. A lot of my "church lady" friends taught me this when we had pitch-ins- looks like you really cooked!!!LOL Report
I have most of my storage containers in a deep drawer--containers in the front, stacked according to shape/size, & lids propped upright in the back. It works quite well.

Unfortunately, the agency that picks up our recycling accepts only #1 & #2 plastics, so lots of plastics in my house end up in the trash. I dream of stores where you can bring your own containers & fill up/weigh them--for not just food but also toiletries.

Good encouragement to toss the ratty plastics--I do have a few in that category & will do so. Since learning about BPA etc., I wash most reusable plastics by hand rather than in the dishwasher--lower temps = less leaching. Report
Definitely need to get rid of some of the old things that are scratched. Report
This is a great reminder to go though my drawer and toss/give away what I am not using. Thanks! Report
I need to purge, a lot of old tupperware containers that I haven't used in some time. we have a lot of new ones, and my cupboard is full. It is a bottom cupboard, so at least they only fall on the floor. Report
I have lock n locks and love them. My kids use them for school lunches and they are awesome. They use little round and rectangle ones. My daughter is 7 yrs old and my son is almost 6. The containers don't leak and fit foods just the right size. They are easy to open, too.

I store them with the lids one. Square in one cabinet and round in the other. I've almost gotten rid of all my Tupperware!

rumbamel Report
My husband is the self professed "tupperware police". He will even go through my best friends out of control container cupboard and when he finds lids with no bottoms or bottoms with no lid, he puts them in a bag. The idea is if the mate does turn up you match them up. After a month you throw the lonely onlies away.

Great theory. However, I hate it when the "tupperware police" visit! Report
I'm with ARCHIMEDESII, you never know when you'll need a container! I repurpose things, but years ago when the kitchen was overwhelmed with empty milk and OJ jugs, my daughter suggested a rule of 3, so I couldn't keep more than 3 Ragu jars, 3 PB jars, 3 Cool Whip bowls, 3 olive jars,etc, lol. My one set of pruchased containers are in a large box in a deep cupboard, the containers stacked by size, the lids in a plastic shoebox atop the containers and that is marvelous. The jars are good for storing loose teas, seeds, basmati rice and such that I buy in bulk. Recycling is great but I don't drive so it's a problem for me.

Great blog. Report
o.k. I finally figured it out. I gave my husband his own drawer. He packs multi-container lunches (as do I). His drawer is horrible. Mine is wondereful! Report
No mess here, I have the kind that all have the same lid and they sit on the counter. I wish I had deep drawers! That'd be awesome. Report
Get rid of the plastic altogether! Switch to ceramics or glass. Report
Watch me as a meekly hold up my hand and say,"guilty... guilty... guilty..." I can not tell you how many food containers I have stock piled !!! Now, I'm getting better. I have made the effort to recycle containers that have gotten old. However, for some reason, every time I recycle a bunch, I add a bunch more !!

You just never know when you're going to need a container. They really are incredibly useful items. but, I suppose a person can take a good thing too far and I should consider divesting of some of the excess.

Mine used to be a mess, but they are so important to portion control and having our lunches and snacks packed ahead of time, that I finally got rid of all the odd sizes and purchased 3 sizes of Glad containers from the grocery store, making sure all the container shapes and lids are exactly the same. It is amazing how much that helps!

They hold up pretty well, given how often we use them. The 4 oz containers stack nicely and their lids snap together in a stack also. I used those for trail mix, cottage cheese, salad dressing, cheese (an 8 oz block of cheese, shredded or cubed, will fit nicely into 8 of those, so you always know one container is 1 oz. of cheese).

I stack the larger containers together and lay the lids in the top container. When the top container is too full to take any more lids, then I start another stack of containers. Sounds so simple, but took a long time for me to figure this out!

When I serve dinner, I pack leftovers into the 1 cup containers for lunch the next day, or to put in the freezer for a future quick dinner.

I pack salads in the 3-cup containers, cutting the veggies and loading them into the container while making dinner. Then, after the fish, beans or meat from the dinner leftovers have cooled, lay those on top of the greens for the next day's lunch. Or, if there are no leftovers, there's always a can of tuna in my cupboard.

They never seem to dry in the dishwasher, so I lay them on the counter on a towel. They dry in a couple of hours.

LOVE my see-through plastic containers! They are one of the most important tools I have in my kitchen that help me with portion control, planning ahead, organization and portability. Report
My containers are in control now because they used to be a frustrating mess. One day I realized I usually used the same containers and the others took up space. I sold them all and bought glass and bpa-free plastic in sizes I use and that fit nicely in my drawer. Simplicity really does clear the mind. Report
I've never been able to keep containers organized since my husband will take them out and use them for anything. IF I JUST LIVED ALONE......... Report
I have a few of my old Tupperware bowls from the 80's and 90's, because they are timeless and still hold that lifetime guarantee against breakage. For most of my small containers I stick with the small rectangle and square ones because they stack in the fridge better. I also have some 1/2 cup and 1 cup size that I use for making my own things and easy measuring and tracking for calories. I have used the 1/2 cup size for the cooked brown rice so I can have pre-measured amounts for recipes. As long as I can use them and feel I am also being sustainable I think they are terrific. Report
We got the Rubbermaid set with the interlocking lids. They're awesome! There are only three sizes of lid that stack and lock together in a brick (harder to lose), then there are 5 different sized containers. And, best part, they're really inexpensive! The whole set was like $20. Can't beat it! They're the only ones we use. :) Report
Good point about damaged containers leaching chemicals--hadn't thought of that. I'm moving into glass for preference, but haven't gotten there yet...$$$ and this was timely information. Thanks Report
I keep only containers I have multiples of and in sizes I use often. Otherwise I keep a paper bag in a closet with lidded containers for sending food home with friends, containers I do not want back. I go through the cupboard a bout every 2 months to make sure I havee lids and to purge the extras. Report
MINE IS OUT OF CONTROL!!! To make it worse my husband bought more thinking it may fix the issue. I told him to save it with the receipt and if he is willing to clean out the tupperware cabinets (yes there is an S) with me and if there is space and a need for more then we can keep it. It has been 2 weeks and the box of tupperware still sits on the counter.....waiting..... (Need I say more?) Report
I love my little carousal of assorted size bowls and more trying to find a lid that fits! Report
All of mine are in a big box, but the lids are on them. I find it easy to use. I will go threw mine though and toss the warped ones. Good to know! Report
Is your food storage container situation out of control? How do YOU keep it organized?

My is out of control, after reading this article I am going to toss the ones that are warped... did not know it was an issue.
I will make a point to toss more frequently if I a schedule to do so.
Great suggestion !! Report
Now if only they could all figure out how to wash themselves... Love the tupperware, hate the dishes! Report

Boyfriend is CONSTANTLY complaining about my cabinet with all the ziplocks and such in it. I feel like telling him to just leave it alone. After all, *I* know where everything is... Report
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