Plastic-free in the freezer: airtight stainless steel food containers
A very common question for Fake Plastic Fish is what to use to store food in the freezer. Until now, I didn’t have an awesome answer. As you can see, I have been reusing Michael’s old plastic cottage cheese containers. And reusing plastic bags. I wrote about all the plastic we were reusing a year ago. Certainly better to reuse what you have than toss out and buy new, right?
Except that plastic is not necessarily the best material for storing food… especially fatty or acidic food, which can cause the plastic to break down. And certainly not hot foods. So what’s a better alternative?
Glass? I do store some foods in glass jars. That’s an okay solution. You can freeze glass, but you have to be very careful with it when you take it out, as it will become brittle. And glass jars are not the best shape for storing frozen foods because the neck can make removing the food difficult.
Stainless steel? It’s great. But until last week, my only stainless steel containers had handles on the top (like my To-Go Ware tiffin or my MSR Stowaway pot from REI), so stacking them in the freezer or refrigerator was impossible. Also, they didn’t seal very tightly so carrying wet food could be tricky if I wasn’t careful.
The Best Stainless Steel Containers for Freezing Foods
Enter Life Without Plastic’s collection of airtight stainless steel food containers.
(Since this post was first published, I have joined Life Without Plastic’s affiliate program and will receive a small commission on sales through links on this site.)
Life Without Plastic was founded by two Canadians, Jay Sinha and Chantal Plamondon, who were concerned about issues of plastic and health. In Jay’s own words:
Chantal and I have always been very health and environment conscious, and plastic just kept coming up on our radar especially starting about 6-7 years ago. It always made us feel queasy to see how, for example, tomato sauce would mix in with the plastic in plastic storage containers. We started looking for a stainless steel water bottle and came across the Klean Kanteens not long after they arrived on the market and started using them for ourselves.
Then, as the article and website explain, our son came along and that really got us looking deeper into plastics, and the research we did convinced us that we didn’t want him sucking on plastic nor did we want to store Chantal’s breast milk in plastic. So that led us to seriously look into the glass baby bottles.
We had great difficulty finding them anywhere, then finally came across Evenflo, which was still making them. But the only way to get any bottles direct from Evenflo was to do a wholesale order of a minimum of 1000 bottles. So we did that and also got the company going with the Klean Kanteens. As these items are now becoming more and more readily available – which is fantastic – we are focusing more on harder to find items, and developing our own products such as children’s dishes.
Look out for our stainless steel ice cube tray coming later this year!
After reading about them on the web site and also reading the personal story behind the company, I wrote to Life Without Plastic and asked if they’d send me a sample container to check out and review on Fake Plastic Fish. They were kind enough to send me the 5-6/8″ x 3-1/8″ model pictured above to try out.
The first thing I always evaluate, of course, is the packaging. Cardboard box with newspaper inside used to fill space instead of Styrofoam or plastic. Good. And in fact, their web site has a statement about packaging:
In keeping with our mission to clean up the planet, we reuse boxes and packing materials that come into our store and use new boxes and mailing envelopes made of recycled material (no plastic if at all possible). We also sometimes use cornstarch peanuts which are reusable and compostable but not recyclable. Although we strive to use material that is 100% recycled, it is not always possible to obtain, in which case we use the highest recycled content available at the time of shipment.
The only plastic in the outer package was the packing tape used to attach the customs document to the box. I have encountered this tape situation with other items shipped from Canada and wonder if it’s a standard for the Canadian post. Will have to check.
I was a little dismayed upon opening the inner box to discover that the container itself was shrinkwrapped in plastic. [See UPDATE beneath this paragraph.] Not a lot of plastic, to be sure. And switching to these containers from alternatives like plastic ziploc bags would certainly save more plastic in the long run. Still, I’d have preferred the container bare in the box, just as the To-Go Ware tiffin comes packaged. So of course, I wrote to Life Without Plastic tonight to ask them to forego this extra plastic. We’ll see what they say.
UPDATE: After receiving my email, Jay from Life Without Plastic took steps to ensure that all of their products are packaged without the inner plastic wrap. No more extra plastic.
So how does it work? Great so far. The container is flat on top, so it’s easily stackable in the refrigerator or freezer. The top has a silicone ring inside, which makes the container airtight and great for carrying liquids without spilling. But it also means that while the bottom is dishwasher safe, the top is not. Rinse it in the sink. Labeling the containers is easy with a non-permanent marker. And the containers come in 4 sizes, each smaller than the one I received, and are sold separately or as a set.
Oh, and if you do use them in the freezer, make sure you don’t fill them up to the top. We all know that liquids expand when they freeze and how an aluminum can will swell up in the freezer. You don’t want that to happen to your nice stainless container, so Erin at Life Without Plastic recommended leaving about an inch of space for expansion.
Check out the other products on Life Without Plastic and especially the Plastics Info page which explains some of the health and environmental hazards of plastic. I love when the original intent of a business is to create a healthier world.
I want a stainless steel freezer container that I can take out and thaw and use a few n the oven. Am I an idiot to think that is possible?
Has anyone considered the plastic we stick in our mouth daily…. Toothbrush?
Absolutely. I’ve written several posts about toothbrushes. Type “toothbrush” into the search bar on this site.
I’m a little concerned about the silicone ring. Silicone is not biodegradable and I don’t understand why they don’t use natural rubber for the sealing? I don’t like silicone at all in connection with food.
Hi, Natural rubber often results in allergies, https://www.webmd.com/allergies/tc/allergy-to-natural-rubber-latex-topic-overview) and although Silicone is not biodegradable it is considered safe. Like everything there is concerns with it. It seems to be OK when frozen.
@ALMOST MRS AVERAGE Did you manage to find anything in the UK? I would love to know.
It’s an interesting take on how to conserve where plastic is concerned, but surely some things that you buy from the supermarket are going to be already in plastic containers right? You can’t possibly make all these things on your own to put into storage can you? I suppose in some areas there just needs to be a bit of give and take….
We ordered two, with and without the divider. We use both daily for our daughter’s lunch. I usually put 1/2-2/3 of a sandwich in the one with no divider and then add a bit of fruit too. In the divided lunchbot (DUO) I’ll put a vegetable in one half and crackers of fruit or desert or something in the other half. We stack them in her lunchbox and there is still room for a bottle of water.
What about the nickel in stainless steel?
Anyone come up with a solution for freezing meats without plastic?
Thank you very kindly, Carolyn, for the helpful clarification and details – much appreciated. Sorry about making assumptions about your products – which look wonderful – just basing my comments on our own experiences with Chinese products, the quality of which does vary enormously. We are truly pleased that high quality products are becoming more and more accessible to all. So thank you for helping people decrease plastic use as soon and as easily as possible by also providing high quality, affordable alternatives.
All the best,
This is Carolyn from the Tickle Trunk. And yes, we too just had to respond to the comments we have read here.
Firstly, we would like to say that we think Sanctus Mundo has done a wonderful job providing safe and quality products.
They are correct, our airtight containers are not made by the same manufacturer, but they are incorrect in suggesting that they are not manufactured in Korea. They are. Our manufacturer has been making these containers for over 40 years, and they use only 18/10 stainless steel, the highest grade available. 18/8 or #304 is what is used in the Sanctus Mundo containers (almost as good).
We have just chosen to go a different route with our pricing.
We do sell other products that are manufactured in China- the birthplace of steel. Our selection of containers are all made of food grade stainless steel. We have been there twice to ensure our verified suppliers are indeed what they claim to be. Many responsible companies have there products manufactured there, ie. Klean Kanteen.
We started our company due to a lack of affordable and safe alternatives to plastics. Safe containers should be available to everyone, without breaking the bank.
Hi Beth. Hope you’re feeling better. Thanks for the great info on Brita and Preserve. I wanted to follow up on a couple of things…
First off, we’ve listened to concerns from you and some of our customers (and our best instincts) and our airtight stainless steel containers no longer come with the plastic shrink wrap around them. Just the wonderful plastic-free container ready to use. Thanks for the extra nudge on that one. We’re always open to feedback.
Second, we just have to respond to indigo’s comments above. The containers indigo is referring to on the other site are actually NOT the same as our containers, which are the Sanctus Mundo brand (there is a Sanctus Mundo imprint on the bottom of our containers). Our manufacturer in Korea does not supply the Sanctus Mundo containers to anyone else in North America. These other containers may cost less than ours, but as we have so often found, you get what you pay for. This other site does not list the country of origin for its products, which is an immediate red flag. To be selling them at those prices, it is highly unlikely that the products are coming from Korea, which is one country known for the high quality of its stainless steel. Those prices are much more in line with products coming from China – and our experience has shown that quality must be stringently checked with anything coming out of China. We have solid trust relationships with our manufacturers – all of which are respected leaders in the field – and we test our products ourselves to be sure of their quality. Our prices reflect the enormous amount of time, energy and, yes, money, we put into sourcing and testing ONLY high quality products. So yes, you get what you pay for, and with Sanctus Mundo you can be sure you are getting high quality.
All the best,
There is an amazing website http://www.thetickletrunk.com that sells the same containers at 1/2 the price!!! they also have tons of other cool stainless steel products. I e-mailed the company, and they assured that they are the exact same containers (the airtight ones) and also, that the stainless steel ice cube trays will be here in March.
I have had good success using the large containers from https://www.happytiffin.com/ They are the latch style. The large size two tier i keep on my counter as one level holds a pound of coffee and the other tier holds my tea selections. I could see using them in the freezer too. And thanks for this very thourough blog posting about stainless steel containers. Long time coming!
Hi Sarah and Jessica. I wish I had an answer for you. I’ll keep looking. Let me know if you find a solution before I do!
Joe — If you’re worried about your hands, you can handle them with a potholder. But I haven’t had any problem with the frozen metal.
I second Jessica’s question of what to do with foods that are not liquid, odd shaped, and/or in danger of freezer burn?
I’ve been freezing leftovers, broth, etc. in plastic zippy bags, sucking all the air out before sealing them, in order to prevent freezer burn, and I’d really like to find an alternative.
Maybe I’m missing something, but wouldn’t the frozen metal hurt your hands when you pick up the container? I can just picture my hands getting stuck to the metal like that kid’s tongue on the pole in A Christmas Story.
Wow! Those are awesome.
Thanks so much for contacting us at Life Without Plastic and doing the review! Glad to hear you like the container. A really great review, and wonderful to see how you tested it out yourself. Nothing like direct experience, which we value enormously as we test all our products ourselves. To jump into the comments on whether the top can go in the dishwasher, we don’t recommend putting it in the dishwasher because it could compromise the integrity of the container – i.e., the silicone seal could detach from the lid. Silicone is kind of in a category of its own, and is not really considered a plastic, but more like a rubber. It is very inert and tough, but just the same, we recommend washing the lid by hand.
Regarding the plastic shrinkwrap. It does provide extra protection and some people like the fact that it gives the product a really ‘brand new, untouched’ quality’, but bottom line is that it is plastic that does not seem necessary. We are speaking to our manufacturer about this.
Thanks again for your support, and for doing what you do. Very inspirational.
That looks great, but seems like it would only really be suitable for freezing things like soups and stews. We slaughter our own lambs, and I need some way of packaging all those oddly shaped cuts of meat for the freezer. I have tried to find “butcher paper” — which means various different things depending on who you ask — but have been unable to find any that would be suitable for composting after use — i.e. that doesn’t come coated in silicone or such… Anybody have any ideas?
The stainless steel containers do look cute.
But you can use wide-mouth Mason jars, pints or special freezer quarts. Or the regular-lid half-pints work to, for smaller amounts. All freezer jars must be wider at the mouth than at the bottom. Jars with narrower necks will ALWAYS break, in my experience. This includes standard “wide-mouth quarts”.
Anyway, they stack fine for me. My freezer has drawers in it, and the wide-mouth pints fit in there very nicely. They’re infinitely reusable, and pretty cheap. After using them as a freezer jar, you can later use them for canning, with fresh lids.
I’m definitely moving away from plastic for everything to do with food. I often use Mason jars to store leftovers in the frig.
Is the lid replacable?
You know, I never wanted to buy so much stuff before I started reading your blog & Crunchy Chicken's.
I got a soymilk maker for my birthday yesterday (it's made of plastic but now we won't be buying tetrapak soymilk…) and now I asked for one of these, too!
We've been running out of the reusable plastic containers becuause I've been buying less yogurt & cottage cheese, but my boyfriend hasn't slowed his destruction of plastic containers (he uses them to take his lunch every day in his backpack on his bike and a certain number don't make it home in one piece.)
I want a tiffin but I'm doing just fine with my reused glass salsa jars…do you still love your Penguin or is the joy wearing off?
That looks like a mexican flan pan with a silicone ring added.
I got my pan at Smart and Final.
Beth Terry said “…the description on the site says the tops are not dishwasher safe, and the rep I originally spoke to told me the same thing.”
We have some pretty plastic “dishwasher safe on the top rack” glasses. After a couple of years of use and washing on the top rack most are becoming cloudy instead of clear and a couple have sprung leaks.
So the deterioration may be slow, but it is definitely occurring. Which is a warning to those who buy plastic while thinking it is OK because it will be used forever.
No more plastic!!
These look fantastic. I’m going to check to see what’s available in the UK.
I also have one of those! Except mine has a rubber ring, not silicone. It is watertight enough to bring soup to work in. (Then I put my soup in a ceramic bowl to heat in the microwave.)
These look great (on the wishlist!) — @amanda, Ball mason jars are theoretically ok but if you fill them too full, they break. Not that I’ve done that more than a dozen times or anything… sigh.
Ooh, these are nice!
There are also companies that make pyrex glass containers especially for food storage that are freezer safe, and Ball says that their widemouth mason jars are suitable for use in the freezer. They’re not stackable, though, which is a major drawback,
Hi Jamie. I only know that the description on the site says the tops are not dishwasher safe, and the rep I originally spoke to told me the same thing. I’m not an expert on silicone, so I’m just going with what they told me.
Are you sure the top isn’t dishwasher safe? Most silicone is, on the top rack…
I’ll definately be putting these on my wish list – thanks for letting us know about them!
Perfect! Just the thing I’m looking for. Like you, I’ve been reusing plastic and cutting way back on new plastic. Many of the plastic containers we use for a “waste free” lunch have been breaking. I just bought some stainless steel containers that I learned about from Surely You Nest. Now, I’ll add these to the list for food.