This article may contain links from our affiliate partners. Please read how we make money!
Meal prepping is life transformational and forever beneficial and requires a lot of storage containers for all the food you make. It gets a little challenging when you don’t have storage containers or are against plastic use. But then, how do you meal prep without containers?
- Meal Prep Without Containers: Is It Possible?
- 8 Ways to Meal Prep Without Containers
Meal Prep Without Containers: Is It Possible?
There are two reasons you would want to know how to meal prep without containers:
You Don’t Own Containers
It is no secret that meal prep containers are not nearly affordable, specifically long-lasting, reusable, airtight, and freezer-safe types. You may also not have the space to store containers, with or without food inside them.
You Don’t Want to Use Plastic
Plastic containers are not only bad for the environment but also bad for your health. If you have a plastic-free home, you might be looking into an alternative for meal prep.
Regardless of your reason, there are ways to work around it. Meal prep without containers is possible, and I’ve got you covered with my favorite tips and ideas. There are more than a few options. I will share my top alternatives, which include both possibilities mentioned above.
8 Ways to Meal Prep Without Containers
If you are planning to start meal prepping but don’t have containers, here is my list of alternate options, ideas, and possibilities that you can consider:
Aluminum containers, sometimes called foil packs or foil containers, are a convenient and more affordable food storage option. They are great for food you will reheat in the oven, use in an air fryer, and store well in the freezer.
It might not appeal to you if you want to reduce waste, but it is definitely a reliable option. They come in various sizes and stack nicely on top of each other to maximize space in your freezer. You can remove the lid and pop it directly in the oven to reheat, saving you from doing dishes.
I use aluminum containers for foods like pasta, all types of casseroles, cottage pies, etc. I also love the flat cardboard lid for labeling the food directly on it with a permanent marker to keep track of the food, dates, and heating instruction reminders.
Pyrex Dishes for Fridge Items
If you are doing weekly meal plans, you don’t necessarily need to freeze the food. You can safely store food in the refrigerator for a week. That means you can dish all your meal-prepped food into glass or ceramic Pyrex dishes, cover them well, and store them in the fridge.
Keep the Food in Pots
Another option many people don’t consider possible is leaving your food in the pots after cooking. First, you must ensure that your pots will fit in the refrigerator. This way, you don’t need any containers or other dishes.
Do your meal prep by cooking food in your pots and storing the pots in the fridge. Dish on your plate as you go, or simply reheat the meal prep in the entire pot on the stove again if you will serve the whole meal.
This is something I do relatively often. We eat a lot of leftovers at home, so I cook a pot or two of food, store the meal prep in the fridge, and feed my family for about three to five days. It saves me from washing additional dishes, and I don’t need to use any containers.
Use Glass Containers
Glass containers are the ultimate game changer if you are opposed to plastic. People don’t consider glass for meal prep because you can’t freeze it. But did you know you get freezer-safe glass containers in all different shapes and sizes?
On my birthday two years ago, I spoiled myself with a set of freezer-safe glass containers. They have been the best meal prep item I have ever purchased. The best part is that the meal prep goes directly from the freezer to the fridge and then to the oven or microwave. I don’t have to dirty another dish!
Aside from freezer-safe glass containers, you can use basic glass containers to store your meal prep in the refrigerator for weakly meal prep. This is great because you can heat the glass containers in the microwave, and it will always be safer than plastic or foil.
Use Glass Jars
Glass jars are a brilliant food storage option. If you save glass jars from store-bought items or have a bunch of mason jars on hand, you can use them for meal prep. You can also use the canning method if that’s something you would like.
Here are some ideas of food you can store in mason jars in the refrigerator:
- Pasta/pizza sauces
- Cut up fruits and veggies
- Yogurt parfait
Avoid freezing glass jars unless you want a huge icy mess in your freezer. But glass jars are an excellent option for weekly meal prep or if you prep each night for the next day.
Plastic and Foil Wrap
If your concern for meal prepping with containers is that you don’t own any, you can use foil and plastic wrap (or just foil). This won’t be feasible for all liquid foods, but sandwiches, tortillas, meats, etc., can be wrapped and frozen/refrigerated in foil.
You can go one step ahead and double-wrap the food in plastic wrap over the foil. That will only work if you are not opposed to using plastic.
When discussing meal prep with others, I always tell people to individually wrap each sandwich, tortilla, burger, hot dog, muffin, etc., with foil. It keeps the items fresher for longer and is easy to grab and go without needing to portion and repackage.
Use Ziploc Bags
Ziploc or plastic storage bags might be counteractive if you want to avoid plastic waste, but they are helpful for meal prep. Ziploc bags should be your best friend when you don’t have containers. You can store anything in them and place them in the fridge or freezer.
Personally, I have stored every type of meal prep food in freezer-safe Ziploc bags, from sauces to veggies, meat to soups, stews to rice, fruits, sandwiches, and even baked goods. The trick is to cool the food well, place it in the baggies, and store them in the fridge or freezer.
When using plastic baggies for meal prep storage, you want to ensure you get good quality ones, especially for freezing. Always remove the air before you seal and double bag liquid foods just in case of bursts, cuts, and spills.
Purchase Cheap Containers
If you don’t have containers and using plastic is not your primary issue, there are many affordable throw-away plastic containers on the market that you can use for meal prep. Avoid freezing them and use them for weekly meal prep in the refrigerator.
If you purchase the containers in bulk, you get a large stack that will last you a long time. Some even have sections to separate the components of your meal.
Most of these containers are for one-time use, and plastic is not microwave-safe (even if they say so). You can always spend a few more bucks and purchase quality reusable containers – a few at a time – until you build up a sufficient supply.
No containers do not mean you can’t meal prep. Now you can use one or more of the alternate options. Whether you’re opposed to plastic or simply don’t own containers, meal prep is not biased and offers you several ways to get it done.
Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.