If you’re trying to eschew plastics and live a zero waste life, there are plenty of container options for storing your leftovers. And while not all of them are strictly devoid of plastic, many of the best zero-waste reusable food container lids are still a good bet for those trying to minimize their environmental impact.
Why do I need reusable food container lids?
If you’re living zero waste, then you know that some of the biggest sources of household waste come from right inside your kitchen cabinets. Most people don’t realize this, of course. They pull paper towels off the roll without a second thought. They pack their kids’ lunches in a thousand plastic snack bags and wrap their leftovers in copious amounts of cling wrap.
Disposable plastics like single-use Tupperware and Ziploc bags are some of the most egregious plastic pollutants out there, but in some cases, they’re the only option. After all, wasting food wouldn’t be good either, and you need a way to safely store it. So what’s a zero-waste person to do? While you can always just balance a good old dish on top of a bowl before stashing it in the fridge, there are actually quite a few zero-waste reusable food container lids on the market — you just need to know what you’re looking for.
Silicone lids are perhaps the most ingenious “container” on this list and it is their versatility that makes them so spectacular. They are one of the easiest, most eco-friendly ways to store food, stretching to fit over any and all containers without the need for Tupperware, plastic takeout containers, or even plastic wrap. They are easy to use, too. Simply stretch the lid over the bowl your food is in, and you’ll get an air-tight, makeshift container that will keep your food fresh in the fridge.
On top of being durable, reusable, and non-toxic, these silicone beauties are dishwasher safe — though they can be cleaned just as well in the sink too. Most brands are sold in packs of six different sizes and are available at a number of online retailers, including Amazon, where you can get an i-Kawachi cover, as well as Target and EarthHero, where you can get the SiliWrap.
Simply combining a natural wax with cotton cloths results in a malleable, slightly sticky, and eco-friendly wax wrap that can be used to cover a bowl, protect half a lemon, wrap a sandwich, or anything in between. We're fans of these vegan wax wraps by Khala & Company. Make sure to gently hand wash your wrap with cold water, and once the wrap loses it's stick (usually after a few years of use), it can be composted.
Silicone food huggers
Let’s say you cut into an apple or an onion and you don’t need the whole thing — what are you supposed to do with the rest of it? In the past, you could have thrown it into a Ziploc bag and tossed it in the fridge, but you’re living that zero-waste life now, and that ain't the way you do things anymore. Silicone food huggers are the perfect zero-waste answer to this conundrum.
These little beauties work perfectly for wrapping up every half-eaten avocado and tomato you have, and they’re available online, for a pretty reasonable price, no less. Just tuck the whole thing over the exposed side of the fruit and it’ll fit like a glove. You’ll end up with way less waste in the long run.
Glass Tupperware is an old but reliable method of storing leftovers in an eco-friendly way. Pyrex bowls and dishes are microwave, oven, and dishwasher safe. They are made in the U.S., which means that they don’t have to burn too much gas to end up in your kitchen cabinets. Most of them are stackable and come with various options for coverage.
Of all the items on this list, the Pyrex storage containers are probably going to be with you the longest. Their durability and usefulness makes them one of the few truly zero-waste containers out there. Unfortunately, their easily-cracked plastic lids are the one downside to them, though you can circumvent their half-life by utilizing the silicone stretch lids we mentioned earlier, or by ordering replacement Pyrex lids.
Stainless steel containers
Stainless steel containers come in all shapes and sizes, and can be used for anything from spices to leftover Chinese food. Different varieties offer different storage capabilities but the majority of them are at least partially-transparent on the top so you can see what’s inside. Many of the newest ones actually come with silicone lids as well or with tops similar to old-fashioned mason jars. This helps to render them totally leakproof.
Ziploc bags are a difficult mainstay to part with, especially if you’re new to zero-waste living. Unfortunately, these flimsy plastics also happen to be one of the worst types of plastic for the environment. Luckily, several manufacturers have begun making reusable, silicone storage bags that act like the old Ziplocs you know and loathe. We're big fans of Stasher bags, which come in many sizes and colors, and are dishwasher and microwave safe — which is more than can be said for the old disposable ones.
As amazing as some of these newer innovations are, there’s no reason to discount the old classics. Mason jars have been used as safe, germ-free food storage for generations. Newer jars come with advanced airtight locking mechanisms, but even old-fashioned Mason jars are perfect for storing all sorts of leftovers in the fridge, and you can purchase fresh lids if yours rust. They’re perfect for canning and can last for decades without getting damaged. Not much else to say on this one, really. The pickles speak for themselves.