Your Plastic Food Containers

by Hande Benson

We all have them in our cabinets - stained plastic food containers with warped lids. They are unsightly and useless, especially if the lid no longer closes over the container. But what can you do? Some of us resort to buying the cheaper containers, so we don't feel bad when we lose them to tomato sauce stains.

If you have to buy new containers every few months, the costs do add up. The secret is to buy the good containers and make them last. Here are a few tips on how to choose and use plastic food containers:

  1. Buy the good stuff: Sure, they are more expensive, but you can keep your costs down by purchasing them on sale and individually in only the sizes you use the most. I have 6 in my cabinets now: 2 lunch size, 1 for leftovers, and 3 for making big batches of food and freezing them for future meals. This also cuts down on the amount of clutter in your cabinets.
  2. Know the product specs: If you container is Refrigerator to Microwave, then don't put it in the freezer. You can learn more about your product by visiting the company's website. Some products also come with a warranty.
  3. Don't fill it up all the way: You should stop about a quarter-inch before the lid. This is especially true if you have sauce in the container. Remember, the lids usually stain more easily than the container itself.
  4. Don't boil sugary liquids: The best thing is to familiarize yourself with your microwave and its power levels. Don't set it to 2 minutes to push less buttons when 1 1/2 minutes will do just fine. Reduce the power level if you need to. Most microwaves are set to work at the highest power level. If you let the sugary liquid boil inside, it will create bubbles in most containers.
  5. Leave an opening: If your container has a vent, leave it open. If it doesn't, just undo a corner. This keeps the lid from expanding and blowing up, and it prolongs the life of the lid and keeps the inside of your microwave clean.
  6. Wash it off: If you do get a stain on your container, the best thing is to handwash it immediately. My experience has been that the dishwasher only makes the stain set in. Scrub with a sponge and a brush.
  7. Bleach is your best friend: Most manufacturers suggest that if the stains don't come off with regular washing, you should try soaking the container and/or lid in a bleach solution. This depends on your manufacturer, so get directions from them.
  8. Don't let them soak in the sink: Some of my worst stains have happened not in the microwave but while letting the dishes soak in the sink. There may be another container in the sink with tomato sauce in it, and it gets in the water, and before you know it, the lid is orange. Instead, wash your plastic containers separately.
  9. Top shelf only: When you put the containers in the dishwasher, put them in the top shelf only. This is better for plastic.
  10. Wet the lid: This is the best tip I have ever received. Rinse the lid under cold water before you use it in the microwave. Don't dry it before you turn on the microwave. This way, the lid will keep cool, and it will have an extra layer of protection between itself and the food.

With better products and better care, you can prolong the life of your plastic food containers, too. It will save you money, time and space!

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