If you are anything like me, there have been numerous times in your life when you have been in a Target/Costco/Sur La Table/Container Store when box full of intricate, multi-shaped and variously sized plastic containers has come into view, and you have thought, “it's time I get organized!” The lure of organization is powerful because it feels like if you have a place for not only everything, but every KIND of thing, you'll never fall into disorder again.
I have learned something from a lifetime of tangling with stackable, burp-able, intricately sized storage containers: freedom does not come in a system that has options for every possibility, it comes in a simple system based on interchangeable parts. And in the world of food storage, we should look not to the glossy, marketed boxes in the housewares aisle, but to the humble set up of your neighborhood takeout place . Because if you've ever gotten take out from somewhere that has a large sauce or soup component (or ordered from a deli, or saved leftovers at a Chinese place, etc.), you have had your hands on one of these:
These containers are, simply put, miraculous. They are durable, but disposable (and recyclable). They come in a number of sizes that are tagged to volumetric amounts, but have uniform lid sizes. (!!!) They are dishwasher safe. They do not stain. They stack neatly in the fridge or freezer, and have smooth shapes for writing on them with permanent markers.
They can accept hot or cold liquids, and they can easily fit items like grains, salads, pickles, sauces and soups. And they are cheap enough that you don't have to worry about them lasting forever. They are, in short, a simple system for storing basically whatever you want.
The problem for a long time was that this was a restaurant product, but now they are widely available online. You'll find that they store pantry ingredients just as easily as cold items and that they travel really really well. And perhaps most liberating is the immense feeling of relief when it occurs to you that there is now only one kind of lid you have to look for to put on top of ANY of your food containers.
The 8 oz. size is perfect for leftover sauces or other liquids that don't need that much space, and the 32 oz. variety can even stand in for a drinking cup if you suddenly have a lot of guests and don't have enough party supplies around. And now, every time you go for takeout or being home something from the deli, you are enriching your food storage system. True freedom is only a few plastic containers away.
All hail the deli container!