In my post on litterless lunches I promised to revisit the topic of stainless food containers. Now seems as good a time as any, especially as summer means picnics and picnics require robust food containers.
I am pretty much plastic-free in my kitchen these days and I do enjoy that. It is when I see the orange staining on plastics from tomato sauce, that I fully appreciate how deeply food penetrates plastic (and how little I like that thought). So I use glass/pyrex for storing food at home and stainless steel for my kids’ lunches and picnics.
The downside of stainless is mainly the up-front cost. Until recently, it has also been hard to find good stainless containers, but that has all changed of late.
For a long time now, I have been using containers made by Sanctus Mundo (a local, Wakefield, Quebec company) which are sold through the website Life Without Plastic, as well as in various retail outlets.
My favourite Sanctus Mundo products are the round airtight/watertight containers in various sizes. These have three clips and a silicone seal which together really do stop leaks, even if the containers tumble around in a lunch bag. Yet they are still easy – and satisfying – to open and close.
Hand washing is recommended: I am good about this but still find a few of my seals showing a bit of mildew. However, this does not affect their performance (and replacement lids are available through the website for about $5). The bad news: these containers cost between $15 and $20 each, depending upon the size, so this might be a gradual investment.
Round containers are great for fruit and small items, but if you are thinking about sandwiches or looking at storing leftovers in the fridge, they are not always the best option.
If you are more of a square person, or want a somewhat larger capacity, another great product comes from a Canadian website, Earthly Bound.
Earthly Bound sell sets of 3 square containersin high quality, shiny stainless for $30.
These containers are dishwasher-safe, though hand washing is advised for lids (made of #5 polypropylene plastic which has no bisphenol-A and is generally considered among the safer plastics). If you are an anti-plastic purist the lids could bother you, but I don’t worry too much since the food rarely touches them anyway.
The advantage of the flexible plastic lid is that it stays on well and is easy for small and big hands alike. This is not the case with some containers. For example, Kids Konserve stainless containers have lids that are REALLY hard to get on and off (and hence often leak or fall off, since they were never on properly in the first place). LunchBots containers are nice as they have dividers in them, but they have metal lids – without clips – which are also tricky.
Overall, the Earthly Bound sets are good value and straddle the lunch box/fridge divide. I like the versatility. I should mention that I received a set of these for testing, but this has not affected my review.
A final note on provenance: almost all stainless containers are made in Asia. Surprisingly China is not the main source. Many – including Earthly Bound’s containers – come from India (the home of the tiffin box), while others are from Thailand or South Korea (Sanctus Mundo). Life Without Plastics has a note on its website about ethical sourcing of its products.