Tag Archive for stainless containers

Stainless steel food containers

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.

SM small

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.

earthly small

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.

 

Taking the litter out of lunches (part 2)

So now you have the right lunch bag, what should you put inside?

The next thing you have to worry about are containers for all the drinks, fruits, veg, sandwiches, etc.

Stainless and aluminium water bottles are now ubiquitous. They are much more healthy and long lasting than plastic alternatives. Generally, stainless seems to be safer that aluminium, because aluminium is lined and it is hard to be sure about the chemical content of the liner. But stainless bottles are heavier.

Pretty much all bottles are made in China, but some are longer-lasting than others and have tops and stoppers that can be replaced independently, which is a good thing as the plastic is more likely to leak over time than the metal. Overall, though, once we are rid of plastic bottles, we should be better off. Juice cartons (mini tetra-paks) are something else to avoid in lunch bags. Although they can be recycled in a few facilities, they are one of the most energy absorbing and complex things to recycle.

If you are buying a flask for hot food, look for the ones with metal inside. These impart less taste to the food (who wants to taste plastic or yesterday’s soup?) and are easier to clean. They aren’t fabulous insulators, but they are robust. Food will stay hotter if you remember to pre-warm the flask (fill it with boiling water and let it sit for a while).

Air tight (and mess-proof) stainless containers are non-breakable, easy to clean, very long-lasting and don’t stain or retain food odours. They come in many sizes and shapes, including an oval that works well for sandwiches and split compartment containers that can take many separate items. The downside is that they are expensive to buy. Most are in the $15 range but will last as long as your child does not lose them, especially if you keep them out of the dishwasher. I will post a full review review of stainless containers in the near future. Not surprisingly, they are not all created equal.

Petunias small

My favourite bit of lunch kit is the snack pouch (largely because these come in many pretty fabrics). I get mine from an Etsy store called Petunias. They are nylon-lined and have velcro closures. They can be wiped out easily and wash well. What more could you want? (OK, you could make your own from recycled fabrics, but I’ll leave that up to you).

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