Food storage containers are the cornerstone to safely stowing your provisions. Here's what I look for and my recommendations.

Food Storage Containers

Food storage containers are one of the most important pieces of galley “equipment” — without good ones, it can be a guessing game if your food will be in edible condition when you reach for it.

On a boat, you’ll use these for just about everything — not just things like flour and sugar that you put in canisters ashore, but also rice, pasta, box mixes, even dog food!  And don’t forget about everything in the refrigerator — leftovers, foods that you want chilled and foods that are stored there, such as cheese.

There are three “absolutes” when it comes to food storage containers:

  • Lids can’t pop off — you don’t want a bowl of pasta salad (or worse, gazpacho) spilling in the bottom of the refrigerator.
  • Airtight — important for keeping bugs out of dry foods as well as preserving the quality of foods.
  • Unbreakable — thin, brittle plastic tends to crack just with the motion of the boat, leading to spills and bug infestations.

But there are some other things to consider, too:

  • Use of space — obviously the containers need to fit where you want to use them.  But square corners and straight sides waste less space than round dishes and sloping sides.  Containers that are larger than they need to be also waste space.
  • Dividing up stocks — I prefer to divide my stock of most foods between two or more containers.  Two reasons for this:  first, should one have a problem such as getting bugs in it (hopefully all my precautions will prevent this) or have some other problem, I haven’t lost all of a particular item.  Second, I can keep one container in a location that’s easily accessible and store the rest wherever there’s room.
  • Cleanability — weird little nooks and crannies take more time and water to clean.  (Read my article on cleanability.)

Recommended Food Storage Containers

My favorite food storage containers are the Lock & Lock containers.  I know, you can buy much cheaper big sets of plastic containers.  That’s what I did initially.  I learned the hard way as lids popped off, food spilled and containers cracked and broke.  Ditto for re-using margarine and yogurt tubs.  Then I got some better Rubbermaid containers — they didn’t break, but without positively locking gasketed lids, I still had problems with bugs sometimes getting in and lids popping off.  It was only when I discovered the Lock & Lock, Sterilite and Rubbermaid Lock-Its locking containers that I stopped having problems.

If you’re just starting to outfit your galley, you’ll be surprised at how many containers you’ll end up using and how much money you’ll spend on them.  I know I was!  To a certain extent, it helps to plan what containers you’ll use where and how many can actually fit in various lockers and so forth.  However, you’ll also use a number of these containers as serving dishes — particularly when you’re going to potlucks or just taking a dish to dinner on a friend’s boat.

Food storage containers are the cornerstone to safely stowing your provisions. Here's what I look for and my recommendations.All three brands of containers (there may be some other brands available in other places, too) have the basic features that I like.  However, when I have a choice, I prefer the Lock & Lock because there is less wasted space — particularly in how much of a lip there is on each container as shown in the photo at right — the one with the blue gasket is the Lock & Lock, the one with red is a Sterilite (Rubbermaid Lock-Its have more steeply sloped sides and waste even more space).

While I’ve written other articles about “special” containers that I like — such as the serving/salad bowl and the egg carton — here are links to many of the everyday containers.  While I can find some Lock & Lock containers at local stores, I find that the selection online is much better:

  • Lock & Lock on Amazon (some of the boxed sets and multi-packs are great deals compared to buying individual items)

The pieces with handles are great for taking food in the dinghy — makes it much easier to hand items from one person to another!

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  • Patty D. Tate
    Posted at 09 July 2012 Reply

    Try snapware. They are made in the USA. You can buy them at Bed,Bath and Beyond.

    • Rick
      Posted at 03 November 2013 Reply

      We are testing a snapware container on our boat. Less expensive than lock and lock. So far so good and available at Amazon.

  • Monique Davis on Facebook
    Posted at 10 July 2012 Reply

    I adore these locking containers. It doesn’t matter if they have soup, veggies, or tofu. are right side up or upside down…they haven’t failed me yet. The only problem I have is preventing my boyfriend from using them for epoxy tubs!

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 10 July 2012 Reply

    I understand completely! Uh, sometimes the expoxy will cleanly pop off the plastic once it’s cured . . . but of course, that’s usually on plastic that you’re desperately trying to bond!

  • Maryalice Mackey
    Posted at 11 July 2012 Reply

    I love these containers as well! Use them all the time on our boat and at home. One thing I am finding out is that when we keep these in our ice chest and the ice melts and then the containers are sitting in cold water, the water tends to seep inside the containers. So..I recommend being careful when using these containers in ice chests.
    Other than that…they’re great!

  • Chuck Burns
    Posted at 27 November 2012 Reply

    For some reason the containers I have like this won’t stay locked…the tabs have a natural tendency to straighten up…to release and assume their natural horizontal position, so I hate them

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 27 November 2012 Reply

      I’m really surprised at that. I’ve never had a problem and never heard of anyone else with the problem. I can only think that it was a bad batch or possibly a “look alike” brand that isn’t really the same.

  • Kelley - Sailing Chance
    Posted at 03 November 2013 Reply

    I love the lock-n-lock containers and the other brands that are the same style. At first I bot some of those oxo pop containers and I HATE them. The seal is crap, the containers crack and they are way more expensive. These ones are where it is at. I’ve also found you can find deals on sets at places like Marshall’s, Ross and TJ Maxx. They are actually great places to find lots of multifunctional galley equipment at great prices.

  • Catherine
    Posted at 19 August 2014 Reply

    Getting ready to move from Ottawa to our new floating home in the Caribbean in less than two months!! I was looking at the Lock & Lock containers and they look really good – all the features that you’ve talked about. I’m wondering how you’ve found the locking tabs have stood up to use now a couple of years later? Are you still using them?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 19 August 2014 Reply

      Still love them and my Sterilites that also have the gaskets and the locking tabs. Actually, I have a couple of similar Rubbermaid ones too. The L&L are still my favorites, as they have straight sides and make the most efficient use of space, but all are still working well. Each brand has some unique sizes, that just fit in certain places, but the majority of what I have are L&L.

      Have a great time on your new adventure!

  • Stitchgeek
    Posted at 23 November 2014 Reply

    I love the lock n’ lock container. Only problem I’ve had is when I take them out of the freezer and the container is brittle they break when dropped on the floor…only happened twice, this is just a heads-up.

  • Mark Dobkin
    Posted at 13 June 2015 Reply

    I use a lot of screw on lid containers from health supplements from 8 ounce size and larger. They are very strong, fit my galley lockers well, they cost nothing, and I label them if they are not transparent. After years of use, I still have most of them! And, they are light weight. Just ask a local juice bar, health food store, or gym with prepared food/beverages to save some for you, or find out where they place them after use.

  • Sandra John
    Posted at 24 December 2015 Reply

    My husband and I live on a boat for a long time and over time we learned that we didn’t need to over supply for travel most of the time. I have used a lot of different types of storage containers. But I did like the ones that had a locking top. When we had to move off our boat because of health reasons we moved into an RV maybe seeing more inland places. I still use the ideas from the boat. I only found your web site after we move off the boat but I still find it interesting. Thanks for your ideas.

  • Mickey Dawson
    Posted at 13 September 2017 Reply

    Love my Lock and Locks! Thanks again!

  • Paula Swaney
    Posted at 14 September 2017 Reply

    Have you considered Tupperware Modular Mates? They seal out bugs and come in many different sizes. And they have a lifetime warranty. They are a little pricey, but great quality. And with the warranty you only have to buy them once.

  • Pamela Harwood
    Posted at 15 September 2017 Reply

    Since we have gone grain-free, our go-to breakfast is fruit with yoghurt and nutty granola. I make the “granola” in small batches using up to 6 different kinds of nuts. I buy the nuts in bulk, and the 29 oz/0.9 at Lock & Locks (that come in a set of 4) are the perfect size for 1 lb of nuts. The finished granola goes in a taller L & L. I also use various sizes to store the different non-grain flours. Sure, they come in plastic bags with a ziplock top, but if they get smushed, the air inside pops open the bag. Best to transfer into L&L’s, which are easy to open, but don’t pop open at the wrong time.

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