Storage Containers

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten two semi-related tips about storage containers from experienced cruisers who are readers.  The first was from Jean, the organizer of the Cruiser’s Rally to El Salvador.  Jean said:

After getting tired of trying to store all different shapes and sizes of storage containers, we decided to buy only one brand and one size. Now we don’t have to search for the correct top to match with the correct bottom and storage is much simpler.

And then, just a couple of days ago, Jackie Bartz sent me a picture of the Tupperware Modular Mates she’s using in her galley aboard Lively Lady.  And while they aren’t all exactly the same size, many of the lids are interchangable and they stack nicely together without a lot of wasted space.

I haven’t used the Modular Mates myself, but I have had a few pieces of true Tupperware and found it to be good on the boat.  It doesn’t have the positive locks that some other brands do (which are good on long offshore passages where conditions can get pretty rough), but they are good for coastal cruising and short hops where you can pick your weather windows.

The Modular Mates come in several basic shapes, including the ovals that Jackie has, “super ovals” for deeper cupboards, squares and rectangles.  If they’ll fit in your lockers, the squares and rectangles make the best use of space.  You can buy them in sets for basic pieces, and then add individual pieces to round out the collection to be exactly what you need.  One thing that is great about them is that you can see into them, making it easy to grab the correct container without having to read all the labels and also for knowing what you are running low on.

Like all good plastic food storage containers, the Modular Mates aren’t cheap.  I know that I initially balked at the price of “good” storage canisters and bought the cheap stuff . . . which I ended up getting rid of and then buying good stuff as I could find it where we were cruising.  This cost me far more than just the extra cost of the set I got rid of — I had a lot of spoiled and spilled food, and hours spent in cleaning up messes.  And I ended up with a hodgepodge of different sizes and brands that I picked up along the way.

Other brands that I like include Lock & Lock, Steri-Lite (the locking variety) and the locking Rubbermaid ones, but none of those seem to have sets designed to work together quite as nicely as these.

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  • Cathy
    Posted at 11 February 2013 Reply

    The Container Store has GREAT food storage containers – all square, no room lost to round shapes. They stack beautifully and have airtight lids.

  • Suzanne
    Posted at 13 February 2013 Reply

    Have you tried the Klip-It containers from New Zealand? I’d be interested to hear cruisers’ views of them. Container Store sells them and I used to find them at Sur la Table. They have o-rings and though they only clip on two sides, rather than four, they seem airtight. They go well from freezer to microwave and have a lot of very small containers, good for some chopped garlic or a bit of sauce or dressing. I have some of these, but was looking at Snapware and Lock-n-Lock. Unfortunately, the recent reviews of Snapware and Lock-n-Lock on Amazon were horrible–perhaps some manufacturing issues going on–so I balked and did not buy them. My galley is crying out for organization!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 13 February 2013 Reply

      I haven’t tried them, but I’ll post on The Boat Galley Facebook page and see if anyone has recent experience with them. I’ve bought some Lock & Lock and Steri-lite in the past six months at Wal-mart and at least so far, haven’t had any problems with them. It can be so tough to find good ones that fit where you need them to!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 13 February 2013 Reply

      Just got a reply from Julie Birbeck:

      I live in Australia & use these all the time. I use them at home & on the boat. For dry things they are great. I do use a couple of small round ones for my dog when we are travellling in the car, one for water & one for dry food. The water one does sometimes leak though. The seals are good, but not perfect. They are one of the better containers around though.

  • Sue Fuller
    Posted at 14 February 2013 Reply

    I like the Rubbermaid 1.7 quart for storing rice and pasta in my home but the great thing is that I can simply carry them out and use them on the boat. We have a Catalina 42 with wire pull-out baskets and they fit perfectly in them.

  • Susan Parker
    Posted at 14 February 2013 Reply

    I use SnapWare and love them because:
    They are air tight
    They are square so they don’t waste space and store easily.
    The lids are attached so you don’t have lost or mismatched lids.
    They open and close easily. with a snap.
    They come in a variety of sizes.

  • Donna Cantwell
    Posted at 02 April 2013 Reply

    Carolyn- my issue was the same. Storing, I despise bugs and ease of purchase…price was final consideration. I started with containers from IKEA, then The Container Store, mixed in LockNLock…and settled on TUPPERWARE. Since Tupperware is International, it just made sense — so much sense that I became a dealer! I must say, I now love organizing and reorganizing using Modular Mates. I’d be happy to share tips and tricks with any readers who are having the same space/storage issues in the Galley!

  • D and Don svsoutherncross
    Posted at 06 November 2013 Reply

    I started with Clic Clacks and found they were very expensive and worked well. However, the clasp on one side broke, the hard plastic is not as forgiving and then there is no lifetime warranty. So when I found Lock n Locks, I switched to them and have been happy ever since. Much less expensive, ‘O’ ring for air and water tight seal, square or rectangular for best use of space, easy to use with the four locking tabs and come in a huge variety of sizes. Heritage Mint carries them online, so I mail order now. I used to be able to buy them at Wal Mart and Target, but no more.

  • Sue
    Posted at 12 November 2013 Reply

    For budget conscious and environmentally aware cruisers there are the 1 litre/1kg plastic screwtop containers that fruit comes in. We use them for just about everything. They stack well, a good size for things rice, coconut, lentils, beans, leftovers in the fridge and in the “shed” for nuts and bolts too. Another advantage is you can see what is in them. I also write on the lids so looking down on them you can see whats in them too.and you dont have plastic rubbish to dispose of.

  • Linda Spell
    Posted at 06 June 2017 Reply

    Some years ago, we lived aboard and cruised for three years in the Pacific on our Irwin sloop. Prior to that, we always kept our boat in Southern California “Catalina Ready” – fully galley equipped for dinner parties in our weekend destinations. Our storage containers for the 15 years we owned the sloop, and for the current boats we have owned, and now own, in Florida, are glass Ball canning jars. No weavils can bore through them (as they can through most plastic containers). We also make sure that in every jar in which we are storing flour, rice, corn meal, etc., we put a dried bay leaf inside. It will not alter the flavor, but you never will have weevils, guaranteed. We still use this system of Ball jars and bay leaves in our Florida home as well.

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