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Which Plastic Container Sizes Are Best for Meal Prep?

We bought several sizes of our favorite plastic container to see which are most useful for your leftovers, bulk prepping, and weekday lunches.

Published July 22, 2019.

More on the Best Plastic Food Storage Containers

This review looks at all the different sizes of our favorite plastic food storage container, the Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container, Large, 9.6 Cup. You can read our original review with detailed brand comparisons here.

Do you know that one person who is superorganized and consistently meal preps lunches, dinners, snacks, and salad dressings on the weekend to set themselves up for an easier week? That person is not me. Instead, I tend to throw dinner leftovers into a container and call it the next day’s lunch. However, I wish I was that person—and I’ve always thought that if I had the right containers (instead of the beat-up ones I’ve had since college), meal prep would seem like less of a chore and more of a great way to start the week on the right foot.

When we tested plastic food storage containers, a clear winner emerged: the Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container, Large, 9.6 Cup, priced at about $13. It holds a generous amount of food, keeps liquids in, is airtight, and has a flat top that makes for secure, compact stacking in the refrigerator and freezer. 

We wondered if the other sizes of this container would perform just as well and whether they would be useful for meal preppers, in-the-moment lunch packers, or those trying to make the transition from the latter to the former, like me. While the 9.6-cup container is fantastic for storage, it’s a bit too large for packing into a lunch box or storing smaller amounts of grains, dressings, or cooked chicken. So, we put the 4.7-cup, 3.2-cup, and 1.3-cup Rubbermaid Brilliance food storage containers to the test, opening and closing their latches 25 times each, submerging them in water to see if they were airtight, and vigorously shaking the full containers to see if anything spilled out. We also put the 6-piece set (which has one 3.2-cup container, two 1.3-cup containers, and lids for all) and the 10-piece set (which has two 3.2-cup containers, two 1.3-cup containers, 1 9.6-cup container, and lids for all) through the same tests, as some might find it more convenient to buy a set of containers rather than a number of individual ones. Buying the sets is also more cost-effective.  

Good News for Meal Preppers

All of the containers we tested performed identically to our favorite container: They all kept liquids contained and had strong, sturdy latches that withstood repeated use. We can recommend all of the Rubbermaid Brilliance containers we tested. 

So which size is right for you? That depends on your food storage needs.If you want multiple containers in different sizes we suggest buying a set, it's cheaper than buying individual containers. Keep in mind that some of these containers are too small for lunch portions of food or a baking sheet’s worth of roasted veggies, while the largest size doesn’t fit in a lunchbox. If you’re looking for a set of identical containers for meal prep, we suggest buying multiples in one of two sizes: either the 3.2 cup or the 4.7 cup—both are roomy enough to hold a sandwich and a side, a grain bowl, a hearty amount of soup, or generous green salad. We’ve outlined some suggested uses for all the containers below. 

Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container Set, 6-Piece

Best Set for Lunches for One

With two 1.3-cup containers and one 3.2-cup container, this set might not offer enough variety or pieces for a meal prep fanatic, but it’s fantastic for those looking to pack lunches for just themselves.
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Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container Set, 10-Piece

Best Set for Lunches for Two and/or Meal Prep

With two 1.3-cup containers, two 3.2-cup containers, and one 9.6-cup container, this set offers a bit more size variety, making it great for those who pack lunches for two people or those looking to make a good amount of food for the week ahead. The 9.6-cup container is about the size of a textbook, meaning it’s too big for lunch, but it is a good choice for storing leftovers or large batches of grains or meat.
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Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container, Medium Deep, 4.7 Cup

Best for Salads and Storing Large-ish Amounts of Food

If you’re packing a salad for work, this container should do the trick. It’s also large enough to store a large slice of lasagna or a few servings of rice or pasta. If you’re making something such as  hummus or guacamole to bring to a party, this size container would fit the bill.
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Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container, Medium, 3.2 Cup

Best for Leftovers and Lunches

This medium-size container offers a good amount of space for most lunches, but isn’t necessarily large enough to accommodate a large portion of leafy greens. Instead, think grain bowls, barbecued chicken, mac and cheese, or a random assortment of leftovers from the refrigerator.
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Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Container, Small, 1.3 Cup

Best for Snacks, Sides, or Small Portions

Not large enough for a main course or small enough for just a serving of dressing, this is a great snack and small portion container. Its size is perfect for some trail mix or a side of quinoa, roasted veggies, or a few ounces of grilled chicken.
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