The great cover-up

WHETHER you need something to put that half-used packet of pasta in or a way to reserve those leftovers in the fridge, chances are you will probably reach for a food storage container of some sort.

While plastic containers remain most popular because of ease of use and their hardy nature, there has been a concerted push to ensure the containers you choose are made without PVC, polystyrene foam and polycarbonates.

These chemicals have been proven to contribute to a host of diseases and can enter your body by leeching into stored food.

Resist the urge to heat food in plastic containers, even those marked "microwave safe", as the heat can inadvertently transfer chemicals into your food.

Dishwashers, too, can aid in chemical transfer so wash your plastics by hand in lukewarm water.

Earl Silas Tupper, who launched the Tupperware company in 1938, is credited with creating plastic food-storage containers for home use.

Today Tupperware is just one player in the plastic-container game, with numerous manufacturers producing bins in seemingly endless configurations and sizes.

Try the BPA-free Décor range, from $2.95, from Woolworths and Coles or LocknLock range from $3.25, stockists at 1300 762 733.

Making a gradual shift to glass containers may be an option to consider.

There are lots of high quality and affordable options and it is easy to find glass containers with snug-fitting plastic lids that are BPA and PVC-free (Glasslock range, from $8 at Target).

They usually do not stain or pick up odours from other foods, are easy to recycle if broken, and are generally microwave and dishwasher safe.

Glass containers are excellent for storing dry pantry goods like pasta, rice, flour, sugar and beans but are also suitable for storing liquids in the fridge.

Some brands like Pyrex (stockists at offer the versatility of being able to use the same glass containers in the oven and as storage.

Stainless steel containers, so popular in the 1970s, are also enjoying a rebirth. While there is a large variety of drink bottles (Cheeki, $16.95) and lunch boxes (Lunchbots duo, $23.95), there is a growing number of options when it comes to storage containers (U Konserve, from $19).

Stainless steel canisters are good for storing sugar, tea and coffee for everyday use (from $12.99 at The Container Store) and as bulk storage bins for flour and rice.

Stainless steel containers are unbreakable, easy to clean, and help keep foods fresher for longer.

Zip-lock bags (from $2.89 at most supermarkets) are a modern convenient choice for carrying sandwiches and snacks on the run.

If you are looking for a greener alternative try reusable bags like Lunchskins, from $7.95.

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Leftovers Advice

Put leftovers away as soon as they have cooled down to stop the growth of bacteria.

Cover food well or better still store in an airtight container because exposure to air in the fridge or freezer can cause food to dry out or burn.

Reheat properly on a plate or glass container before eating.

Don't eat anything that feels unsafe but at the same time don't throw out something just because it has been in the fridge for two days.

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