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What’s the scoop on reusable storage bags?
Plastic sandwich bags are handy for storing and transporting sandwiches, snacks, and other foods, but they’re recommended for one-time use. In the last few years, a number of sandwich-size reusable storage bags have appeared on the market, claiming to be more durable, environmentally friendly alternatives to the disposable versions. Curious how these bags performed, we bought five 3- to 4-cup bags priced from $2.32 to $11.99 each and put them through their paces.
All the bags did a serviceable job of holding sandwiches and snacks and were simple to clean; none retained odors or stains. And they were indeed tough: After we opened and closed each bag 100 times to simulate extended use, most models retained their structural integrity, working just as well as before.
But the similarities ended there. The bags were made from either silicone or vinyl, and the material proved critical. We liked that the two bags made of silicone were dishwasher- and microwave-safe. And the silicone’s thickness and flexibility made these bags ultradurable—at the conclusion of testing, they still looked brand-new. In one case, the thick material also did a great job of protecting hamburger patties and fresh fruit from freezer burn. But that same thickness and floppiness made these bags clumsy and awkward to fill; they couldn’t be propped up on the counter easily. Even more problematic, the silicone bags were hard to seal tightly. When we filled them with water, turned them upside down, and shook them, one bag broke open on the first bounce. The other never stood a chance: Its toggle-and-hole closure had large gaps through which water flowed freely. The gaps also encouraged freezer burn and didn’t contain dry snacks well.
We preferred the three vinyl bags, which sealed much more securely and did a far better job of keeping water and food in and air out. They were also great at protecting food from freezer burn. And because vinyl is relatively stiff, these bags were generally easier than the silicone models to prop open and fill. The only downside? Because they’re stiff, the vinyl bags showed more wear after extended use, though they remained fully functional.
Material aside, we liked roomy bags that held at least 3 1/2 cups of food, and we preferred those that had openings of at least 6 3/4 inches—the best were 8 3/4 inches wide. The two silicone bags looked big enough but had relatively wide side seams that narrowed the opening of each bag to about 6 inches and limited the actual usable space, making it harder to squeeze in a 2-inch-thick sandwich. We also appreciated gussets, which allowed some of the better bags to expand to accommodate large snacks and also gave the bags flat bottoms, so they sat more securely on the counter and were easier to fill.
If the idea of reusing your sandwich bag is appealing, these bags are worth considering. High-volume users might especially want to take note: Disposable bags cost about $0.10 each, so in just ninety days, our favorite model, the BlueAvocado (re)Zip Stand-Up 4 Cup/32 oz ($8.99), will recoup its value. We like it because it has a wide opening and bottom gussets that help it sit on the counter for easy filling; it’s also roomier than its name suggests, holding about 6 cups. While its vinyl wrinkled a bit over time, the bag itself worked just fine. Best of all, it was one of the more leak-resistant models in our testing, releasing water only when dropped.
We tested five reusable storage bags priced from $2.32 to $11.99 each, using them to hold sandwiches and snacks and to store hamburgers and cut-up fruit for smoothies in the freezer. All bags were made of plastic alternatives (either silicone or vinyl), had advertised capacities of 3 to 4 cups, and were BPA-free. We evaluated the bags on their ease of use, durability, leak and odor resistance, and ability to protect food from freezer burn. All models were purchased online, and they appear in order of preference.
EASE OF USE: We rated the bags on how easy they were to fill and seal.
DURABILITY: We evaluated the bags on how well they stood up to repeated use and maintained their structural integrity.
LEAK RESISTANCE: We rated the bags on how leakproof or leak-resistant they were, both before and after extended use.
FREEZER PROTECTION: We evaluated the bags on their ability to protect food from freezer burn.
This gusseted, widemouthed bag was by far the roomiest in our testing, holding nearly 6 cups of food; it was also easy to fill. Zipper-lock closures allowed us to seal this bag effortlessly and securely, helping keep food free of freezer burn. And it was one of the more leak-resistant models, safely containing water except when dropped. One small demerit: After extensive testing, the exterior got a tiny bit wrinkled but was otherwise sound.
Produced by the same manufacturer as our winner, this slightly smaller bag performed nearly as well. Like our winner, it had a zipper lock that sealed easily and tightly, helping keep food free of freezer burn and preventing leaks—it kept water contained except when dropped. And like our winner, the bag got a touch wrinkled after extended use. But while it was widemouthed and fairly roomy, this flat bag lacked gussets, preventing it from standing up and making it harder to fill.
This gusseted zipper-lock bag was plenty roomy and easy to fill, opening wide enough to accommodate our thickest sandwiches. It protected food from freezer burn fairly well, and at first, it was also relatively leak-resistant, releasing water only when dropped from counter height. But after repeated use, its stiff vinyl got quite battered and crinkly; while the bag maintained its structural integrity, it burst open the moment we filled it with water and shook it upside down.
We had high hopes for this dishwasher- and microwave-safe silicone bag, which did a decent job of protecting food from freezer burn and looked as good as new after repeated use. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold very much; thick side seams limited the usable space, and a narrow opening made us work a little harder to squeeze in fully loaded sandwiches. Worse, its thick-threaded zipper lock sealed awkwardly, bursting open the moment we turned the water-filled bag upside down.
After extensive testing, this microwave- and dishwasher-safe silicone bag still looked brand-new. Not that we’d want to use it again—a baffling toggle-and-hole closure system left large gaps through which crumbs, liquid, and freezer burn–inducing air passed freely. With thick, clumsy seams and an ineffective gusset, it was small—holding just 3 cups—as well as narrow, making it a little tricky to stuff in a thick sandwich.