Have you ever stood there bewildered at the supermarket’s food storage and food freezer bags section, wondering what on Earth the difference is? Well, we were wondering too, so we took it to the task to find out.
The difference between food storage bags vs. freezer bags lies in the thickness of the polyethylene plastic and the enclosure used in their fabrication. Freezer bags have a more durable securing zipper or fastening device and thicker plastic than food storage bags.
Food storage bags meant for either the pantry or the freezer are both commonly made from polyethylene plastic 1. It’s a plastic known to be non-toxic and safe for food, medicine, and food storage, like a freezer bag 2.
We’ll dive a little deeper into these two standard food storage solutions and bring you the straight truth about what it is you’re purchasing.
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The Difference Between Food Storage and Freezer Bags
If we’re going to dive into food storage bags versus freezer bags, then we need to understand all the pros and cons of each.
The primary differences between ordinary food storage bags and everyday freezer bags have to do with the bag’s size and thickness. The thickness of the bag refers to the thickness of the plastic sidewall itself.
When handling a freezer bag, you may notice the plastic is more durable than an ordinary sandwich-sized resealable plastic bag 3. This is why it’s recommended for freezing fruit like strawberries which you can read about in my blog post, A Guide To Ripening And Storing Strawberries.
Another common feature is, as mentioned, the size of the freezer bag. Most food storage bags find convenient typical sizing for a usual North American sliced bread sandwich. Most of these storage bags are of thin thickness.
The Ziploc brand (made by SC Johnson) of freezer bags is one of my favorite brands because they are popular, making them easily accessible. In addition, they’re very thick.
Food Storage Bags Pros & Cons
Food storage bags are standard and readily available in multiple sizes and multiple styles. Food storage bags often come with the zipper style resealing top. The simple open-top type that uses a twist tie or similar closing device is also quite common.
Food storage bags are usually more flexible than their freezer bag counterparts. It is due to the thinner plastic that the added flexibility allows the bag to mold around foods. The apparent advantage of a more flexible bag is trying to remove air from a bag of food. Removing air requires a more flexible plastic to remove all of the small voids of air and allow the plastic to form into those voids.
Consider using vacuum sealers to remove ALL the air. There are a wide variety listed on Amazon which you can check out by clicking here, vacuum sealers.
Due to a slightly thinner plastic, the food storage bags are typically somewhat less expensive than more durable heavy-duty food freezer bags.
As mentioned, the typical food storage bag is nowhere near as thick of polyethylene plastic as the freezer bags are. It reduces the durability of the bag drastically when compared to the thicker, more durable freezer bag.
A softer plastic being more flexible means less protection for the foods from other foods. It means that any foods stored in a food storage bag must be robust enough to withstand any piling of other foods placed on top.
Freezer Bags Pros & Cons
The best thing about freezer bags is their heavy-duty nature due to thickness 4. Almost all freezer bags come with at least two mils thick polyethylene plastic. As mentioned, Ziploc brand freezer bags come in at a whopping 2.7 mils thickness.
Freezer bags typically have a white label section printed on the side where one can use a marker to write a date.
In addition, freezer bags often have a more durable securing zipper or fastening device 5. The reason for this is often foods stored in freezer bags are tossed around large freezers. A freezer bag would do no good if thrown into a large freezer to break open, spilling frozen food everywhere.
Freezer bags often come in smaller quantities and are more expensive. However, like anything in life, you get what you pay for, as it is said. The heavy-duty nature of both the closing zipper and the freezer bag’s thicker plastic sidewall makes it a higher quality item 6. Higher quality specialized items always cost more money.
With the thick heavy-duty polyethylene plastic freezer bag, one would assume that reusing a bag would be an appropriate decision. However, most freezer bags with the zipper-like double-action closing device at the top can be tough to clean out properly. It makes the concept of reuse slightly tricky compared to fixed, rigid containers made of polyethylene plastic compared to a plastic bag.
Food Storage And Freezer Bag Manufacturers
Suppose you look online or in any supermarket in North America for food storage or freezer bag. When it comes to freezer bags and food storage bags, the name Ziploc stands out like a big red flag in a sea of white flowers 7.
Other manufacturers common are Glad and Hefty, but Ziploc seems to be dominating the marketplace. Ziploc is an SC Johnson brand.
Can You Freeze Food In Storage Bags?
As mentioned above, all freezer bags, food storage bags, and food sandwich bags typically come from the same kind of plastic: polyethylene. So the question comes to mind whether or not you can freeze food in storage bags, right?
It is a common practice to freeze food in any food-safe plastic bag. As most of these bags come from polyethylene, they will all be the same in material makeup. The only difference will come down to the thickness of the bag and durability.
Durability comes down to two things when it comes to food storage and bags:
- The thickness of the bag sidewall determines overall durability.
- The strength of the bag seal determines the durability of closing.
So, when choosing to use food storage bags in place of freezer bags, comes down to how you store the bags in your freezer.
If you use a deep freezer and you’re used to just tossing bags into the freezer, then a thicker heavy-duty freezer bag would be preferential.
If you are meticulous about the organization and have multiple containers to protect frozen goods bags, then using storage bags may be appropriate.
The only considerable drawback to utilizing freezer bags for storing food comes in keeping wet food like freshly cut kiwi fruit. There may come a time when you have many kiwis to freeze. You may find after piling a fresh stack of fruit into a freezer bag and freezing it, what’s left is a single giant frozen chunk of kiwis.
Best practice involves using a flash freeze technique with a tray first. After freezing the fruit or similarly wet food product on the tray, transfer the food to a freezer bag. This freezing technique ensures the food may be separable after freezing.
The Final Say On Food Storage Bags Vs. Freezer Bags
Food storage bags are almost always easily accessible. They can find a residence in stores from the convenience and corner stores to supermarkets, drug stores, and more. Freezer bags are not always so readily available.
Food storage bags come in various styles that include differences in thickness and how and if they fasten at the top. Food storage bags are often less expensive than freezer bags.
Freezer bags are incredibly durable compared to food storage bags. Freezer bags are slightly more expensive, but their durability can last exponentially longer.
Both types of food storage products are reusable and safe 8, but freezer bags will clean easier, and their durabilities will most definitely outlast food storage bags, nine times out of 10.
Read Next – More Food Storage
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- Wikipedia: Zipper storage bag
- PennState Extension: Unacceptable Food Storage Containers
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Freezing Cooked Food for Future Meals: Freezer Bag Tips
- National Center for Home Food Preservation: General Freezing Information
- NY Times: Tools and Tips for Freezing Food So Nothing Goes to Waste
- Michigan State University: Choosing containers to freeze food
- SCJohnson: Ziplock Brand Freezer Bags
- USDA: Meat and Poultry Packaging Materials