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The whole world is booming with the plastic-free movement. Even though thousands of people have become aware of smarter grocery shopping and recycling, once we bring the groceries home, we come back to storing things in plastic.
This time, we decided to introduce you to plastic-free food storage. Here we explain numerous ways of avoiding common kitchen items like plastic containers, zip-lock bags, and cling wrap, and help make your food storage more eco-friendly.
So, if you:
Then keep on reading!
To stop storing food in plastic doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to throw away all the containers you already have and buy eco-friendly alternatives. After all, your end goal is to reduce the amount of plastic waste. And how are you going to achieve that? By gradually changing your storing habits in the kitchen and utilising what you already have to the maximum. Here are some alternatives for storing food without plastic:
Instead of tossing glass jars from pickles, jams, and pasta sauces, give them a good wash and reuse. These are a great plastic-free food storage alternative.
From spice storage to freezing goods, glass jars are quite versatile in use. Smaller jars can be used to store herbs and spices, and for dry foods (like beans and flour) you can use the bigger ones.
Green vegetables that tend to lose moisture and go limp, such as lettuce, asparagus and kale, can be stored in the refrigerator with the stems down in a water jar. Just make sure that you change the water regularly. That way you prolong the shelf life of the vegetables and reduce food waste.
For freezing goods, choosing jars with thicker glass eliminates the chances of them cracking. Those can be the jars that once previously had pickled food or jams, as they can certainly withstand extreme temperatures.
Don’t be afraid to have a pantry full of mismatched jars – you can always come up with something creative, like DIY labels or matching lids. Or, if there are certain jars that work the best for you, you can create a collection of those over time. After all, if you buy the same products in jars, it will be even easier.
Before utilising the leftover jars, you need to remove the old labels and the glue underneath them. It’s not an essential step, however, it makes for a neater and more pleasing look. To do that, soak the jars for a couple of hours and give them a scrub. Additionally, you can use some oil to remove the leftover glue.
You need to be attentive with the glass, as it can easily break unless you take good care of it. Cracks in the glass can appear due to changes in temperature and pressure. That is why you should never place a hot jar in the freezer – let it cool off first. Also, don’t fill the jars to the top. Liquids expand when they freeze. If there is not enough room for that expansion, the jar can crack or break.
You can wash your jars in the dishwasher, just make sure they are securely placed and the temperature settings aren’t too high.
If you are searching for plastic-free food storage containers, glassware should be your first choice. By choosing to keep your food in a glass container, you not only contribute to the plastic-free movement, but you also protect yourself and your family from exposure to harmful chemicals that are believed to be present in plastic.
Unlike plastic, glass containers don’t contain BPA, polypropylene, and PVC, which are proven to be hazardous to human health. So, you can be sure that no toxins will infiltrate your food.
To fully avoid plastic use, you can choose containers that come with silicone, bamboo, or clip-on glass lids.
Just like jars, glass containers are multifunctional. The variety of sizes allows you to choose the best containers for your fridge. Besides, glassware comes quite in handy when you have too much food to store in the jars.
It is also convenient to store frozen foods in them. Glass containers are made to withstand extreme temperatures, therefore you can easily use them to freeze your food.
Glass containers are durable; however, they are still prone to mechanical damage. When washing glassware in the dishwasher, make sure to secure it so it doesn’t get damaged by the items around it. Glass breakage is one of the more common reasons for a malfunctioning dishwasher.
Probably one of the most durable items on the list, stainless steel tins can be used to store almost any food. These tins are not porous and don’t get easily stained. You don’t need to soak them after storing highly fragrant or colourful foods, simply wash them like any other dish.
Stainless steel tins are also quite durable, giving you ages of usage. Some might argue that plastic containers last for a long time too, and yet everyday use wears them out. With time, you might be left with containers deformed from exposure to heat. Stainless steel tins, on the other hand, don’t break or crack easily, which makes them a great eco-friendly food storage option.
Most of the time, stainless steel tins are airtight, which means that your food will be protected from spillage and no moisture can get in this no-waste container. You can easily store crackers or biscuits in the tins without the fear that they will become soggy, or pack a lunch to go.
Depending on the type of tins you have, they might require different care routines.
Firstly, metal tins should not be used in a microwave oven under any circumstances. If you need to heat your food, you can use a regular oven or transfer it to a microwave-safe dish.
Secondly, if your tins have lids with silicone parts, make sure to remove them before heating the food. Those parts can get easily damaged if exposed to heat.
Lastly, these tins don’t require special cleaning techniques. You can wash them by hand with regular dish soap or place them in the dishwasher without worrying about rust.
Beeswax wraps are commonly used as a plastic-free alternative to cling film. Just as sticky as plastic, you can use beeswax wraps to seal leftovers, store cheese, and cover bread.
These non-plastic wraps are made of organic cotton, coated with beeswax and other natural materials. If you are vegan, you can find wraps made of plant-based wax, too.
Even if they seem sturdy at first, a little heat from your hands will turn them into self-sealing sticky sheets that can be used to cover any bowl or dish.
When taking care of your beeswax wraps, you need to remember that wax can easily melt. This means, that these wax sheets are not suitable for covering hot food. Wait until it cools down and only then seal the dish.
Cleaning should be done manually with cold water only. A damp cloth should be enough to remove smudges off the wraps. You can also give them a bath of cold water, and use a gentle scrubber for more stubborn stains.
If your beeswax wraps lose their stickiness, you can refresh the wax layer by popping them in an electrical oven at 60°C or ironing them between two sheets of baking paper.
Never use a direct flame to soften the wax, as it is highly flammable. If you have a gas oven, use the ironing method, or you risk your sheets catching flame.
Apart from carrying groceries during your shopping trip, fabric bags are also quite useful for keeping the produce fresh. Once you get back home, just toss them right inside the fridge. Unlike in plastic bags, your fruit and vegetables will be kept in a breathable material that poses no risk of contamination to your food.
Smaller fabric bags can also be used to keep your bread from getting stale. You can be sure that your bread will not grow mould when kept in a natural material.
The frequency of cleaning will depend on how often you use your bags and what you store in them. For example, a bag that is used for vegetable storage might need to be washed more frequently than a bag for dry goods, like beans.
On average, a fabric bag should be washed every 2-3 weeks, assuming that it’s not used often. Bags that are used to store products that contain potentially harmful bacteria should be washed weekly.
You can wash your cotton or linen bags in the washing machine; however, remember that regular exposure to harsh machine agitation can wear the bags out. Ideally, they should be washed by hand with mild eco-detergents, or on a delicate setting.
Instead of packing lunch in plastic zip-lock bags, you can invest in the reusable alternative. Reusable sandwich bags are just as easy to use as regular plastic bags and, what’s better, they don’t leave a big imprint on the environment. Just imagine how many one-time-use bags are thrown away in a single day. A cotton or silicone lunch bag will last you significantly longer and reduce your waste to a minimum.
Available in a variety of materials and colours, you can choose a bag that best suits your needs. Nowadays, you can find anything from reusable wraps to moisture- and grease-proof pouches for sandwiches and snacks.
Depending on the material of your sandwich pouch, the care routine might vary.
Silicone pouches can be washed manually, as well as in the dishwasher. However, they tend to absorb colour and smell from foods. That is why they might require a little pre-treat before the actual cleaning.
Fabric materials can either be cleaned by hand or machine washed. However, you need to keep an eye on the manufacturer recommendations, as some of the bags can lose their moisture-proof properties due to improper treating.
No matter how fast you want to jump into an eco-friendly and low waste lifestyle, it is important to remember that there is no need to start throwing away all the plastic you have in the kitchen. After all, we are trying to minimise plastic waste and not produce it, right?
Plastic boxes that are still in good condition can be repurposed. And don’t be afraid to get creative with it. For example, a simple plastic container can turn into a box for small toys or a crayon storage box. If you want to reduce the mess in your car, you can repurpose one of the bigger plastic boxes into a mini trash can.
As you can see, you can find them many new purposes. However, what do you do with the older and more worn out containers? The answer is simple – recycle.
Before taking your plastic containers to the nearest recycling bin or station, make sure that they are suitable for recycling. Check the labelling on the containers to determine whether they can be recycled. If you have difficulty interpreting the signs, you can check our helpful post on the topic of home recycling:
Remember, that your boxes have to be clean. No foods, liquids, or any other substances are allowed.
To minimise the use of plastic in the future, avoid buying more plastic containers. If you remain patient and make conscious choices, you will be able to create your unique collection of plastic-free food storage goods that suit your specific needs.
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Did you find this article helpful? Do you have any other plastic-free food storage methods? Share them with us in the comments!
Image source: Shutterstock / Svetlana Glazkova