6 Smart, Sustainable Ways You Should Be Storing Your Food
If you're looking to reduce the number of single-use plastics in the kitchen, you've come to the right place.
When I started my foray into creating a more eco-friendly lifestyle, I started in my kitchen. I was already pretty familiar with how to eat in a more sustainable manner, but I quickly realized that I was throwing away tons of single-use plastic products that I used to store, wrap, freeze, and package food items. I wanted to know how bad this habit really was, and as it turns out, our collective plastic addiction has had a significantly negative impact on the environment.
According to a 2017 study, 91% of plastics are never recycled, meaning that they end up in landfills and oceans. You don’t need to go completely plastic-free, but cutting down on your usage, especially in the kitchen, can go a long way to protecting the health of your family and of the planet. Not sure where to start? Here are six ways you can ditch single-use plastics in your food storage.
Reusable silicone bags are a lifesaver, and I use them just about every day in my kitchen. For most products, the brand itself doesn’t make much of a difference, but in this case, I recommend Stasher Bags. Silicone bags take the place of anything that you would put in a plastic baggie, but the big difference is that you can use them over and over again. Plus, the food-grade silicone is dishwasher-, microwave-, oven-, and freezer-safe. And unlike many plastic storage products, they won’t get damaged by heat up to 400 degrees (you can even use them to sous vide meat). If you make one swap in your kitchen, make it this one.
Beeswax wraps are cotton sheets infused with beeswax, creating pliable sheets that are the perfect swap for plastic cling wrap. The heat of your hands softens the wraps so that you can mold them over bowls, around food, and on top of jars that have lost their lids. Beeswax sheets are biodegradable, super-easy to clean in cold water, and don’t leave a sticky residue behind. They also will never get tangled around themselves like pesky plastic wrap, so it’s a win all around.
Silicone covers are another plastic wrap replacement for when you want to get a bit of a tighter seal around a container than you can achieve with beeswax sheets. These stretchy sheets of food-grade silicone go over bowls, jars, pots, and even cut fruit like melons to keep things fresh. Buy a set with a variety of different sizes for the most utility in your kitchen.
Glass containers are king for food storage. They're safe for the freezer, microwave, oven, and dishwasher, and the nonporous surface doesn’t retain odors. While glass containers are more expensive than their plastic counterparts, it’s worth the investment—plastic containers that smell like last week’s pasta sauce will make anyone lose their appetite. Glass will also last you much longer than plastic, and when it’s ready to say goodbye, it’s 100% recyclable.
You can get the benefits of glass food storage without the cost by holding on to those empty glass jars from almond butter, jam, pickles, and so on. Be careful about reusing plastic containers, though. While the intent is good, plastics that aren’t designed for reuse aren’t very durable and as they get scratched up and exposed to heat, the chemicals from the plastic can leach out into the food or drink you are storing. Glass containers are also perfect for storing dry goods, like grains, nuts, and other foods you can buy in bulk. Just bring along reusable cloth or mesh baggies to the store, fill them in in the bulk aisle, and transfer to a glass jar or a glass mason jar once you get home.
Avoid the flimsy plastic bags at the store and keep your fruits and veggies fresher for longer by storing them in produce keepers in the fridge. I use the OXO Good Grips GreenSaver Produce Keepers, which have a carbon filter and adjustable vent to reduce spoilage and provide the right level of humidity depending on what you’re storing. Even a basic produce keeper will feature an elevated colander to promote airflow and reduce rotting (I know I’m not the only one with slimy bits at the bottom of my bags of greens). I usually just throw the produce into my cart and transfer it into the produce container when I get home, but you can also bring your own reusable cloth or mesh bags to use at the grocery store to keep things truly plastic-free.