No Plastic Kitchen - Food Storage
Back when saran wrap was first becoming popular, a new and "convenient" way of wrapping and storing food, my grandmother, who had just started using saran wrap, washed the plastic wrap after every use and hung it to dry so she could use it again. She didn't want to waste the wrap or money.
Now she uses it quite mindlessly.
What I've been curious about in this story is the point where she went from washing to throwing the saran wrap in the trash. The point where the wrap went from being something precious to something easily replaceable, and cheap. And I don't just mean cheap in a sense of how much it cost, but in what it meant for her.
If we can "train" ourselves to go in one direction - from caring and being mindful about something to it losing its value for us, I think we can also "re-train" ourselves to care and start being mindful about things again. On that note, for today's post I would like to bring attention to those things we don't really think about and just do. The things we are mindless about in the kitchen.
So let's talk about non-toxic, reusable food packaging where we get to re-wash what we used yesterday and store new food in today.
A couple of weeks ago we labeled our trash can "Landfill" (literally wrote on the lid) so every time we throw something in there we cringe a little and think twice about what we buy in case it has any pieces or bits that will end up in our landfill bin. When I see the writing "Landfill" I am reminded of why I care and why I don't want to send anything there. It's re-training my husband and I to become more mindful by reminding us of the effects of our actions right in the moment.
So here are some ways that will help you cringe less and become more mindful while you store food in your house/kitchen.
Storing Raw and Cooked Food
There's a great book called Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. The reason why I think it's a great book is because she writes about the history of different fruits and vegetables, and what they looked and tasted like, how nutritious they were versus what their nutritious values are today, how to shop for the MOST nutritious types of lettuce, apple or kale, etc. and how to store them in a way that will help keep the food nutritious the longest. The one thing I'm not a fan of in this book is her suggestion to thaw out frozen fruit in a microwave.
Lettuce* - When you buy lettuce, wash it and dry it in a salad spinner immediately and then you can store it in a large glass container with a lid. Put at least one layer of dish towel at the bottom and at the top of your container for the extra moisture. Hopefully you open this container daily to get some salad out but if you don't eat super often, make sure you air the salad in the container out. The longer lettuce stays, the more bitter it will become.
*I am assuming that you are buying loose lettuce and not something that comes pre-rinsed and packaged in a ton of plastic that can't be recycled.
Herbs - Cut the bottoms off about a half an inch to an inch and put them in a glass jar filled with water and store them in your fridge. You can also wash them, pick them and wrap them up in a moist dish towel and put them in the vegetable drawer in your fridge. Another option is to freeze your fresh herbs to use later. If you decide to do this make sure you wash and dry the herbs thoroughly, pick them and put them in a glass jar with a lid. Label and freeze.
Tomatoes and Stone fruit (peaches, plums etc) - Always keep these OUT of the refrigerator. If you put tomatoes or peaches in the fridge, they will start to lose their taste and smell.
Food Containers - Here are some glass containers for the house. I don't think it's fun to shlep these around so check below for lighter to-go containers. I like these containers because I can both cook food in them (in the oven) and also freeze food in them. Soups can always go in large mason jars for storage.
Cooked Food - One thing I did last summer was buy fruit in bulk when it was in season (cases straight from the farmers) and I cut them up and cooked them down in a large copper jam pan*. I haven't been eating refined sugar so I didn't add any sugar to these but I did put some lemon juice and spices in with some of the fruits. The fruits I cooked were apricots, peaches, plums, and cherries. Once they cooked down to the consistency I wanted, I put them in 8 oz or 16 oz jars. Then labeled and put them in our chest freezer. I never used anything bigger than a 16 oz. jar because there are only two of us and if we decided to pull a jar of frozen peach mush in the middle of winter, we wanted to be able to eat the whole jar before it went bad. If you have a big family use larger jars.
For soups and other watery things, as long as you don't fill it all the way to the top you'll be fine. I have not had a single ball glass jar break on me in the freezer.
* The copper pan is not cheap, but I used to make a lot of jam - including the 300 jars of jam I made as party favors for our wedding 3 years ago. It's a great investment if you jam, if not don't worry about it.
Breads - We freeze breads in either old but clean pillow cases or the brown paper bags they come in. When you buy bread, if you get it from a bakery rather than a grocery store, you can usually get it in a paper bag. If that's not available and you don't want to contribute to more waste, you just bring your bread pillow case and have them put it right in there. You can also bake your own bread, slice it and freeze it. Always freeze the bread sliced.
You can also make a bread pillow case by purchasing large dish cloths, folding it in half and sewing two ends of it.
Meats - I now only freeze cooked meat because otherwise it needs some sort of plastic.
Sauces - If you make pesto or tomato sauce and you want to freeze it, you can of course also put that in a jar but if you live alone and know you won't go through a whole jar of pesto in one week you can freeze it in metal ice cube trays (make sure they aren't aluminum). When frozen, you can take the cubes out and store them in a larger glass jar or container. This way when you make pasta for 1 and need just 1 cube of pesto you got it.
Dinner napkins work great to wrap sandwiches in, you can put a rubber band around it too if you need to and I like to wrap dish towels around clean fruit I'm throwing in my bag. Other options for to-go containers can be purchased at Life Without Plastic, - and here are some drinking containers. There's also a company called Onyx that has a number of different sized stainless steel containers and condiment/sauce containers.
*Side note: My husband used to hate taking his own containers to work because he didn't like carrying things around with him. If that's a "problem" you have, (and I say this with love) get over it quick before I show you more videos of where your trash ends up and you regret ever complaining about carrying dishes with you at work. :)
It takes a little extra effort at first to put clues here and there to re-train yourself to think about the end results of your current actions. And sometimes it can be a little overwhelming to see what we support with our actions and choices. We live in a culture that promotes convenience, so it's REALLY important to remind yourself of why connection is more important than convenience.
You can always start small with the changes you make, the first step is waking up to the waste we produce, then when you feel ready and equipped enough you can take the next step, and then the next and then the next...
photo credit: Katie Vason - trying out her new beeswax wrap! Go Katie!
Up next: Where and How to Shop - both for packaged foods and groceries.