Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Food storage without plastic (for the most part)

At work this summer (and at home) I was teased mericlessly for my stainless steal containers that I carried my lunch in. I have them in various sizes so my entire lunch fits snuggly inside their cool, shinny interiors. I am able to pack my entire meal without using a plastic container or a paper/plastic bag. 

To some people it may sound like an incredible pain to carry around so many little containers of food instead of putting snacks in bags that can be tossed when empty, but there are incredibly benefits that make the extra bulk completely worth it. 

1. Plastic containers leach chemicals into our foods. It is important to keep these carcenigens out of our bodies as much as possible. This is why it is especially impotant to not pack childrens' lunches in plastic. 

2. Plastic is often a sigle use product. When the cheap plastic containers first came out people were throwing them away right and left. Even though it has since become a practice to wash and reuse these containers, they are still part of our disposable culture. 

3. Plastic "snack" or "sandwich" bags are used once before they are put into our landfills and waterways where they do not break down or decompose completly. We are creating mound and mounds of this pollution that we have no way of getting rid of or breaking down. We are constantly adding to the problem without considering the consequences. 

4. Plastic absorbs colors and tastes from our foods. I am sure everyone has seen a plastic container stained by a tomato sauce. If it is that easy for plastic to absorb something else, how easy do you think it is for it to leach out as well?

5. Plastic is cheap. I mean this in two ways, the price of course, but also in the durability of the product. Plastic containers are always splitting or melting in the dishwasher. 

6. They are plastic. I know I am constantly talking about the dangers of plastic, but it seems like most people do no understand the true risks they take when they purchase or use plastic (let alone the harm it does to the enviornment or the workers who created the product). (Check back soon for the truth about plastic.)

Discouraged yet? Do not worry, there are quite a few options for storing food that do not involve plastic or that reduce the amount of plastic (there typically has to be some type of plastic or silicone in the lids. Just remember to not heat food with the lids on)

1. Use glass food containers. Many come with silicone lids and are easily washed and stored. In the years my family has had glass containers I think we have only broken one (and we take them in our lunches as well as store food in them at home). Durability is certainly not a problem. The best feature: you can heat your food in them in the microwave. You can find them online as well as in most kitchen stores and major stores (such as target). Also do not be afraid of reusing old jars. 
Image courtesy of Bad Plastics
Image courtesy of Jeri

2. Metal food containers: Although my coworkers may have asked me constantly why I was eating Tuna out of a can (for some reason they thought this joke was hilarious), I love my metal containers. They are incredibly durable, and wash easily. The only bad part is that you cannot microwave food in them. I mostly reserved these containers for snacks and cold items. 
Image courtesy of Soft Landing

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3. Cloth wraps and snack bags: These are great when you do not want to carry around the extra bulk of having every item in a container. They are washable and reusable. You can find them online on as well as through market sites like eBay and Amazon. I have seen a few in some stores as well.

Image courtesy of National Eco Wholesale

4. Ceramic: At work I am not allowed to have glass containers (glass is strictly forbidden around pools because of the dangers of bare feet and broken glass) so I bought two ceramic containers that I could bring food to heat up in. The only downside is that if you use them for food storage in the fridge you cannot see what is inside of them (in my house it turns into a stalemate of dares for someone to open it up and see how gross it is inside).
Image courtesy of Apartment Therapy 

5. Vintage Pyrex: you can bake and store in them. However they are not good for traveling because the lids clearly leak and do not stay on well.
Image courtesy of Yahoo Green

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