January 15, 2016

Eliminating Plastic: Part 1 - In the Fridge

I know I'm not the only one who dislikes plastic, so I thought it might be interesting to share ideas and compare notes with those of like minds. Step by step I've been looking at the ways I use plastic and then considering what I might doing differently. I'll start with one of the areas I've already made some progress with - storing food in the the refrigerator.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother didn't use tupperware to store her leftovers, rather she put them in bowls and used what looked like shower caps to cover the bowls. I figured out that plates and saucers were even better, because I could stack the bowls and save room.

A variety of bowls storing leftovers in the refrigerator.
The jar to their left contains leftover roasted potatoes.

I found clear glass saucers at a thrift shop and really like them for a quick peek at what's inside the bowl. Clear glass bowls are good for that too. For larger quantities, I use larger bowls with plates.

I also like wide-mouth canning jars and glass peanut butter jars for storing leftovers.

The jars above contain sauces, grated cheese, and cheese marinating in
a balsamic vinegar salad dressing. The nice thing about using jars for the
sauces is that they can be both mixed and stored in the same container.

Another idea: Fern (Thoughts from Frank and Fern) makes reusable food wraps. Click here for how she does that. Her post includes a lot of good links.

I still have some plastic storage containers, but as they break I don't buy more. Instead I'm looking for more ways to eliminate plastic. How about you? Have you thought of ways to not use plastic containers to store food in the fridge? I'd love to hear about them!

Related Posts:
Eliminating Plastic: Part 2 - Laundry

71 comments:

  1. I like your post. I don't often put plastic in the fridge, perhaps left over chinese takeaway but I like bowls and jars, too. I am trying not to use cling film or foil, although as long as it is clean it is taken in our main recycling so don't feel quite so bad and I do use it more than once on things like my hubs' lunches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your recycling center will take cling wrap? Wow. Ours will only take certain classes of plastic (behind the times!)

      Lunch box meals are still a problem for us too, especially since Dan is gone for days at a time. I try to supply as much homegrown, homemade food as possible, but sending it him in glass containers has significant drawbacks in terms of weight, bulk, breakablity, and also that he often can't wash them out properly.

      One idea I came up with for sandwiches, is to re-use the wax paper bags that contain cereal in boxes. Except I don't buy cereal anymore!

      Delete
  2. I have also managed to eliminate plastic from my fridge - but mainly the container part. I have found clear glass containers which come with an airtight plastic lid. Being able to see what is in the glass containers certainly helps prevent left-overs getting "lost" and forgotten ;) Now, all I need is for a milk supplier to be brave enough to supply milk in bulk, so that I can take my glass milk bottle to the shop and 'pour my own'...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dani, the only thing for the milk is to have your own goat or cow! If you feed them from the homestead, then you have a zero-carbon miles source of milk. :)

      Delete
    2. Yes, I've been doing that too! :) Good post!

      Delete
    3. Pam, the glass containers or the goats? :)

      Delete
    4. LOL! Never the GOATS, you silly girl!! :)))))

      Delete
    5. When I do get some plastic (from a friend, or at church or work) I try to use it over and over until it's dead :) I reuse ziploc bags and grocery containers like deli meat containers and cool whips -- I don't buy cool whip, but it feels good, when I come across those kinds of things, to use them up well before they go in the landfill. I'm collecting the plastic veggie/fruit containers from the grocery for us to use when we have our own produce/fruit to sell at the farmers' market.

      Delete
    6. No one really needs to buy new plastic storage containers if they reuse them like you do! Great idea to save them for selling your own produce.

      Delete
  3. I haven't had cling wrap for about 3 years now. I do the same & use plates. The clear containers Dani mentioned are made by 'anchor.' I have a few & they work great. Whole Foods will take plastic #5(bottle caps etc.) if they are part of the Gimmie5 program. Milk- varies by state. We found a source for raw milk that uses glass jars. We paid an initial $2 deposit. We take the old (clean) jar back when we get a new bottle. As long as we take one back, it is in exchange for the deposit. Toothpaste, deodorant, etc. we began making our own - no more of those bottles/tubes/containers. My biggest gripe is finding veggies that aren't wrapped in plastic. We grow/preserve most of our own, but do buy some. Great post! Bravo, bravo! I couldn't agree more:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point about making your own personal and cleaning products! Truly saves on dealing with used containers and packaging.

      Doesn't Whole Foods have loose produce? I've been reading about making produce bags out of old t-shirts.

      That's great about the milk.

      Delete
  4. I love the old, glass, refrigerator dishes. I pick them up at antique stores when I can find them for a reasonable price. A plus is that they can go from the fridge into the oven for reheating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The ones that can go from fridge to oven are truly best.

      Delete
  5. I bought a set of Pyrex glass Snapware at Costco when they had a coupon offer. I was so impressed, I immediately went back and bought another set. They're the perfect sizes for storage and cooking. One of the best purchases I ever made. No more plastic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My daughter has a set of those and loves them. They really are the right sizes.

      Delete
  6. I am no longer replacing plastic containers when they break, I have a big roll of cling wrap and working my way through that with bowls at the moment, although it may take me a few years, zip lock bags I wash and re-use as many times as I can, great post :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I rewash zip lock bags too. I'm gonna get my money's worth!

      Delete
  7. I've been struggling with this subject for years. A few years ago I made the switch to glass storage containers but they still have plastic lids which are the failure point. I like the idea of using the plates but the two problems I have are many of our containers are square or rectangular and with two young children shoving things in the refrigerator, I'm not optimistic I won't be cleaning pieces up off the floor. I never thought about using canning jars for leftovers but that is an excellent idea especially since I have a box full of them in the basement right now. Once my kids get a bit older, I think I'm going to have to switch over to what you are doing. I just hate throwing away a glass container because I no longer have a lid for it.

    On a related note, another blogger I read uses plastic baggies for her lunches and them simply rinses them out and reuses them. That might be the way to go with Dan's lunches on the road.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ed, yes, kids and glass don't mix.

      So far I'm only using bowls and jars, but would really like some non-round shapes. I think they utilize the space better.

      I do that with our plastic baggies too! I still wish there was an alternative, but at least we don't use them for anything else.

      Delete
  8. I'm going to look for glass plates the next time I hit the thrift stores because I do still use a lot of plastic wrap. A lot of my food storage containers came with plastic lids. I have eliminated most all of my plastic food storage containers though...but I do hang onto the ones that our lunch meat comes in... I don't use it for cooking though, mostly to store opened packages of cheese. Several years ago I bought some glass storage containers that came with clip on plastic lids and I don't like them because the lids are too difficult to clip the lids onto...so I end up using plastic wrap instead. sigh I like the stacking of items in the frig using the plates...what I've been doing is stacking based on the container size.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I use and re-use containers from purchases too. They have been my tupperware replacements in a way. Sounds like you've made good progress on it though.

      Delete
  9. I don't know that I'll ever stop using plastic (just being hoest here). But, I too was given a set of the clear glass rectangular dishes with BPA free plastic tops that I use very often. Many times with leftovers, I just put the pan with the leftover food & covered with shower cap type covers. Especially things like spaghetti pie or quiche that I cooked in glass pie plate. I have a couple of sets of the shower type covers. Each set has 2 of 3 different size. The large even covers my large stainless steel bowls & work great for rising bread dough. On the aluminum foil front, I use & reuse & reuse over & over again. I do use plastic wrap to wrap individual things like twice baked potatoes that I put in plastic bags in the freezer. I reuse that when I can & I doubt that I have ever tossed a once used plastic bag. They also get rinsed & reused over & over again. Unless of course, I had raw chicken in one, then that gets tossed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's honest! Plastic is so ubiquitous in our society that's it's nearly impossible to get away from; especially for purchases. Still, you've got some good alternatives going.

      Delete
  10. My son solved the plastic bowl problem around here for us.

    He tends to over nuke leftovers.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As in, he melted all of them????? ;)

      Delete
  11. There is a lot in my kitchen I would like to discard. The problem is my beloved. He doesn't get it like that....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's hard if all parties in the house have different ideas about it! My in-laws were like that; almost proud of the amount of trash they produced.

      Delete
  12. Leigh,
    I prefer to use glass bowls and plates. The only plastic I have in the refrigerator are those clear plastic bins to help organize small containers/items.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those bins would be very useful for that. I think a fridge is one of the hardest spaces to keep organized.

      Delete
  13. We always use bowls and saucers, I find it very practical. I hate using plastic, some plastic takes color from e. g. tomato sauce and it's difficult to get clean.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Especially if the plastic is used in the microwave! Plastic can take on a stickiness or greasiness too, I've noticed. Glass is so much easier to clean.

      Delete
  14. It's funny I use glass bowls with plastic wrap on top then a saucer for stacking. Duh! I can do away with the plastic wrap. I like the idea of clear saucers and will look for some. I use glass jars a lot too. I tried to get rid of all the plastic when we moved into the log cabin. The two just didn't seem to go together. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, there's something to be said about air tightness, which saucers and plates on top of bowls don't give. Fortunately we don't keep our leftovers long term. :)

      Delete
  15. Thanks for the link, Leigh. These reusable wraps are very easy to make.

    Fern

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're on my list to try once we have our source of bees wax going. :)

      Delete
  16. You can buy stainless steel lunch boxes for Dan, which aren't as heavy as glass to carry around.

    I still use plastic wrap for my baked muffins I like to freezer for storage and freshness. I bake gluten free, which doesn't store well out. It either starts to mould too quickly, or it dries out too quickly. So I don't quite know how to change over to something non-plastic for that arrangement. I'd like to though.

    We also reuse our plastic takeaway containers with lids, until they crack and have to be recycled. The trick is not to microwave them, and I honestly wouldn't want to eat something which has been microwaved in plastic anyway. Its bad enough that its microwaved.

    We have greatly reduced our storage options with plastic - use glass containers with BPA free plastic lids, however, our greatest consumption of plastic, comes with our food. Everything comes wrapped in plastic. We recycle everything we can, but still, I'd rather not bring it in.

    We buy our yoghurt in bulk-sized buckets though, and re-use them for fermenting our chicken feed, store our sons play blocks in, and use in the laundry for soaking stubborn stains. I also use them as cleaning buckets. I much prefer this, than having to recycle smaller yoghurt containers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds like some pretty big buckets of yogurt! The largest we can do is about a quart size container, although now that I make kefir, I don't buy yogurt any more.

      I have not found a substitute for things stored in the freezer, and so use plastic, like you. Even freezer paper is plastic lined, and especially for things like meat it keeps blood from soaking through and getting everywhere. I do store all those little plastic bags in paper bags though, to help prevent freezer burn.

      For Dan, the problem is the length of time he's away from home - always several days. So it's more than just a lunch box; he takes a 12V plug-in cooler filled with food: frozen meals wrapped in aluminum foil, and everything else in plastic: hard-boiled eggs, muffins, sandwich rolls, lunch meats and cheese, fruit, etc. He brings back the plastic bags and containers and I wash and re-use, but it bugs me that I'm using them.

      Delete
    2. It's awesome Dan gets all that healthy stuff when he's away. Beats the standard diet I've heard, and often served (bakery assistant) to truck drivers in the past.

      The yoghurt buckets are 2kgs worth, or approximately 2 litres (4 pints). This is a great size from cleaning buckets you carry around for washing windows. Or spot cleaning carpets, etc Doesn't get too heavy. :)

      Delete
    3. I think ice cream sometimes comes in that size bucket around here, except we make our own ice cream. :)

      For Dan, the priority is good food, even though we both lament the use of so much plastic. At least I can wash it all out and use it again.

      Delete
  17. that is a neat thing putting saucers or clear glass plates on the top of bowls as lids. I think I may copy that idea!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gill, good to hear from you. Copy away and spread the word! :)

      Delete
  18. It makes me nervous putting plates on the bowls in the refrigerator because I might tip them over and I can't see inside them. But I like your idea of clear glass plates for when I do! I do have some shower cap like covers I use too. Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nancy, I'm the queen of klutziness, LOL. So far so good! Breakage is the one downside of using glass

      Delete
  19. We just started looking at doing away with plastic as well. Interesting how that's becoming more and more common. We have some clear glass bowls with plastic lids but just a couple weeks ago, I scored a whole set of "new" "old style" refrigerator dishes, the square and rectangle kind. We're going to give those a go soon but I LOVE your idea of the clear saucers as lids on random bowls. Now I have something new to seek out at the thrift stores, :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like a really good score. I have to agree that it's interesting that more people are moving away from plastic. How could we not when we find out what it's made of and realize what happens to it after it's short life span is over.

      The bowls and saucers are the cheapest plastic replacement I've come up with so far! In other areas (shopping and laundry) it's been more of an investment, but a worthy one. More on those in upcoming posts.

      Delete
  20. I hate plastic but it is so used for everything. I am using glass more and more. I use ball jars to put left overs in the fridge, I use the lids that have been used to can and don't mare a perfect seal, they are fine in the fridge.
    I am not buying plastic food storage and like you as the plastic we have wears out I replace it with glass. We have also decided to use no more non stick pans, no matter how carefully I am it always seems to peel. Stainless steel and cast iron are our choice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those non-stick pans are something else I've phased out and for the same reason as you. I researched the stuff awhile back and learned that the recommended temperature for its use is something like 150° F. Who's gonna cook at that temp??? Stupid!

      Delete
  21. We do the same as you - glass plates on top and lots of mason jars! We haven't bought plastic wrap or ziploc baggies in years. It's easier to be more creative with food storage when certain things like that just aren't an option. Our next cross to bear will be the ridiculous amount of plastic goods aimed at kids. It's easy to find tin plates and cups, but I would say having a low to no plastic household with kids definitely challenges society's norm when kids are in the mix.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "It's easier to be more creative with food storage when certain things like that just aren't an option." Exactly!

      Kids definitely require something besides glass and I think your idea of tin is excellent. Sadly, almost everything aimed at kids is plastic.

      Delete
    2. Have you looked in to pewter for children?

      Delete
  22. We mostly use pyrex glass type storage containers with plastic lids. We have half pints, pints and quarts. Since we have a small propane fridge they are compact and stack well. We are off grid so we do not have a microwave. We usually heat leftovers in the wood oven when the stove is hot which you can't do with plastic!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Microwaves lend themselves to the unfortunate habit of using plastics to heat food. Except that they cause the plastic to leach chemicals into the foods. Not to mention they destroy nutrients! Like plastic food storage, the microwave, is something one thinks they can't live without until finally getting rid of it.

      Delete
  23. We are also trying to remove most plastic from our lives. I collect ideas here on my board https://de.pinterest.com/wrappedtrouble/plasticfree-living/ and will add your bowl and plate idea as well =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What an excellent collection of ideas! Thanks for including me!

      Delete
  24. I've slowly started converting to glass. I bought 2 rectangular ones with heavy snap on lids from Ikea. You can stack them, see everything, and you can heat/freeze in them. I need more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nancy, thanks for mentioning Ikea. I didn't realize they offered those.

      Delete
  25. I have some bpa free plastic for food storage. The kids are trained to not microwave the plastic. I have Corningware casserole dishes with the lids that I've picked up here and there at thrift stores. I no longer have non stick pans, I have switched. Over to cast iron. Much more practical.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thrift stores are a great place to find things for non-plastic storage. If the lids have knobs for handles, I sometimes turn the lid upsidedown so I can stack another dish on top.

      Delete
  26. I also have eliminated as much plastic as possible from the refrigerator and kitchen. Over the past several years I've accumulated a good collection of vintage corning ware and pyrex from estate sales and thrift stores. Sometimes they don't come with lids, so I love the idea of using a glass plate as a cover so you can see what is in the bowl. I use these pieces along with canning jars for storing leftovers. I also invested in some snapware (glass bottoms and plastic lids) for my husband to take his lunch. And, thought the lids are plastic, the bottoms are glass so I've at least cut back a little on the plastic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Candace, good to hear from you! Even the little steps are heading in the right direction.

      Delete
  27. I have been thinking of doing away with all the plastic I use and get back to glass bowls.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The down side is that they are breakable and heavier, but I think better than plastic!

      Delete
  28. how do you store for the freeer?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Canning jars can be used in the freezer too! I do find that for liquids, I need to get the jars and contents as cold as possible first, to keep the jars from cracking whey they freeze. Sadly, even freezer paper has a plastic coating.

      Delete
  29. Hello Leigh. I have been trying to eliminate plastic from my LIFE! So your post caught my eye. Someone was mentioning that they use wax bags from cereal boxes but you can actually buy them at the store. I have been using them for years. There are basicly two kinds. One is recycled (more money) and the other isn't. Waxtex makes them. Also if anyone is having a hard time remembering to take a reusable grocery bag to the store here is a tip that my favorite cashier told me. Next time you end up getting a plastic grocery bag just fold it up and stick it in your purse. I took this one step further and folded it up and placed it into an empty medicine bottle. For some reason I have not forgot my reusable bags since I did this. Go figure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Sista, good to hear from you! Great tips. I have not seen the waxed bags for sale, but I'll have to start looking around. I also want to try making my own waxed cloths like Fern does.

      Delete
  30. I too am trying to rid my home of plastic. I have been working for years on this project. At times it gets very frustrating.
    A few years ago I had three lunches to pack. The plastic baggies we were going through was mind boggling. The bags were over running my house, washing and drying that many bags.
    I broke down and invested in stainless steel Lunchbots containers. I have used them every week day for a few years now and they look like the day I bought them. I should add, after researching, my family has also decided to no longer use a microwave. Theses containers can go on the stove for reheating. We don't pack food that needs reheating.
    I use canning jars and the honey clothes. I am still using bpa free plastic storage containers for my muffins and cookies. I wish I could find a plastic free container big enough for them. I have some gallon jars I use for short-term storage. I like to freeze muffins and cookies to grab to put in lunches. The glass jars make me nervous to put in the freezer, not to mention the room they take up. Hence the frustration.
    Great article, I'll be watching to see if I can steal any plastic free ideas. ��

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paula, it is indeed a frustrating project. Considering that folks gotten on for millennia without plastic, it seems odd we should have such a problem getting it out of our lives!

      Thank you for all your ideas and especially the Lunchbots. I'd never heard of them and think they are very clever - a great idea for a plastic-free lunch.

      I agree about the glass jars in the freezer. I've broken a number of them and they do take up a lot of room. I tend to can more than freeze, but do use the freezer to store fruits, grains, grated cheese, and meats.

      Delete
  31. I actually prefer plastic storage containers to store leftovers in the fridge because of their waterproof feature and durability. I know glass is just as sturdy but it does break easily too should anyone accidentally knock against it and I hate cleaning the mess afterwards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, plastic definitely has that advantage, which is especially desirable with children. It's also lighter weight and cheaper to buy.

      Delete

Welcome! Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. I try to reply to all comments and return blog visits if I can.