8 Ways We've Eliminated Plastics

>> Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Storage. It's something that I'm enjoying in my new kitchen. I have tons more cabinet space and lots of sprawling countertops to fill with the stuff that didn't used to have a home. But when it comes to food storage, it isn't just space that's a consideration. There are many types of materials we can use, including glass, metal, ceramic, cloth, and the ever-popular PLASTIC.

There are plastic bags, plastic wraps, plastic bins, plastic containers, plastic utensils, plastic cups, plastic plates, etc. And that's just in the kitchen! Really, I've seen most everything in plastic form. A recent study revealed that even those plastics claiming to be BPA (bisphenol-A)-free aren't really safe bets. They -- too -- have been proven as endocrine disruptors, leeching all sorts of questionable. and though the study did have its shortcomings, our family has been on its own plastic-free mission for quite some time.

#1: We use glass spice storage containers. 

This wasn't a conscious decision on our part, it's simply how our spice rack came assemble. We now fill up spices in the bulk section, since we have our clear favorites. We also buy spices in metal containers. If you're interested in glass, you can purchase glass spice containers inexpensively online.

#2: We freeze meals in glass jars. 

When I covered our month of freezer cooking last year, I was still using a mix of plastic bags and glass containers. Over time, I became more comfortable freezing in the glass and have switched exclusively to that. I just use 16 ounce wide-mouthed Ball jars and make sure that meals are cool before storing. (Always leave a few inches of head room for expansion and handle glass with care). I haven't found a great solution for wrapping stuff -- like lasagna -- into individual portion besides aluminum foil. Anyone have a good idea for me?

#3: We repurpose containers for bulk foods. 

Yup -- those same Ball jars from our freezing adventures make great bulk food storage units. We put dried beans, rice, flour, flax meal, sugar, and any other dry ingredients in them. We also use them to store refrigerated items on-demand. For the smaller stuff, it's helpful to have some standard 8 ounce Ball jars on hand -- you can get 12 for just around $10.

#4: We skip plastic bags at the store. 

It's easy in the summer months because we're getting food directly from our farm at the market. When we do buy produce at the store, I usually pile it into a basket (like this one) from home and stick the printed tags on the side to hand to the cashier. Same goes for those grocery bags at the checkout -- we bring our own as often as we can remember.

#5: We're still working on toddler cups. 

I'd love to say Ada either sips from a glass or metal cup or simply drinks from a big girl cup -- but the girl has her preferences especially when it comes to milk. I'd like to get her using a stainless steel water bottle. Or maybe glass, I actually really like my Lifefactory water bottle and Stephen uses his Takeya water bottle daily. And my MIL actually got us a set of these Mason Drinking Glasses that have tops and straws (they're plastic, but the rest is glass), and Ada seems to do well with them.

#6: We store prepared foods and leftovers in bowls. 

Or if I'm making pizza dough, I use a wet tea towel versus plastic wrap. When it comes to other goods, we have a set of these muslin produce/bulk food bags. Stephen is also planning to switch to cloth bags for packing his lunch this year. Usually our Fiestaware or glass mixing bowls, and then I cover/top them with appropriate sized plates. I'll get a photo up on Instagram for exactly what this looks like later today (I'm making sourdough -- be sure to check it out!)

#7: I don't fret my silicone cooking utensils.

I was worried for a while that my silicone spatulas and other wares (I have a few silicone bowls and a baking mat) might be just as bad as plastic. But I read that food grade silicone cannot leach toxins into food. That's good news. I also try to stick with wooden cooking utensils otherwise and have gotten rid of my plastic flippers and exchanged them for metal or silicone, etc.

#8: Related: We cook our beans versus using canned. 

It may not be plastic, but BPA is in most canned goods. I don't know why it took me so long to switch. If you've never rehydrated dried beans before, take a look at this post for the (easy) process. I do still use the occasional canned pumpkin, etc. -- but FAR less than I used to.


If you're getting rid of plastics, be sure to recycle them. Here's a handy chart I found on the University at Albany's website describing the numbers (you'll find them on the bottom of most plastic products) and how they are reused.

If you are going to continue to use some plastics (and I know we still have some around our kitchen despite all these efforts), try to stick with numbers 2, 4, and 5. They hold the lowest threat level of the bunch followed by 1 and 7. And steer clear of 3 and 6, which are considered the most dangerous. Click the image below for more information.

How do you avoid plastics in your home? 

Or is it a goal you're embarking on now? Or do you think it's all hype? I'd love to hear what you've done or plan to do, as well as any tips or tricks I may not have mentioned!

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