Sometimes the idea of being “zero waste” is daunting. Wax wraps, reusable bags, reusable cloths instead of paper towel - it might sound like a lot of work, and a lot of washing
First of all - it’s not a lot of work. It’s a lot less work than remembering to pick up your single use items from the grocery store every week, then bringing them home, storing them, and restocking when needed.
BUT, I also get it. We’re friggin busy, and mentally overwhelmed given the pandemic. I have an environmental hack that actually makes life considerably easier. Now how about that?
Alright here it is - USE YOUR FOOD PACKAGING TO STORE YOUR FOOD. Sounds obvious? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Read on to figure out what side you’re on!
Okay I need to have a quick lil rant on this one. You know the trend where everyone feels the need to go by matching clear plastic bins for their pantries? And then they label the bins, and dump their dried food into those bins, and it looks so esthetic, and so pretty, but ARGHHH. See an example below if you don’t know what I’m talking about:
We can all thank the netflix special The Home Edit for this one. Yes I watched it, yes I loved the look, no I did not implement. Do I love the look of this panty? Yes I certainly do. But think of the waste it generates. All of the bags, boxes, and bags in boxes that are thrown out so you can buy new plastic containers to display your dried goods.
What you’re really doing is throwing away the single use packaging to transfer your product into a different plastic bin. That single use package has one purpose in its whole life - to house your damn cheerios, okay? And you just nullified it’s sole purpose. And that plastic bag it came in? Will be on the planet for 400 years unless incinerated, so that kinda sucks...
Here’s what I also don’t understand. Why do we need such pretty pantries? To show them off to all of the guests we are having over? No. To flaunt on IG? maybe - I would do it too if my pantry looked like this. We could, instead of this trend, normalize an organized pantry in the food packaging the products came in. This could be a new esthetic, and would eliminate you buying a million clear plastic containers, and throwing out everything else. Plus think of all of the money you’d save!
If you’re a home edit pantry master, don’t feel attacked. To each their own, but I hope you’re filling your bins with bulk foods from a local store instead of pre boxed, pre bagged, pre packaged foods from your local superstore. Because bulk foods need a home, and that makes sense, and looks pretty, and ensures you will use your bins for years and years to come.
Okay I’m done ranting - I think I need to do a tiktok on this, might be kinda fun. Stay tuned.
So here’s my tip - use the packaging your food already comes in! Easy as pie. Your cheese? If you cut the top open, then cut a slit down the side, you can help yourself to cheese and then fold the plastic back over the top (like you’re folding wrapping paper) and secure it with an elastic band. Same rule applies with tofu for our plant based friends. Don’t rip the packaging open like a savage, and you can use that packaging again and again. No saran wrap around the top needed, no ziploc bag to transplant needed. Your cheese/tofu/other block shaped food is happy, your life is easier, and the planet wins.
Next item on the list - Plastic clamshells. These are basically never recycled - but you can use them as a home for all of your veggies. We typically buy a big plastic bin of greens a couple of times a week, and I throw all of my half used veggies in with the greens. Half a tomato, half a pepper, green onion, it all goes into the bin. Then all of my ‘salad-makings’ are in the same place, and if you’re using them everyday you don't have to worry about the edges drying out, just eat your veggies!
Other applications for this trick - crackers, pasta, etc. They come in a plastic bag, no need to transfer them out of it. Just use an elastic band, tie it up nice and tight, and they are happy!
If you haven’t noticed - elastic bands are very involved in my kitchen. Just save the elastics from your asparagus and broccoli, and you will assemble an elastic band army pretty quickly.
Here is another great little tip, and it is thanks to my mother in law. I’m calling it the plate on bowl trick, and it’s the best, easiest, fastest way to store your leftovers. It’s simple - put a plate on top of your bowl and pop your leftovers in the fridge. Air tight, plastic free, requires zero purchases, thank you MIL!
If you want to get fancy with the plate on bowl trick here’s how you do it - use a dry erase marker, and write what’s in the bowl on the top of the plate. Then, the leftovers never get left behind and you don't have to pop the top to figure out what’s in it. Yes this might be a little extra, but I find it helps us reduce food waste, and I have so many dry erase markers kicking around. This step is definitely not needed because we all have big brains and I’m sure you can remember what you cooked yesterday, but just a helpful little trick we like to use in our house.
Okay last tip - hang on to your bread bags, bagel bags, etc. Any of those thin plastic bags, or even grocery bags would do. Then whenever you’re baking you have a super easy storage solution. Making bread? Use an old bread bag! Buns? Same same. You can also use your old plastic bags to give your herbs and greens an airtight seal. Really what I’m trying to say here is, the options are endless, and you can always find another use for those single use bags, so hang onto them and use them again.
I literally could go on and on, but for your sake I will wrap it up. The moral of the story here is - use the packaging your food already comes in, and when possible, save that packaging and reuse it.
Some plastics are inevitable with food - that might not be cool to say, but it’s true. My fridge has plenty of plastics, but you bet your booty that I’m using those plastics until I simply can’t use them anymore.
Reuse reuse reuse - this is the way we all can make small, easy, time saving changes that will result in big impacts. I promise.
Thanks for reading! Drop your best food storage hacks in the comments below! I’m dying to know!