Recently, I went through my kitchen and got rid of almost all of the plastic containers and lids that were cluttering up my cupboards and drawers, causing an avalanche every time I tried to pull one out.
After that, I was on a roll: I tossed all the old sippy cups I’d been keeping around (even though none of our kids need them anymore,) and even threw out a few half-melted plastic utensils.
Getting rid of plastic is addictive: my kitchen has never felt more tidy or attractive, and I feel better avoiding plastic for health reasons, too.
Whether you’re thinking about reducing plastic because you just don’t like the way it looks or because you’re wary of BPA, you’ve got lots of options when it comes to eliminating or just cutting back on plastic in your kitchen. Here are 5 to consider:
1. Scour thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets for Pyrex, Corningware and other glass containers. I love my vintage Pyrex bowls, most of which I picked up for a few bucks here and there at antique stores, and having pretty bowls for leftovers made it that much easier to give all those semi-disposable snap-lid plastic containers the boot.
2. Buy less food. Doesn’t it seem like Americans have an unhealthy obsession with storage? It’s probably because we have an equally unhealthy obsession with hoarding large amounts of stuff, including food. “Stocking up” sounds like a great idea in theory, but if it leads to rotting produce or lunch meat you forget about because it’s buried under four kids of cheese in the refrigerator drawer, you haven’t actually saved any money. Keeping my fridge a little on the bare side forces me to be honest about how much food we really need, and bonus: less food means less leftovers, which means less of a need for storage containers.
3. Consider canning jars. Since we’re always using up the stuff we’ve canned, our cupboards seem to have an endless supply of empty jars and lids. Canning jars are a great way to store leftover sauces, rice, beans, etc. You can use them for dry storage, too. Confession: we’ve been using the pint- and half-pint sized jars as drinking glasses. They’re inexpensive, practically indestructible and easy for the kids to grasp, and I like the laid-back country feel.
4. Store leftovers right in the pot. I know, this seems like a total “duh”, right? Well, if you’re like me, maybe not. For years it never even occurred to me to simply place the lid on the pot I’d cooked my meal in and place it into the fridge just like that. No, I’d scrape all the food into – you guessed it – a plastic container, and then I’d have two dishes to wash later.
Not only does using your cooking pot for storage make sense from an efficiency standpoint (you can just pull it out of the fridge and pop it right back on a burner to re-heat), but I like that it forces you to deal with the leftovers sooner so you can use the pot again! If you’re saying to yourself, “But there’s no room in my fridge for pots and pans!” then see #2.
5. Re-think plastic wrap. Most kitchens have a roll of this ubiquitous material, and I admit it has its uses. But aluminum foil is easier to re-use and can go in the oven, and you’re less likely to waste it if you’re a klutz like me (if you ever want a laugh, watch me try to rip out a correctly-sized piece of plastic wrap and then apply it to the top of a bowl without getting it mangled or torn.) If you switch to glass containers with lids, you won’t need to use as much wrap of either sort.
While I’ve pretty much eliminated plastic drinking glasses and am down to two well-loved plastic storage containers in my kitchen, I admit I’m still working on reducing other types of plastic, like produce bags. But I’m putting one foot in front of the other…and eliminating my former “plastic avalanche” has definitely inspired me to keep cutting back!
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