Save Money by Reducing Food Waste. Use Eco-friendly Food Storage Products
Organization is crucial in the kitchen. Unlike clothes or books, food that isn’t stored properly can go to waste in a matter of hours.
Continuing my series on organizing the home by storing things in an eco-friendly way, today I look at eco-friendly ways of food storage. By storing food properly, we can:
- avoid waste which is not eco-friendly (food sent to landfills rots and releases methane, one of the greenhouse gases), and
- be even more eco-friendly by using green storage products
According to Wikipedia, the US food supply is the most diverse and abundant of any country in the world. Yet some recent studies show that more than a quarter of the food that Americans prepare is never eaten! Isn’t that incredible? This includes restaurants, not just households. It’s a pretty horrifying statistic.
In the UK in 2007 according to The Guardian newspaper, 6.7 million tonnes per year of wasted food (purchased and edible food which is discarded) amounts to a cost of £10.2 billion each year. This translates a cost of £250 to £400 a year for every British household. In the US, a survey by Cornell University found that 93 percent of respondents acknowledged buying foods they never used.
At home, the average American family throws away 14 percent of their food. In terms of money, that’s almost $600 every year in groceries.
While researching the statistics for this article, I was interested to find that our food wastage habits come from our parents. If we are shown not to waste as a child, we will continue that behaviour as adults. But as adults, if we are used to wasting food, it is difficult to change.
The best ways to cut the losses is to honestly examine what you actually eat, draw up menus for the week ahead, and freeze or refrigerate leftovers so they do not spoil before you can eat them.
Spontaneous purchases are shown as the most wasteful – that’s why menu planning is so effective. Menus also save you time, especially on busy weekdays.
But do not consume products beyond their sell-by dates.
With leftovers, allow them to cool, then store them within two hours in small containers in the refrigerator or freezer.
Be eco-friendly by choosing the right type of food storage products.
Your main choices are plastic containers, plastic bags, plastic wrap / cling-film, and glass or steel containers. Let’s look at those from an eco-friendly perspective.
Plastic in general is not eco-friendly (see Death by Plastic). Apart from the environmental issues, chemicals from plastic can leech into food. However, some plastic containers are made from recycled plastic, and re-usable plastic containers are better than disposable items, such as Styrofoam trays or single-use plastics, for example. And plastic is lighter than glass and does not break. So I am not saying avoid plastic at all costs; it does have its place, but if you are going to use plastic, please make it recycled and sturdy. And do not use it in the microwave.
Glass containers are eco-friendly as they are completely recyclable, reusable and non-toxic. They do not stain, and do not trap smells. They can safely be used in the oven, microwave and dishwasher. They are transparent so you can easily see what you have stored inside them. But they can break or chip, and are heavier than plastic. Glass containers with glass lids can be quite expensive, so you could compromise by glass jars with plastic lids which are cheaper and readily available (heat them without the plastic lid). Another fun bargain alternative is to look for vintage Pyrex storage – look on eBay (tip – search for “refrigerator dishes”) or at your local thrift store/flea market. (Check for cracks and chips).
Another type of glass container is the canning or mason jar, widely available in stores. You can find them at garage sales, thrift shops, and flea markets. Again, you will need to watch for cracks and chips.
Ceramic containers have similar pros and cons to glass. When buying new or vintage, make sure they are lead-free.
Stainless steel food storage containers have many of the attributes of glass. They are available at restaurant supply stores – they are used in professional kitchens because they are durable and long lasting. You can also find them on eBay – this will save money because stainless steel is a bit more expensive than plastic. They are not transparent, and you will need to transfer to another dish for the microwave or stove.
Some more ideas:
- Instead of plastic sandwich bags, use organic cotton or hemp bags. Or reuse unbleached wax bags, which are biodegradable and compostable – they are normally available in whole foods stores. You can even plant plants in them!
- Instead of covering a bowl with plastic wrap / cling-film, buy reusable bowl covers instead, or simply cover a bowl by placing a plate on top.
- If you want to use aluminium foil, remember that you can use it more than once. Also, foil made from 100 percent recycled aluminium is now available.
With today’s tips, you can save money by wasting less, and be kind to the environment by sending less food to the landfill and by using eco-friendly food storage products!
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Photo Credits: Food Abundance: creative commons. Food waste: thegoldenspiral.org. Food storage: microsoft.com