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March 25, 2017 / thegirlwiththedinotattoo

keep it fresh

Now that we’ve gone grocery shopping with all our cute cloth bags, you don’t want to just bring everything home and cover it in Saran wrap. That kinda defeats the purpose of saving all those plastic bags from the store, and I will judge you for it.

I must give credit where credit is due: the Berkeley Farmers Market Produce Guide is my go-to on how to properly store produce, and without plastic. I found it on another blog, and have since printed it out and leave it clipped to the side of my fridge for easy referencing. I highly recommend doing the same since it taught me how to extend the life of my produce (hint, not everything goes in the fridge, hence the celery in water on the counter in my previous post), which prevents the produce from spoiling before I get to it. While not comprehensive of all fruits and veggies, it’s a great start.

Next, I have an assortment of both glass and plastic containers that I reuse to store veggies, cooked dishes, and bringing food to work for lunch. My plastic containers consist of Ikea’s stack-able set of food storage containers, and to-go containers from restaurants. Besides getting a bunch more use out of the to-go containers from a restaurant, I still like using these when items will not be heated up in said plastic – salads for lunch, leftover pizza, soup that will be portioned into mason jars or bowls for heating, half an onion, etc. They tend to be the very large or very small containers which are hard to replace.

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My basket of plastic and shelf full of glass jars (lids on the door). The cabinet is low, so being able to pull out the basket to rifle through the mess is lovely.

For everything else I use glass jars: I have a bunch of mason jars, both wide- and regular-mouthed, that I’ve found at the local thrift shop, but I’ve also accumulated a great collection of leftover jars from condiments, pasta sauces, salsa, and pickles. Why put these in recycling when you can reuse them yourself for that half a cucumber? I started looking for better jars when shopping, and if an item was a tie between two brands based on it’s nutritional content and level of organicness, then the winner went to whichever jar seemed like it would be the most useful once emptied. It took a while, probably a year or two, to slowly rotate out those jars that were oddly shaped and were more of a pain to deal with, and accumulate the good brands (wide-mouthed pasta jars are the best!), but it was totally worth it, and now I know which jars are perfect for half a lemon or avocado so I know which ones to reach for!

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The CocoaPuffs are my husband’s, but the seltzers are my addiction (it’s ok cause it’s aluminum cans, right?)

For securing the snacks, I’ve opted for clothespins rather than chip clips. I have yet to have one break on me, and when they finally do it’s just scrap metal recycling and compost for the wood. I also don’t ever throw out the rubber bands that come from bunches of produce or other packaging: the cat litter get shoveled into an empty chip or pretzel bag (did I just get rid of your last excuse for using plastic shopping bags?), throw a rubber band around it to secure, and that there is the majority of the trash we create. If I ever get an excess of rubber bands that I know I won’t get to, I’ve offered them to the guy at the farmer’s stand in town and he was thrilled to get an assortment of bands for his produce.

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My preferably sparse pantry and cooking cheat sheets.

As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to be able to see everything in my pantry cupboard so items don’t get out of sight and out of mind. This is about an average amount of what is kept on hand: some items that can be quickly prepped like pasta and sauce or soup, and other staples for larger recipes such as dried beans, rice, nuts, etc. I also find that this keeps my shopping (and thus spending) more minimal since I know what I currently have or want to use up.

And yes, that is a handful of Ziplock baggies next to my basket of reusable baggies and wraps. These are bags that have been sent home with me with delicious leftovers from others, and those that were currently in use when I phased out using Ziplock bags a few years ago. That’s right, I haven’t bought any Ziplock baggies in at least 3 years, so spending $7 on a single cloth baggie doesn’t seem so bad now does it? And those Ziplocks that are still kicking around get washed and reused and sent home with others with leftovers many times before they finally puncture a hole and are sent to plastic film recycling (at most grocery stores), though it also helps that I just don’t use them very often anyways.

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My hummus looks holy with this lighting, but it’s hummus so it already is.

And now for the fridge. Along with the basic half an avocado in a container and homemade dressing in a mason jar, you can see a few of the ideas from the Berkeley guide put into use here: beets wrapped in a damp cloth in a bowl (on left of middle shelf), carrots in a closed container with a damp cloth, and my leafy greens in the crisper that I haven’t yet taken out of the cloth bag. One that’s not in the guide – cilantro (bottom shelf, put the bunch in a jar with some water like a vase and cover with a plastic bag, I reuse the same one over and over again. Replace the water every few days and it’ll last over a month. You’re welcome).

One thing you’ll notice is a lack of meat. I am a vegetarian, though my husband is not, though fortunately for our trash production he is also not a chef since meat generates a ton of trash. I try to steer him toward buying more sustainable meats from local farms (buy less of higher quality meat) which typically means a frozen whole chicken or leg of lamb and less packaging, though occasionally he comes home with a Styrofoam tray of low-grade beef cubes wrapped in a thousand layers of Sarah wrap, and it’s then that our marriage is put to the test, and the next several weeks or months it takes to cover all that nasty packaging in the trash bin when we finally fill it and I no longer have to look at it. But I try to not judge him for it, too much.

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Leftover soups in the tall cartons and veggies scraps waiting to be turned into stock. And a whole frozen chicken that’s been waiting to be cooked for a long time…

It took me a while to figure out how to handle less waste in the freezer since I wasn’t keen on using all glass, even though I’ve never broken a jar. I came across the idea of reusing milk cartons, and I love it. I hold onto my flax milk cartons for soup (I typically make a

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I pour the condensed stock in 1/4 cup pours into my silicone muffin pan to freeze and then pop them out into the carton to grab quick while cooking.

double batch and freeze half), homemade stock (made from veggie scraps and made very condensed so a frozen 1/4 cup gets me 1 cup of stock), and homemade veggie burgers. My smaller creamer cartons are perfect for sliced ginger and other smaller items. Whenever I freeze berries, ginger slices, green beans, etc, I make sure to lay them out on a cookie tray first and leave them in the freezer until I remember they’re there and then transfer them to a carton. This helps prevent them from all freezing together into a blob.

I do like to have frozen veggies on hand for those weeks when I didn’t do a good job in meal planning, so I make sure to buy the brands that have recyclable bags since many brands have switched to using a non-recyclable type. Maybe next year I’ll be better about stocking up at the farmer’s market when items are at a discount and freezing them for later, but that clearly didn’t happen last fall.

And that’s about it! Storing veggies without waste is definitely not about having fancy storage containers or anything, and as you can see a lot of what I’m using are items that would’ve been destined for the recycling bin anyways. When you start thinking about what waste will be created when purchasing an item and if there’s alternatives to buy or a way to utilize that waste, it really starts to add up to a lot of waste saved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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