The Definitive Guide to Storing Food without Plastic
Taking reusable bags to the store is a great way to reduce unnecessary plastic. Bringing reusable produce bags and selecting products without packaging is another way to reduce waste. Choosing to shop at bulk stores is a fantastic option, if we have the choice.
But what about when we get all of our food shopping home? What then? Is it possible to store food without plastic?
What about leftovers, and freezing food? How about packing lunches?
What are the plastic-free options?
Of course, plastic-free is possible. There are plenty of options to avoid using plastic containers, gladwrap/clingwrap and zip-lock bags. From choosing plastic-free containers to freezing in glass (yes, it’s possible), here’s the lowdown on how we avoid using plastic in our home when storing food.
Food Storage without Plastic – the Pantry
I buy all of our dry goods from bulk stores, and I store in the pantry in glass jars. Sometimes I take the jars to the bulk stores and weigh them before filling them, but more often I take reusable produce bags and decant when I get home.
Glass jars are heavy, and I find taking reusable produce bags is more practical for me.
Whilst I love the idea of a pantry full of matching glass jars, the reality is, there are plenty of glass jars in the world begging to be re-used. It makes no sense to me to buy new when I can re-use. I’ve reused old jars that I own, and friends and family have given me their spares. I sourced some big glass jars from a local cafe.
I generally find that a good soak will get the old labels off. If they are particularly stubborn, I use eucalyptus oil and give them a scrub, and that usually works. Removing the label means I can see what’s inside, and there’s no confusion as to the contents.
I have needed to buy a few new jar lids – kitchen shops sell these, or you can find them online.
It’s not always clear how long dry goods have been stored at the bulk shops, and the last thing we want is weevils or pantry moths, or other pests. If I think something has been at the store a while, or if it’s been in my own pantry a little longer than planned, I pop the jar into the freezer for 24 hours. This kills any eggs. After 24 hours I remove the jar from the freezer and place back in the pantry.
I have a terrible habit of not labeling my jars. I have a good memory and generally remember what I’ve bought, and if I forget I can usually figure it out by the smell. My husband has no idea what I’ve bought and has a terrible sense of smell, so whilst it might work for me, it doesn’t work for him! I’m planning to get a greaseproof pencil/chinograph so I can label the jars without needing to buy sticky labels or mark them permanently. If I was more crafty, I could paint blackboard paint on them, or even mark the lids.
Food storage without plastic – on the counter
I keep a fruit bowl on the counter which in addition to fruit, contains onions. I also keep fresh tomatoes here as I find they taste better than when stored in the fridge, and avocados whilst they ripen.
I often keep cut leaves such as beetroot leaves or silverbeet in glass jars on the counter rather than in the fridge as I find they keep better. Parsley and some other herbs also keep better this way. If the water is changed regularly, parsley will last on the counter for up to two weeks.
I store my bread in a cloth bag inside a wooden bread bin. The cloth bag helps absorb any moisture that might cause the bread to go moldy. Over time it begins to harden, and when I notice it’s becoming hard to cut I pre-cut the rest of the loaf. If there is more than I can eat in the next day or so, I pop it in the freezer.
For things like crackers, baked goods and other dry food, I use tins. I have some that I purchased in my pre- zero waste days, and some that I’ve been given (they often seem to appear around Christmas time as “presentation” boxes for biscuits and confectionery). I’ve been able to choose ones that are a good size for my needs, and that I can store easily.
Food storage without plastic – the fridge
I store most of my fruit and vegetable items in the crisper. Some veggies, such as carrots, courgettes and cucumbers have a tendency to go floppy, so I store these in a rectangular glass Pyrex container with a lid. I also find delicate fresh herbs like coriander and basil store better in a container with a lid, as do salad leaves.
I’ve also tried storing them in glasses or bowls of water in the fridge and this works well, but I don’t own enough glassware for this to be practical.
Another alternative to using glass containers is to use a damp tea towel to wrap your veggies. This works particularly well for larger items like bunches of celery or leafy greens that don’t fit in containers. Beeswax wraps are also useful if you’re not vegan – they are cloth squares that have beeswax melted onto them to create a waterproof wrap. They are very easy to make yourself (you can find a DIY beeswax wrap tutorial here) and making your own means you can choose sizes that work for your needs.
For storing leftovers, there are a number of solutions. Personally I was never a fan of gladwrap/clingfilm. Some is ridiculously sticky and will stick to everything except the bowl in question (this type of clingwrap usually contains phthalates – not what we want to be wrapping food in). The phthalate-free type never seems to want to stick to anything at all. I find it far simpler simply to put a plate on top of the bowl in question.
I also have some silicone covers for bowls that were a gift that have been very useful. Beeswax wraps can be used for this, too. Glass jars are a great option for decanting small amounts of leftovers (and I have plenty of glass jars to hand), and Pyrex storage or stainless steel work if you want to decant into something bigger. Sometimes I even keep the food in the saucepan, pop the lid on and pop that in the fridge.
For some items, such as half a lemon or half an avocado, I find that placing it face down on a plate is enough. If I’ve roasted veggies or baked a sweet potato, I find it keeps well in the fridge uncovered for a few days. So long as it’s not got a strong smell, it works fine.
Food storage without plastic – the freezer (yes, you can freeze food in glass)
I store most of my food in the freezer in glass jars. I’ve been doing it for 10 years. Jars are a great size for one or two portions, and they fill the space well. I’ve only ever had one breakage. Freezing in glass is perfectly safe, but there are some rules to follow.
Firstly, choose good quality jars, with thick glass. Repurposed jars are fine. I tend to choose ones that have previously had jam or tomato sauce in them, as I know they will withstand changes in temperature. Buying poor quality jars from reject shops will likely lead to breakages.
Wider jars work better, and avoid any that taper inwards at the top (tapering outwards is fine). When filling, never fill all the way to the top – make sure the food is sitting at the widest point of the jar. Don’t screw the lid on until the contents have completely frozen. The food will expand when frozen – the higher the water content the more it will expand – so leave room for this to happen. Once it’s frozen you can screw on the lid.
Never put hot jars in the freezer, and try to chill them before you freeze them. This is important if what you’re freezing has a high water content, like stock. I find for foods like chickpeas, which don’t have a high water content, freezing from room temperature works fine.
If you’re worried about freezing in jars, you can also use freezer-safe Pyrex, or stainless steel containers, which won’t break.
I use an ice cube tray for freezing liquids and also fresh herbs. I find that the cubes make good portion sizes. I store the cubes in jars once they are frozen. To freeze herbs I add a little oil to the ice cube tray -they seem to freeze better. I have just upgraded to a stainless steel one, and you can also find aluminium ones second-hand if you’d like to avoid plastic.
To avoid freezing a big mass of fruit, I lay out on on a tray (I line a baking tray with a tea towel) and pop in the freezer. Oonce frozen, I put in a container. This allows me to use a handful at a time, rather than needing to defrost the whole thing.
I don’t freeze everything in glass. I freeze bread wrapped in a cloth bag, and I leave bananas in their skins.
Food storage – out and about
Both my husband and I have stainless steel lunchboxes, which we use for food on the go. I always take my glass KeepCup with me as I find it great as an impromptu storage container. Being glass, it’s easy to clean. I have a set of reusable, washable wraps for sandwiches, baked goods and snacks which are handy as they fold up. If we’re taking food to friends’ houses, we either use tins or we have a stainless steel tiffin.
Food storage – choosing containers
When I first started out with living plastic-free, I had a lot of plastic reusable containers. I didn’t want to waste them, so I continued to use them whilst I transitioned to other things. Because I was concerned with the health implications of using plastic for food storage, I used them only for dried food, before giving them away or using them for non-food items.
Whatever you decide to use, know that there’s no need to immediately rush out and buy new stuff. Glass jars are an obvious one to start with, and they are free. It’s possible to find good quality glass, tins and even Pyrex at the charity shops.
I chose to use Pyrex with the plastic lids, because I couldn’t find any without plastic, and they were affordable for me. Stainless steel containers come completely plastic-free, but they are an investment. They are expensive but should last forever, so it is important to know exactly what you want before you make the purchase. Slowly I’ve built up a small collection of stainless steel, and the pieces I have I use often and I love.
When choosing containers, think about how you’ll use them. If you’re looking for a lunchbox, think about the kinds of things you eat for lunch. What size and shape will be most useful? Planet Box make great compartmentalised lunch boxes for kids. Cloth wraps and reusable sandwich bags might be a better alternative. It’s possible to buy refillable food packs. Think about your needs and choose products that work for you.
It is possible to store food at home without using plastic, and you can make it as simple or as complicated (or as cheap or expensive) as you like. The most important thing is to make conscious choices. Look at your options, and decide what is practical and within your budget. There’s no need to buy new things straightaway. Take your time. Choose well.
Now I’d love to hear from you! Tell me, how do you store your food without using plastic? What are your favourite tips? Is there anything you tried that didn’t work? What purchases have you made that have been great investments? Any that turned out to be duds? Do you have any tips to add? Or any “not-to-do”s to share? Is there anything that you are still searching for a solution for? Any questions? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!
Jars have been an important step to going plastic free. I am still having trouble with freezer options, mostly because I am scared the glass will burst. I have read enough information that tells me it will work if I leave enough space at the top, but for some reason I have not tried. But I will! This was just the push I needed. Lots of great info here, Lindsay, thank you!
Thanks for your comment Nadine! Glass jars are great – they are extremely useful for so many things! Give freezing in jars a go – just don’t start with something very liquid like stock as that is what causes most breakages. Freeze leftovers that you’ve pre-chilled first, and build up your trust! ; )
Let me know how it goes!
Hello, great article! What about tofu? Do you eat it and if so how do you store it?
Thanks Julie! Good question. I do like it but I don’t actually ever buy it! There is a place here where I can buy in bulk so I’d just take along my own container, and store in that. I wonder if you can freeze it? I’ve been meaning to try making it, actually too…
tofu freezes well.
Thanks Trish! Now I need to buy some! : )
Yes you can freeze tofu. I do this when I want to use it as a ground beef replacement in things like chili, sloppy Joe’s. Freezing changes the texture.
Thanks Teresa. Changes the texture how? I guess most things change slightly after being frozen. Are you freezing the silken stuff, or the firm stuff… or both?
Hi! Can I ask where you have tofu available in bulk? I’m in Sydney, so I wonder if there’s a retailer here that would do that.
I have serious pantry envy
I love that tip about freezing fruit on a tray, I always get really big clumps that I can’t break apart so thank you! I also just put half a lemon onto the glass but my husband hates it, not really sure why
Haha, that’s funny Amy! I’ve seen some beautiful zero waste pantries…although I like that all my jars are reused. Jumbled but satisfying!
I’ve found it really helpful. I always used to freeze blackberries in big containers, and then I’d have to use them all up when I wanted just a handful. Must more useful to do it this way!
I do that with lemons too. Fortunately my husband doesn’t mind ; )
I find I never really need to freeze much since I’ve gotten rid of my microwave, forcing me to cook things in the exact portions I’m going to eat. I love old coconut oil jars, the big ones with metal lids are perfect and wide enough to make them easy to fill with dried goods at bulk stores. Whenever I’m putting leftovers in the fridge I usually have them in a glass bowl and flop a plate on top too :)
I don’t have a microwave either CC, so the stuff I freeze is either fruit/veggies that I will defrost for use later (to add to things) or leftovers that I thaw overnight and then heat in a pan. My freezer isn’t huge, but it’s useful to be able to freeze excess. I’m also fine with eating the same thing three days in a row, so I generally only freeze leftovers if we don’t get to use it up in time.
It’s funny how we have preferences for certain jars! I love the Bonne Maman jam jars as they have a really wide mouth, and the tahini jars are a great size too. I’m always on the look out for other people’s!
Love the “plate” technique! So simple : )
Great tips! Thank you. How do you store blocks of cheese? Because it drys out quickly if it is exposed to air I have been storing mine in a zip lock bag and then cleaning and re-using that bag. We are a family of 5…. we always have blocks of cheese around. Thoughts?
Cheese can be frozen very easily and thaws out totally fine. To store in the fridge just wrap it in a piece of cloth. I use calico (thick muslin), but anything will work really.
Thanks for the tips Kat! : )
I think Jamie Oliver was freezing bets of cheese leftovers corners and add them into cooking if needed!
Hi Ashlynn, great question! Cheesemakers would tell you that cheese shouldn’t be stored in plastic anyway as it needs to “breathe” and plastic makes it sweaty. I don’t buy cheese now, but when I did I just kept it in a Pyrex dish. It didn’t last long enough to worry about! Beeswax wraps are a good option for hard cheeses like cheddar that tned to dry out – they can be molded around the cheese and they protect the cheese from drying out. You could use waxed paper too – that’s what fancy delis usually use to package their cheese. Hope that helps!
I wrap cheese in a beeswax wrap then put in a stainless steel tin. Parmesan goes straight in the tin
Just wondering how you buy cheese plastic free and then how do you store it? I have not found the perfect method yet.
I buy cheese at a deli, cut to the size I need from a block, and I wrap it in beeswax there.
Thanks Sarah – perfect answer! Simple and straightforward : )
And I put mine straight in my own container
Hi Heather, good question! Deli counters are the way to go. Sometimes they pre-cut their cheese, but if you ask they will often have the bigger blocks out the back that they can cut to size. You can ask for it to be wrapped in paper or use beeswax wraps, or bring your own container. Or, if it’s pre-packaged, buy a big block and freeze what you don’t need – that way, at least you’re keeping the packaging down. It’s possible to find some cheese wrapped in wax which is compostable. I would store in Pyrex or glass containers, and if it is a hard cheese like cheddar maybe wrap in beeswax wraps too to stop it drying out. Hope that helps!
I have special hessian bags for storing potatoes and onions, with black out linings. I wouldn’t store them on the counter top, as both will sprout if exposed to light and warmth. I keep mine in the garage which is the coolest place in the house, though in this hot weather I could really do with digging out an underground storage to make a root cellar. I would bother if I was growing my own.
Regarding open freezing fruit, you can also do this with veggies like runner beans- no need to blanch.
Thanks for the tip! I store potatoes in a paper bag (I reuse the same one over and over) in the fridge as I find they shrivel if left out. With onions, I leave in the fruit bowl as we use them up before they sprout (mostly, anyways).
I don’t tend to freeze my veggies except roasted pumpkin. I should look into this – last summer we had too many green beans. Would have been good to freeze some!
Thank you for such a wonderful post. Can I just ask, is your bread as good when frozen in cloth compared to a plastic bag? I am desperate not to freeze in plastic but wondered if my homemade bread would be damaged.
Good question Wendy! I haven’t frozen bread in plastic for so long that I can’t remember : / I make sourdough and freeze that, it is usually at the “toast-only” stage by the time I freeze it and I only leave in the freezer for a week or too at most. I imagine it would be more susceptible to freezer burn, but only if left for ages. I used to have a loaf-shaped plastic container that I froze bread in (wrapped in a cloth bag inside) which worked well, but now I make round loaves I just use a bag. I also pre-slice. You could try wrapping in beeswax wraps as an alternative to cloth bags it might work better. It depends on the type of bread, if it is sliced, how long you freeze it – so many things! Give it a go and see what happens! (And tell me what happens!)
I love the silicone “lids” They have been worth the investment, can go from fridge into the oven ( if you have the oven about 180 degrees). I have three sizes and both circular and rectangular the largest will cover a platter for taking to that shared meal. Added bennie, they are cheerful colours and look like giant banana leaves and lotus flowers.
I think you must have the same ones as I have Deb! I have 3, all round and different sizes (and all flower designs). I meant to take a photo but my camera battery died – maybe I’ll add it in later. It did say that they were oven proof but I have no need to use them in the oven and I think they will keep better if I don’t. I think I’ve used them on top of saucepans once or twice…
Great article, thanks! I take my jars with me to the shop and fill them (our local Wholefoods has a system where you weigh your jars before you fill them; they deduct the weight when calculating the price); all I need to do when I get home is put the jars on the shelf. So easy, and no packaging waste at all.
I would love to do this but it doesn’t really work for me. Lots (but not all) of the bulk stores will pre-weigh the jars, but because I go on public transport usually I can’t carry more than a couple. So I bring my jars for liquids (rice malt syrup, tahini) and anything expensive or powdery. Usually my groceries sit around in bags for a couple of days until I’ve rooted round and found some suitable jars at the back of the cupboard. I prefer your method! ; )
Brilliant one again Lindsay! I’m particularly stoked with the tips on freezing. Learnt much there thank you!
Thanks Shona – and I’m pleased to be able to teach you something new! : )
I had no idea I could freeze things in glass (although have done non-liquid in pyrex) — glass-wise I still use canning jars that belonged to my mother and grandmother, especially love the older blue ones. I used to can in them too, but don’t have a garden now.
Thanks for the good tips!
Thanks Sandy! Here we have Fowlers Vacuola canning jars and some date back to the war – you can tell because they have a green tinge, apparently! If our garden really gets cranking I will track some down. My freezer is too small to store everything, and it would be awesome to be able to preserve some of our food for the off-season : ) Canning jars would be perfect for freezing as they are built to withstand everything!
Great post, thanks!
I have some glad bags that I’ve had for ages and I wash them after each use and just re-use, re-use, re-use them.
I’m interested to know where you found the noodle ‘nests’ in your top photo without packaging?
Thanks Sarah! I used to do that too with all the plastic bags I had collected pre-2012, but over time they all got holes and were passed on to the recycling bins. Plastic may last forever, but it doesn’t stay in one piece forever!
The vermicelli nests can be found in a few places. Kakulas (Northbridge, Fremantle and Nollamara) have them, as do Swansea Street Markets in Vic Park. The Wasteless Pantry has an epic pasta range!
Reading your blog I felt like I found my soul sister. So cool to see that others are doing the same. I share your concern that glass jars are heavy to cart around to the grocery store. I keep plastic containers in my grocery bag and use them, then decant them as soon as I get home. Thanks for sharing your ideas.
Aw thank you Sherri! : ) I agree – I love finding people who live like this, or want to start! Nice to “meet” you. Thanks so much for commenting!
This is totally off topic, but something I would like your opinion on. I have seen reports that say dishwashers use less water than washing in the sink. Do you know if this is correct, and what about taking into account electricity usage and chemicals used? I would appreciate your thoughts.
Hi Judy, thanks so much for your comment! I have looked into this (you can find more info in this blog post and all the comments https://treadingmyownpath.com/2016/03/03/i-saw-it-in-the-stars-a-guide-to-energy-efficiency/)
In short, yes, dishwashers use less water than washing up. Regarding electricity, it depends how you heat your water. We have solar hot water, so there is no cost, but were I heating my water using mains electricity (as as dishwasher uses) then I think the dishwasher wins again. However, to mine all those materials to manufacture a dishwasher, transport it, sell it in a store and ultimately dispose of it when it breaks down are costs that never seem to be mentioned, and I think the tap wins. Plus I already have a tap, and I don’t have a dishwasher.
As we don’t have a lot of crockery etc (being minimalist) I wouldn’t actually be able to fill a dishwasher before I ran out of stuff to use, so from a practical point of view, the tap wins.
I hope that helps!
I have found calico bags in different sizes work for storing veges. I just dampen them before I put them in the fridge with the veges and they stay fresh for as long as they would’ve previously in plastic
Thanks for the tip Susan! That’s a great idea!
I use mason jars to can in. ( I think brits say bottle), so I have lots. they work great for freezing–just leave an inch of “head room” for expansion and don’t close the lid tight until the goods are completely frozen. canning jars are thick, sturdy, inexpensive, and readily available–even at thrift shops. they also are square-ish, so they make better use of space than round bottles. some types stack well. I use them for leftovers in the frig also. they come in 4, 8 12, 16 24, 32, and 64 oz sizes. because they are sturdy, I can transport some to buy in bulk.
We don’t have mason jars here really, we have Fowlers Vacuola jars (a far less catchy name than Mason jars!) but they are similar – thick glass, sturdy and often found in thrift stores. When my garden gets going I’m hoping to bottle/can some of the produce, and I’ll be looking out for these. I think they will be a good investment (second-hand of course)!
How do you manage with the PVC gaskets that form the seal on screw-cap glass jars? Have you found some pasta sauce-type jars that don’t have them?
I use kilner jars for a lot of my storage, but I still use a lot of old Tupperware as I figure the trade off between additive free HDPE vs PVC seals on lids on glass jars is worth the risk. I figure single use plastic is the evil twin.
I use paper bags at the bulk store as they are light and easy to write the code of the item on. Once home they go into their dedicated jars and containers. It’s fascinating to watch all the different methods other people use to get their goodies home.
Hi Ness, thanks for your comment and great question! I still have jars from before I went plastic-free in 2012, and I have repurposed other jars donated to me from friends and family which would otherwise have ended up in the recycling / bin. They do have the plastic-sealed lids, however I prefer to repurpose than buy new. Whilst I could buy Weck jars that are completely plastic free, I think it would be a waste when I can use jars that already exist, if you know what I mean! The lids don’t contact the food (well, almost never) so I’m not too worried. Maybe some day I will replace with second-hand glass jars with glass jars, but it’s not on my priority list for now!
I sometimes take my jars to the shop, but often I take reusable cloth bags. I make sure I remember what is in each so I can tell the checkout person!
Hello, loved this post” I’m just starting my plastic free journey and I’m wondering if you had some ideas on plastic free bulk storage. I buy 3 X 12 kg of flour, it comes in a paper bag which never seems to last from tearing much past the car ride home ( a week at best) moisture can be a problem here in the adelaide hills in winter and there is only so many large jars I can find
( plus it’s a really fustrating having to fill lots of them up in the first place). Aliminum is out and the one stainless steel container I found big enough could have put all my 5 kids through school for a year! Help! Thanks Dell
Hi Dell, thanks for your kind words and great question! You are right – glass jars don’t come that big and metal is very expensive! One option you could consider is those big white plastic 20litre buckets that cafes and bulk stores use. I know they are plastic but they are very sturdy and second-hand, and have a handle to easy to carry. Our bulk store gets them in and the lady gives me the empties once they are finished with (she gets things like tahini and laundry powder in them). I use them for gardening – to store compost, worm castings etc. They are definitely food grade plastic. It might not look as lovely as gleaming stainless steel but I like being able to reuse a waste product, and as you say, I’m not ready to remortgage the house, either!
Another option I’ve seen for people who buy a lot in bulk is to get hold of those brown olive barrels/drums that are also food grade. Also plastic, but reusing a product and very sturdy. They are 200 litres, so much bigger than the 20 litres though!
I don’t know if that is a satisfactory answer for you? I also buy flour in big sacks that are made of thick paper, and I store in our laundry cupboard – I’ve not had an issue with tearing or dampness. I fill a big glass jar to keep in the pantry so I don’t have to haul the sack out all the time. If you don’t want your food to come in contact with the plastic, you could use the flour sack as a kind of liner?
I hope this helps in some way. Let me know how you get on!
I buy the grain in sturdy paper sacks (25kg) and grind it fresh into flour. No storage problem.
So happy to have found your blog Lindsay! Thank you so much for your post. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I love that you choose to focus on using what you have and still honouring, if you will, the plastic that you have in your life until it’s end of life. So many zero waste blogs and photos are of picture perfect homes without a piece of plastic in sight. Who has the money for that! lol And if something is still working and not interfering with your health then why get rid of it!? I look forward to digging into the rest of your blog! Happy Holidays!
Thank you so much Michelle, and welcome :) Yes, I often comment on how my home is nothing like those worthy-of-a-magazine-cover homes, and it never will be. Sometimes I dream about having a pantry with matching kilner (or whatever brand they are) jars, but the reality is, I’d rather use what I have, and spend my money on experiences rather than more aesthetically pleasing jars! ;)
Thanks for your lovely comment and have a great New Year! x
Super happy I found this! I’ve been slooowly getting more reusable items all over my house but have had such a difficult time with kitchen items, but go figure! My favorite thrift stores are my bffs for my kitchen woes! I am curious on how you store bulk meats. That seems to be the one thing I have not figured out what to put in other than ziplock bags (which I hate since I have some, just not enough, silicone zip bags) to make it so I won’t need to pull out and thaw an entire package of meat.
Hi Erin, thank you! I guess it depends on what type of meat. You could use big Pyrex dishes for things like chicken breasts, and separate using greaseproof paper. Another option could be to freeze on a tray, and once they are frozen add to a Pyrex dish (they won’t stick togehte). I do this for strawberries but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work! For things like mince, you could store in glass jars in single or double portions. Or even cook it all up, and then freeze the cooked food in portions. You’d be less likely to get freezer burn that way.
Hope that helps!
I use glass jars in my freezer. If you lay them on their side to freeze you have a bigger surface area for the water to expand and are even less likely to get breakage. Also when I first started I would wrap the jar in a plastic bag that an unasked for catalog or magazine had arrived in until I was sure the jars were freezer safe
Thanks for these ideas Carol – great tips! :)
I use black permanent markers (Sharpie) to write the contents on my glass jars. I also put a purchase date or sell by date and any cooking instructions I need. The ink will come off with alcohol. But I haven’t tried this ink in the freezer. Thank you for this article. Very helpful and inspiring.
We just bought a grease pencil actually Lee. Not as clear as a Sharpie but after 5 years of not knowing what anything, my husband has had enough! I don’t see a reason why the ink wouldn’t work in the freezer.
My pleasure Lee, glad you liked it! :)
What do you do with canned goods when you haven’t used the entire contents? Do you transfer it into jars? Right now I have tomato paste and coconut milk and would love to avoid covering the top with plastic wrap, but I’m worried that not covering them will cause them to dry out. Thank you!
Hi Melinda! I mostly transfer into glass jars, yes. If it’s for the odd day, say overnight, then I might leave open. We’ve bought a couple of cans of coconut milk recently and I’ve done that. Or take the top completely off and put something on top of the tin. A big jam jar lid works very well! Hope that helps!
Hi Lindsay, I really enjoy reading your tips. I use glass jars for storage of bulk goods and for leftovers from packaged products. I cut the label or make one out of cardboard or paper and either tie it around the jar with string or re use one of the many elastic bands that I seem to have accumulated over the years! I find this works better than marking the jar permanently so that it can be reused again for something else.
Great idea, Deb! I’m not one for blackboard paint and I don’t want to buy a pen. I think this is a great idea :)
This is great, Lindsay! If, in your zero waste work, you’ve come across or thought of any good innovations for getting products to people without creating plastic waste, check out the #CircularDesign Challenge! http://ideo.to/eNixIo
Thanks Hannah. I’ve seen that challenge – more than a few people have sent it my way! I haven’t applied though ;)
I have started saying goodbye to plastic. The glass jars for dry goods and freezing are the first step. The next step for us is storing cheese. We buy meat in bulk so I need to work out something other than the ziplock bag. I will try these suggestions. Thank you!
Pleasure – good luck with the next steps :)
Oh wow i came across this whilst trying to find what to freeze my bulk milk in the freezer other than plastic. I expected a quick scroll find something then order it on ebay 5 minutes later done put phone down and do dishes 1 hourish not even sure later and i’m like in amazement i have found a HUMAN and loads more right here on this page real people who think clearly and how many tips i picked up is onreal i have saved the page to show my other half who like me will love this blog as every question i could ask is here and quess what answered we have been plastic free to a certain extent but now will be plastic free after this. I am yet to freeze in glass through fear (i will push myself to try i swear will the other half will after reading this bam in the freezer step by step with your fab instructions done froze) plastic free we wrap our own baked sourdough breads in cloth and if needed a paper bag it freezes very well good 4-5 months as we like to bake freshly. The fruit tip i feel the whole family will love you for this for sooo many times whilst we love strawberries blackberries etc we were fed up of a HUGE cluster of it – bam you’ve solved it!!! Onions i stored on counter do you find it strange tasting in with fruit? I like the idea i leave lemons upturned on plate to also fridge storing space is often the pot it was cooked in cooled down with plate on top or glass, stainless steel bowls. Does anyone find strange taste with steel? Especially with water? I am off now to do dishes as quickly as possible to pop back on and read properly
Kristina thanks so much for your lovely comment! So glad you’ve found some useful tips here. I actually have two “fruit bowls”, one tends to have onion, garlic, lemons, and the other apples, bananas etc but occasionally they get combined and I’ve never noticed the flavours mingling.
I’ve heard other people tell me that stainless steel can give a strange taste but I’ve personally never noticed it. I guess glass is the best option if that’s the case.
Good luck with the sorting and if you have any questions let me know! :)
I thought there was not much I could do to freeze food without using plastic. I have tons of glass jars that I can use! Who knew?!
Glass jars are great for pretty much EVERYTHING Sarai ;)
hi nice article..but i’m still wondering something.. If i’ll want to package food that i delivered for customer to be destroyed or unusable after being used..what kind of package better for that situation???
Hi Marcel, without knowing what food you are talking about, who your customers are, how the food is transported and the distances transported, along with storage requirements it is difficult to offer any suggestions. If you let me know these details I will do my best to help! :)
Hello. How about meat, chicken, fish and shellfish wheat is the best way to freeze? What kind of cloth bag do you suggest for freezing the brenda? Thank you so much for your help
I use glass jars for all my dry goods and have found that a silver Artline metallic pen writes on Glass beautifully stays on for ages and can be washed off with a scrubber when you need to change the names.
Hi Toni, thanks for the tip! I’ve been using a black wax pencil recently, it rubs off pretty easily but does the job. I need to label white powders, everything else I just eyeball!
Thanks for sharing! I’m new to the plastic-free life and I’m starting with small changes. I’ve always used Ziploc bags in the fridge to store leftovers (like an opened pack of cheese or veggie dogs) because they don’t take up too much room. Since I liked that method, I decided to invest in a few Stasher brand silicone bags. I chose these because they are plastic free. Some other silicone bag brands use plastic to help keep the zipper sealed. I love them so far! I’ll be getting more as my Ziploc bag stash gets depleted.
Thanks also for the tip on how to remove the labels. I’m lazy and generally just leave them on, but I think they’d be prettier if I removed them. I’ll have to do that when I have a free afternoon.
Hi Katie, I hear good things about Stasher bags, although I’m yet to try them myself. I never used ziplock bags so maybe they won’t be super useful, but I do hear such good things I’ll have to give them a go sometime ;)
Love how realistically normal your food storage looks! Came here looking for some non-plastic non-moldy silicone solution to heavily leaky items, that need as close to no-air storage as possible (aka what heavy duty ziplocs and vacuum seal things were for).
Glad to hear you have only had one glass container or jar bust from being in the freezer. I’ve only had one, a canning jar of all things, bust on me too; and I’ve been doing this for close to 20 years now. Still terrified of the newer Pyrex/similar and jars in oven or freezer, but needs must.
My parents are huge fans of the Bonne Maman jars, mostly for the shape and label removal ease, which is really a great thing, but I’m always worried about the short threads on the jar being insect proof, and air tight.
I am shocked that you find label removal of most jars so easy! How I hate most of them. Just never seems to want to come off, or will partly finally come off and then leave a horrible ‘sticky’ residue. I’ve worked on some for months. Usually got so frustrated I set them in the glass recycle bin. (Looking at you, Cal Ranch EVO, Bionaturae…)
Bubbie’s, and most tamari sauce bottles, being the only ones that will come off in about 3 sessions of soaking and fighting with them, for me. I still have to use a veggie brush, and the back of a knife.
I wanted to offer though, something to preserve the life of your glass container’s plastic lids. Cutting out squares of strong cardboard box sections or similar packaging, in a size large enough to straddle the edges of the lids, and support the container above, is much better than setting another container directly on the strength of the just the plastic lid.
Placing containers, where possible, cross ways to allow the glass walls to support the weight can work too. Because the general idea is to not have to food actually touch those plastic lids, it does make them vulnerable to weight being placed on them, without supports.
Another way to handle those plastic lids in the freezer that I’ve heard (not tried) is placing muslin or waxed cloth across the top of a densely full container before putting the lid on. Once frozen, the container should be able to support some weight on the lid, with the food under providing support. Living rural, I’ve no shortage of cardboard.
Hi Zanne, thank you so much for your detailed comment and your tips! Stacking the glass containers crossways is a great idea. I’m not sure I’ve got the patience for chopping cardboard to size, but if the lids split I may have to!
Jar lid labels, argh! I hear you. I’ve got enough jars these days that I don’t tend to need more, but there are certain brands that I prioritize because of the ease of label removal. It is a thankless task, for sure!
Having no idea if replacement lids are available (except for the cheap ones that barely count as lids), or how to get lids as flexible and good fitting as some of the old ones, I protect the weakest ‘link’. Also read some eyebrow raisers about splitting lids on Amazon too, while looking into what would I do if a lid was weakened to the point it split. Ha
I have a rather fancy box cutter. So I can easily *slice a couple squares or rectangles using junk mail templates from nice box flaps while sitting and watching something that has boring segments (for me, my spouse might be glued to the screen).
*Obviously use something under the blade, like another flap, that’s not your leg blah blah blah disclaimer.
Each cut cardboard works with many containers of a similar general size. I use squares between circular containers, so I only need all cardboard spacers in use at once if there is heavy storage going on, or only the circular ones are free. Where just setting them crossways, would take up too much space or not work (circular).
I use peanut butter to remove the labels. I soak the jars in hot water, then smear on peanut butter and scrub.
I use masking tape for jar labels – it stays on the jar when it needs to, but can be removed without leaving a residue when the container needs to be washed. Easy to write on, and cheaper than freezer labels.
Great idea Joanne! The bulk store uses masking tape for labelling jar weights. You can also make them as tiny as you need! :)
My first time on this site and a worthwhile read of ideas and knowledge, with many to be utilized from now on in. Over the years I’ve used both plastic and glass for storage, preferring glass in the pantry – easy to see what you have available, or not!, plus the pantry looks more interesting.
To remove commercial labels from glass or tins:
*Rinse the inside of the container and try not to get the label wet as it makes removal difficult; pat dry if needed.
*Fill the container with boiling water. Within seconds the glue will soften.
*Gently lift the label edge on one end of the label and slowly peel the label back along itself till it is free (rather than pulling upward and away from the container).
*Remove any glue residue using nail polish remover on a cotton ball or pad.
*Wash the label free container.
*An oven mit is very useful for protecting the hand that holds and turns the very hot container.
Hope readers find this useful.
I didn’t know you can freeze stuff in glass jars! This will revolutionise my storage! Thanks
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Hi. Have you ever used the rubber seal push top jars for freezing? They are the pull off/push on style jars like Moccona coffee comes in.
Thank you for your helpful posts on your website. I recently have bought some glass yogurt single serving cups at my local grocery store. Instead of putting them in the recycling bin, I have started making my own yogurt at home. Is there a good way to seal the top of these jars with aluminum foil so that any liquids don’t spill out?
You can get a small version of the silicon lids mentioned in the main post that will fit on those small glass jars. Or you can use waxed cloth and an elastic band, from the hoard that we all have from round bunches of scallions or flowers or such.
I appreciate your post, keep it up and make posts like these.
It’s not in the storing of foods I have a problem with, it’s in the purchasing of items. Rice, nuts, meats, fruits and veggies all too often come in plastic packaging. I can get produce at the local farmers market, and by doing so I bring my own bags, but the other stuff is a dilemma. There are no bulk food stores in my area that provide things like rice, flour and sugar in bulk. Any ideas on how to avoid bringing these items into my home? Suzy
Great article! I was just wondering, could anybody could give me more details about the kinds of containers you use to transport dry loose goods back from the waste free shop?
You mention reusable produce bags in the article. Which ones do you use? I’ve been looking around and there are a few options such as Reusable Mesh Produce Bags by YOWAO on amazon. Is that the sort of thing? I could get some normal plastic zip-lock bags. I don’t feel as though taking jars to the shop is going to be practical for me.
All thoughts and advice appreciated!
Great article Lindsay. I have been re-organizing my baking cupboard and trying to decide the best way to store flour. A friend of mine has double layered muslin bags with pressuring for closure. She goes through flour at a much faster rate than I as she bakes almost every day. What are your thoughts on storing flour in such a bag? Than KS!
Thanks for the sharing this guide on how to store food. I am planning on buying a lot of dehydrated onions. I’ll make sure to store it properly so the food can last for a long time.
Max, I dehydrate many vegetables including onions and potatoes. I use mason jars, pints for the onions, and then vacuum seal the jars. Then keep them out of the light, closet or slipping them into a paper bag. They keep for months for me