Sunday, August 28, 2016

take out or to go

Along the lines of my last post, dealing with food storage containers, the next big ticket item is lunch containers to go or take out containers from restaurants.

Sure, you can use the same glass jars and storage glass containers for both lunches to go and take out food, but glass is a lot heavier and can break, so those considerations should be taken into account.

Although I take glass jars and glass storage containers with me to bring home leftovers, the real trouble comes with actually remembering to bring them. For this reason, I recommend that you keep a storage tote of emergency or unexpected leftovers containers in your vehicle for such occasions. While you are at, pack a few sets of utensils as well, just in case the establishment serves plastic ware with their food.

Something we have leaned on doing, is to ask for the food in non-take out form (they serve the food on a plate) and then pack it up in our jars and containers. This is in case a restaurant will not pack your to-go food in your own containers, often citing sanitary reasons. My husband and I will go out to eat together and bring something home for the kids and in those cases we just order all the food for the table and pack it up ourselves.

What to include in your leftover pack:

  • A canvas tote bag to keep the containers in
  • 2 or 3 quart-size, wide mouth mason jars with lids
  • Wide mouth mason jar funnel
  • 2 or 3 medium or deep glass containers with lids
  • A few kitchen towels to wipe off the jars (just in case)
  • A few sets of utensils (forks and spoons)
  • A few plates
  • A few reusable straws (more on this in another post)

And that's it. Make sure to wash them out regularly, about once a month, whether you use them or not.

Another option for the emergency leftover pack is to use lunch containers:

Packing for lunch is a great way to keep your costs down and keep single-use containers out of your life.

There are several wonderful lunch containers:

Stainless steel 3-tier containers, which I love and have been using for almost a decade. I purchased 4 sets (3 kids and me) for lunches for homeschooling groups and they are still going strong after 10 years; I can vouch for their durability and versatility.

Recently, I've seen stainless steel lunch trays that double as a container. Looks nice for younger kids or for making lunch packing easier. I would definitely get these if my kids were younger. We used to use the laptop lunchbox system, but those are plastic and these stainless steel options would be an ideal way to go.

For hot foods, stainless steel thermoses are the ticket. I know the initial investment on these is high, but consider how much it costs to eat out for lunch just a single week, and you will see the return on your investment in no time.

We use these containers a lot [AMAZON] or these giant ones [AMAZON], perfect for a good size sandwich or salad. Both these items are pictured above.

Whichever size or combination you choose, these stainless steel containers are easy to clean and maintain, they are durable and they are reusable endlessly. Grab a few and start packing your leftovers or lunches yourself.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

tupperware, be gone!

Although plastic, for the most extent, was first invented in the early 1900's, because of war efforts during World War II, plastic was not allowed in commercial ventures; the government confiscated plastics during that time.

In the 1940's, after World War II was over, the ban on the use of plastic in commercial ventures was lifted, and many companies were finally able to mass produce and market their wares.

One highly popular use of plastic was (and still is!) in the home food storage arena. By the 1950's Tupperware storage containers were in every kitchen and sold by most women as a way to recapture the job loss they endured upon the end of the war and the return of men looking for work.

Since then we have embraced plastic storage containers for not just storing leftovers after dinner, but storing dry cereals, sugar, flour, nuts, beans, practically anything. If you go to your storage cabinet and take a quick peak, you will undoubtedly see cupboard space with a sea of plastic.

Plastic is durable, flexible, unbreakable, reheat-able, reusable and cheap. As with all plastic use, there comes a price, whether it is health, the environment or resources.

This post specifically targets plastics for food storage and leftovers.

So, you have made up your mind to weed out plastic from your food storage. Wonderful! Let's run down an easy list of substitutions for plastic.

  • Start collecting mason jars and other glass jars that had previously contained pickles, tomato sauce, vegan mayo, etc. Get mason jars from hardware stores (like Ace) or on the web, from Amazon: Quart size, wide mouth jars are your best bet for storage [AMAZON]. $13.59 as of 8/24/2016.
  • Note that you will need to get pint size freezer-friendly mason jars for freezing food. [AMAZON
  • Use gallon size mason jars for flour, sugar, cereal, etc., items that are large and bulky. 
  • Acquire wide-mouth mason jars when purchasing because it is easier to fill, especially with a wide-mouth jar funnel [AMAZON] (one I even take to restaurants to fill leftovers with).
  • Note that the lids of mason jars are lined with BPA. There are some newer lids that claim BPA free, but it turns out that they just replaced it with BPS, which is bishenol S, instead of bisphenol A. Sounds more like a diversion than progress. Because of this, I recommend that you prevent the food from maintaining contact with the lid and store them only standing straight up. 

Let's talk leftovers. If you are packing leftovers for lunch the next day, that will be a separate post. For family food storage of leftovers your choices are pretty nice, but all have flaws of one sort or another.

  • Glass containers are great and I've been using them for years. They do come with plastic lids to keep liquids inside, but at least the whole thing isn't made of plastic. Try to prevent the food from touching the lid. Some lids are better than others in the sense of leak-proof or maintenance-friendly. The ones I use are the blue-lidded Pyrex [AMAZON] or the red-lidded Rubbermaid [AMAZON], which actually look like a newer model. 
  • There are other brands available now so you should have no problems getting the right size and shape. 
  • In addition to using made-for leftover containers, don't forget that jars make excellent leftover containers.
  • Instead of plastic wrap, use soy-based wax paper (regular wax paper is coated with petroleum-based lining). If You Care is a great product. [AMAZON]. Do NOT buy this from Amazon - the price is outrageous! Wrap the wax paper in foil if you need to (foil is easily recycled).

If you find you are challenged finding just the right container for something or if you have questions, I'd be happy to help out.