Food waste and over-dependence on plastic go hand-in-hand. To help cut down on both, you need to shop thoughtfully and store correctly, understanding how best to preserve the foods you eat.
Plastic packaging can contribute to food wastage because many of us tend to crowd the refrigerator with so many long-lasting goods that we forget what we’ve stashed away, and thus let it go to waste. (If you can’t see it, you’ll forget to eat it.) Modern refrigerators are well-engineered and packed with features to keep your food fresh for longer, without the need for excess packaging. To get the most out of these fridges, it’s important to use their features correctly.
Here are some simple ways to help achieve a zero-waste and plastic-free fridge.
1. Don’t Keep Produce in Plastic Bags
Those humidity-controlled drawers in your fridge, known as crispers, work well when you use them properly. This means you don’t need to store your produce in plastic bags to keep it fresh.
Plastic can actually be the enemy of freshness in these finely tuned climate-controlled areas of our fridges, as encasing certain produce in plastic encourages the production of ethylene gas, which causes food to spoil more quickly. Consider shopping for loose produce and bringing your own reusable produce bags—you can even make your own.
2. Use Cloth Instead of Plastic Wrap
Wrap leafy greens and other vegetables in a clean kitchen towel or muslin cloth, lightly dampened for produce that needs to be kept moist. You can also buy drawstring muslin produce bags for convenience.
3. Know What Shouldn’t Be in the Crisper
Some veggies don’t like the crisper, unless you have an airtight one. Use a glass container with a lid for carrots, zucchini, and cucumbers, which can suffer from limpness in a regular crisper. Celery and other leafy greens do best standing upright in a glass of water. Use your fridge’s adjustable shelving to create a space for storing your produce this way when you can. Making your produce more accessible means you’re more likely to reach for it when you need a snack.
4. Don’t Store Everything in the Fridge
A crowded fridge results in food getting overlooked and eventually spoiling. It’s estimated that as much as 40 percent of our global food supply is wasted. Here are some foods that don’t need refrigeration:
- Bread, butter, and most root vegetables: Store these in cool, dark places, such as the bottom of a pantry. Bread does best wrapped in a cloth bag and stored on the counter in a bread bin. If you aren’t going to use it right away, store it in the freezer, not the fridge. Butter keeps well on the counter when stored in a ceramic butter keeper.
- Firm fruit: Fruit stores best in a bowl on the counter. Plus, if it’s visible and accessible, you’re more likely to eat it.
- Hardy leafy vegetables and herbs: Vegetables like chard and beet leaves do well in a glass jar with a bit of water out on the counter. Plus, they look nice! The same applies to herbs such as parsley and basil.
5. Use Glass Containers
Store leftover and pre-prepared or chopped food in glass containers. Stainless steel is an option, but glass means you can see what’s in it, meaning you’re more likely to eat it and it’s less likely to go to waste. Plus, you can put a glass container right into the oven or microwave.
To store a half-eaten meal, just put another plate on top of it and put it in the fridge, which greatly reduces the need for plastic wrap in your home. Alternatively, you can use reusable silicon lids that mold themselves to a multitude of containers.
6. Don’t Forget the Freezer
Not just for TV dinners packed in too much plastic, the freezer is your best friend when it comes to prolonging the life of fresh foods, including produce, bread, or cooked grains such as pasta and rice. There’s no need to stock up on gallon freezer bags; glass containers are excellent in the freezer. Just be sure to choose thick glass, such as Pyrex or mason jars, and allow a little extra room in the container for the food to expand, which it will do as it freezes.
Start collecting glass jars, the type pasta sauce and jelly come in, and use them for leftovers or chopped-up produce. Just fill them up and pop them in the freezer, storing until you’re ready to use them, and then place them in the fridge or straight in the microwave to defrost. If you’re not convinced about glass, reusable, heavy-duty plastic containers will also last a long time without staining and cracking, which can occur in more flimsy plastic containers.
Next time you’re shopping at the grocery store, keep these concepts in mind: Steer clear of food in plastic containers. Instead, look for food in glass jars and cloth bags that you can reuse. Take reusable bags to the store, not only for the checkout counter, but also for the produce department, where you should avoid pre-packaged produce. And don’t walk past the bulk item section. Buying goods in bulk not only saves money, but significantly reduces packaging waste.
These small steps will make for both a happier, healthier you and a happier, healthier planet.
This article was originally published on NaturallySavvy.com