storage

Eco-Saturday: Reusable containers

One evening about 10 years ago, I looked at my motley collection of plastic food-storage containers — some stained, some cracked, some missing lids, and some permanently infused with strong odors that limited what I could store in them — and got fed up.

In a moment of frustration or clarity (or maybe both), I tossed out the whole mess and took myself to Target for replacements.

I came home with three white Corning soup mugs with vented plastic lids and a big set of Pyrex containers with lids in assorted sizes and shapes. All of the containers were heavy, stain-proof, odor-resistant, microwave-safe, freezer-safe, dishwasher-safe, and — with the exception of the lids — oven-safe. This meant I could bake a small casserole or batch of lasagna in them, snap a lid on, and stick them in the fridge or freezer to warm up in the microwave later.

I don’t remember exactly what I paid for the set, but I want to say it cost about twice what I’d have paid for good-quality plastic containers in similar sizes. Given the limited lifespan of plastic containers — I’ve never managed to keep a set going longer than three or four years — they’ve paid for themselves and kept a lot of plastic out of the landfill.

I did notice the lids on the Corning mugs were starting to get brittle with age this spring, so Ron contacted the company to find out where we might be able to purchase replacements. A Corning rep emailed him back, asked for our address, and sent us three new lids at no charge. I was impressed; I haven’t seen a company provide customer service like that since Tupperware did that lifetime-lid-replacement warranty in the ’80s.

I’m completely sold on the merits of tempered-glass containers with plastic lids, but if you can’t afford them, reusable plastic containers are certainly better than disposables. I focus a lot on portion control to make sure I’m getting the right balance of nutrients to support my lifestyle, but I try to avoid excess packaging, which means I usually buy in bulk and then divide up the food into single-serving containers I can take to work. IKEA’s 17-piece Pruta set, which I picked up for $4.99 last time we were in St. Louis, is really handy for this, as it has a nice mix of bigger containers (good for packing fresh fruits and vegetables) and little ones (ideal for single servings of salsa, crackers or pretzels).

I still use disposable storage bags now and then — usually for freezing big or awkwardly shaped items — but I’ve been phasing them out gradually over the last decade, and I can’t say I miss them. If you’re not already doing it, I challenge you to replace one plastic bag per week with a reusable container and see how quickly you can reduce your environmental footprint.

Emily

P.S.: As always, nobody paid me anything or gave me any free product to get me to write this post; these are just my personal experiences with stuff I’ve bought and liked.

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One thought on “Eco-Saturday: Reusable containers”

  1. I’ve always been leery of microwaving plastic, no matter whether they claim it to be safe or not, so I’m sold on glass containers. I usually cover the container with a paper towel or parchment paper or the like if I can’t put a plate on top of it.

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