Archive for Food storage

Green veggie bags

I seldom extol the virtues of plastics, but there are always exceptions. I am a long time user of various types of green plastic ‘stay-fresh-longer’ produce bags to store my vegetables in the fridge.

The special thing about these bags is that they contain zeolite which absorbs ethylene gas…which is supposed to make your veg last longer. Looking on line, there is a wide range of opinion about whether this is true or not. Some people swear by them, others are less impressed.

Me: I am equivocal. I have used them so long that I no longer know what the counterfactual is.

So why do I like them if I am not convinced by the freshness claims?

First, I do worry (a lot) about food wastage. In western societies we waste a huge amount of food which is a big greenhouse gas problem. If you think of everything in your fridge as embodied carbon (for transport, processing, production) you may feel less inclined to waste it. Then think about the methane (a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon) that is released when wasted food ends up in landfill and your concern should grow.

So, bottom line: I hate to waste food and am attracted to anything that may limit food wastage.

Second, these bags are green. Green in colour. Colour coordination in my kitchen is important, of course, but the primary benefit is that I know these are reserved for veggies and veggies alone. So I reuse them with confidence.

Third, these are tough bags. They wash and dry very well. The Debbie Meyer site suggests that the bags are reusable 8-10 times. I suspect each of mine has been used hundreds of times. I like that longevity.

Fourth, knowing I have a bunch of these back home removes any temptation to help myself to a flimsy plastic bag off the roll in the grocery store. I always mean to have my reusable produce bags with me, but I do sometimes forget.

Fifth, the extra large bags are long enough for celery, and that’s nothing to be sneezed at!

I really believe that these bags have reduced my plastic use (and hopefully my food wastage) considerably over the years. Even though I swore, as a kid, that I would never, ever wash plastic bags (my most hated job was hanging wet bags on the clothes line), I do now. All the time. And I feel good about it.

My first bags were bought over a decade ago in the UK at Lakeland. Lakeland bags are a proprietary product made in Thailand. In north America there are a few choices: Debbie Meyer, Peak fresh, Evertfresh and I am sure some others. I can’t tell you which works best, but I can tell you that they are worth a try. I’d be interested to know if you agree.

Repurposing your Mason jars

I am a great believer in repurposing. I cut forlorn sweaters up to make mittens and I hoard old shoeboxes in my basement in the hopes of identifying future uses.

I am also a big believer in canning, but it is a skill I have failed to nurture in myself. I make delicious tomato chutney every summer and, very occasionally, jam. But wrestling bushels of vegetables into neat glass jars is beyond me.

Nonetheless, I delight in all the Mason jars and canning accessories that appear in the stores late summer, marking the fleeting weeks of abundance here in Canada.

I use large Mason jars to store my dry ingredients (sugar, rice, nuts, etc.) and have designed my kitchen drawers with this in mind. I love the wide mouths and the easy access of the jars, not to mention the uniformity, the low cost and the squeaky clean-ness when they come out of the dishwasher.
(NB. It seems I am not alone in my love of Mason jars: see here for 31 ways to use a Mason jar in your kitchen.)

I was thrilled, the other day, to find two clever new Mason jar add-ons that substantially increase the range of possible uses for my smaller jars.

The first is the cuppow. This is a slightly raised plastic (BPA free) insert that replaces the disc lid of your Mason jar and turns it into a drinking cup. Just screw it on and you have a convenient on-the-go cup.

The cuppow comes in two sizes to fit widemouth (76mm) or regular (60mm) Mason jars. It does not close completely so cannot withstand really bumpy rides, but does a great job if you want to sip a drink in the car, for example.

I don’t love the feel of the drinking rim/spout, but I am very fussy in that regard and like really thin edges to my mugs (see my earlier recommendation for vacuum mugs). It retails for $8. The price seems a little steep as there is not a lot to the product, but it is US-made and claims to be recyclable plastic.

The second option is the reCAP, which entirely replaces your Mason lid, both disc and screw collar. It is a fully close-able pouring/drinking spout for your jars. I prefer the way this feels on my lips, but it does present a large (about quarter-sized) round hole which might be a bit abrupt for hot drinks on the go (though great for gloopy things like smoothies if you want to grab these as you head out of the house).

It could also be used to turn a Mason jar of any size into a pouring dispenser, for example for sugar, rice or liquid honey. Its founding purpose, according to the website, was to turn a jar into a salad dressing dispenser. You can shake away and still pour with ease.

The reCAP is also BPA free and made in the US. It retails for $7-$7.50.

Both are available in Canada from a neat eco product site called Greenmunch (I should mention that they did send me free samples of both products after I enquired about them). Greenmunch also specializes in hard-to-find paper straws, another alternative to the glass straws I wrote about in the early days of my site.

How to pack a peach

….so that it does not squash in your child’s lunch bag? That is the question I ask myself every year as school kicks off at the peak of the domestic peach season.

I love peaches, my kids love peaches (sadly for them, they only get them at this time of year as I fret about peaches’ constant appearance on the dirty dozen list of the most pesticide-drenched fruits). But nobody loves a brown mush at the bottom of the lunch bag.

Help is at hand! I was sent some Kinderville bigger bites storage jars, by my friends at Rockpretty Baby. I had never heard of or seen these `jars’ before, but it turns out they are ideal for peaches (and a number of other things too).

big bites large

They are made from silicone. This seems to be the material of choice for flexible food grade products these days. It is more or less natural (being a product of the abundant silicon in sand and rock) although I’m not so sure the same can be said of the lovely primary colour dyes. It is also chemically inert, tolerant of a wide range of temperatures (so can be boiled to sterilise) and is apparently resistant to bacteria. Health Canada reassures me of its safety and other sites seem to concur.

The silicone is soft enough to cushion your peach and the neat thing about it is that because it is flexible, when you push the lid down, it creates a vacuum seal and your jar becomes almost watertight. Yet little hands can remove the lid with ease (and have fun at the same time, sealing and popping the top off).

Now, when I say `almost water-tight’ I sound a note of caution. I sent a slightly oily salad to school in my jar the other day and found everything scattered around the lunch bag on return. I think things had been fine until the kids tried to replace the lid. Maybe the oil interfered with the seal. Or maybe it was recess that did.

Anyway, for really messy stuff in lunchbags, I would still opt for the clamp sealed stainless containers that I wrote about before. But I do love these bigger bites containers for awkward shaped items; they are appreciably taller than most stainless jars. And, for those of you who might be toting your own (or a baby’s) snack, food can be microwaved directly in the container and the jar itself won’t get hot. I just wouldn’t carry, store or heat anything too smelly in them as all plastic-type materials tends to hold smells after a while.

Kinderville is a US company that specializes in squishy silicone products, mostly targeted at the baby end of the spectrum (e.g. silicone plates, freezer cubes for baby food).

little bites

The items themselves are made in China and Korea (apparently responsibly, exceeding all safety standards).

Bigger bites jars are not cheap @ $17.99 for two, or $22 – or more – in Canada (sigh). This is about the same price as stainless. The company also makes smaller jars – little bites - which are half the price (4 instead of 2 for the same price) and they are currently 30% off on the US site (though shipping to Canada is ruinous). I would be interested to know if these minis would pack a peach too (can anyone tell me?).

Kinderville products are available at a variety of bricks-and-mortar and online retailers in the US and Canada. The best online price in Canada is through rockprettybaby.ca.

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