How I Kicked the Plastic Food Container Habit

I have a thing about plastic. After picking up several hundred pounds of it off our beaches, and then returning home to find the same stuff in our everyday household items, especially in the kitchen cupboards holding our food, I decided to go cold turkey and threw all of our kitchen cupboard plastics out of the house.

Zero Waste Kitchen Tips photo © Liesl Clark

Zero Waste Kitchen Tips photo © Liesl Clark

I gave away our tupperware and all of our Teflon-coated pans and appliances on our local Buy Nothing group (I was really going deep with the anti-plastic thing). Plastic travel mugs, water bottles, our rice cooker, breadmaker, and food dehydrator were not welcome in our home. We took stock of the things that we typically bought in plastic packaging: Rice that came in plastic bags as well as various grains, pastas, nuts, and dried fruit. How was a family to switch completely to non-plastic-packaged staples?

Plastic-Free Bulk Options: Oils & Maple Syrup Stored in Glass. Our Own Honey, too is Stored in Glass. Photo © Liesl Clark

Plastic-Free Bulk Options: Oils & Maple Syrup Stored in Glass. Our Own Honey, too is Stored in Glass. Photo © Liesl Clark

Bulk Up: Our answer was in bulk foods. I can go to our local store with my own containers and buy most of what we need from our bulk department. I invested in some large glass jars and store almost everything in them (you can see brewer’s yeast in our last plastic containers in the upper left corner there — it’s mostly used for our pets).

Storage Jars for Sugar, Nuts, and Grains. Photo © Liesl Clark

Storage Jars for Sugar, Nuts, and Grains. Photo © Liesl Clark

An even cheaper solution is to join a local organic bulk food delivery service where I can get large amounts of staple foodstuffs on the cheap. For us, this option makes sense because we eat rice and dhal (red lentils) many times a week like most people do on the Indian subcontinent. Since we’ve raised our children to be accustomed to simple meals, we don’t want to start them on too many processed foods at this stage in their development. So, dhal bhat it is, along with Indian and Thai curries and lots of variations on rice and bean Mexican-style dishes. The kids love pasta, too, so we get all of it in bulk.

Bulk-Style Food Storage. Photo © Liesl Clark

Bulk-Style Food Storage. Photo © Liesl Clark

Rice comes in 25 and 50 lb bags, dhal in 25 lbs and I buy flour in 50 lb bags since we bake our own bread. Pastas comes in 10 lb increments as well as all of our nuts and dried fruits. The large bags of flour and grains are then stored inside galvanized metal bins in our pantry.

Flour Procured From the Organic White Flour Bin. Photo © Liesl Clark

Flour Procured From the Organic White Flour Bin. Photo © Liesl Clark

Loving the Bulk Bin Life. Photo © Liesl Clark

Loving the Bulk Bin Life. Photo © Liesl Clark

When we run out of power, we have enough staples of one sort or another to keep us going, with a veggie garden, plenty of berries and fruit trees to round out our produce needs. Even the chickens and bees contribute to our overall food production on this micro-farm.

Bright Lights Chard in the Garden. Photo © Liesl Clark

Bright Lights Chard in the Garden. Photo © Liesl Clark

Was it difficult to move away from plastics in the kitchen? Remarkably, no. As soon as we stopped buying single or even 1-week-lasting servings of things from the grocery store, we saw the plastics disappear. We do occasionally buy things like tortilla chips for the guacamole we make (avocados from CA of course.) They come in a crinkly chip bag, so we’re not completely devoid of plastics. Although, I’m considering getting them in bulk from our local Mexican restaurant. They make them by hand and I can just order them as takeout in my own container! We also see plastic rings around some of the glass store-bought items we get, like mayonaise. But our “trash” is truly minimal, now that the common grocery store plastic packaging has been greatly reduced.

If you want to give it a try, zero wasting your cupboards, feel free to ask questions here. Your cupboards will look beautiful and your whole foods diet will bring about healthy eating habits that your body will thank you for. Or if you live nearby, I’d be happy to help you do it in person, a sort of in-home plastic-free cupboard consultancy, if you’re interested. Feel free to connect in the comments below!

7 thoughts on “How I Kicked the Plastic Food Container Habit

  1. This is inspiring. We are on a similar quest to rid our lives of plastic. I only wish I could come up with a viable way to freeze meat… I may have to resort to canning in jars.

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  2. Hello there. Great post!
    I have a question: How do you suggest bringing it up to the store that you will be using your own glass jars to buy in bulk instead of the plastic bags they provide? I already buy my dried goods in bulk, and have plenty of empty glass jars left over from buying honey by the quart (white I then store the dried goods in at home anyway), so this would seem like the next logical step. I imagine it is totally possible (weighing the jar beforehand perhaps?), but possible doesn’t mean anything when having to deal with uncooperative store employees or management.

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    • Hi Kit: It’s natural to feel a bit shy about asking the employees at your local grocery store to let you bring and use your own containers for bulk. Enough people do it here on our island, I got over it pretty quickly, as the workers in our local store were used to it. Just ask them to weigh your jars and put the tare weight on the bottom. Bring a Sharpie along with you if you don’t think they have one and you can write it on the bottom yourself. Then you should be all set! And they should thank you for providing your own packaging. One less item for them to purchase on your behalf. Most people love the idea of zero waste living and your store, if they sell in bulk, has probably already seen a lot of folks like us bringing our own jars there for plastic-free purposes. Let us know how it goes!

      Liked by 1 person

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