How to store leftovers without plastic

Got leftovers? Learn about these green, plastic-free alternatives for food storage so you’ll never need Ziplocs, Tupperware, or plastic wrap again.

While doing kitchen cleanup, it’s common to reach for a stash of Tupperware or other plastic containers, Ziploc bags, and plastic wrap to deal with leftover food. While these materials work, they’re not great from an environmental standpoint. Plastic wrap and bags cannot be recycled, ending up in the trash and, eventually, the ground or ocean. Containers are known to leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into food. A better solution is to move away from plastic altogether and find alternative ways to store leftovers.

Glass jars: Wide-mouth glass jars get a lot of love in my home. They are indefinitely reusable, easy to clean and sterilize, good for refrigeration and freezing, and see-through for better monitoring of what needs to get eaten soon. Store cooked food or unused ingredients. Perfect for leftover soups.

Glass containers: You can buy glass storage containers that stack together in the fridge and limit wasted space. It is possible to find glass containers with stainless steel lids, such as this one sold by Life Without Plastic.

Bowls: For food that won’t be stored for an extended period of time, just transfer it to a mixing bowl (which come in all sorts of convenient sizes) and put a plate or towel on top.

Paper: For items that don’t need as much protection, wrap in waxed paper or all-natural parchment paper. Use brown paper bags for mushrooms, avocadoes, potatoes, berries, dates, figs, pears, and strawberries. It helps to absorb excess moisture.

Cloth: Many vegetables and fruit can be stored wrapped in a damp tea towel, instead of a plastic bag, i.e. radishes, rhubarb, green beans, lettuce, cucumber. You can buy reusable cloth sandwich bags (such as Colibri and ReUsies) to store dry leftovers or pack lunches for the next day. Bigger ones can accommodate breads, cakes, and cookies.

Beeswax wrap: This is a reusable alternative to plastic wrap – a beeswax-rubbed cloth that adheres to the side of a container and can be washed with cold water and soap. They last about a year (although I’ve been using my Abeego for two years) and then will biodegrade fully. They are made by several companies, such as Abeego and Bees’ Wrap.

Stainless steel: If you’re serious about ditching plastic, then invest in some stainless steel storage containers. You won’t regret the purchase, and you’ll use them all the time. I love these airtight nestable containers that can store leftover soups and curries without leaking. Transfer the night’s leftovers straight into a stainless steel bento box for lunch the next day.

Ceramic crock: If you have leftover carrot sticks, celery sticks, fennel, or raw asparagus, immerse them in water in the refrigerator to keep crisp. A ceramic crock works well for this. Just be sure to change the water daily; use old water to water houseplants so it doesn’t go to waste.

Cooking pot: The simplest solution of all – just leave the leftover food in the pot in which it was cooked. It makes for easy reheating the next day.

Aluminum foil: Foil can keep salad greens crisp, as well as celery and broccoli. Wrap tightly and put in the fridge, and they will keep for weeks. Try to reuse foil as many times as you can, being careful to unwrap and rinsing clean of any food residue. I stay away from using foil to cover dishes; although foil can be recycled, many recyclers don’t bother doing it, so do what you can to extend its lifespan.

Check out this long list of how to store specific fruits and vegetables without plastic.

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