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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Food Storage Containers

Frugal Kitchens 101
Every kitchen needs food storage containers.  At one time the choice for lunch bags was brown paper bags with sandwiches wrapped in wax paper or tin foil.  The ultimate in food storage was Tuperware and yet before the plastic craze it was glass bowls with glass lids, later followed by glass bowls with plastic lids.  There remains the debate over which is better for food storage between glass or plastic for food storage but one thing that is certain, disposable wraps and zipper style food bags are no longer an in vogue in a frugal kitchen.  While wax paper, tin foil and parchment paper all have a place in any kitchen, the frugal choice is to always use a re-usable container whenever possible for food storage.

The choice between plastic and glass quite often is one of convenience combined with the safety aspect of plastic especially when younger children are helping in the kitchen.  One alternative to plastic is metal although the choice of containers is a bit more limited.  My personal preference is glass, both specific food storage designed (eg. Anchor Hocking storage bowls), recycled jars and mason jars.  However, I do use food grade plastic pails (free from the doughnut shop) with lids in the pantry, non-food grade plastic in the pantry for boxed foods that will not come into contact with plastic, and recycled plastic food tubs (eg. cottage cheese, sour cream).  I also have a very limited amount of Rubbermaid plastic food storage containers.   I also prefer not to use glass in my freezers unless it fits in the door shelves.  This is a safety issue for me.

Here's a few tips on food storage containers, the pros and cons:

  • plastic 
    • pros - In general plastic food storage containers range in price from free (recycled from store bought) to the rather expensive Tuperware.  There's even a lot of cute plastic containers available for storing small amounts of food (eg. 2 oz).  The key thing with plastic storage containers is the seal.  If the seal fails you can have a rather nasty mess in your freezer or lunch bag.  Ziploc has rather nice plastic containers with screw on lids and Bernardin has plastic jam jars with nice seals.  There are also the old fashioned pastel freezer containers still available.  Unlike some food storage containers (eg. Gladware) the plastic does not become brittle when froze so you don't have to worry about a container getting bumped in the freezer then cracking and they won't rip like the freezer bags sometimes do.
    • cons - Plastic food containers should not be used in the microwave oven as all plastics even food safe ones have the potential to leach chemicals into the food when heated.  Heating can also cause pitting of some plastics.  Plastic food containers may discolour when exposed to tomato based foods.  Plastics can allow food odours to escape which can attract rodents and insects.  A hungry rodent can chew through plastic and ineffective seals can allow humidity and insects to contaminate foods.
  • metal 
    • pros - Metal food storage containers are most commonly found as cookie tins, bread boxes, canisters and lunch boxes but there are some sandwich style metal containers available.  Metal containers have the advantage that while they may dent they won't break.  They are quite durable.  They are pretty much rodent proof and for the most part are resistant to insects and humidity depending on the seal.
    • cons - Metal containers cannot be used in the microwave oven.  Metal containers used for food storage but if the coating becomes scratched, rusting can occur.  This happens even with the metal mason jar lids.  For the most part, finding metal containers can be a bit difficult especially if you want something out of the norm.  
  • glass
    • pros - Glass food storage containers don't react with stored foods and they can be rather inexpensive ranging from free recycled jars to more expensive specialty storage jars.  Canadian Tire always puts Anchor Hocking sets (freezer, refrigerator, oven) on sale for about $6 for a nesting set of 4.  The nice thing is you can bake in them then just cool any leftovers, cover with the included plastic lid and pop into the refrigerator without dirtying another bowl.  There really is no need for labels for short term refrigerator storage as you can easily see the contents.  Most glass food storage containers can be used in the microwave oven but check for the heat proof symbol before heating in them.  Glass food storage containers are rodent proof.  Vacuum sealing them will protect the contents from humidity and insects.  Properly looked after glass food storage containers will give years of service making them a very frugal choice.
    • cons - The biggest con with glass food storage containers is breakage which is why I don't like using them in the freezers.  The next biggest con is the weight.  My husband takes his lunch to the office in glass food storage containers but he doesn't have to cart around the container all day or even have far to go.  Breakage and weight make glass food storage containers unsuitable for children in elementary school, taking to the beach (safety issue) and not a convenient for camping or picnics.


1 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

Thanks for the informed discussion, GG. :)