The U.S. is definitely a society accustomed to instant this and disposable that. While not very “green,” it sure is convenient. If we don’t feel like washing dishes, we can use paper or foam plates and toss them after one use. We no longer have the milkman deliver to us in glass bottles that we then return the following week. Rather, we get plastic jugs from the supermarket and then add them to the landfill when empty.
When thinking in terms of an extended situation without these conveniences, we need to consider options that are more durable and made for repeated use. One of the first things I want to address is daily food storage.
A Little of This and a Little of That
In a previous posting about mice, I mentioned how imperative it is to keep food in airtight thick plastic, glass, or metal containers to keep creatures out. Those same guidelines need to be applied to your everyday food prep and storage items also.
Ziptop bags sure are handy for a handful of crackers, raisins, or whatever. Throwing a little aluminum foil or plastic wrap over your leftovers is standard operating procedure for most people. But what if petroleum products get too expensive or scarce for everyday use in such things? Or there is a situation preventing the regular restocking of the corner grocery store? Do you have any alternatives?
This is an area I have been working on. It’s worth noting here, though, that keeping leftovers usually requires refrigeration, so we may get more practiced at cooking “just enough” so nothing goes to waste. A discussion of alternatives to the fridge would be worth a posting in itself sometime maybe.
Let’s say you have some leftover cornbread that you want to serve tomorrow with soup. You need to seal it up to keep it from drying out and drawing unsavory creatures. What non-disposable item do you have to put it in?
I have been trying to keep an eye out for useful small to medium food-grade storage sets for things like this. Rubbermaid now has some options. I especially like the glass ones since they are least prone to picking up odors or staining (the tops are plastic though). Sterilite makes some plastic ones also. I have seen both kinds available in big box stores.
As a cost-saving measure and for practicality’s sake, you may pack a lunch for work everyday. No matter what the future brings, as long as you have days you aren’t at home for a meal, you will probably still need to do this. What kind of packaging are you using?
I’ll admit to appreciating the simplicity and freedom of using all disposable things and then wadding it all up and tossing it in the trash so I don’t have to keep up with it anymore. My conscience bothers me, though, and I’d constantly have to obtain new items, from plastic baggies to paper bags.
I’ve shifted us over to almost all reusable items. I like the site Reuseit.com. I’ve been pleased with all the items I’ve bought from them except the Lunchskins brand. They are more expensive and stain easily in my experience. Not sure on the durability yet. All have been washable in the clothes washer and dry quickly. The Wrap-N-Mats are nice because they provide a clean placemat surface to place all your food while eating. As for spoons and such, the sturdier “disposable” plastic utensils available at grocery stores have held up through the dishwasher well for me.
(We have a large family and packing lunches for our days out can be daunting in the details. I once packed a bib in the 10 year old’s lunch box and none in the baby’s before I got a system down. 😀 . To simplify things, everyone now has a color or pattern that is always theirs and I line up the lunchboxes in order of age. You may want to consider things like this if you are pressed for time or have lots of people to pack for).
On a Related Note
I spoke of paper plates at the beginning in a derogatory way. I should mention a valid point I have seen made in a few places- if you are in a situation where water is very hard to come by, an argument could be made for using paper plates, bowls, cups, etc. If they are held over to be burned for cooking the next meal, you not only save water (that would be diverted for washing rather than drinking), but have good tinder at the ready. I have heard that some group retreats require its members to stock thousands of paper dishes per person.