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The following is part of an Organic Journey Guest Post Series, written by Amy a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.
It’s a new year. New goals. New hopes. New baby steps. This time of year I find myself organizing, purging, and sorting. New toys need homes and the reorganizing bug spreads from there to all areas of the house. One area that I have been wanting to bring some order to was my pantry and snack zone. I have been buying more foods in bulk and have been making more foods from scratch as well. All of these goodies either have inconvenient packaging or, in the case of homemade goodies, no packaging at all. I have long been a fan of plastic bags in all shapes and sizes, but lately, in an effort to find more wiggle room in the budget (and to be a better steward of the planet), I have begun the process of ditching the baggies. We have started replacing them with containers that I can reuse. Cause let’s get honest, I’m not going to take the time to wash out plastic bags. I know myself, and that just isn’t going to happen in my house.
My motivation at first was to save some money (by not having to constantly buy more baggies) and eliminate BPA from our lives. I discovered, though, that most of the big name companies don’t use BPA in their plastic disposable bags and containers. Then, I started reading about phthalates. I was a bit stunned to read about the health hazards of this often used chemical compound. Bottom-line, researchers are finding that phthalates (which are found in everything from shampoo to shower curtains and hoses to toys) can disrupt our endocrine systems. There is a growing tide of complaints about phthalates, and so some companies have begun to make things without them. Legislation has even limited their use (but not eliminated it) in toys that go in babies mouths as the effects that it has on developing bodies is greater than the rest of our population.
Here is what gets me. They have replaced BPA and phthalates with other chemicals. Other chemicals that we haven’t had a chance to see what their effects are on our systems. Now before you start to think that I have lost it and am headed to the loony bin, I am well aware that we can in no way eliminate all the toxins in our lives. It is impossible. However, I can continue to take baby steps towards lessening the toxicity of my home, right? Here’s my baby step. I’m going to start moving towards storing things in glass containers. When I googled about the health risks of glass, I found one. It can break. That is a health risk (and annoyance) that I can live with. Now, not everything in my house is going to be stored in glass containers and I am open to learning about other safe methods of food storage, but for now, here are some things that I have started to store differently.
Spaghetti sauce jars are great for storing everything from dried fruit to freezer jam. I keep hearing that you have to be careful when freezing things in glass. Here’s what the National Center for Home Food Preservation has to say:
“Regular glass jars break easily at freezer temperatures. If using glass jars, choose wide-mouth dual purpose jars made for freezing and canning; these jars have been tempered to withstand extremes in temperatures. If standard canning jars (those with narrow mouths) are used, leave extra headspace in liquid packs (3/4-inch for pints; 11/2-inches for quarts) to allow for expansion of food during freezing and completely thaw food before removing it. Do not use regular canning jars for foods packed in water.”
That said, I have used pretty much every type of glass jar to freeze jam in from salad dressing jars to applesauce containers, and I have never had one break. You’ve been warned though; so, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not you want to risk it. I have also started freezing cooked beans and homemade condensed cream of soups in glass jars. One side note, if you are using a narrow mouth jar, it is harder to get the contents out unless they are completely thawed (don’t ask me how long it took to excavate my partially frozen cooked beans last night!)
Baby food jars are also wonderful for all kinds of storage needs around the house. Right now, I’ve got my bulk spices stored in them. The labels are simple and not Pinterest worthy; some masking tape and a permanent marker lets me know what spices are in each jar. Stage 3 jars are great if you are needing more storage space. This is another time I love to use Facebook. There are plenty of mothers that would be happy to share their jars if you just ask.
My snack drawer got a makeover too. Nuts and dried fruits now look lovely in their glass jars of varying sizes. My eldest especially loves sprucing up her breakfast granola with the different options. She pulls out the jars full of diced dried apricots, apples, raisins, craisins, sliced almonds and chocolate covered sunflower seeds (a treat from her aunt) and goes to town creating her own cereal. It is easy for me to see when we are running low and it’s pretty.
When I mentioned to Jon that I wanted to invest in some glass jars, he reminded me that we had a ton given to us that were out in his shed. My favorite discovery was these 4 ounce glass jars. My kiddos absolutely love things in single serve packaging. Since we homeschool and eat the vast majority of our meals at home, I rarely buy things packaged individually. Well, these 4 ounce glass jars worked wonders for their excitement over applesauce and yogurt. I loved that I could pour my homemade yogurt and applesauce into these containers and save myself one more step when serving snacks and meals.
Glass jars can get expensive, but if you reuse what you already have coming into your house and ask around (Craigslist is another great place to look), you might find some great deals or even freebies! I’ve got a long way to go in eliminating plastic as a means of storing food, but I’ll get there, one baby step at a time.
What creative storage solutions have you found for your kitchen? Do you have any great ideas to repurpose something that you already have? I’m all ears!