Thursday, January 5, 2012

Plastic War

Hey you, Plastic!
Bring it!

My love for Tupperware was real.  Memories of my mom's funky colored Tupperware flood through my head whenever I hold a piece of vintage Tupperware.  I even love the smell of it. I know...its weird.  It consumed my kitchen for a few years until the BPA scare happened.  From that point on I tried to find plastic free alternatives to everything I owned.  I have to be took a while. It was like a uphill war.   I did not have the money to go replace all of my plastic with glass. That stuff is so cool (insert drool here) but expensive.  So I went the old school way. I'm not 100% plastic free but pretty darn close.  Enjoy and maybe get inspired.

Do not pay any attention to my old ugly counters, old ugly flooring and anything else I'm forgetting. Were renovating this year thank goodness.
Okay go!

I invested in mason jars of every size I could find.  There are no can free alternatives for beans so I buy organic bulk beans, soak them, cook them and put them in  mason jars in the freezer.  Remember to buy mason jars with wide lids. You will get your food out much faster this way.
Until recently I was buying canned organic tomatoes and tomato paste.  To get around this I found these two products.  The glass jar can be reused and paper container can be recycled.  The Pomi is not organic but it has only tomatoes. That's it. Since my tomatoes didn't grow for me this last year, I have to buy them. This next growing season tomatoes will be my main goal.  I found the paste for only $2 and tomatoes for $1.99.  I stocked up on both because those are super cheap prices.  I will not need to buy either of these for a long time. 
Update I no longer buy these tomatoes because I grow my own and roast them. Once roasted they go into mason jars and into the freezer to use all year long. This means no more packaging to recycle.Woot!

 This was a easy one to fix.  All herbs and spices are in tiny mason jars.  These jars are so damn cute.  I dry what herbs I can from my garden and the rest are bought in bulk. 

Just call me medicine woman. I love me some tea. Lots and lots of tea.  If I have an ailment I just look up what herbs help with it and go make some tea.  My kids love coming in here and making their own tea with honey. 
We call this the twirly shelf.  Here is where I go wrong sorta.  I buy in bulk any chance I get but there are times where I cannot find things in bulk.  My kids love chips. Well who doesn't? These are Trader Joe healthy alternatives to chips.  I have four daughters who I pack a lunch for each day.  Its a win win.  They think they are eating yummy snacks and I know they are healthy.  But I hate the plastic bags. HATE them.  They get recycled but it still bothers me.  I keep lots of snacks in here.  Raisins, coconut flakes, and popcorn are favorites of ours. 
I call this my baking cabinet.  Everything is bought in bulk unless I found a local deal. You can see my Bobs Red Mill tapioca on the left.  They were super cheap, a local company and I wanted to try my hand at making it.  In the back you can see a plastic bag that is full of powdered milk.  I ordered it from Azure Standard which is a favorite all natural online company. Love them.  That powdered milk gets put in glass jars as soon as I get done with this. Some of those large jars I purchased from Azure as well.  Luckily I was able to inherit many large ones from my grandma.  She kept every type of container imaginable.  Including one Kraft Mayo and one peppers jar.  Those are my favorite.

One thing I found an issue with was vanilla for baking.  The glass options I found in the stores were expensive and I wanted a way around this.  I did some research and found that all I needed was vodka and vanilla beans.  So I went and bought 2 large vanilla beans from the bulk section and a large bottle of vodka.  I simply split the vanilla beans in half, scraped the beans out, and then put the beans and scrapings into the vodka.  Its been sitting in the dark cabinet for 6 months how. Look how dark and beautiful it is now.  Now I have the best full flavored vanilla.  Plus its super yummy when you make a mix drink.
Instead of buying expensive new utensils I found thrift store ones.  Bamboo spoons were bought new but from a discount store.  Knives were given to me and work very well. 
My baking utensils are things I have had for a long time.  I bought some and inherited a few things as well.  The old school mixer was my grandmothers and I cherish it.  Green paint specks are so me.  Measuring spoons are rubber on the handle but do not touch my food so they stay.
I had to donate my plastic cookie cutters and start over.  Instead of going out and buying new ones I came up with another plan.  I will simply find them as I go through my life.  During my Christmas shopping I was at Kitchen Kaboodle and they had Easter/Halloween ones on sale for 50% off.  I will not need them now but I will later.  I would rather pay less now than more later.  I snagged them right up.  And for the holiday I don't have I will just go back to the store and buy what I need.  This way I'm not going broke trying to replace them. Also pictured are my food processor parts.  It came with a plastic blade but I only use the metal one. 
Here in this drawer I have a problem.  You see that orange thing on the right? That's a pampered chef orange peeler helper and its completely plastic. I have yet to find a replacement for it.  Anyone know of one?  My kids use this otherwise it would be just donated.  Also the red Kitchen Aid grater will be replaced when I spend the extra money to get a nice metal one.  Not some cheap one either. I want a nice one from William Sanoma. I can dream.

Pyrex containers are the best.  Even better with glass lids.  I use these to bake with and store food in the fridge.  All the handmade pottery and metal bowls was bought at thrift stores.  Those beautiful blue vintage Pyrex bowls were also found in thrift shops.  I LOVE THEM. Glass pitchers were a gift last year from my mom for my birthday. Thanks mom! Popcorn air popper was bought at a garage sale for $1.50.  Ive had it for years and love it.  I use the plastic scooper to measure how much corn kernels I need but that is it.  I now see similar types at Target for sale. But they don't have that old vintage smell that I love.  Glass Pyrex bowl set was a gift to myself from Costco.  They come with plastic lids but I don't use them.
Old vintage strainers are the best.  I did invest in some great Kitchen Aid stainless steel pans a couple of years ago.  I was lucky enough to inherit about a dozen cast iron pans from my grandma. I use them every single day and love them.  Bamboo cutting boards were bought on a 50% off sale at Christmas.  I do own a larger wooden cutting board but my kids like helping me and these are perfect for them.  Yellow thing in the back is a vintage rice cooker with a aluminum bowl with no non stick liner.  I rarely use it but my husband seems to think its the only way you can cook rice.  Me? I use a pan like my mom used.
My freezer is full of mason jars.  Beans Ive cooked myself, peppers Ive bought fresh & cut up, coffee beans bought in bulk, ketchup I made, and lots more.  The green container you see is completely recyclable and has coffee beans in them.  Whole Food sells this container full of 12 oz of coffee beans for only $4.99 and that's a pretty darn good deal.  BUT they are not organic or fair trade for that matter.  So once these are used its only bulk organic coffee beans for me. I just need to suck it up and pay the price because there are no other options.
Update I now only buy organic coffee in bulk. No more packaging to recycle! I keep my eye out for good sales and buy a lot in bulk so I don't have to worry about high prices. And I still get my coffee fix. Woot!

I can explain this. I really can.  Organic milk is cheaper in the plastic jug than the organic milk in the glass bottles.  Once my kids stop chugging the milk I will invest in the glass jars.  Half n half and sour cream is from a local company and is rbst free. I simply cannot afford the organic options at this moment so I did my best.  All my produce is organic and bought with no packaging.  I bring my own mesh bags to put them in.  That plastic bottle collection you see on the right there?  You can blame my husband for those.  He will not accept any other brands.  I tried and gave up. Eggs are organic and bought from the store. This month we are building a chicken coop and getting chickens.  I'm so excited! And of course I will be sharing the whole time.
Also note the large glass jar with chicken meat in it. We feed our dog a raw meat diet because she is allergic to every type of dog food out there.  I cannot afford organic meat for her but I do keep it in a glass jar.  She eats any type of meat or part you can think of. We also give her olive oil drizzled over a raw egg.  Before we knew she was allergic she literally had almost lost all her hair and smelled really bad.  Once we fed her the raw meat only it was like night and day.  Her fur came back in and her skin was beautiful. 
 My husband just bought me this Kitchen Aid coffee maker.  It has a metal carafe and has a metal filter. I use a camping kettle to make my tea.  I fill up my metal tea ball with herbs drop it on in. Nothing fancy but it works.  To keep my coffee beans fresh I buy them whole.  When I need to use the coffee beans I put them into this small grinder and blend for a few seconds.  I found this coffee grinder a few years back at Goodwill.  It it a Starbucks brand one that would of cost me around $30.  I think I paid a dollar for it.  Woot!
Update  This coffee pot SUCKED! When you brewed a fresh pot of coffee the coffee would heat up the plastic around the stainless steel carafe and leak onto you. I returned it to find that even the glass did the same thing. This $100+ coffee maker was a piece of junk. So I hunted for a good alternative. Instead I bought a Hamilton Beach 12 cup chrome Percolator from Target (one store I strongly DISLIKE) for only around $35 on sale.  It does have a plastic handle but my coffee doesn't come in contact with any plastic so it's A okay for me. No more paper coffee filters! Oh and its very vintage inspired and doesn't look like a regular coffee maker and fits right into our old ugly kitchen. Been using it for a year now and LOVE IT!!!!! You can check it out here for yourself.
Yes those are zip lock type bags you see.  During the growing season I grow a ton of beans, pea's and squash.  Way too much and not enough space to put into glass.  So I buy these bags, fill them and freeze them.  Until I find a better way, this will have to work.  Natural parchment paper I use to wrap meat sometimes.  I use aluminum foil to cover food when I'm baking.  I make sure the food does not touch the foil and reuse the foil as many times as possible.  You can see my extra pieces under the zip lock bags.  Also I buy natural waxed paper bags for many things.  Baked goods to give to neighbors, school lunches on a field trip when they require a paper bag lunch and I even store seeds in them. Instead of using paper towels in the kitchen I use fabric aprons.  I simply wash my hands and dry them off on the apron. 
Update I now use large glass jars in my freezer.  No more ziplocks! If your looking for a good read check out My Plastic-Free Life by my good friend Beth Terry. Many of us green bloggers weighed in on this topic.Ziplock is advocating recycling their plastic bags. You be the judge.   By the way I was lucky enough to meet Beth this year. So I'm sorta kinda a big deal now....sorta. Ha!

This is my pantry. Pay no attention to my husbands tuna or hot sauce.  Or my kids snacks for that matter.  I would love to buy bulk organic pasta but its simply not in the budget.  Why is organic pasta so damn expensive? I found thes1 lb bags of organic pasta at Trader Joe's for only $1.39. Ive seen bulk organic pasta for as high as $3.99 a pound. 
Slow cooker is my best friend.  Uses less energy and I set it and walk away.  Love that.  I keep all my large jars in here, extra snacks and my potatoes.  I usually buy potatoes in bulk but these organic 5lb bags were only $2.50 each at Whole Foods. That's a great price.  Bags can be recycled as well.  In the back you see my vintage pressure cooker that I use to can my jelly.  $5 and it was mine.
Large boxes on top are recycled glass party platters I found.  Green glass just gets my goat.  Metal contraption was from my grandma. I use this to make apple sauce.  Glass tier was given to me by my husbands grandparents. I use it on holidays and at parties.  Mason jars of every size and color! Some bought new and some bought at thrift shops.  Paper streamers were found at a second hand store and we have used them for years.
All handmade pottery was bought from Goodwill.  Nothing matches and that's the way I like it.  Pyrex was given to me by a friend and I use them to put veggies in.  Great for left overs.
All mugs were bought from Goodwill.  They are all hand made and one of a kind.  Glass cups we have had for years.  Kleen Kanteen and Sigg bottles were bought from Goodwill as well.  No worries I made sure none of them were the recalled ones.  Those darn plastic things you see are my husbands.  Ugh he wont budge at all. 

So as you can see I'm not 100% plastic free.  I'm still working on it and who knows if I ever will sway my husband.  My kids on the other hand are doing great.  Their metal lunch boxes are filled with fabric reusable bags for their sandwiches, medium mason jars for their cut up fruit and reusable metal water bottles.  I even have bamboo spoons and metal Thermos's for when they want soup. 

So did I win this war? You bet I did.  I kicked its ass! Beth Terry would be so proud of me. If you love this post then you will love her blog. Go check it out and learn why she amazes me so.
Now its your turn.  What's stopping you?


Plastic-free Beth Terry said...

Wow, Nancy, wow! Now this is a post. You've done a great job de-plasticizing your kitchen. I'm going to recommend this post far and wide!

My only issue would be with the Pomi tomatoes in the tetra pak. Those boxes are lined inside and out with plastic and are difficult to recycle. But can you get Eden Organic tomatoes in glass jars where you live?

Behan said...

This is AWESOME. You go girl!! Lots of inspiring ideas here. Our family is trying to follow a similar path...with the occasionally complicating factor that we live on a sailboat. Sometimes we can't use glass (since the boat does actually get sailed, and not just sit at a dock...I have worries about breakage) but most of the time, I just need to rethink the storage so we can stow it safely. Found you via Beth Terry and look forward to discovering the rest of your blog now!

beachtrippin said...

What an inspiration! I love how you adore your grandmother's kitchen gadgets! I wouldn't trade my Grandma's rolling pin for the world!!! My Grandma's cabinets were filled with fancy orange juice glasses (oh wait, those were the jars from dried meat and grape jelly - hahaha). Kudos to you for the changes you've made and the ones you know you'll make when you can - I believe every little change in the right direction makes a difference. Best of luck!!!

sweet alyssum said...

Great post - I found it through FPFish on fb. I love all the vintage stuff. awesome to find a Klean Kanteen at goodwill!

You put "we feed our diet a raw diet". I think you meant dog :)

Anonymous said...

Great job!! You have some great ideas there - I especially like the idea of using mason jars for freezing food! I'm going to try that!

You might like this product - it is a natural alternative to plastic wrap for food storage! It is made from hemp and cotton infused with jojoba oil and beeswax. You can wash them in cool water so they are completely reuseable! I bought a couple of packages at a craft market and I LOVE them!! Here is a link to the website:

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

Beth-I have found some Organic Tomato's but not that brand. The reason I am using this brand is that I can recycle it here in Portland. The rule they have is if you soak it in water and tear it apart easily then you can recycle it. Also it has one thing in it. Tomatoes thats it. I would love to be able to go buy organic tomatoes and spent $5 a pop for them but its just not in my budget. So for those reasons I stick to Pomi.
But don't get me wrong. I can my tomatoes and use them whenever possible! Homegrown is always best!
Sweet Alyssum-I do cherish my gram's things. ALL of them. I am so thankful to be able to learn from such an amazing woman and I miss her every day.
I have found all of my water bottles from Goodwill. I just love them. Its always fun having a hunt!

Teresa said...

As for your orange peeler.....I just use the tip of my all metal paring knife to run around the orange and then put my fingers into the cut and pull the peeling off in segments.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Thanks for the pantry storage tips. I'm a tea-aholic too :)

Robj98168 said...

Love all your ideas! Might I suggest a Coffee Press as an alternative to your coffee pot? You can find them plastic free and cheap at like Ikea.

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

Robj98168-We did buy a press that was 100% plastic free but it broke. We are now using a old school percolator thats 100% plastic free from the 50's. I'm always open to suggestions so thanks!