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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Freezer containers for free

by Lili Mounce

Did you ever think that baggies are a created need? Hefty and Ziplock have us convinced that we can't store any of our food without their products. Before baggies, sandwiches were wrapped in waxed paper or butcher paper. Yes, they may have been a tad drier than if packed in plastic, but also there was no plastic off-gassing to be concerned with (yet another thing to be concerned about when it comes to your children, plastic off-gassing).

Every week when you go grocery shopping, you not only bring home food, but tons of food-grade packaging material. Why not get more uses out of this "free" packaging?  Here are some materials/containers you may have right now in your kitchen. Take a look in your pantry and fridge and just see how many containers you have that you could use, once they're empty. If it's plastic, give it consideration. You'll be surprised at just how many potential freezer containers you have.

plastic food containers

  • yogurt, big and small   (the big ones are great for freezing soups and pasta sauce)
  • whipped topping   (I freeze berries and chopped rhubarb in these)
  • cottage cheese/sour cream/margarine containers   (great for individual servings of casseroles/soups)
  • plastic peanut butter and mayo jars, with lids   (yes, you can use these for freezing, too. Lay a small piece of plastic wrap over top of filled jar, then screw on lid)
  • prepared foods, such as hummus come in nice little round plastic containers   (these are my favorite for leftover pancakes, just the right size and shape)
  • plastic coffee "cans"   (great for large batches of soup)
  • plastic shortening (like Crisco) containers   (this is what I use for my veggie scraps for stock-making)

containers with one re-use

  • small, waxed cardboard milk/cream cartons -- these are single re-use, then throw away, containers. Fill with hot soapy water, rinse well and fill. Because of potential bacteria, use clean, milk/cream cartons right away, or toss into your freezer, empty, to use later. After filling, pinch top closed, paper clip, butterfly clip, staple to hold closed. Slip into a plastic grocery bag and tie shut for greater airtight seal 

My mother-in-law showed me this. She used these filled with water and frozen, as disposable ice packs in coolers.

bags that food has come in
These bags are sometimes inside a box, sometimes just the bag used in packaging from items such as:  cereal, bread, chips, cookies, pasta, rice, produce, raisins, nuts, crackers, chocolate chips, and at holiday time - candy bags

Use scissors to cut off the top, so bag doesn't tear and become unusable.  Double or triple bag items (depending on thickness of bag), twist tie, rubber band or staple shut.

bread bags -- especially good for dividing family packs of meat
Put a lump of raw meat into the bottom of bag, tie the bag in a knot, close to the meat, add another lump if meat, tie another knot and continue until you reach the top of the bread bag. When you need some meat, cut off a portion of the bag, just above a knot.

purchased freezer bags
You can wash and reuse freezer bags. If the food it held was dry, turn inside out to keep for a few weeks in a box (until you have several to wash at once).  If the food inside was wet, turn the bag inside out, rinse and air dry, then put with the other dirty freezer bags.

how I wash my freezer bags
I have them all turned inside out, and place in my washing machine, with several dishrags/hand towels.  I add a squirt of liquid hand-washing dish detergent, and wash with hot water. I remove from washer and air dry on the kitchen counter, still inside out.


  1. Silly me. I thought everyone did this.

    1. Hi Kris,
      As odd as it sounds, I know quite a few people, who maybe they'll reuse margarine tubs, but they throw out the plastic bags inside cereal and cracker boxes, or the bags that chocolate chips come in. And this is in the Seattle area where we're supposed to be "green".
      But I am glad to know that a lot of folks do get reuse out of their bags and containers. I figure if the container or bag gets even one reuse before being tossed or put in a recycle bin, it's that much better for our planet.
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. I try to reuse containers, but I have to admit I prefer freezer bags for freezing items. We have a small freezer and I need to compact things as much as I can. However, I do try to reuse bags. (I will not reuse them if they had meat in them....just a personal thing I suppose.)

    We probably don't buy 5 boxes of cereal or things like that a year. So not a lot of waste for us there.

    1. Hi Shara,
      That is a very good point you make. You're right about when you're tight on freezer space you have to do everything you can to make it fit. So for you, bags are the way to go.

      I won't reuse a bag that's had meat in it either--bacteria! I use bags like bread, produce, the plastic grocery ones, rice and pasta and I even will cut up one of my 25 or 50 lb. plastic sacks from sugar,rice, beans into squares for "plastic wrap" for meat. Then I pile a bunch of these wrapped hunks of meat into a larger bag. But I'm happy to wash and reuse freezer bags from frozen veggies and fruit.

      Thank you for leaving a comment!

  3. Well, my mother was a great one to remind me "Waste not; want not" and that's still good advice for today's cooks.

    I'm with you on the non re-use of bags that had meat in them.

    People might just need this gentle reminder to spark some new ways of thinking about how they store food and this post speaks to that very well.

    One of the things that attracts me to this blog, Lili, is your pragmatism. Keep up the good work!

    Mother Connie

    1. Hi Connie,
      If by pragmatism you mean my very practical nature, you've hit the nail on the head!
      I know that a lot of this info is old-hat to many, but I also remember a time when it was unfamiliar to me. So I assume it will be new to some folks, as well. And thinking creatively about everyday life is what this blog is all about, and how I might describe myself.
      Thanks for your kind words. They're very much appreciated. Cheers!

  4. hey . its really a nice thought to reuse items like containers and bags. small actions like these will help greatly to inspire others and preserve environment.

    Reusable Containers

    1. Hi Sabkon,
      I totally agree! This is one of those areas where being mindful of the environment overlaps with saving a bit of money. And in the long run, not taking care of the environment will be more costly -- industry waste clean-up costs, new landfills to be built, etc.
      Thank you for commenting!

  5. I recommend checking out BagDri for an easy way to dry out your bags.

  6. This is cool! Really good to have a bags or proper containers for pieces of food. Specially those that are need to freeze really have its proper storage. Plastic storage boxes with lids can be also good to have.



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