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Plastic-free in the freezer: airtight stainless steel food containers

Posted By Beth Terry On September 12, 2008 @ 1:55 am In cutlery & containers,Green Businesses | 28 Comments

A very common question for Fake Plastic Fish is what to use to store food in the freezer. Until now, I didn’t have an awesome answer. As you can see, I have been reusing Michael’s old plastic cottage cheese containers. And reusing plastic bags. I wrote about all the plastic we were reusing [1] a year ago. Certainly better to reuse what you have than toss out and buy new, right?

Except that plastic is not necessarily the best material for storing food… especially fatty or acidic food, which can cause the plastic to break down. And certainly not hot foods. So what’s a better alternative?

I’ve tried storing food in glass jars. That’s an okay solution. You can freeze glass, but you have to be very careful with it when you take it out, as it will become brittle. And glass jars are not the best shape for storing frozen foods because the neck can make removing the food difficult.

Stainless steel is great. But until last week, my only stainless steel containers had handles on the top (like my To-Go Ware tiffin [2] or my MSR Stowaway pot [3] from REI), so stacking them in the freezer or refrigerator was impossible. Also, they didn’t seal very tightly so carrying wet food could be tricky if I wasn’t careful.

Enter Sanctus Mundo’s [4] collection of airtight stainless steel food containers, sold online by a company called Life Without Plastic [5]:

I have to give credit to a couple of gals who are beginning the plastic-free life and blogging about it at Plastic Is Forever [6]. They had already discovered Life Without Plastic [5] and linked to the company on their blog.

Life Without Plastic was founded by two Canadians, Jay Sinha and Chantal Plamondon, who were concerned about issues of plastic and health. In Jay’s own words:

Chantal and I have always been very health and environment conscious, and plastic just kept coming up on our radar especially starting about 6-7 years ago. It always made us feel queasy to see how, for example, tomato sauce would mix in with the plastic in plastic storage containers. We started looking for a stainless steel water bottle and came across the Klean Kanteens not long after they arrived on the market and started using them for ourselves.

Then, as the article and website explain [7], our son came along and that really got us looking deeper into plastics, and the research we did convinced us that we didn’t want him sucking on plastic nor did we want to store Chantal’s breast milk in plastic. So that led us to seriously look into the glass baby bottles.

We had great difficulty finding them anywhere, then finally came across Evenflo, which was still making them. But the only way to get any bottles direct from Evenflo was to do a wholesale order of a minimum of 1000 bottles. So we did that and also got the company going with the Klean Kanteens. As these items are now becoming more and more readily available – which is fantastic – we are focusing more on harder to find items, and developing our own products such as children’s dishes.

Look out for our stainless steel ice cube tray coming later this year!

Ha! I’m still using a plastic ice cube tray, so I look forward to that. But back to the containers. After reading about them on the web site and also reading the personal story behind the company, I wrote to Life Without Plastic and asked if they’d send me a sample container to check out and review on Fake Plastic Fish. They were kind enough to send me the 5-6/8″ x 3-1/8″ model pictured above to try out.

The first thing I always evaluate, of course, is the packaging. Cardboard box with newspaper inside used to fill space instead of Styrofoam or plastic. Good. And in fact, their web site has a statement about packaging:

Recycled Packaging
In keeping with our mission to clean up the planet, we reuse boxes and packing materials that come into our store and use new boxes and mailing envelopes made of recycled material (no plastic if at all possible). We also sometimes use cornstarch peanuts which are reusable and compostable but not recyclable. Although we strive to use material that is 100% recycled, it is not always possible to obtain, in which case we use the highest recycled content available at the time of shipment.

The only plastic in the outer package was the packing tape used to attach the customs document to the box. I have encountered this tape situation with other items shipped from Canada and wonder if it’s a standard for the Canadian post. Will have to check.

I was a little dismayed upon opening the inner box to discover that the container itself was shrinkwrapped in plastic. [See UPDATE beneath this paragraph.] Not a lot of plastic, to be sure. And switching to these containers from alternatives like plastic ziploc bags would certainly save more plastic in the long run. Still, I’d have preferred the container bare in the box, just as the To-Go Ware tiffin comes packaged. So of course, I wrote to Sanctus Mundo [4] tonight to ask them to forego this extra plastic. We’ll see what they say.

UPDATE:  After receiving my email, Jay from Life Without Plastic took steps to ensure that all Sanctus Mundo products are packaged without the inner plastic wrap.  No more extra plastic.

So how does it work? Great so far. The container is flat on top, so it’s easily stackable in the refrigerator or freezer. The top has a silicone ring inside, which makes the container airtight and great for carrying liquids without spilling. But it also means that while the bottom is dishwasher safe, the top is not. Rinse it in the sink. Labeling the containers is easy with a non-permanent marker. And the containers come in 4 sizes, each smaller than the one I received, and are sold separately or as a set.

Oh, and if you do use them in the freezer, make sure you don’t fill them up to the top. We all know that liquids expand when they freeze and how an aluminum can will swell up in the freezer. You don’t want that to happen to your nice stainless container, so Erin at Life Without Plastic recommended leaving about an inch of space for expansion.

Check out the other products on Life Without Plastic and especially the Plastics Info page [8] which explains some of the health and environmental hazards of plastic. I love when the original intent of a business is to create a healthier world. Like GlassDharma [9], which I reviewed earlier this week, Life Without Plastic [5] and Sanctus Mundo [4] are small companies trying to make a big difference.

Article printed from My Plastic-free Life: http://myplasticfreelife.com

URL to article: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2008/09/plastic-free-in-freezer-airtight/

URLs in this post:

[1] all the plastic we were reusing: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2007/08/house-full-of-plastic/

[2] To-Go Ware tiffin: http://www.to-goware.com/store/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=13

[3] MSR Stowaway pot: http://www.rei.com/product/401131

[4] Sanctus Mundo’s: http://www.sanctusmundo.com

[5] Life Without Plastic: http://lifewithoutplastic.com

[6] Plastic Is Forever: http://plasticisforever.blogspot.com/

[7] as the article and website explain: http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/our_story

[8] Plastics Info page: http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/information

[9] GlassDharma: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2008/09/glassdharma-makes-drinking-fun-again/

[10] Image: https://plus.google.com/+BethTerry

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