Have you ever stopped to consider how much packaging you consume in a week? With single-serving wrapped snacks, restaurant doggy bags, grab-and-go items from the ready-made section, Ziplocks, and all of the cardboard and plastic in between, we sure have a lot of opportunities to consume containers.
Many of us recycle, but fewer of us truly reuse. And while I’ll admit that rinsing and drying individual Ziplock baggies can be a bit tedious, there are lots of other ways to repurpose handy packaging into future storage and food savers. Here’s just a few:
Save cardboard boxes for organization and storage, or of course for the trusty ol’ kids’ fort. I found that a beer box with the top half cut off was the perfect little tuck-away drawer for the lids to my glass storage containers.
Spices can be difficult to keep organized and easily visible, especially when you buy in bulk or grind at home. Try reusing (and, of course, clearly re-labeling!) older spice containers as you use them up. Another trick I’ve found that works really well is repurposing stackable bead containers. I spotted these great erasable labels at a craft store—write on them with a permanent marker and then erase with a white eraser and start again. Genius.
Speaking of bulk, hold on those little plastic bags, bins, and bottles provided at the store once you’ve used up your goods. It’s easy to slap another label on top of an old one, and reuse the containers you’ve got rather than grabbing new ones every trip.
I make a habit of holding onto any glass container that is of convenient size and has a tight-fitting lid. Like this “lime frenzy” candle jar. Once it got down to its last bit of wax, I melted the wax out in a double boiler, poured it into used tea light tins (hey, two new tea lights!), removed the wick holder and cleaned it really well. It is now housing some pickle juice I wanted to save without taking up a ton of room with the big ol’ pickle jar (which is itself now washed and awaiting new contents).
Tomato sauce jars are also typically really useful, especially when they come with measuring marks on the sides. Depending on how avid of a jar-user you are, you can potentially store up a whole stash just from saving the ones from store-bought products. I always find the more irregular sizes to be really handy.
Here we have some mango pineapple agua fresca in an apple juice jug, oatmeal in a once-hummus container, and opened, uncooked rice noodles in the perfectly tall tin from a bottle of amaretto. I think you’re catching my drift. If it’s of a sturdy material and did a good job storing foodstuff one time, there’s nothing stopping you from using it again.
Try designating a box for odd, used (and cleaned) containers, and making a habit of holding onto empty containers if they seem like they might come in handy in the future. I’m not telling you to become a hoarder or anything (use that recycling bin! That’s what it’s there for!), just suggesting you start a moderate supply. You’d be surprised how many uses you can find for things you might’ve otherwise trashed!
Taking down waste with economy, efficiency, and resourcefulness—that’s what being an eco-chef is all about.