Plastic Free July – Part 5: Silicone Lids

Silicone lids are another partial alternative to plastic wrap and even, in some cases, plastic bags. These actually came as part of a package with something else, though I’ve forgotten what, so it was a good chance to try them out. Like so many of my plastic alternatives, these aren’t a direct 1 to 1 replacement for anything.

There are a lot of things to like about these. They are on the stretchy side, so can fit a range of sizes and shapes. When fit properly, they do form a liquid tight seal, but sizing is key on that.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Some plastic wrap or bag uses.

Pros:

  • Eliminates the use of some plastic wrap and some bags if willing to use a container instead of a bag
  • Reusable
  • Microwave, Freezer, Dishwasher Safe
  • Liquid tight seal
  • Slightly stretchy for versatility
  • Potential long lifespan

Cons:

  • You need a variety of sizes because even though they stretch, that stretch is limited
  • Fit is essential to getting a seal. If you undersize or oversize your lid to your container, you may not get that seal
  • Cost

I have used these on a variety of different bowls and even over smaller plates and they have worked wonderfully. My one complaint is that there isn’t much of an overlap between sizes, meaning if you had two of the same size dish to cover, you would only be able to cover one. At least with this small selection of sizes that I have. I really need at least one, if not two more sets to really make these work for how I’d use them. I also really need lids that are MUCH larger than what I have in this set. My largest lid wouldn’t cover a regular size dinner plate and I would love to have one large enough to cover my massive mixing bowl.

These do come in a wide range of sizes and colors, so more than likely you’d be able to find the lids to fit your needs. This is one of those that is still new to me and I need to do a bit more research to see if I can find some to fit my needs. There are even a couple of different styles that may work a little differently, but I’ve only tried these.

Plastic Free July – Part 3: Glass Food Storage

This is another one of those things that doesn’t exactly have a direct, 1 to 1 replacement. There are a lot of different ways to use glass containers instead of plastic, but most of those are for replacing plastic that is already reusable. Initially, when I went looking for these, it was with a specific purpose in mind.

We used to get ground beef from someone we knew that raised cows. It was great because we could get it in a 1/4 of the whole cow instead of a whole or half that most people that raise and butcher cows allow. The last time we did this though, we realized we really don’t eat enough to use it all up before it starts to show signs of freezer burn. And we were eating less and less as time goes on.

The convenience of having those 1 pound packages wrapped in freezer paper in my freezer at all times was an amazing thing, though. The problem is that getting meat from the grocery store meant that I’d have to either freeze it in the packaging it came in or package it myself. The store packaging was either a plastic wrapped foam tray or a very lightly wrapped bundle in butcher paper. The first option isn’t something I like to do. The second, is better but still not ideal. The way I’d have stored it in the past would be wrapped in plastic wrap for one layer and then an additional layer of foil. Again, not the option I want if I’m trying to reduce plastic.

When I was looking for alternatives to plastic zipper bags, I ran across people talking about using glass. There were other options, like silicone bags, but I liked the idea of the glass because it seemed more versatile. I already have several large glass baking dishes, but the idea of the smaller sizes opened the door for a lot of different uses.

So far, I’ve used these for freezing ground meats with really great results. These, and many others similar to these, have a silicone band under a plastic snap on lid (yes, it is still plastic, but if cared for well, should last for a really long time) that creates a seal between the glass and the lid.

Glass Food Storage Containers - Silicone Seal
Glass Food Storage Containers – Silicone Seal

I’ve also used them to to store and freeze deli meats (worked better than I expected) and a couple of other things that I’m leaving in for a while to see how well they do over longer periods of time. I do think they have a slightly shorter freezer life in these than if they were in plastic wrapped packages or plastic bags, but I’m not certain yet by how much. Wrapping things inside something like parchment paper (biodegradable) before putting into the glass containers may be able to add some time to that number, though.

Outside of the freezer, these can be used in a huge number of ways. In the refrigerator, oven, microwave (minus the lid for oven and microwave) and to seal off just about anything you need to store. The fact that there are so many different sizes and shapes when it comes to glass containers, the sky is kind of the limit. These particular containers are geared for food prepping and say they are 34 ounce volume (assuming liquid). They are slightly on the large size for what my Hubby uses for his lunch leftovers, but will be in the mix for him to use as they still fit in a lunchbox.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Some common plastic zipper bag uses as well as some plastic wrap. Excellent replacement for any reusable plastic storage as well.

Pros:

  • Eliminates some plastic wrap/bag use
  • Reusable
  • Microwave, Oven, Freezer, Dishwasher Safe (minus lids on all except freezer and storage)
  • Liquid tight seal
  • Comes in a variety of size options for versatility
  • Potential long lifespan

Cons:

  • Is not a 1 to 1 replacement for any single use plastic. You will need other alternatives for other types of uses.
  • These are glass, therefore breakable, but not easily (most have good warranties against breakage)
  • You are limited on using and cleaning the lids because of both the plastic and the silicone.
  • Most recommend hand washing the lid because of the silicone seal (even needing to remove the seal to dry)
  • Some recommend keeping a layer of plastic between the seal and glass (have only seen this on one type so far) when not in use.
  • Physical space needed to store when not in use
  • Plastic lids
  • Potentially shorter freezer life for foods
  • Cost

So far, these have been some of my favorite alternatives because they are so versatile. I have a different set that I’m in the process of testing as a potential replacement option for frozen microwave dinners (post coming soon on that). While cost on these will be a concern for some, if they are well maintained and cared for, they should last for a very long time. I will say, I like the way these lids work better than others. That and the fact that they are plastic make the lids a weak point for me. Another upside is that lidded glassware like this is more likely to be readily available. Maybe not these specific ones, but others that would work just as well.

If I had one really harsh gripe on these at all, it would be that in all the sets I’ve purchased (3 small ones so far), every single one comes coated in a layer of plastic film and a massive amount of foam.

Plastic Free July – Part 2: Plastic Wrap Alternative #1

When looking at the plastic I used, I tried to find the areas I used the most plastic that gets thrown away. For me, that happens in my kitchen, so my initial goal has been working on reducing that waste first. With the amount of cooking I do, there is always plastic that ends up in the trash that isn’t recyclable. Something I realized, is that I use a lot of plastic wrap, so finding something to replace that has been one of my focus areas. Sadly, I have yet to find something that is a direct, one to one use replacement because I use it for so many things.

Common Uses:

  • Covering Dishes
  • Wrapping Leftovers
  • Wrapping Food for Freezer Storage (partial layer)

Uncommon Uses:

  • Wrapping around meat when tenderizing to prevent splatter and excess damage
  • Rolling out pie dough between layers to prevent sticking to surface and for easy transfer
  • Easy clean up for icing decorator bags (trick I learned to keep it less messy in use and clean up)
  • Covering rising bread dough bowls (holds in warmth and helps rise better while keeping dough moist)

I’m sure there are loads more that I’m forgetting or ways other people use plastic wraps. Because there are so many different ways to use it, there really isn’t a single replacement for it. At least, not one I’ve found.

The most common use, covering and wrapping food or leftovers, has a few different alternative options. The first one, and the focus of this post (another alternative option coming soon) is beeswax wrap. It is basically a biodegradable fabric that is coated in beeswax. It comes in several different forms and is reusable to a point. Once it reaches that point, everything in it is organic and can be put in the trash or compost.

To test these out to see how well I liked them and how many ways I could use them in place of plastic wrap, I bought these sets that had 3 different size squares in each packet.

Beeswax Wraps
Beeswax Wraps

The largest size is big enough to cover a standard size dinner plate, so you are limited on what you can use these for. You can get a roll of it and cut it to size, but I didn’t want to make that investment (again, not exactly inexpensive) if I wasn’t going to like them.

The way these work is beeswax is somewhat pliable and softens with the heat from your hands. It is also on the slightly sticky side so it clings to itself and whatever you are covering. When used correctly, it does create a liquid tight seal. You can cover dishes or even directly on food as it sticks really well to itself. You simply rinse it in cold, soapy water after each use and hang it to dry before storing it.

Plastic Alternative/Replacement:
Some common plastic wrap uses

Pros:

  • Eliminates some plastic wrap use
  • Reusable
  • Biodegradable
  • Liquid tight seal
  • Comes in a variety of size options for versatility

Cons:

  • Is not a 1 to 1 replacement for plastic wrap. You will need other alternatives for other types of uses.
  • Beeswax is sticky and can leave a residue on whatever you cover, including your hands, and isn’t always easy to get off (my experience is with glass).
  • Because of the way you have to clean this, cold water, I would be hesitant to use this in covering raw meats. I haven’t attempted to use any kind of a bleach solution, so I don’t know if that is an effective disinfectant method. Using hot water will melt the wax and either reduce the lifespan or make it completely unusable.
  • Limited longevity: I haven’t had these all that long so I’m not certain of their lifespan, but they will need to be replaced over time.
  • Does not stretch, so there is a bit of a learning curve if you are used to stretchy plastics.
  • Seems to not hold in odors as well as plastic.
  • Cost: Like most other plastic alternatives, these are not inexpensive. Since they do have a specific lifespan, that may make these cost prohibitive for some.
  • Questionable on freezer use: I haven’t attempted this trial. The fact that this will stiffen in colder temps because of the beeswax, I would think there may be some issues with the sealing function of these in freezing conditions.

I haven’t quite decided whether I like this alternative or not. The limited use is an issue for me, so is the stickiness. I’ve debated getting the roll as most of my need for these is larger in size than these packs provided, so I’ve struggled to fully test these out.

I think this is one of those products that some people will really love and others won’t, depending on how they use it. It IS a viable alternative for some common plastic wrap uses and in a one use plastic throw away versus a multi use biodegradable, the biodegradable still lands you on the better side of things.