What Can I Use Instead of Plastic?

You might have considered replacing the plastics in your kitchen, but you don’t know what to replace them with, or you think they’ll be too expensive. Here is a guide to get started. If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments!

Storage containers are probably the majority of the plastic you have in your kitchen.

We replaced our plastic storage containers with Pyrex bowls and mason jars.

Pyrex bowls, if you just go to the store and buy them, are a little pricey. And unless you buy a set, the lids are sold separately. (I considered this a nuisance until I bought a set with ill-fitting lids. Sold separately, I actually stood and tried out the lids on the bowls to make sure they fit properly.) And the lids are plastic, so we don’t use them in the microwave. (I have not found food storage containers that have lids that seal that aren’t plastic.) We bought ours at a Corningware Outlet (Power and Baseline, if you’re a local).

They come in a variety of sizes, which we found useful; we have several of the smaller sizes and one or two of the larger ones, so we can store in glass everything from half an onion to a pot of soup.

Mason jars are much less expensive and are good for almost as many functions. We were able to pick up a case of 12 at our local grocery store. They work well for liquid leftovers (like soup or chili) and dry goods.

We use them primarily for freezing. When we make a crock pot of beans, we ‘ll put whatever we’re not using into some jars — usually measured in one-can servings — and stick them in the freezer. We freeze fruits and veggies the same way.

Conveniently, the mouth and lids for all of the jars are the same size, though we have jars in two different sizes. No need to figure out which lid fits where — they all fit. And smaller jars with large openings are handy for getting things into and out of, and for cleaning.

For packing lunches, I use the Pyrex.

No, we haven’t broken any yet.

For both of these items, check your local second-hand stores. They will frequently have a couple of items lying around — more often jars than bowls with lids — and they’ll be cheaper than new.

I have recently been turned on to sites like Daily Grommet and SnackTaxi, where you can buy reusable cloth sandwich bags, snack bags, produce bags (instead of using those plastic bags at the grocery store), and others. A quick search will yield you many results if you are looking to buy reusable bags for lunch items, whether for yourself or your kids. (Have a great or terrible experience with any in particular? Leave it in the comments!)

If you are handy at all with a needle and thread, it’s not too difficult to make your own sandwich or snack bags. A friend of mine made sandwich wraps that unfold to little placemats for her young boys using this tutorial. It does use plastic in it, though. Can you think of a suitable substitute? My first thought was vinyl … but that’s plastic.

Water! If you drink bottled water, you are spending a lot of money on something that is just about free, and you’re creating a lot of waste. There are many stainless steel water bottles available on the market today. When you’re shopping, make sure you don’t pick one up that is lined with plastic. You’ll be doing a favor for the earth but not for your health. “BPA-free” does not mean “plastic-free.” Buyer beware.

I use Klean Kanteen.  The lids that I have are hard plastic — it was all that they made at the time that I bought them — but Klean Kanteen has started making bottles with lids that are completely plastic-free.

If you like buying bottled water because you can grab a cold bottle from the fridge on the go, buy several reusable bottles, fill ‘em all up, and stick ‘em in the fridge. They will pay for themselves quickly.

As a side note, if you rely on disposable products, you could save a lot of money by switching to reusable.  Dishes, cups, and silverware are the most common kitchen items to use reusable instead of disposable. We also stopped using paper napkins and paper towels. It is so nice not to spend money on those any more. They add very little to our regular laundry load and did not have a very big up-front cost.

What do you do in your kitchen to reduce exposure to plastics?

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Becca Gater on 12 April 2011 at 07:12

    When we decided to fade out the plastics for the twins we started using Correlle plates and bowls. They are fantastic! They are all glass and (so far) unbreakable. My favorite part is that I can by them piece by piece at Wal-Mart. So as our need has increased I only have to spend a couple of dollars to add to our “set”. I also use glass jars for storing all of our gluten free flours and mixes (which all come in plastic bags). They are from Ikea and come in three sizes. They all have tight fitting lids. (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/06130000) Ikea also sells small (6 oz I think) glasses that are perfectly sized for my little ones. Even better: a set of 6 glasses cost $1.50! (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/80094014)

    • I heard you were a big fan of Ikea :)

      Good tip on the Correlle dishes and bowls. I will check into them! (I am not a fan of Wal-Mart, but I’m sure they’re not the only ones who carry them.)

      Also, as a random side note, you were the 500th comment :)

  2. Posted by dsanfie on 22 January 2012 at 00:33

    For the sandwich bags, maybe PUL instead of plastic. They sell it at JoAnns now.

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