I didn’t grow up during the Great Depression or anything, but you’d probably never know it from some of my attitudes — and I’m not the only one; there’s a whole “meme” or groundswell occurring in our society. What in the world am I talking about? You may have heard about the idea of nose-to-tail eating — the concept that when an animal is slaughtered, every piece of it should be eaten, and not wasted.
I pretty much feel the same way about everything. Coffee grounds should be composted; leftovers unlikely to be eaten immediately should be frozen; and the non-preferred bread ends should be converted into croutons or bread crumbs. (I was thrilled to see NYC is introducing mandatory food waste collection for composting.)
This carries over to things like employing re-useable shopping bags, adopting cloth napkins instead of paper, and packing lunches in non-disposable containers. Not that I actually manage to do all of that all of the time. But I know the things that really get me excited lately seem to hover around this idea.So I thought I’d write up a few of the efforts we’re adopting around here.
The latest is vacuum sealing. I’ve had my eyes on vacuum sealers for years, but the price (around $100 or more) of the sealer itself, as well as the ongoing need to buy special bags, turned me off. I couldn’t justify such a commitment to something I wasn’t sure would pay off. And then, I discovered the $20 handheld rechargeable vacuum sealer.
The low cost of trying this out, as well as attachments that let me leverage my collection of Mason jars for food storage, finally pushed me over the edge. Now — as you can tell — I’m an evangelist.
The idea is simple — by sucking the air out of a container used to store food, the bacteria that would normally start and speed its decomposition are deprived of what they need to grow. Hence, the food lasts longer — sometimes much longer. In a freezing application, it can eliminate freezer burn. So far, I’ve preserved shredded and washed lettuce in jars, where they sit waiting to become part of a near-instant salad. Deli meat, cheese, fruit, vegetables, crackers, flour, spices — all benefit from a vacuum-sealed environment.
Besides the jars — which are clear (easy to see contents), re-useable and not plastic — you can also buy plastic containers, as well as zipper bags, to use with the sealer. Ziploc even makes a version of the bags that I got at my local grocery store. I’ve been trying to make these bags re-useable by sealing food already wrapped in an inner bag, so the vacuum bags aren’t contaminated and can be used again. Many Mason jars can also be frozen, which expands the possibilities.
To make sure that I’m not the only one who knows what’s in various jars (leftovers can get a little unrecognizable), I been labeling them with a chalk marker, which is easily rubbed off with a damp cloth when it comes time to wash the container. One thing I’m still working on: conquering the rest of the family’s fear of the vacuum sealer, and vacuum-sealed items in the fridge, as it obviously works best when everyone re-seals bags or jars immediately after using the item enclosed. We’re getting there.
In the coming weeks, I’ll share other no-waste changes that have worked for me and my family.