For the past few months we have been working towards eliminating the use of plastic for food storage. For some reason, the thought of potentially harmful chemicals leaching into our food doesn't hold much appeal for us.
Just recently I had the idea to use our backpacking kitchenware - pots, mugs, bowls, etc. - as storage containers for the fridge. Since they are not in use when we are at home, giving them a new task to do means we need less storage space for our outdoor gear. It also means that we can get rid of some other containers in the kitchen that we would normally have used for that task. I love having the opportunity to use items for multiple purposes, this is a fundemental principle of lightweight backpacking, why not extend it to the home as well for simpler living?
A side benefit of this idea is that it helps to justify the cost of purchasing higher quality backpacking gear. Titanium kitchenware, while durable and light-weight is more expensive than its steel and aluminum counterparts. Making the gear play a role at home as well as in the backcountry can make those higher prices seem more reasonable since the gear gets more frequent usage.
Titanium is a great material for the task of food storage. It doesn't contain nickel (which some people are allergic to) and is immune to corrosion. It is considered completey biocompatible and is therefore the material of choice for use in hypoallergenic jewelery, medical tools, and medical implants.
One example of a container perfectly suited to home food storage and backcountry use is the Snow Peak titanium bowl. They are a great price at $16 each and have a volume of just under 2-1/2 cups. Other containers that can be used include mugs and pots - pretty much anything that can reliably hold liquid.
Most outdoor mugs and bowls don't come with any sort of lid so I improvised a solution using a resource that all backpackers are intimately familiar with: Ziploc bags. Backpackers are no stranger to Ziploc bags. We like to reuse ours but no matter how carefully we clean them, the bags eventually wear out. I designed a sewing pattern using old Ziploc bags to create elasticized lid custom fit for each bowl/mug/pot that we own. This pattern will work just about any polythylene food-grade bag (i.e. Aloksak etc.) and is a great way to keep some plastic out of landfills a little longer.
The instructions for making your own lids are as follows:
Equipment and materials required:
- The container you want to cover (of course!)
- A sewing machine
- Used Ziploc, Aloksak, or other polyethylene bags
- Marking pen (i.e. Sharpie or similar)
- Polyester thread
- 1 mm round elastic cord (pick it up at any fabric store)
- Small safety pin
- Trace the outline of the container on the outside of a bag using the marker. Make sure that there is at least a 1/2 inch of plastic beyond the edge of the traced line.
- Using the sewing machine and your polyester thread, stitch a circle 1 cm (3/8 inch) outside of the line you just traced. You will be stitching through both sides of the plastic bag. Don't close the circle completely, leave about a 1/2 inch wide gap between the start and the end of the stitch. Make sure you backstitch at the beginning and end of the stitch to prevent it from coming undone.
- Stitch another circle 1 cm (3/8 inch) outside of the first one you just completed. This time completely close the cirlcle. Again, backstitch at the beginning and the end of the stitch. When you are done, you should have three concentric circles: The inner one is the pen marking, the next one is the circle with the 1/2 inch gap, and the third one is the outer circle that goes completely around.
- Cut the the plastic away from the outer-most circle, leaving about 1/8 inch of plastic around the outside of the stitching. You should now have a plastic disc.
- Grab both layers of the disk from the middle and pull them apart.
- Poke a hole through only one side of the middle and cut it out, leaving about 1/8 inch of plastic from the inner stitched circle. You should now have a round piece of plastic with a single layer in the middle and a double layer ring around the outside.
- Tie the end of the elastic cord to the safety pin. Feed the pin into the outer ring, through the gap that was left in the stitching. Thread the elastic all the way around the outer ring and all the way back out of the hole. When you are done you should have the elastic threaded through the outer ring and both ends sticking out of the hole in the stitching.
- Pull both ends of the elastic until your plastic disk looks like a shower cap. It should be small enough to tightly stretch over the container. Once you have the size right, knot the two ends of the elastic together and cut off the excess. The knot should pull back into the hole. You may have to shift the plastic around so that it isn't excessively bunched in any specific area (you will know what I mean when you see it!).
Voila! You should now have a perfectly fitted plastic lid for your container...
and a shower cap for your American Girl doll...
Note: I am not as concerned about plastic being used for the lid. I figure that since the food will mostly be in contact with the container rather than the lid, everything should be fine.