Have you noticed on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook all the fancy glass food storage options? Or maybe you’ve seen people eating out of glass bowls and jars at work. Why has this become so fashionable? Is it just a trend or is there some health benefit to eating out of glass? Let’s explore!
Being a home cook and a gardener, I’ve been choosing healthier food storage options for a while now. With the popularity of juicing, you are now seeing people drinking their morning smoothie out of a Mason jar. But, those of us who garden and who can our own veggies for the winter, this is nothing new. I also prefer glass straws, but I digress. What IS new is that now, Mason™ and Ball™ jars are being used not just as storage vessels but as drinking vessels and meal containers for everything from soup to salads. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Using glass for food storage is a great idea for anyone and here’s why. Plastic sucks. Yup. I said it. Yes, it’s lightweight to carry your lunch. And, those plastic bowls that cost next to nothing are really easy to stack in the cupboard and in your refrigerator and freezer. But, are they really low cost? Or are there health costs and ecological costs to using plastic containers?
If you buy wide mouth glass jars by the case, I think you will find them to be just as cost effective as plastic containers. Wide mouth glass jars are also easy to fill. Your leftovers will fit into them easily. Glass can be safely stored in the refrigerator and you can see exactly what is in them. No guesswork. Less chance of food spoilage. If the food does begin to spoil, you will see it right away before it turns into blue fur. The smaller sizes also can be safely used in the freezer.
So they’re inexpensive. They’re easy to see through. They can be washed in the dishwasher, unlike many of the plastic storage containers, which never really look clean even after they’ve been properly washed. No odd sized lids to try to fit. The wide mouth jars all use the same size lid no matter what size the jar. You just need to use care when you carry them to work. Use a tote bag and wrap them in a towel if you are concerned about breakage.
But, what about those plastic food tubs? Look at them. I mean REALLY look at them. Would you buy them at a garage sale? I’m talking about your own. If you saw your own plastic storage containers – in the condition they are currently in – would you buy them? Answer is probably, hell no! They’re stained with tomato sauce. They’re cloudy from the dishwasher. They’re scratched from silverware. If you wouldn’t buy your own plastic ware, you should recycle them immediately. That is if you CAN recycle them. Exactly what number is on the bottom? Does your recycling center even take that number? If not, why are you eating your food out of them? What’s in that plastic? And, are you nuking (also known as microwaving) your food in them? What chemicals are leaching into your food when you nuke that plastic?
Most plastic containers are made from polycarbonate plastic. The advantage is convenience. Your food goes easily from stovetop to container to refrigerator or freezer to microwave. But, you have food in there. And, you plan to eat it. Let’s explore that, shall we? I’ve Googled food safety as it relates to plastic and one thing is clear: NOTHING IS CLEAR.
There are food storage containers, like butter tubs and yogurt containers that are designed to be used only for cold food storage and are not meant to be heated. There’s a whole food safety chart on which symbols should appear on the bottom of a plastic container to signify that they are food safe and microwavable. I don’t know about you, but that scares me. Plastic containers that are meant for food storage are made using Bisphenol-A, aka BPA. Is that food safe? The plastic makers will say yes. But, would you trust them? The answer is hell no! BPA is an endocrine disruptor. And, your plastic will live on in a landfill long after you have left this planet.
Remember hearing the warning that standard plastic “spring water” bottles, which are sold everywhere as a healthy alternative to soft drinks, contained BPA which could cause breast cancer if it was left in a hot car? Never mind the hot cargo truck it was shipped in. Or the hot warehouse where it was stored. Well, I bought one of those expensive fancy metal water containers that was supposed to be a healthy alternative to plastic. After drinking my water out of it for two years, the company (Sigg) disclosed that the metal container was lined with plastic that could potentially leach BPA into my pure water. Psyche! Stick to drinking from glass jars. There are many on the market that have rubberized sheaths that protect them from breakage. That bottle pays for itself quickly if you give up buying plastic water bottles for a month, never mind what you save on healthcare costs later in life.
Let’s get back to food storage. There are glass food storage containers from Pyrex™ and other brands that go safely from oven to freezer and back to oven. Some are made just for food storage. Nesting bowls with glass or plastic lids. It’s important to remember to keep the food well below the plastic lid – just in case. And, if you are planning to nuke your lunch in a glass container, do not use plastic wrap. Use waxed paper. Remember waxed paper? Guess what? It’s safe! Just lay a square loosely over your leftovers and pop it into the microwave. It protects your oven from food splatters, allows steam to escape, and can be reused. Just wipe it off, as needed.
Why wide mouth Mason jars for salads? It allows you to transport your salad without spillage. It enables you to put the oil and vinegar on the bottom so your salad doesn’t get soggy. Just turn it upside down before serving and shake. Fresh, crisp green salad! And, it looks very appetizing so you always look forward to eating your salad at lunchtime. I use the smaller pint sized Mason jars for making my breakfast chia pudding. You can prepare it in the same jar that you eat it from. Easy to eat from. Lightweight to carry. A breeze to clean. Pop it in the dishwasher or wash easily by hand.
In my opinion, glass or lead-free ceramic containers like Corning Ware™ are the best choice for healthy food storage. They are also easily recycled should one chip or break. Plastic is sometimes recyclable but often it’s not. Try swapping out some of your plastic containers for some Mason jars and tell me if you agree.