I haven’t made a single New Year’s resolution for 2018, but I did just complete my 2017 resolution: to use zero throwaway Ziploc sandwich bags in the kitchen. I love the things, but after buying and tossing many over my lifetime, I figured there must be a more environmentally friendly way to store food.
I furiously bought reusable food bags, but it was a serious challenge to find a replacement that works just as well (and is ultraeasy to clean). Turns out, there isn’t just one product that can replace all of those wasteful disposable sandwich bags; you actually need a small arsenal of different things at your disposal to kick the disposable ones to the curb. (I’m also not talking about Tupperware, which, of course, is inherently reusable.) After buying fistfuls of the things over the past year-plus, these are my favorite plastic zipper-bag replacements.
Best Reusable Bag for Portable Snacks
These zipper-top bags (made of FDA-grade PEVA material) are the closest thing I’ve found to the classic disposable zipper-lock storage bag. They’re airtight, easy to open and close, and are specifically perfect for dry snacks: chips, nuts, crackers, and cereal. I’ve also stored fresh herbs and cut-up fruit in them. They aren’t so great for really saucy items, as they tend to stain easily. You’d also do well not to put them in the dishwasher, as any contact with the machine’s heating element will result in a melted mess. But they never tear or split — and have lasted through 100-plus day-to-day uses so far. They’re especially great for organization: I’ve even used the medium-size one to corral tampons in my tote bag, and the smallest size to stash makeup that tends to break easily and make a huge mess inside my purse.
Best Reusable Bag for Sandwiches
These bags are available with either a Velcro or cloth zipper closure, both of which are far easier to open and close than a traditional zipper-lock sandwich bag. Made from food-grade EVA (a rubberlike material), they are not totally airtight, so use them to stash a piece of whole fruit (like grapes and apples) or a sandwich inside your purse or lunch bag.
Of everything I’ve tried, these are the easiest to clean: Just turn them inside out and swirl around in warm soapy water for a minute or two, then rinse and lay flat to dry. I’ve used a pink zipper one to bring my daily PB&J to work for an entire year, and it’s still going strong. (The company that makes these, called Planet Wise, also makes a reusable 13-gallon trash bag that I’ve just started trying out. It takes a little more effort to rinse and clean it every time, but so far, so good.)
Best Plastic-Wrap Alternative
Once I realized that plastic wrap fell into the same category as disposable zipper-lock bags, I almost gave up on this resolution because the only foolproof way to store cheese in a completely airtight fashion (ensuring that it won’t ever get speckled with those hard, dry, white flecks) is to wrap it tightly in cling-wrap. Same thing goes for keeping half a leftover onion fresh for future use, as exposure to air is the real enemy of all food storage. But once I tried this clever Bee’s Wrap plastic-wrap alternative (it’s been written about on the Strategist before), I was back onboard.
Bee’s Wrap is made from organic cotton that has been covered in beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. You use it to wrap up any foodstuff you’d normally store in plastic cling wrap, molding the edges tightly closed with the warmth from your hands; the heat softens up the wax, resulting in an even tighter seal than you’d get from the disposable stuff. It’s also simple to clean: Just wash it by hand with a little dish soap and cold water. The best part of this replacement wrap is that it’s far easier to work with than the old-school plastic stuff — it never sticks back onto itself or puts your fingers at risk against a jagged metal edge. I like to buy it in larger sheets and cut it down to the sizes I use most often, but if you’re just getting started, the multisize pack is the way to go. It comes with two sheets small enough to cover half a lemon, two sheets perfectly sized for covering a bowl in the fridge, and two sheets large enough to cover an entire casserole.
Best for Freezing and Storing Liquids
These all-silicone food-storage bags are the undisputed star of our kitchen. They hold up to 32 ounces, are absolutely airtight and totally leakproof (I put water in one and stored it upside down for four hours, then squeezed it hard and still had zero spillage), and never stain or retain odors — even after holding oily spaghetti sauce. They are specifically great for freezing (rated for use all the way down to -58 degrees Fahrenheit), and I’ve had almost no freezer burn while using them (due to the fact that it’s ultraeasy to squeeze out any extra air that could get trapped inside and cause dehydration and oxidation — the two causes of freezer burn in the first place).
I’ve frozen huge batches of homemade dog food in them weekly for the past year, and they’re still going strong. I don’t use them to boil food, but they are rated for use up to 482 degrees Fahrenheit (they aren’t meant for sous-vide cooking, though. You’d be better off using these zip tog bags by Stasher that are 100% approved for trendy cooking purposes). I have run mine through the dishwasher inside out to clean them at least 150 times, with zero damage. I even use them to sneak snacks into the theater because they make absolutely zero crinkling noise. They stand up for easy filling pretty well on their own, but if you’re trying to store liquids in them by yourself on a regular basis, you’d do well to spring for this hilarious old-person invention: a hands-free baggie stand.
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