Thursday, January 26, 2012

Plastic-Lite Bread Storage Hack

Eco-novice solves a storage quandary

I started making my own whole wheat bread about a year ago.



At first, I stored my bread in plastic bags that I'd kept from store-bought bread. One of the benefits of homemade over store-bought is that you can use reusable rather than disposable packaging.

But I didn't like using the plastic bags. For one thing, they aren't really made for long-term use and aren't particularly durable. Also, it's actually a bit of work to undo a twist tie and untwist a plastic bag to take out the loaf so you can slice it. And then you have to put back the loaf, twist up the bag, and put on the twist tie again. So I started looking for a container. Eventually, my sister gave me a plastic CD container (#5 polypropylene) to store the bread in. It was the perfect size and the lid was easy to take on and off. I could easily do it one-handed.

But after a while, I started to wonder about the plastic. Almost all plastics have mysterious undisclosed additives  Plus it seems like they are adding triclosan to all kinds of stuff these days. And my bread container wasn't even intended for food storage, so who knows what it had in it. So I started looking for alternatives, hopefully something plastic-free or almost plastic-free.

I checked out My Plastic-Free Life to see what solution Beth Terry had come with. She puts bread in a cloth bag and then puts the bag inside a metal popcorn tin. That's a great idea, and it's plastic-free, but way too cumbersome for someone slicing bread lots of times in a single day with hungry children waiting.

Ideally, I was looking for a glass or stainless steel container -- a plastic lid was fine with me.  But no one seemed to make a container the right size. I thought about a steel bread box, but it seems they aren't air tight at all, and are more for looks (keeping all bread products neatly tucked away in their respective plastic bags) than for utility. Eventually, I found a glass container with plastic lid at our local container store that looked promising.  Sadly, it was just a little too short to work.

I was feeling pretty stumped. I even asked the other Boothers for advice. And then one day, the solution just came to me.



Now I store my homemade bread on a wood cutting board with the old plastic CD container inverted on top of it. So I'm still using plastic, but the plastic isn't touching my bread at least. Not plastic-free, but perhaps we could say plastic-lite. When the loaf is partly used up, I'm able to turn the loaf cut-side down. This is not an airtight system, but it keeps out enough air to keep my bread fresh and yummy for nearly a week, which is as long as a loaf ever lasts at my house anyway.

P.S. I bake bread 4 loaves at a time. I freeze 3 of them.... in plastic bags. No solution in sight.

How do you store your homemade bread?


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21 comments:

Eco Yogini said...

sigh- this is a tough one. Andrew was baking four loaves at a time for a while and we couldn't seem to figure out how to freeze them without plastic bags.
We also don't go through our bread fast enough to keep them in something like a stainless steel container in cloth- it would go bad. We keep our bread in the fridge to make it last longer.
My compromise was reusing plastic bags, washing them etc. But you're right- the plastic was touching the bread :S

Countrymama said...

I use a cake holder. I'd rather it not be plastic but it's fairly airtight and the plastic doesn't really touch the bread, it kinda hovers over it. I take the loaf and cut it in half and the halves fit side by side or stack the slices. Either that or I freeze one so it doesn't go to waste while I eat the other part. Still not happy with the solution but I'm halfway there.Maybe a glass cake holder?

davismomof16 said...

Just a thought , but what about wrapping in brown paper in the freezer. That is what they used to wrap everything in in the old days. Again, just a thought

Kate said...

I store it either in a foodsafe tin (unwrapped) or, like you, on a wooden cutting board. I put a dutch oven or a big stock pot over mine though. When I'm not using it for, you know...dutch oveny things. Or stock.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

As I said, my bread is still in plastic bags in the freezer. Just celebrating the small victories here.

Eco Yogini said...

hmmm- i like the brown paper idea. i wonder if butcher's paper would be good?

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Yes, I would also be willing to give the paper idea a try. Even if paper alone doesn't work, you could put the plastic bag over the paper wrapping and then have no contact between the food and the plastic -- and then it wouldn't matter how worn and old the plastic got.

An inverted large glass container sounds like a good idea too -- the challenge is finding a large enough glass container with a LID, but if you don't need the lid, it seems like you would have more options. The cake holder lid is even more appealing b/c it has a handle. And yes they make glass ones.

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

I use a bread bag from Bobs Red Mill (a local company to me but you can order online). Its made of thick cotton fabric but its lined with plastic. I'm thinking of cutting the plastic liner out and just using the cotton bag.
I just aquired a aluminum cake from Goodwill and think I might try my hand at putting the bread on a bamboo cutting board and covering it with the metal cake cover.

I use a bread machine to make my bread but will be trying my hand at cooking it myself very soon. My kids prefer homemade and stick their noses up at store bought

Anne-Marie said...

I also do four loaves at a time and struggle with the solution for storage-- on a good day I slice them all at the same time and freeze three of them sliced. In a plastic bag. I just can't think of any solution that would keep them from drying out. Like your solution for the currently-in-use loaf, though!

callie brady said...

I used to have a glass cake cover dome that would do the bread covering job. Or... a large glass salad bowl... or glass punch bowl. I have seen these different glass items in antique stores and at goodwill/salvation army type stores. Beautiful bread!!!

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

I like the cake holder, inverted bowl ideas -- the only problem is that they aren't really the right shape and would take up a lot of counter space. And, for me, a glass bowl could be a little tricky to turn over.

Surviving & Thriving, I hadn't thought of looking for something metal instead of plastic to put on top! I will have to keep my look out at the local thrift store.

I've read about folks trying a cloth bag for bread -- i think a really tight-woven one might work for a day or two tops. Just not the same as plastic, sadly. What if you turned the Bob's Red Mill bag inside out, and had the plastic on the OUTSIDE -- I wonder how that would work? Let me know!

callie brady said...

I just remembered that in the 1940's we used to use waxed paper to wrap food to store.

Have you tried wrapping bread loaves in wax paper?

And we used to use butcher paper... I guess they call it freezer paper now?

My Great Aunts used to pop bowls over leftover food on plates and then put that in the ice box... no plastic bags then.

I have an old metal bread box that would work great to flip over bread on a cutting board. I found it in a thrift store.

If you try using a large bowl, don't try picking the bowl up... move/slide the bowl until the lip of the bowl has moved off the cutting board and you can easily grasp the lip of the bowl and roll it over.

Bobby said...

Yes, we use plastic bags too, and the plastic box wouldn't really work as we usually have 2 loaves (brown and white) on the go at a time. Had not considered that the plastic may be harmful in any way.. I will start thinking about this and let you know if I come up with an alternative!

Robbie @ Going Green Mama said...

We freeze it in bags (no solution on that) because I'll do multiple batches at once.

For everyday use, I confess -I will leave it in my breadpan and cover it with a heavy towel. Not a perfect solution, but my kids do go through it fast!

BethElderton said...

This inverted bin sounds like it might work for me! I only make a loaf about 2-3 times a week now that the kids are grown, but for hubs and me, I still need a way to keep the one small loaf handy for a couple of days. I see other commenters mentioning glass cake plate lids--I don't have one, but it will be on my list for the next trip to the thrift store.

Lori said...

I heard from a friend who was a scientist and let go from working at a major paper goods manufacturer here that paper towels, TP, paper bags, etc.. are all filled with toxic resins and should be avoided as well. I was told to never, ever, ever use a paper product in the microwave. Notice that paper products don't have to list ingredients?!?!? This is so sad that we are all back to glass everything. At least it is very easy to recycle. :)

SharleneT said...

I've wrapped my breads in 100% cotton kitchen cloths since I can't remember when. The large ones allow for complete coverage and you just unroll for slicing. Any crumbs are added to soups etc., for thickening. Even with just two of us here, a fresh loaf rarely makes it past the 3rd day, which is crouton day for harder pieces. You might have to practice a bit, but you want the ends to be protected, too. Come visit when you can.

panamamama said...

That is a good idea. Do you slice it all at once or as you need it? I want to make sandwich bread but haven't done that yet. I make all my other bread so not sure why.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

I slice it as we go. It stays fresher that way. Plus, some of my household likes it thin, some thick...

Uday said...

Cloth bags will do good but don't wash these bags with detergents.Soak them in hot water and dry them hot.
Apart from that we can also use clean papers(say butcher paper) and wrap it tight.
Air tight bamboo containers will also do good to store your food in an organic way.
Some times we can also use cinnamon boxes.They are made from the bark of cinnamon.
The best way what Indians followed from generations inorder to store there food like bread or anything else is to put them in earthen
containers of different shapes required and close the top with the same earthen lid and to make sure its air free they would cover the lid with a clean cloth and tie it tightly with jute thread.

Anonymous said...

Cloth bags will do good but don't wash these bags with detergents.Soak them in hot water and dry them hot.
Apart from that we can also use clean papers(say butcher paper) and wrap it tight.
Air tight bamboo containers will also do good to store your food in an organic way.
Some times we can also use cinnamon boxes.They are made from the bark of cinnamon.
The best way what Indians followed from generations inorder to store there food like bread or anything else is to put them in earthen
containers of different shapes required and close the top with the same earthen lid and to make sure its air free they would cover the lid with a clean cloth and tie it tightly with jute thread.

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