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Food packaging that drives you nuts?


Yesterday I crushed about the first 6 crackers trying to open the sleeve, and then oil splashed on me while opening a can of anchovies, and I smelled like catfood all night. This morning I tore a gaping hole in a bag of coffee beans trying to open it. Then I had to re-close the partial bar of cream cheese, and the partial pound of bacon, tasks at which I fail miserably. Am I just clumsy, or is some food packaging less than perfect?

  1. Believe me, you are not alone in the difficult packaging universe. Food packaging is definitely less than perfect. I resort to knives and scissors to open coffee bean bags, bacon, cream cheese; anchovies (and cat food) are messy, but I don't seem to have a personal problem with cracker sleeves.
    I think the deal is that light-weight packaging costs the consumer less on the bottom line and manufacturers assume the consumer will re-wrap or re-package the food products after opening.
    On a happy note, bacon is being packed in resealable zip-strip type packages now; at least certain brands are, probably due to customer request.

    1. If I was the king of the world, I would DEMAND that all the little seals under the screw on cap (ketchup etc.) have that extra wide tab on top so they can be pulled off easily and in one peice.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

        AMEN. I hate the bottles that have a theoretically pullable seal, but really it's just a little extension of the seal all the way around the circumference, which means then i have to cut around the inner edge with a knife, which inevitably doesn't really work, so i'm left pulling the seal off in shards... you'd think they'd want you to get into their products easily, so you can hurry up and use it, and buy more! ...guess not.

        1. re: Emme

          I have just about given up trying to open those things by hand. My teeth however work quite well :D

          1. re: Popkin

            Teeth are effective for nearly any difficult packaging, save for jar lids and bottle caps! I can't stand the little foil seal inside the mouth of any sort of tetrapak-ed item like soy milk or chicken stock, those things are freakin' impossible to peel off in one piece, but luckily, you can just stick a butter knife through them, fold in the edges and be done.

      2. Have they started putting the fricking lids on jars with a power wrench. As we get older our hand strength is not what it used to be. I'm craving PB&J and panic sets in as I cannot get the lid off the jelly, jar opener slips, I bang it upside down on the floor, finally success about one second before I'm ready to smash it to bits.

        16 Replies
        1. re: BeefeaterRocks

          This is what I have to do especially with big lids, take an icepick and punch a tiny hole in the middle of the top of the lid, comes right off. If the hole bugs you put a little square of scotch tape over it. I had to start this with those big jars of artichoke hearts from costco and now damned near have to do it with everything. Like you say, as we get older.....

          1. re: mrbigshotno.1

            Thanks for the reminder, I used to know about that tip but somehow it got lost in all the minutiae rattling around in my brain. A little hole in the lid is better than a broken wrist or a mess all over the floor.

            1. re: BeefeaterRocks

              I got a little gadget at BBB that looks like a bottle opener--it gives you enough leverage to pry a jar lid up a bit and break the seal. Works great, cost all of $4.

              It works better than a regular bottle opener--seems to be easier to get under the lid.

            2. re: mrbigshotno.1

              I use the non-blade side of the butter knife and give the edge of the lid a couple of whacks. It places several dents and seems to break the seal. I also use one of those rubber grabbers to really get a grip. Arthritis is so much fun!

              1. re: KristieB

                That's what I've always done and it has never failed.

                1. re: BabsW

                  Me too. I rap the lid with the dull side of a butter knife, turning it as I go -- sometimes it takes many, many thwacks to get it to open easily, but it always works. I hate coffee packages that you have to pull apart with your thumbs - I just don't have the strength in my hands that I used to. I have to ask someone to help me, which is so embarrassing, or cut it with scissors which is annoying as that causes me to ruin the handy closer strip that is attached. For the inner seal of vitamins, etc. I use a knife to cut around the inside and pull off the pieces one by one. The worst though are things (often non-food items) that come in clear molded plastic which is glued to a piece of cardboard - things like staplers, locks, etc. Even with a sharp knife and scissors, it can take 5 minutes to get it open.

            3. re: BeefeaterRocks

              i find if i run it under hot water, it loosens the seal. sometimes i'll also run a fork around the edge of the lid, between the lid and the jar, to loosen the seal. both of these usually result in an open jar, but i've been there in the near tears frustration of being unable to open whatever jar i'm determined to delve into...

              1. re: Emme

                I use a manual bottle opener, place the pointy end just under the lid and lift slightly until I hear the lld pop. Then the lid unscrews easily. If I have trouble re opening a lid due to sticky rim, I run the jar, lid end up, under hot water a few secs.

                1. re: HillJ

                  I also use the can opener point, J. Works like a charm, everytime.

              2. re: BeefeaterRocks

                I for one am grateful for hard-to-open jars. Without them, my wife would have no use for me whatsoever.

                1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                  I had to bring a jar of damson plum preserves to work to ask one of the guys to open for me--and he struggled!

                  1. re: Parrotgal

                    I usually get jars open by popping the lid with an old church key beer opener - use the rounded end, get the little tab under the lid, and lever it just until you hear a pop. Banging the lid all around with the handle of a dinner knife sometimes works as does upending the jar and smacking the lid on a hard flat surface.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      A big fat rubber band around the stubborn top does wonders. They're cheap--or free--and everyone has them stashed somewhere.

                      1. re: Whosyerkitty

                        maybe i'm thick -- but how? i usually do the whack it on the hard surface, run it under hot water, then run a fork underneath the lip to release the seal...

                        1. re: Emme

                          Wrapping a rubber band around the lid gives you a better grip, as do the rubber discs made for jar-opening.

                          However, stubborn lids aren't bad packaging per se, nor are bags that can't be pulled open - we all KNOW we should cut open the bags of cereal and coffee so when we make a mess trying to tear them, it's our lazy fault - unlike the sharp and hard to cut plastic shells surrounding stuff like toothbrushes and compact fluorescent bulbs, or the overpackaging of convenience and single-serving foods. And the sharp edges of pulltop cans are inherently dangerous.

                  2. re: BeefeaterRocks

                    I wish I had a dime for every time my mother banged a jar on the floor to try to get it open. Main thing learned from her - don't bang it upside down, rap the lid sideways on the hard surface. Breaks the seal without smashing the glass jar. Although she and I both have smashed a few jars in our time!

                  3. The crackers and coffee beans would be easy with a pair of kitchen shears.

                    1. Those plastic pull ring tabs on milk or orange juice drive me crazy. It would be the Christmas miracle if I could pull one of those off without a spray of milk or orange juice spritzing my counters or arm.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bluemoon4515

                        I hate those too. I have fat fingers and they don't fit in the ring, so my grip is tenuous at best.

                        And I hate them because they are unnecessary extra plastic. What's wrong with using the folded in spout like we used to??

                        1. re: bluemoon4515

                          Ah, but my cat loves to play them! Vacuuming them up isn't so great tho. :p

                        2. It seems that nearly every time I pull the foil top off of the yogurt I have managed to find the one that is so air tight that yogurt sprays out of it onto whatever I am wearing. Really a pain in the butt at work.

                          And I cannot tell you the exact amount of times I've been sprayed in the hair when the freaking tuna can lid snaps off of that little jagged thread. Expecially hideous if it is tuna packed in oil. Though my cats tell me that it is their favorite perfume for me to wear.

                          Kipperd herring cans also give me great difficulty. And while I enjoy eating them, I do not enjoy my person smelling like them. Again, another kitty favorite around here.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: KristieB

                            This used to happen to me all the time until one day I decided to start opening them away from me. Now the table gets it. :)

                          2. Probably bacon. The horrible shrinkwrap, no zipper closure, just a soft plastic shell. I always end up shoving the leftover bacon into a ziplock bag. What a waste of a good ziplock bag.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: juliasqueezer

                              Fold over the package of bacon kind of like toothepaste until you get to the product. Just use a couple Freezer Bags from your local bagel shop for your bacon. They are Free. Make sure you get all the air out and wind/wrap it tight using twisties and/or Rubber Bands. Don't waste an Expensive Ziploc...

                              1. re: juliasqueezer

                                I haven't seen bacon that comes in a resealable package. I cut the whole unopened thing in half crosswise, then transfer the two halves to a Rubbermaid or disposable sandwich-sized container. If I am making bacon on the stovetop, halving the slices allows them to be arranged in such a way as to fit more into the pan at one time, and I think it cooks more evenly that way, as well.

                                I don't like anything, like nuts, that comes in a metal-rimmed cardboard canister. You can't wash and re-use the canister and it can't be recycled. I'd use them for wet kitchen waste, but they soak through and leak

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  Depends on where you live. Those metal rimmed canisters are recyclable here in Toronto.

                              2. I hate those full-body cellophane condoms on English cucumbers. They drive me nuts. And no man likes watching me tear them off '-)

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: linguafood


                                  On my case I can never open bottles... if i wouldnt have a Mr. around I don't know how I would open any bottle at all.

                                  The flour packages I look like a Ghost everytime I open one of them Flour Bags for the first time. =)

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    Hilarious. English cukes are my fav. I take a knife to the wrapper and proceed.

                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      On the other hand, the cuke condom insures that they don't wax them like the regular cukes in the market.

                                      1. re: thinks too much

                                        re: thinks too much
                                        cute idea having a "case" or "skin" for cukes.

                                        On an unrelated note, in another thread, you mentioned a thread about a 14-year-old who went to a dinner party with her folks (her folks were invited but the teen was not) who "set up station" on the crab claws and made them inaccessible to the other partygoers. That sounds kind of amusing. May I have a link to that thread, please? I want to see what other people had to say about this young person's reprehensible deportment. Thanks in advance

                                    2. Improvements are being made. Recently I was glad to see that corn starch now comes in a plastic container with a snap on lid. In the past my box of corn starch was always a mess with the bag inside etc.

                                      1. Those little individual packets of Land-O-Lakes butter that don't have the crease on one of the corners that make it east to peel off the top! Drives me friggin nuts! Not all, just some. Wish I could afford to always eat at places that serve their butter in a nice little slab.

                                        1. I'm afraid I'm getting old because any sort of packaging is just Too Much. I especially hate opening tofu because of the water it is packed in. **shudder**

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: a.bot

                                            Poke a hole in the plastic and pour off some of the water before you peel back the rest.

                                            1. re: Jennalynn

                                              OH my goodness. I never thought of that. Thank you so much!

                                            2. re: a.bot

                                              Put the package in the sink, and then open it.

                                              1. re: small h

                                                I do! I just hate the feeling of the cold tofu water. Luckily, Jennalynn gave me a wonderful suggestion.

                                                Thanks guys!

                                            3. I absolutely CANNOT STAND cry-o-vac. Cannot stand it. Hard to open and messy once I do, with all the juices of the meats all over the place. Plus I find some meats smell of the packaging. Ugh.

                                              Fortunately, I don't have to deal with it very often, since I get most of my meat from the butcher, but now and then that godawful stuff crosses my path.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Normandie

                                                Maybe you do this already but when you do get cryovac packs, put them on a sheet pan to contain the juice and split them all the way down the length of the package, right down the middle, rather than across the end. Then just lift the meat product out, leaving the packaging and all the juice behind.

                                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                  Oh, nice idea! I usually like to try to retain some of the juices for gravy, and I hate losing too much of that wonderful gravy fodder. With a sheet pan, I could probably just open the package all the way, pull out the meat, and pour the liquid off the sheet pan into my sauce pan, instead of trying to open the package a bit to pull the meat out, then trying to finagal the juices out into another pan.

                                              2. Tough choice with so many nuisances, but what came to mind first are the totally-sealed, unopenable, goat cheese logs. They're not only a pain to open, but keep on being annoying until the wrapper is empty.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: efdee

                                                  I hate those, too! I always make such a mess trying to cut the package open and get the cheese out...especially if I only want to cut a few slices. And then it doesn't work to try to re-seal it, since I've inevitably hacked the plastic all over to get at the cheese...there has to be a better way but they all come like that!

                                                  1. re: bluemoon4515

                                                    Funny thread. Jar lids are especially bad, but the poked hole is a good idea. Will the product spoil because of the air that is let in, though?

                                                    I always buy store brand cream cheese, and just yesterday came across THE thickest foil wrapping I had ever seen. I could not pry it apart at the seam, and had to knife the body of the foil. Even then, it was all I could do to peel the foil off, and still had to resort to scraping the cheese from the foil. It was that thick -- while struggling with it, I was thinking it could be used in other applications, e.g., insulation, car bumpers, bullet proof vests.

                                                    Fortunately, the cream cheese was very good.

                                                2. I'm another arthritis and weakness in the hands not so happy camper. I can't open cans of soda or dog food and use a fork to pry them open, can't open ketchup packets at the fast food, or cream or butter portions in plastic. I can barely use a can opener at all, screw top jars need a big thwack on a towel covered counter. Those little plastic seals around the screw top also defeat me.

                                                  I don't think manufacturers test these products on us oldies! Don't get me started on that hard plastic that covers batteries and other electrical products.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: smartie

                                                    I'm getting there myself and have taken to opening cat food cans with a fork, little packets with my teeth or scissors, and certainly cannot open jars like I used to (I was the queen of jar openers when I was younger!) I get the paring knife out for just about anything plastic covering anything. Depressing.

                                                  2. I have tennis elbow so I end up using the butter knife trick to open jars and have two pairs of scissors in my utensil drawer. Unrelated to my injury is my pet peeve: foods that come in zip lock bags that don't zip well enough. Either you charge a little extra and have one that works or omit the zipper altogether.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                      Precisely on the zip-lock top bags - particularly annoying are the ones that are difficult to open in the first place and then never close securely. Flour tortillas often come in such bags - nothing like going back to find that they have dried out and are basically unusable.

                                                    2. Slightly OT, but related... it drives me nuts that the check-out folks at my local organic co-op take the pre-packed meat/seafood and wrap in yet another plastic bag. WHY?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: pasuga

                                                        Because those pre-packs frequently leak and then customers complain.

                                                      2. As many of you have mentioned, the plastic, that ones that have the tiny little "open here" note. And there's a little line where we're supposed to lift the plastic and then the lid will follow. Right. Usually on packaged deli turkey.
                                                        The other thing, I'd love to open a yogurt just once without it spitting at me.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                                          no chance in getting that yogurt to stop spitting. it's supposed to do that. that way you have a snack for later somewhere on your shirt. or if you lick it off right away, the residue left on your clothes acts as a marketing ploy to get you to smell and crave it later ;)