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Trying to reduce my "plastic footprint" - How did grandma freeze meat?

Not exactly on the top of my list of things to worry about, but I have been starting to feel bad about all the plastic bags I use in the kitchen.

Switching to non-reactive containers in order to marinate meat hasn't been too inconvenient, but I'm having a tough time with raw meat items I get from "family packs" and other bulk items that need to be portioned out (like my "diy" pork chops I cut from whole roasts)...... Just so many bags being used for such a relatively short amount of time only to outlive me buried in the ground somewhere.

I have been known to wash my baggies and re-use them, but I'm not too sure if that's safe. - Actually, I have an easier time doing it with beef than I do with pork and chicken.

I'm old enough to remember life before plastic where meat came wrapped in paper, but I don't remember (read didn't pay attention) what "the grown-ups" did once they got the package home.
Did they:
a. Put the package straight in the freezer as is.
b. Take the meat from the paper and wrap in foil.
c. Not freeze raw meat at all and just make more trips to the butcher.
d. Other

Any thoughts on baggie washing or freezer storage methods are welcome. Thanks in advance.

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  1. Depending on your age; "Grandma" did not have a large freezer, just enough for a few metal ice trays and maybe a quart of hand packed ice cream from the local soda fountain. Meat from the butcher was purchased when needed.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ospreycove

      Bingo! Grandma did not have a large freezer.

      Most of us have had, or remember, a freezer just 12 inches square which held one or two ice cube trays. And was usually frozen with several inches of ice. You were lucky if you could fit one ice cube tray in the freezer.

      Defrosting involved a pan to collect massive amounts of thawed water and copious towels on the floor to collect the over-run.

      1. re: ospreycove

        Well, it depends on the age and location of one's grandma, I'd say. Out here in the rural midwest, many many woman had large chest freezers in their homes as early as the 1950's, certainly. Either that, or their meat from entire sides of cattle or whole hogs was stored in walk-in rented lockers at the local butcher shop. My meat still comes in huge quantities, all at once, from the Locker/Butcher (because I buy entire hogs and sides of beef) and it's still wrapped in that ubiquitous white "butcher paper." That's exactly how I store mine, when I get it home to MY chest freezer, and it keeps wonderfully well. I just found a "lost" pork roast that was over a year old, the other day, and thawed it out and it showed no sign of freezer burn and was pretty amazingly tasty for an Old Pig!

        1. re: Beckyleach

          True -- I get lamb from a CSA that comes wrapped in paper and it keeps in the freezer very well.

          1. re: Beckyleach

            My dad has always stored our meat in butcher paper we purchase in big rolls.

        2. I would say a,b and c were all very common......but (c) was most common, especially if the market was nearby and within walking distance.

          1. What ospreycove said. More vegetables from the garden were eaten than was meat - it was an expense thing. The large "meat" meal was generally on Sunday.

            1. Reusing the bags works, just wash them out with hot water and anti-bacterial dish washing soap. Just make sure you get into the corners.

              You could also do just foil but it won't take long for freezer taste to set in.

              12 Replies
              1. re: MVNYC

                My mother (pushing 90) has been religiously washing out plastic bags for years. She buys good quality freezer bags and reuses them. A waxed, white paper was the old freezer wrapping method for meats but I dont remember that ever being in use in my home of origin. My mother's mother had a separate freezer all through my growing up years, and I assume before. for people in the midwest with big gardens, and access to meat in quantity, freezing was and remains a very useful tool.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  Both of my parents' families canned meat. They butchered the animals (pork, beef, chicken, turkey, ducks, geese) cooked the meat and then canned it using pressure cookers. Actually, my paternal grandparents had all of those animals, my maternal grandparents got their animals from my great-grandmother's farm.

                  There was one thing my father's family did with pork that just grossed out my Mom. She didn't see it because by the time she came along, they had a freezer. Anyway, my father tells of how they would render a lot of lard from the pig (he was in charge of the bucket to catch the blood for the blood sausage) and his mother would fry up the pork chops and they would be put into a 10 or gallon Red Wing crock and melted lard would be poured over it to cover. They had a round wooden board to cover the crock and it would go into the root celler. The way my dad describes it, (this is the part that grossed out my mother) when his mother wanted some pork for supper, she'd send one of the boys down there with a plate and they would stick their hand into the lard and fish out some pork. I guess it stayed ok to eat for a long time. It was cool and no air could get to it. They didn't have a lot of money and during the depression the only meat they had one winter was when they butchered their pet goat.

                  1. re: John E.

                    Cool. It sounds plausible, but I am not sure. Well, for them to fish out pork from lard, does it mean they store pieces of pork in the rendered lard in the first place?

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      My grandmother would fry the pork, put in into the crock and pour the rendered lard over it. It would cool and the lard would solidify. The crock of pork would be kept in the root cellar that was probably 50 degrees. It was winter in Minnesota and since cold air is heavier than warm air the cold air would accumulate in the lowest level of the house, the root or fruit cellar. They did this in late fall and apparently the meat would keep for quite a while. I'm not recommending this for anybody to do today, but that's how they did things back in the 1930s.

                      1. re: John E.

                        It would certainly still work today... they're making pork chop confit!

                        1. re: John E.

                          I see. So the pork has been cooked -- somehow I missed that part when I first read your post. This starts to make even more plausible. It is "almost" like vacuum seal of cooked meat.

                      2. re: John E.

                        Butchering their pet goat brings a tear to my eye, I hate sad Depression stories. ;-(

                        1. re: coll

                          I asked my dad about it. It seems somebody gave them the goat when it was a kid, so it really was a pet. His name was Billy (of course). When it came time to eat Billy, my grandfather, who worked in a tannery in Brooklyn when he first emmigrated, tanned his hide. (I remember that furry goatskin in my grandparent's basement family room.) My father says the goat tasted terrible and smelled even worse. He said that when he and his brothers were walking home from school they could smell from two blocks away that their mother cooking the goat.

                        2. re: John E.

                          sounds like confit. it was probably absolutely delicious.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            I hadn't thought of it in terms of confit. My mother certainly didn't make confit and I think she was turned off by the congealed fat but mostly the temperature at which the meat was kept. If it wasn't under 40 degrees, she thought it would spoil. But I suppose it didn't since it was cooked and it was sealed off from the air.

                          2. re: John E.

                            Heck yes, John. The technique of storing cooked pork in a crock, under a thick layer of pork fat, to prevent the entrance of oxygen and airborne microbes, has been used for centuries.

                            It makes some of us squeamish, but "pay no attention to the modern preservers behind the curtain".

                            1. re: John E.

                              My grandmother did something kind of similar, but she canned the meat (hot water bath and all) with a thick layer of fat on top. She usually did it with roast beef, and it made the best sandwiches! My grandparents were farmers, so they had a lot of their own food (meat and vegetables) to preserve.

                        3. It was wrapped in butcher paper or foil but, as Ospreycove noted, the freezers were much smaller so the time spent in the freezer was typically much shorter.

                          In terms of reducing carbon footprint, food wastage is probably as big -- or bigger -- problem than the amount of plastic you use to store freezed food. So, if you use an inferior wrapping material for longterm freezing and then end up discarding meat because it's freezer burned, I don't know that you've net-gained on the carbon footprint side.
                          I use plastic bags to freeze meat but just try to use them less in other applications -- using a bowl, not ziplock bag, to marinate or coat food; using plastic containers as much as possible for transporting food, or storing in the fridge.

                          1. How frequently do you buy plastic bags? Is you plastic footprint that large, at least in this area?

                            When I divide up a large package of meat, I tend to wrap the individual portions in 'saran', and then put several of those in a large ziplock. The ziplock might well have been one that has been used several times for 'clean' items.

                            OK, I through the 'saran' away, but it's been several years since I last bought a role. As for the zips, I spend more on garbage bags, and sandwich bags (which I use to pickup after my dog).

                            When I was growing up, we lived in the country and had a large freezer (with major shopping trips every 2 weeks). I don't recall what my parents did with the meat they froze. Vegetables were frozen in plastic storage containers (a bit heavier duty than the modern day 'disposables') with a plastic bag liner. Plastic bread bags were washed and reused.

                            1. Freezing meats in butcher paper works just fine; not idea, but it works.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Someone gave me a few venison tenderloins wrapped in butcher paper, took me a year to use up but they were fine. Just as good as anything else I ever froze really.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  wax paper first, then back in the paper as tight as possible. the washed out plastic can leak toxins into the meat - the fattier the more leaching of toxins. Washing the plastics with hot water will release the toxins more efficiently(don't want that) It's a pain in the AS@#! but healthier and better for environment. As for dog poop, if you get the newspaper delivered to your home, it's usually in a plastic that works well even for a large dog.I certainly don't "practice what I preach" all of the time but try as best as I can. Yes, butcher visits frequently left last generation healthier- medical intervention just wasn't as innovative as it is now so we live longer.

                                2. Didn't people used to keep meat in "lockers" in town? So you might have a side of beef butchered in the meat locker where you could get at it as you needed it?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: karykat

                                    karykat - you are quite right. My parents owned a "mom & pop" grocery store and dad was also a butcher and did all his own meat for the store. People would also order a side of beef and have him butcher it. Many times, I helped by doing the wrapping. We used butcher paper that has a kind of wax on one side. If it was going into the freezer, it was double wrapped. We also had a huge walk-in cooler and people "rented" lockers from us to store the meat. Then, when they came to the store for groceries, they would pick up whatever meat they needed that would fit in their freezer at home.

                                    1. re: karykat

                                      Yes we did that. My parents bough a half of beef, had the butcher do his thing, and then every so many days we went to the locker to get our meat.
                                      I remember meat being wrapped twice and really well wrapped. I don't think it was in there long enough to get freezer burn which happends to my meat sometimes. The plastic over the the meat in the little plastic dish doesn't work so well. Probably should just rewrap it again.

                                    2. My grandma used waxed paper - I think that was the best available then for reducing evaporation and freezer burn. I don't know if it is still made. I use the thin plastic supermarket bags for bagging unused meat for the freezer or fridge, and instead of Saran over a bowl in the fridge, I put the whole bowl in a bag and cinch it on the bottom. They are a pretty good vapor barrier, and I get a productive use from them before they are tossed. I hardly have a need for Saran.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        I don't use waxed paper for freezing but it's definitely still available. I use it regularly. The best use for me is when grating cheese. Every bit of it comes right off and into or onto the dish. Also for MWing. Wouldn't like to not have it.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Yes, I have to have waxed paper in the house, I use it to put on top of something (instead of plastic wrap!) when I use microwave -- I don't trust plastic in the microwave.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Just bought wax paper yesterday. We don't use it that much, but -- for example -- when my husband takes leftovers that are potentially "leaky" (soup, ect) to work in a container, he places a sheet of waxpaper between the container & lid as an extra barrier. And, we use it rather than plastic wrap to cover food we reheat in the mw.

                                            If you are looking for waxpaper in the grocery store, look carefully on the very bottom shelf, where the stores typically stock most low demand products (right next to the twist & tie food storage bags, which I use at a fraction of the cost of the ziplocks).

                                            1. re: masha

                                              You DO really have to be commited to finding it, don't you? Which I am. The only brand I've ever seen is Reynold's Cut Rite. Growing up in the 50s, Mother wrapped our sandwiches for lunch in WP. I can still fold and pleat it like she did. I don't remember if they didn't make plastic wrap back then or if that would have been too expensive.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Plastic wrap came along later, and it was more expensive.

                                                You could get sandwich bags made of waxed paper before there were plastic bags. You folded the top down and I think we taped it closed with freezer tape, or you could tuck it inside. The bottom of the bag was pleated.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  I found both Reynolds and storebrand yesterday.

                                                2. re: masha

                                                  I not only buy wax paper, but little wax paper baggies, and sheets of paper with one side coated with a tiny bit of wax. I love wrapping sanwiches in them, and they stay fresh. If you have to use something plastic, buy those little sandwich boxes, wrap the sandwich or bag in the wax paper, then put it into the snap shut box. I'm not really loving using all this plastic and having it contact with my food.

                                              2. re: Veggo

                                                Seriously? There are people--especially people on the Home Cooking Chowhound board--who don't have waxed paper in their kitchens? That don't know if it still exists?? I never would have guessed! I *always* have it in stock, and didn't realize that I'm not typical (at least in that respect).

                                                I sincerely hope it doesn't get so infrequently used that the product disappears. What will I do for all my cake decorating waxed paper needs?

                                              3. It would have been some years into our marriage before we got a freezer. Before then, it was just a small compartment in the fridge, big enough for an ice cube tray and a bag of frozen peas.

                                                Plastic bags are useful for freezing as they usually have a label panel. Personally, I'd look to reduce my footprint in other ways.

                                                1. grandma, freezer, no. there was a small section in the ice box. watch the Honeymooners one time to see what the size was.

                                                  and for meat, grandma would stop at Atlas Butcher for dinner that night. There was no such thing as others have mentioned about breaking down family packs, costco was not around. usually there was a big thing of meats at the butcher shop and then Tony would grab a pound and wrap in in brown paper. the only thing in the freezer area was ice cubes.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    I remember those as well. Very tiny! Even the photo below is bigger than the ones I remember! And you had to defrost them all the time!

                                                     
                                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                                      Yes ours was just one of those shelves, but always totally iced over so basically useless. And the frosty metal would give me the heebie jeebies, I couldn't stand to touch it.

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        Makes you very grateful for what we have today. Large either stand-alone freezers and/or large compartment in your refrigerator and best of all, NO DEFROSTING. I, however, have an upright that is still going strong, but I do have to defrost it every few years! (I hope typing this does not jinx my freezer though - It's over 35 years old and still looks almost new) :-(

                                                        1. re: boyzoma

                                                          Hang onto it, my last few fridges that came with the house must have been that old and ran like champs. Both GE. The 2 or 3 we've bought new, life span of about 6 or 7 years before started making loud noises and doing weird things. I''m hanging onto everything that I got back in the 70s and glad that I didn't sell them all at garage sales.

                                                          1. re: coll

                                                            You betcha! I'm keeping it as long as it runs! Sitting right next to it is the old refrigerator I use as a spare. They were both bought around the same time and they are both "harvest gold" and running fine. The refrigerator started squeeling at one point, and we got a new one and put the old one downstairs in the store room where we wouldn't hear it. Then the noise mysteriously stopped! Who knew!

                                                  2. Freezer wrap, still sold, is fairly heavy white paper which is waxed on one side. That side is what touches the meat. I am 61 and have lived in NY and New England. Plastic storage bags did not exist when I was little. The garbage can was lined with a brown grocery bag that was taken out to the trash can every couple of days. I can remember when plastic garbage bags came on the market but my mother did not switch over until many years thereafter. When I was very little, the garbage truck came 2 or 3 times a week. Once that was cut back to once, the plastic became necessary to control smell and wetness.

                                                    You can also use rectangular freezer containers. Re-usable and stacking them is a more efficient use of freezer space than irregularly-shaped bags of frozen food. Also avoids bruised toes from freezer avalanches.

                                                    12 Replies
                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                      Thank goodness, I thought I was the only one with bruised toes, too embarrassed to ever mention it to anyone except husband (who depends entirely on me to provide his sustenance, so his feet are safe). I'm not that old (I think to myself) but I remember when paper towels first came out in the early 60s, and my Mom and the neighbors overwhelming excitement at this great new idea.

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        Oh, dear god, you're not the only one. With my stupid side-by-side (definitely NOT my choice, in the house when we bought it) I take my life into my own hands every time I open the damn thing. In fact, my husband can tell when I start dinner based on the "OUCH! @#$%!" that drifts out to the living room . . .

                                                        1. re: darklyglimmer

                                                          Everyone else I know, they open their freezer and maybe there's 5 or 10 things in there. All nice and neat stacked up. Mine is so full that it sometimes pops open on its own, which is the most embarrassing thing to me. I feel like I'm a food hoarder or something.

                                                          1. re: coll

                                                            OK, since this is apparently more common than I thought, we need a word for it - how about "bagalanche" or "baggie-lanche"?

                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              I hear ya, I'm getting help for this problem.

                                                        2. re: greygarious

                                                          I grew up in rural Minnesota. When I was a kid we didn't have trash pickup, everyone had their own burning barrels in their backyard. You had to save the non-burnable trash and bring it to the town dump yourself. My dad used to borrow the neighbor's Model A pickup and my dad would make a run to the dump with several neighbors' non-burnable trash. We used to love to ride with, I suppose because we got to ride in the bed of the truck with all the trash. How's that for safety?

                                                          By the way, this story might make me seem older than I actually am (I'm in my 40s). That neighbor drove that '29 Ford to work everyday of the year.

                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                            We did it the same way when I was growing up in Michigan. My dad would load up his truck with our garbage and the garbage of the neighbors on either side on us and off to the dump we would go. Fun memory! And yeah. I'm in my 40s also.

                                                            1. re: Driftbadger

                                                              Wow! We still do it basically that way here. The county has dumpsters and little recycle sheds located in several places. First we compost and burn, then we separate recyclables and trash, throw that in the truck for the drive to the dumpsters. Then anything that's not acceptable for the dumpster/shed (electronics, furniture, household chem, paint, etc.) gets driven to the local landfill for further recycling/trashing. No neighborhood trash pickup here.

                                                              1. re: Driftbadger

                                                                Growing up, we didn't have garbage pick up until I was a teen. We had a compost pile, burning barrel and the rest went to the dump. The burning barrel was lots of fun. My Gramp lived next door and was a bit of a fire bug. He and my brother would pound the lids onto paint cans and throw them in the burning barrel, then run. Boom, the lid would blow into the air.

                                                              2. re: John E.

                                                                Upstate NY, when I was little (in the 50s) you buried your garbage, and when you'd see some come to light it was so weird. I guess when they were burying more stuff it came to light, I was really little then but I remember corn cobs that were unearthly colors. The outhouses were worse, luckily this was just a vacation house.

                                                                Not long ago, we moved up there for awhile, and still no garbage pickup even now, they have "transfer stations" and ship all garbage out of state. So you saved all your garbage for a week or two til you had time, then had to buy special bags at the convenience store @ $2 each for regular garbage, and for recyclables there were different trucks you brought them right into: paper, glass sorted into clear, brown, blue or green, plastic and so on. It was a real social event too, you ran into everybody.

                                                              3. re: greygarious

                                                                Yep, my Mom still uses the paper bags, set inside a plastic bag so possible blow-outs are contained.

                                                                And freezer avalanches are a bummer. I use those short, retangular bottomed shopping bags, the one's made out of the weird fabric like plastic fiber, as containment units for the oddly shaped freezer stuff. Like the loaves of bread, bags of soup and chili. Although, lately I've been using canning jars caraefully filled to no more than 2 inches below the top. I just lightly cover them with the lid but not the ring to freeze so that there is plenty of expansion space then tighten up the ring. You have to be careful what type of jar you use and make sure you pick a brand that can be frozen, and you have to watch to avoid thermal shock. But it's totally healthy, cheap, reusable, and green. Since you aren't canning, you can keep reusing the lids and bands until the rubber on the lid wears off. When I've put hot pasta sauce or broth/stock from a monster batch into warm clean jars toped with the lid and let them cool before freezing, I've even gotten a vacumn (the popping noise) so even though I'm NOT canning for the shelf I know there is very little air in the jar to cause freezer burn. I wish I had an upright freezer cause you have to get creative for storing and accessing the jars in a chest.

                                                                As far as what grandma, great-grandma ma and other did, they canned, cured, salted, dried, pickled, slaughtered and butchered fresh. I'm looking at you salt pork, ham, sausages, pickled pork and beef, chipped beef, salt beef, salt fish, pickled fish, canned fish. Also storing in fat was used as well, but in areas with high heat, that wasn't as common.

                                                              4. I'm with you, Bryan. I reuse reuse reuse those buggers. I don't worry about raw poultry in the bags any more that I worry about raw poultry in any other container (which is too say I worry about it quite a bit). Hot sudsy water and a good air drying and you should be fine. To ensure you get into the corners and that all moisture evaporates, turn the bags inside out before washing and drying. Truth be told, because of the same concerns you raise I mostly freeze in reusable containers these days, forgoing the plastic bags.

                                                                I too am all ears for any other good suggestions on this front...

                                                                1. My parents ('grandma' would have been 92 this year) bought an upright freezer in the mid 50's because they found a great deal on a butchered 1/2 beef.

                                                                  My mom then used the freezer for everything from double-batches of home baked pies and cookies to bread and veggies.

                                                                  Veggies and fruits went into "freezer-bags" (plastic, open-ended pint qt and 1/2 gallon bags secured with a rubber band over the twisted end--this was before twist ties) or square plastic lidded boxes for things like corn and peas) Veggies were always blanced first.

                                                                  Meats and fish were always wrapped in freezer paper and taped with freezer tape (sort of a stickier version of masking tape) wrapped tightly to exclude air and folded in a precise fashion before taping. Never had any kind of freezer burn. The boxes of freezer paper have illustrations on wrapping know-how. I still use the wrap method today. Plastic bags (semi-permeable membrane) generally tend to pass freezer flavors to the meats--freezer paper wrap does not.

                                                                  The only thing she froze in its own packaging was Langendorf sandwich bread and ice cream; she always put a piece of waxed paper (later, plastic wrap) against the surface of the ice cream which prevented ice crystals from growing on the ice cream. Yay!

                                                                  1. My grandma didn't store her future-beef in the freezer. She kept it in the pasture! '-)

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        Didn't the cows complain when you came to slice off tonight's dinner?

                                                                        ;-)

                                                                      2. Thanks for all the replies. It sure brought back some memories thinking about the old freezers - I had forgotten how excited we were when we got a refrigerator that we could EVEN put some Swanson's TV diners in along with the metal ice trays.

                                                                        Anyway, at least for now, I think I'll take look at the butcher paper option and also go back to washing more bags for reuse.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                                                                          I believe you will find it in the supermarket, but called freezer paper/freezer wrap, not butcher paper. The paper the butcher shop near me uses is not waxed, and I don't think it is sold retail. You want a waxed side for freezing. The freezer tape is also sold in supermarkets and hardware stores. It doesn't adhere when applied to damp or very cold surfaces so you must tape up the freezer paper as soon as you wrap your meat. Once the tape has been applied to room temp paper or containers, it sticks very well and does not loosen in the freezer.

                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                            I agree with GG. It is in the grocery store. I would probably use plastic wrap and then butcher paper to minimize freezer burn. Alton Brown recommends this method.

                                                                            Of course, I will continue to use my foodsaver bags because it works really well with no freezer burn.

                                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                                              If you have a restaurant or paper supply near you, the paper butchers use is called Peach Paper, comes on big rolls though. But if you use it a lot probably save considerable money. Not waxed but totally waterproof. I think it's called peach because of the color.

                                                                              Oh here's a place that sells it by the sheet
                                                                              http://www.dadepaper.com/ProductInfo5...
                                                                              just so you can see.

                                                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                                                http://www.reynoldspkg.com/reynoldski...

                                                                                It also appears that you can order large rolls from Uline and Cabella's. If you order from Uline watch out as they love to send catalogs.

                                                                              2. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                                                                                You specifically mention 'reducing your plastic footprint' in your title. Freezer paper is coated with plastic on one side. Also, none of the "modified" papers such as freezer, wax or parchment are recyclable.

                                                                                1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                  Thanks for the freezer paper info - I was under the impression that it was coated with wax, but I see that is no longer true.

                                                                              3. Bryan,

                                                                                To answer your question specifically, my grandparents and even parents used to buy daily meat. We lived in the city. People don't use to buy meat once a month or even once a week.

                                                                                Now is it more environmental to use paper bag than plastic bag? I don't know. I think there are arguments to be made in either direction, same for your waxed paper vs plastic freezer bag. Here is an article showing paper to be worse than plastic. It claims paper requires much more energy to make, creates much more pollution, requires more energy to recycle...:

                                                                                http://www.reuseit.com/learn-more/myt...

                                                                                I am sure there are articles which point to a different conclusion, but my point is that the true answer is not very clear cut.

                                                                                Same for aluminum foil. I think we talk about plastic bags because we use a lot of them, but if we do a one-to-one substitution from plastic bags to aluminum foil, then it will create a whole new problem altogether. I have certainly read articles about the impact from the numerous numbers of aluminum cookware being tossed out.

                                                                                Switching away from plastic bags is not the problem. The question is: Is what you are switching to truely better for the environment?

                                                                                17 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                  Thanks for the link CK. Definitely a lot info I didn't know about.

                                                                                  1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                                                                                    Your welcome, Bryan. Something for all of us to think about.

                                                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    Yep, I can't walk to any store to buy meat daily so, is my carbon footprint from buying meat once a week or month and storing it with disposable plastics greater or less than if I drove to the store, parked, and then drove home daily, or even every other day? Even if I stop at the store on the way home, it's still a fair bit of extra driving getting in and getting out of the parking lot what with lights, locating a spot, stopping to yield to pedestricans, and then parking and reversing the process.

                                                                                    Good example: I reduce the packaging on the items I purchase in bulk. They come cryovac-ed from the processor and aren't re-packaged at the superstore (pork butts or ground beef chubs). I do the repackaging and I do it with materials that are less likely to experience freezer burn than my local market's foam (!) and plastic wrap. So I've probably got a net effect of 0 or even better. If I repackage into portions that my family will actually use and consume in a reasonable time without spoiling, I reduce food wasted, which is a whole 'nother area of greeness. And no, I am NOT going to argue the relative greeness or merits of grass fed, free range, organic or otherwise "pure" food. I buy what I can buy, when I can get it and what I can afford. I want to make it last for as long as possible for as little cost as possible. If that works out to also being environmentally sound, sign me up.

                                                                                    So I love glass "mason" type jars and use them often. I've also got a whole bunch of french working glasses that have plastic lids that I also use for storing small amounts of stuff. They offer value and ease of use and all the parts, except for the lids are well and truly recycle-able (sp?) if they break/fail. I'll wrap meat in plastic wrap tightly then freeze and store in plastic bags for an extra layer. These get reused repeatedly until the bags fall apart. But, I'm not going to wash plastic bags as I can't imagine that the net green cost of water, heat, soap, bleach, and waste water management, etc. necessary to truly clean bags that have been in contact with meat protein is going to come out in favor of washing and resuing bags. I'm game to hear reasonable arguments contrariwise, however.

                                                                                    Also, can aluminum foil (I still want to call it tinfoil) be recycled by most municipalities?

                                                                                    1. re: aggiecat

                                                                                      Items that (might) have been 'contaminated' with food stuffs often is not recyclable.

                                                                                      1. re: aggiecat

                                                                                        I agree with Paul. I know this is such for insitutations and coporates. If you ever throw biscuit wrapper in a recycle bin, then they will just throw the whole thing in the regular trash can.

                                                                                        1. re: aggiecat

                                                                                          The recycler contracted by my town won't accept broken glass for recycling, as stated in the notice the town sends homeowners every year. Odd, because they roughly dump everything into the truck....

                                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                                            We got those notices too: separate everything, cut cardboard to a certain size, bundle paper just so, use only their blue bins that you were required to buy at $10 a pop, use only clear garbage bags, or they wouldn't pick it up. Then this beat up old truck would show up and they dumped everything you meticulously put out according to their demands in one big unsorted busted up pile in the back of the truck.

                                                                                            1. re: morwen

                                                                                              The stuff has to be separated at one point or another to be processed. I suspect that the initial thought was that consumers could do that. But in practice that hasn't worked out well. Consumers are not consistent, and handling separate bins requires too much manpower. So many municipalities/companies are collecting a mixed bag of recyclables, and separating it themselves. There may various reasons why they still require consumers to separate things. It could just be regulatory inertia. They might reason that it will keep the consumers from including non-recyclables, and make it easier to spot gross infractions.

                                                                                              It isn't easy to make a recycling program pay for itself.

                                                                                              1. re: morwen

                                                                                                At our old house, I once ran out to put the wrong recyclables at the curb and ran into the garbagemen, who laughed and said it all goes into the same place, don't worry about it.

                                                                                                Upstate we had to go to a transfer station, and there were truckbeds for clear glass, brown glass, blue/green glass, newspaper, magazines, cardboard: don't remember if cans were catorgorized too. And so on. Anyway if you dumped it all together, you'd have to pay $10 for the garbage bags IIRC, so we recycled everything religiously, no cheating.

                                                                                                Where we live now, just got a notice that our garbage company is donating 20% of their recycling profts (!) to our town's youth department. That's nice, I guess, wonder how much they make overall.

                                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                                  We have clear bags that are picked up curbside. And while they don't like broken glass in the bags, I usually just put the shards into another glass container so that they aren't a hazard. It's never been a problem. If you put something (like a green wine bottle) which isn't recyclable in our town into the brown glass bag, they just leave the bag with a sticker that basically says nope, do it over. I've put tinfoil in the aluminum cans bag along wth the metal freezer meal trays and never gotten a note that I'm doing it all wrong so...

                                                                                                  1. re: aggiecat

                                                                                                    Hey at least we try. Unlike many of my neighbors, who put out their recyclables on household/lawn/big stuff garbage day. I guess three days a week is too many times to walk to the curb!

                                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                                      At least our collectors all came on the same day!

                                                                                                      1. re: morwen

                                                                                                        I wish, Monday is bulky item, recycling, and yard debris day and Wednesday is regular garbage day. Standing town joke is how the bulky item stuff usually never gets picked up because free-cyclers (garbage scouts) will pick up anything that can be repaired. Hey if they can fix it and make it work, more power to 'em.

                                                                                                        1. re: aggiecat

                                                                                                          We have regular garbage Tuesday, alternating recyclables Weds (one week paper, next week glass and metal) and then Friday is big stuff and yard debris. Do we win the prize?

                                                                                                          I love when someone takes my garbage instead of it going to the dump, and wish it happened more often. Someone once tipped off my husband that someone had put out a rackmounted stereo by the curb, since that was his business. We actually did take a ride over and he was shocked to see a highly collectable receiver which he sold for $1000 shortly thereafter. In case anyone needs some inspiration!

                                                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                                                            Woo hoo, paydirt! We've never actually given away anything that didn't involve repair. But I did put out a lawnmower that still had the oil in it with a clear warning that, hey, this needs repari but ought to be able to be put back into running condition. What's amazing is that it's getting really hard to find someone who can actually fix small motors. I was so proud of myself ofr fixing the handles on my crock pot by replacing them with old cabinet knobs. Looked pretty silly, but hey, it works. Now I've got to replace the cord as my Dad accidentally cooked on the stove over the holidays. Sigh. Poor pot. My grandma would have just bought a new crock pot ;)

                                                                                                            1. re: aggiecat

                                                                                                              OK sorry but a little bragging here. I don't remember but that receiver probably needed a little tuning up. You're right, everything free has a catch. My husband can fix anything that is electric, gas, or mechanical. A few years back, our neighbor thought he was pulling a fast one when he first offered for sale, and then for free, his 15 year old Sears tractor motor. So finally my husband says fine, he realizes neighbor just doesn't know how else to get rid of it. How would the town would pick it up on garbage day? It needed some welding, some brake work, new tires, I don't know what because he fixed it gradually, but it ran initially and still running 5 years later. Every time our neighbor mentions it, he has to say "that tractor I gave you for free". Then last year he offered us his monster snow blower and we refused; once bitten twice shy! His wife told me later it was so heavy he could barely move it and he's a weight lifter. People are always offering stuff (like the welder that he used to fix the mower) but he's picky. Guess he can afford to be!

                                                                                                              A couple of years ago, the farmer down the street put out one of those enamel stoves from the 30s or 40s by the curb with a sign that said "FREE". I really wanted it , even if just for decoration purposes, but hubby wouldn't help me out there. Probably because when we moved here, he and his friend physically moved our Viking stove themselves, no moving company would ever say yes to that one. I should start a salvage business I guess. Sanford and Wife. Gotta get him on board first though.

                                                                                                2. re: morwen

                                                                                                  The Morning paper (San Diego Union Tribune) today, under "Going Green" has some tips from the FAQs for City of San Diego residents.

                                                                                                  Plastics: The ruleof thumb is that all plastic bottles, jugs and jars can be recycled, regardless of the number in the triangle on the product.

                                                                                                  Other types of plastics- including dairy tubs, clamshells and microwaveable food trays- should not be recycled."

                                                                                                  Makes me think of what I bother to separate for my City and the recycle bin. Oh, my mom doesn't even have recycle bins in her City. Apparently things aren't so bad in all parts of the USA.

                                                                                          2. I am old enough to be Grandma,. so here's the report. We didn't do much home-freezing before the early 1950's. In the early day Sears and other sources sold packages of special cardboard boxes for freezing but mostly we used them for vegetables and fruits. When people started buying sections of cows etc to freeze the processor would cut and wrap the meat in heavy freezer paper. I don't recall freezing meat myself until the 1960's and by then we had plastic bags and rolls of freezer paper and foil. (Earlier history---during World War II refrigerators were not available to the buying public as all materials were going to the war effort, and before the war refrigerators had a tiny section just big enough for ice cubes that would barely keep leftover ice cream semi-hard---people used to query one another "Will your box keep cream?" and the answer was always NO---we sent out to the drugstore for ice cream when it was time to serve it. No question then of freezing a chicken or a roast at home.)

                                                                                            1. Wow this an informative and fun thread. I am 61, I remember the small freezer in the refrigerator. Vaguely remember white freezer paper because the shiny side is what you use for finger painting! I asked my SO, he said his grandparents (rural Ohio) kept their milk in a very large tub? trough? of very cold (painful, he said) water. But he doesn't know the source of the water. Melted ice? Mountain stream? (He only visited, didn't live there.) No memory of how meat was kept.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: blue room

                                                                                                They possibly had a spring house or something like it. Spring houses are of local rock or block construction usually dug into a hillside over a spring water source. They have a stone or cement floor with a trough leading outside for water runoff. The combination of them being partly underground and the cold temp of the spring kept them quite chilly inside year round. They were mostly used for the storage of dairy and eggs, sometimes meats, but rarely veg as the humidity was too high. Usually somewhere nearby was a root cellar of similar construction minus the spring for the storage of produce.

                                                                                              2. My grandma used plastic.

                                                                                                1. Get a vacusucker. Stop worrying about the plastic and worry about the conservation. The worst outcome is loosing your meat to freezer burn. Then you wasted more energy then you ever would have with plastic. Vacuum stealing things will preserve your food the longest and most of the bags are dishwasher safe and reusuable.

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                                                                                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                                    I am totally in love with my foodsaver. I'm in agreement with you there. And the bags are reusable!

                                                                                                  2. I grew up eating grandma's frozen beef - they had a herd of cattle. The meat came back wrapped in butcher paper, carefully, and taped closed. It was perfectly fine. The last time I had home-raised beef, it was still wrapped that way. I do think it helped that it was wrapped very snuggly by a professional, but I'm sure it's not rocket science to learn.

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                                                                                                    1. re: Vetter

                                                                                                      It's so easy, even a child can do it (see my earlier post). I think I started helping my dad at around age 8. Since he was a butcher by trade, he cut the meat, I wrapped, labeled and placed in the person's rented meat locker. And yes, it does have to be snug and the wrapping cannot be sloppy in any way.

                                                                                                      1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                        Foil. They froze in foil. Actually biodegradable and relatively cheap. If it's wrapped in plastic anyway, just stick it in the freezer, provided there's no holes or anything. But you may want to shop and buy meat from a butcher or store that wraps in paper, if your concern is plastic consumption. I don't care for frozen meat anyway and prefer to shop more often. But I live in a large city and don't have a free standing freezer anyway.

                                                                                                        As far as washing out bags goes, I have done it for years and have never have a problem. You use a good dish washing liquid, water as hot as you can stand, and rinse rinse rinse. You then make sure it's thoroughly dry before using it. Hang it on a towel rack or clothes line. Sometimes you have to turn it inside out to make sure. This all sounds like a PITA, but it's fine when you get used to it and when you get into the habit, you're saving tons of plastic.

                                                                                                        1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                          I've done this for years years, too...and still do, even though now--in theory--we could "afford" to throw them out. I just feel guilty wasting money and being so non-Green. I must confess, however, that when the day comes when the bag is no longer salvageable, I delight in finally, finally, trashing it!

                                                                                                    2. Well, I was born in the fifties. We had a refrigerator/freezer that had the freezer at the bottom--a big roll-out basket. My grandmother had a chest freezer. A lot of people that lived in cold winter areas, farther from big city centers, did. Even when a blizzard would make the electricity go out, the food in the freezer in your garage/shed/porch would stay frozen.
                                                                                                      Most folk had wrapped meat in freezer paper if it came from the butcher, or waxed paper covered with foil if it didn't and they didn't have freezer-quality butcher paper at home. I know some folk that put any waterfowl they shot in milk cartons, then filled the cartons with water and froze these. When chicken was on sale, some would cut them into pieces, lay them on a waxed paper covered cookie sheet, freeze, then sprinkle with water and freeze again (the ice layer protects from freezer burn, too), then package in meal sized portions. With the advent of cheaply available spray bottles, this becomes easier, too--I remember using the ironing sprinkle bottle (yes, we ironed way back when. I don't do this anymore and I only wear natural fibers. My clothes wrinkle, oh well). Hope this gives you some ideas.

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                                                                                                      1. re: ronnielee33

                                                                                                        I grew up in the country. For reference, the closest grocery store was 45 minutes each way.

                                                                                                        My family visited the grocery store maybe once a month. Milk (as well as butter and cheeses) was still delivered until I was about 10 years. After home delivery stopped, people would pick up milk at the local general store/gas station.

                                                                                                        Country people had freezers out of necessity. It was too far to drive to town to purchase meat or other perishables on a regular basis.

                                                                                                        Nearly every family I knew had at least one chest freezer. Those who didn’t would store meat at a parent’s or neighbor’s house. My parents had two very large commercial chest freezers and one standing freezer. My uncle had (and still does for the Amish) locker freezers where people who didn’t have freezers would store meat.

                                                                                                        I remember all meat being wrapped and frozen in heavy white paper. Like someone mentioned, it was wrapped tight, tight, tight! I don’t know if the paper was coated or not.

                                                                                                        Veggies were either canned or frozen in quart or pint sized reusable plastic containers. I seriously doubt my grandmother ever purchased more than one box of Ziploc bags in her life. No one, and I mean no one, could wash plastic bags like my Nana.

                                                                                                        Today, we order beef and pork by the side. The beef is wrapped in white paper with a shiny inside coating. Our chickens come fresh in heavy-duty plastic bags, which go straight into our freezer.

                                                                                                        I also remember things being frozen in water in one and two quart milk cartons! Wow, Ronnielee33 you brought back memories!

                                                                                                      2. If you're wanting info with some up-to-date info... check out the USDA website.
                                                                                                        http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze.html

                                                                                                        1. In agreement with all of the above.
                                                                                                          A few addenda:
                                                                                                          spring water is usually about 50 degrees, and in summer it feets cold.
                                                                                                          the county meat locker was brilliant because it held at such a low temp that there was never a thaw out that would lead to freezer burn and when the electricity would go out with snow/ice storms, our meat would still be good.

                                                                                                          In Norway, where it really is cold, a friend has a freezer room. Down in the basement, in the middle of a heavily insulated room is her freezer; in winter she turns off the freezer electricity and opens the windows to the outside to keep the freezer well below zero.