Sunday, January 11, 2015

My life in jars

Now that I am at long last out in the world working (even if I pay for the privilege of working) I bring my lunch to work. At every rotation, very nearly every person I've had lunch with has remarked on my lunches for the same reason. I pack lunch in jars. Since its been such a conversation starter, I thought I'd write a little bit about how I wound up with so many jars and why I love them.

First, I would like to mention that I'm not opposed to plastic at all. I have a lovely plastic water bottle and popcorn bowl and so forth. Some people who choose jars do so because they worry about plastic, and that's fine for them but not me (yet). I don't have the enthusiasm to read the literature on the subject to form an opinion so I remain silent on that subject. Reviewing that literature is on my to-do list for the next mystery amount of time.

In the beginning, it was left overs that got lost in the fridge too long that started the debate. Cleaning out the containers was miserable so for a time we only bought cheap plastic food storage and tossed it often but it was expensive. There was also the risk that the container would break before the food had been eaten. It was the pits to save and store something delicious to only end up with a mess.

Then we opted to invest in better quality containers and swore we would quit abandoning left overs in the fridge. It lasted a few months at most... and then they all ended up in the fridge festering. Some we salvaged and others we gave up on and then followed a phase where we tried not to have any left overs. It didn't work super well. We decided to just buy one kind of plastic container so we would have a smaller selection of lids and they'd all be interchangeable and accepted that we'd need to replace them maybe once a year.

A couple of years ago I got this bug to make apple pies in little half pint jars because they were cute (and turned out to be delicious too). Then we had this lovely set of half pint jars around the place and I started putting snacks in them. Eventually it dawned on me to put crackers in jars for lunches and I started dishing out the entire packet of orange fish all at once into snack sized portions.

Maybe 18 months ago we were due to get some new storage stuff and I priced out half pint jars as compared to new plasticware. It only cost a little bit more to buy jars than to buy middle quality storage stuff and it was actually less than to buy nice stuff. We decided to get jars instead of more plastic stuff.

The advantages have been that it's easy to package up lunches. I like that it's simple and I can load up each jar easily to match so I only have to measure once (depending on what it is, obviously some meals are too lumpy and need individual servings measured out). I like that I can put them on either rack in the dishwasher. This meant that on the rotation I drove at least 3 hours for every day that I could load up an entire dishwasher's worth of jars Friday night and reload them all Saturday when I got around to it. I can freeze things with no worry that it will taste like icky freezer when I open it later, and I can even take a jar from the freezer and pop it into an oven without worrying that I will destroy it. I can label the jars in permanent marker and use a dab of alcohol on a cotton ball to clean it off later with no damage to the jar and no left behind label gunk. The stacking well thing is a bonus that saves on fridge space and jars happen to be a great size to go in fridge doors so I don't lose lunches somewhere in the depths.

The biggest benefit is probably how food tastes out of jars. It doesn't wind up tasting vaguely of fridge and it keeps its textures better than food stored in plastic containers, probably because the seal is extra tight. The cheap replacement lids are fantastic and that the lids for all the wide mouth jars are interchangeable is even better. No more attempting to keep lids with containers or to sort and stack them for ease in finding the lids or fitting everything into a drawer.

Overall: jars make me happy. Less waste! I can cook a big meal once or twice a week and stash away left overs for lunches and then not worry about it! If I get fed up eating the same thing 7 days in a row, I can just pop some into the freezer for later! Decent conversation starter for shy people who would rather write a blog post during a lunch break than chat.

EDITED TO ADD: I have half pint wide mouth jars for snacks and pint jars for leftovers. Most casserole dishes or rice with some topping are in the 1-2 cup meal size so it works well. These are my favorites for snacks and side dishes (lots of applesauce for lunches).

1 comment:

  1. I love this! I've been making salads in jars for my lunches the last couple of weeks and loving it. it hadn't even occurred to me to put leftovers in them as well. Next time!