Thursday, July 2, 2009

Just Bag It

So lets talk about bags. I know they seem boring and inconsequential, but in reality they have great impact on the quality of your life – or at least, your food (which is necessary for your life, so indirectly the bags affect your life). This year I’ve truly expanded my bag repertoire. That’s a sentence I never expected to write in this life (and probably not one you expected to read). I have bread bags, cheese bags, lettuce bags, potato bags, onion bags, and too many bags for recycling.

Let’s start with the potato and onion bags because that was my first venture outside of re-using the plastic grocery bags. I bought these bags from Current. I’ve recycled their catalog for years and rarely give it a parting glance, but on this occasion I was stranded at the bus stop holding the mail and the kindergarten bus was late. There was nothing else to do but leaf through the catalog. I discovered these bags in their clearance section so I don’t know for sure if they’re still available with Current, but I’m sure someone somewhere is selling them on the internet. The catalog claimed that these bags would keep your potatoes and onions from growing eyes and tails as potatoes and onions are prone to do if you don’t eat them quickly. They are heavy burlapy feeling bags that have a dark lining that keeps light out. They have a drawstring on one end and a small zipper entrance on the other. You place your potatoes in the potato bag and your onions in the onion bag. Aside form the cutesy drawing of potatoes and onions on the outside, I don’t see how the bags are any different. I’m not sure what made me order them in the first place, most likely it was the great clearance price. When I look back it seems very out of character for me to have ordered some cheesy bags from a wrapping paper catalog. At any rate, the bags work great so I’m glad I did. My mother looked at them and deduced that you could probably make your own, but I like to believe that these are one-of-a-kind bags with years of technology behind them. If you venture out and buy your own potato or onion bags, remember you should never store potatoes and onions together. They will make each other go bad. Even when they are in their own bags – keep them apart.

The next specialized bags I purchased were bread bags called Debbie Meyer Bread Bags. They came 10 in a box (including 2 extra long ones for French baguettes) and cost about $7. The box claimed to make bread last longer. Since I bake our bread and homemade bread tends to mold much faster than the preservative laden store bought bread, I was all about finding ways to make it last longer. The bread bags do seem to extend the life, but more importantly they are large enough to hold a bread machine loaf. With the bread bags, my bread will last about 4 or 5 days in the bread drawer and weeks in the refrigerator. I don’t have a huge mass of data on this because bread doesn’t typically last that long at our house without being eaten. I asked my dad the PhD Chemical Engineer why these bags that look like ordinary plastic bags would make bread last longer and he said it probably had something to do with the amount of oxygen in the plastic. Hmm. They do tear pretty easy so we’ve gone through a few. I bought our last box about four months ago and we’re down to about five bags now.

Cheese bags come from the same company as the bread bags. They are my newest addition to my bag collection. So far I do believe that cheese kept in these bags is not getting moldy. You do have to remove the wrapper the cheese comes in which makes it difficult to know which cheese is what if you have as many types in your fridge as I do. I find myself sniffing little blue cheese bags pretty regularly trying to identify the occupant.

I have tried the vegetable bags made by Ziploc and been unimpressed. Vegetables at my house either get eaten immediately or get lost in the back of the vegetable drawer never to seen from again until the drawer starts leaking nasty liquids and my husband cleans it out, muttering under his breath about people who stuff too much in the fridge. I am most happy with my own system which is to leave veggies in their original package if they come from the store and to eat or freeze them immediately if they come from my garden. Lettuce would be the only exception. Lettuce I wash, dry, and put in Ziploc bags with a dry paper towel. I think the specialized bags by Ziploc and hefty are just one more way to take our money and clog up our kitchen cabinets with unnecessary boxes of bags.

Which brings me to the gazillion plastic bags that manage to enter my house even though I carry my own bags to the store with me. I think that some day when they are digging up the remains of our civilization what they will find is plastic grocery bags. We are completely outnumbered by them. I just want to take the electronic space right here to say – recycle your plastic bags – ALL OF THEM. I know sometimes we get lazy and think “I’ll just throw away this one,” but don’t do it. Even the little plastic ones that individually wrap the gift card you bought or the plastic bags that held all the pieces for the game your kid just got for his birthday. All of these bags need to be recycled so that they don’t end up blowing around a parking lot somewhere, or suffocating a woodland creature or clogging up the drainage ditches. Instead they can become a deck or playground or whatever else the clever scientists are figuring out to do with them. So recycle your bags – develop your own system to make it easy. Buy or make a bag collecting bag or put a box in the bottom of your closet or pay your kids to recycle them, but find a way to do it. Because someday you don’t want the only thing our generation is remembered for to be a plethora of plastic bags.

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