Just Say No to Zip Locks

Recently, I’ve been alarmed by the dramatic increase in food prices and my friends have noticed this too. Everyone wonders “How can I continue to eat well”? Buying food in bulk is one way to offset food inflation. In my research, I discovered that bulk buying reduces food costs by about 40% on average. But in order for the cost savings to occur, the food needs to be properly stored, otherwise it goes to waste.

There are many ways to prolong the shelf life of food. But it all comes down to one simple thing: airtightness. Using containers with 100% airtight seals increase the life of food because air rapidly deteriorates food. You can avoid wasting a lot of food, time, and money by using airtight containers. Food seems to last longer in glass than plastic; plastic is porous. Putting food into a zip lock or a plastic bag with a twist tie will not work to prolong the life of food.

How can you tell if a container is airtight? My friend Michelle, who is an engineer, showed me this simple test. Fill the container with water, put the lid on tightly, and give it a vigorous shake. If water droplets come out, it isn’t airtight. Or fill a sink with water and submerge the container; if bubbles rise to the surface, it isn’t airtight. This is because air molecules are smaller than water molecules.

If any of your containers test negative for airtightness, recycle or find another use for them. Airtight containers preserve freshness and protect your food from exposure to air, mites, bugs, and mold. They will be a one-time investment.

I was shocked to discover that most containers are not airtight, even when the wording on the package claimed they were. I once ordered jars from a spice company and they were not even close to airtight. Using those jars would have quickly turned fresh spices into a spice mausoleum. I accidently conducted an experiment that demonstrated the importance of using airtight jars. I bought eight ounces of parsley from a mail order bulk herb/spice company. When it came it was in a bigger bag than I expected. I put the extra in a swing top bale jar, the kind with the metal clasp and the rubber gasket, and a plastic reusable food container. I put them both in a dark cupboard. Then about a year later, I came across them and the parsley in the glass jar was a vibrant kelly green color and the parsley stored in the plastic container was a dull grayish color. It didn’t look appetizing and I had to throw it away. So much for saving 40%.  Oh well, I tried!