Saturday, May 9, 2009

Product Reviews: Ziploc Produce Bags & OXO Salad Spinner

Thanks to our organic produce buying club, my fridges are packed, and we're eating better, and feeling healthier than we ever have before! However, dealing with the storage of 30+ pounds of fresh produce every Tuesday evening is a daunting task.

As our produce is distributed to us in the same boxes the farmers use to deliver their wholesale produce, we obviously don't have grocery store plastic bags to stash our fruits and veggies in. I decided then, to experiment with a few options.

First, I tried sewing my own bags from unbleached cotton muslin. The bags turned out great, but unfortunately, they're really only good for things with skins, like apples, oranges, potatoes, onions, etc. Leafy produce just wilts in those cloth bags in the fridge. Not to mention, it's a little hard to see through muslin. I needed a better solution for those leafy greens and fresh herbs. That's when I turned to Ziploc Fresh Produce Bags.

Now I know I'm trying to get our family to make more sustainable choices everyday, and plastic bags aren't exactly green. But I think these bags do serve a good purpose, as they truly do keep our produce fresher, longer. With that being the case, we're reducing the amount of potentially wasted, rotten food. I've invested in a couple boxes of these bags, and they are working out great! Each is gallon-sized, with a network of small vents dotted throughout. These bags really do keep just the right amount of moisture inside.

Now every Tuesday when we come home with our huge box, I set up an assembly line in my kitchen. The sink gets a thorough scrubbing, and I start washing and prepping as much as I can, to make cooking quicker and easier later in the week.

I invested in another tool to get this job done: the OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner. I was using a Cuisinart crank-handle style spinner before, and it was a real pain to hang onto and hold still, while trying to crank at the same time. Finally, the crank handle just broke off, and it was time for a replacement (definitely not up to the quality standards of other Cuisinart products). I remember a good friend of mine had one of these OXO Salad Spinners in her parents' home, and it was a breeze to use! Just press down on the top a couple times, and the pumping action gets the basket whirling! So easy, that the little kitchen helper took on the role of "Veggie Dryer". No worries about holes in the bottom, dripping water all over. The bowl itself is a real bowl, that doubles as a serving/mixing bowl.

So in between American Idol, during commercials, we washed, dried, and chopped an assortment of greens and herbs, and stored them in the Ziploc produce bags: collard greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, and cilantro. Some of the things I kept whole, and everything is equally fresh several days later. It's been great, having our own ready-to-eat bagged organic salads, and being able to reach in the fridge for handfuls of fresh ingredients and drop them straight in the pot.

Per Ziploc's website, these bags are great for berries, mushrooms, and a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables. While they are supposed to be disposable, we do try to wash and reuse cleaner (i.e. non-greasy) bags, whenever possible. (I also love Ziploc bags for packing and organizing things while traveling and I keep a reused set in my suitcases, but that's a topic for another story.) The writers over at The Simple Green Frugal Co-op have a great article about creating your own drying rack for those freshly washed Ziploc bags. Personally, I usually just hang them on the handle end of a ladle or spatula in the dish rack. We also have a laundry rack and plenty of clothes pins in our sun room.

All in all, a little prep work and the right set of tools can make healthier eating much more convenient and easier to incorporate for everyone :)



Ziploc Fresh Produce Bags package photo courtesy of Acehardwareoutlet.com.
OXO Salad Spinner photo courtesy of Amazon.com.

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