My grandma used to wash and reuse plastic bags. This Depression-era action epitomized, to my parent’s generation, cheapness and time wasting. I distinctly remember my own minimalist-minded mother laughing about the hoard of used plastic sandwich bags her mother-in-law never threw away.
Well everything old is new again, and now I’m a bag washer and re-user. Say what you will about the evils of plastic, there are some applications where plastic is really, totally awesome. I dare say, if plastic bags weren’t so cheap and ubiquitous and disposable we’d all clamor for a lightweight, moldable, non-shattering material that can keep frozen foods in primo condition, stops lettuce from wilting in the fridge, helps maintain a better growing environment for just about every plant there is and prevents skins from forming on pudding. And those are only the uses I bump into – I’m not even thinking about the sterile medical uses or the high-tech applications.
The problem, of course, is that plastic products are cheap, ubiquitous and disposable and so, when we use them, it tends to be without care or consideration. And I think we all know where that leads…I mean, really, a million plastic bags used every second? Clearly that’s not okay.
But if plastic is a cheap resource that is only because its true cost is hidden. People with more higher education than me have gone into details of the environmental and health costs associated with plastic product manufacture and use, and so I will not repeat these issues here. I know it’s bad stuff. But I still use it. I just use a lot less, and with much greater care and thought than I used to.
One big area of plastic consumption I haven’t kicked is FoodSaver bags. I use my FoodSaver a lot, for freezing fish that I buy in bulk when it’s in season or vegetable side dishes I make and freeze for later. But, in addition to the environmental and health issues of plastics, those bags are freakin’ expensive. I’m getting all the use I can out of those suckers. (Here, as often, the frugal thing is also the environmentally not-as-bad thing.)
After washing, I needed a way to dry my FoodSaver bags, which I deliberately cut on the long side to get several uses from them. I came up with this, and I have to say I love it. It’s household-parts improvisation at its most simple, but it’s a good solution that works.
You will need:
- 1 empty wine bottle
- 1 long handled wooden spoon
- 2 thumbtacks.
Drop wood spoon handle down into wine bottle to get a feeling for how tall you’ll need the finished product. Note where the handle exits the next of the bottle – this is where you’ll put your thumbtacks to hold the spoon up. Shove the thumbtacks into opposite sides of the wooden spoon handle at the appropriate height.
Ah…this is a great improvement over my method of propping a chopstick up in the silverware part of the dish drainer. I'm trying this tonight, right after I empty a bottle of wine. 😉
Annie Jones says
I love this idea. HERE is how I dry mine.
Erica/Northwest Edible Life says
ESP – I'll be over around 7:30 to help. 😉
Annie – fantastic! Great idea to put the clothesline right above the sink.
I have an old 3 prong dishtowel holder – the kind that you mount to a cabinet wall, or an undercounter door – to hold the dish towels on …
It folds flat, but has a swivel base so you can pull each of the 3 prongs out 90 degrees if needed. Each prong is about 10 inches long.
I have it mounted to the cupboard above my sink – prongs at a slight upwards angle. I wash the plastic bag and slide it over the bottom prong… the slight angel allows the water to drain out well. When not in use, it holds a dishtowel or two – but can also hold 3 bags drying and draining if needed.
Nicest thing is – it's always right there ready.
My son no longer uses bottles, but the bottle drying rack is PERFECT for small Ziplocs! I've been known to use this if I have too many bags: http://www.amazon.com/Lehigh-Secure-DRC24-Drying-24-Clip/dp/B00275FSQC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313769457&sr=8-1. I usually use it for hang drying socks.
I picked up a plastic bag drier rack fom the PCC down the street. It was a little pricey at $24 but it is hangable or can be set on the counter, folded up to store, can accomidate up to 8 bags at a time and is aboit the size of a wine bottle. I love it!
Deb Fitz says
Here's a picture of mine:
DH made several of them years ago … they were originally designed for drying wet gloves and hats over a heater vent, but work great for plastic bags. I wash, dry and reuse all except those that have been used to store raw meat (don't want to take any chances with that.)
I am glad I am not the only one out there washing and reusing plastic bags of any kind! I typically hang them over a wine bottle without the spoon though.
Thanks for sharing, makes me feel better 😉
I love and hate plastic bags. I wish I didn't use so many but my boyfriend is almost incapable of bringing any lunch dishes home so I use little cheap sandwich bags for him. The ones that do make it home get washed, as well as the ziplocs I use for food storage. The only time I toss one is when I can't get it clean or it tears.
I don't have a good drying method other than draping them over the dishes in the dish rack. i was thinking of a carousel dryer, but it would look a little odd hanging from my kitchen ceiling. Maybe if I could rig one on a stand.
Our school went green last year, so we bought those fabric sandwich and snack bags that we use for all sorts of snacks. We love how much they hold and that they're washable. We still use zip lock bags, and never seem to reuse them, but maybe we should.
Alas, our food saver bags seem to never maintain their seal. That sucks for frozen foods. Happens all the time. So annoying.
I have a bunch of wooden paint-stirring sticks in a stoneware crock – they just sort of ended up there, but it works out great for plastic bag drying. one of these days i'll get around to trading out the paint-stirrers for my collection of pretty driftwood sticks, which is…uh, somewhere. yep.
and i also put in a clothesline over my sink, but i mostly use it to hang up my muslin dish-towels to dry. keeps the towels naturally 'bleached' and fresh, and blocks the hot sun without having to put up permanent curtains. woo simplicity!
biodegradable plastic bags says
What a great way to reuse wine bottles and dry plastic bags.
Heh. Are we long-lost sisters? It was my great-grandmother who diligently washed out the ziplocs (as do I) and my mother who made fun of her. I also wash and reuse my Food saver bags – turning them inside out makes them stand on their own so you don’t need to rig a stand (though I love yours!). One question – I tried cutting the short end of my bags but the Foodsaver doesn’t recognize the bag to seal it properly if it’s not wide enough. This drives me nuts – maybe I have a different model than you do?
I hot glued wooden clothes pins (side ways) under the edge of my top cabinets. Clip the corner of the bag to the clothes pin and fold up one side of the bag so that the bag opening is open wider (more airflow, faster drying). When the clothes pins are not in use they are out of the way and out of site under the cabinets.
I use upside down cracked glasses and/or glass items destined for the recycle (applesauce, jam jars, etc). Works pretty well for how many bags I go through.
I’m a boxed wine person, so we don’t have empty wine bottles laying around.