Containers, of course! Tupperware has been around since the beginning of time, it seems, and it is very convenient. Especially for those of us with kids, who wants to risk broken glass? But, I'm here to tell you I've been using glass containers for several years, and the only person who has broken any of them is me.
I won't say "never" to plastic, since it is really handy. My rule of thumb is any food that isn't hot and isn't going to be hot - like leftover salad or cut up fruit - can go into a plastic container. Putting hot food in a plastic container or heating it up in the microwave can release chemicals from the plastic into your food. Of course, not all chemicals are bad, but we know that some are (see my video on Endocrine Disruptors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRbDhIY-xJ8). So, it's not a matter of being paranoid, but being careful. Also you want to check the integrity of your plastic containers. As soon as you see any cracks or evidence of wear, it's time to get rid of them (hopefully they can be recycled).
There are so many options for glass containers these days, so shop around for something that meets your needs. They can be expensive, so replacing your plastic containers with glass over time might be a more realistic approach. Make sure to look for something with a well-securing lid - that is my biggest complaint with some of my glass containers (especially if you are taking leftovers to work/school). If you are concerned that your container still has a plastic lid, you are not alone. The best approach to dealing with those is make sure your food (while it's still hot), does not make contact with the lid. Obviously if you have your container in your lunch box, it may get tossed around, but as long as the food is cold, touching plastic should be ok.
You'll notice I have some metal containers in the picture as well. These can be great too, and less expensive than glass. Be sure to avoid acidic foods, as those foods can interact with certain metals causing leaching of the metal into your food.
Finally I've got glass jars for storing dry goods like nuts, beans, popcorn kernels, etc. The benefit of these jars is to reduce reliance on the hard plastic containers these items might come in. While those containers can be recycled, they still use a lot of fossil fuels when they are produced and then again when they are recycled.
Everyone knows about reusable shopping bags - if you don't have several bags full of bags somewhere in your home, garage, or car, I don't know who you are. So, why are so many people not using them? My guess is the people I see walking out of the grocery store with plastic bags probably have reusable bags somewhere, but not in their car when they need them. So, a couple of tips:
1. Store your reusable grocery bags in your car
2. Take them into the store with you!
3. As soon as you unpack the groceries, put the bags back in your car or in a place nearby so you'll remember to put them in the car next time you take a trip
4. Keep your grocery bags clean by washing them and using them only for groceries
On this last point: I'm a big fan of using reusable bags for any kind of shopping - clothes, household products, hardware store, etc. But you've got to be careful about contaminating your food items with a dirty bag. So, separate your bags per use and wash regularly either by hand or toss into the washing machine.
PS - Check out the pics below of the super handy bag that folds up small enough to store in my purse!
Ok, the other item in the first picture below is a produce bag. I definitely need more of these! I love these bags because those plastic produce bags are a nuisance and too flimsy to reuse for anything. Cut down your plastic waste by using a washable produce bag!
Last point here is that even with all my efforts to reduce usage of plastic bags, they find their way into my house everyday. Did you know you can recycle clean, dry plastic bags at the grocery store (and theoretically, anywhere that gives them out)? It's true, so if you end up forgetting your reusable bags, like everyone does, recycle those plastic bags on your next trip to the store.
Over the course of the past 10 years or more, I have be working on developing more sustainable practices at home to reduce waste (including recycling). I have also been on a mission to swap out cleaning and personal care products with safer versions (products that limit exposure to environmental toxins).