Monday, 29 April 2013

No more plastic bags for our bread ~ I make my own out of nylon fabric and flannelette

~ Article updated 8th July 2015 ~
Regular readers will be familiar with my on-going campaign to reduce the use of plastics - especially in the kitchen where this is such a pervasive commodity.  

I have taken that commitment one step further in making freezer bags from nylon fabric - the sort that is suitable for shower curtains.  Yes, I know nylon is a form of plastic, but it is way more durable and less troublesome than any form of plastic bag.  The plastic bags we have used in our freezer were mostly for storing home-baked bread, which just seemed wrong, so I started this project with that in mind. 

Here is one of my new bags which I use for bread.  The seam allowances are deliberately on the outside to prevent food particles from lodging in them.

The bags shown are structured to take the shape of the loaves without leaving 'empty' corners.  In this respect the structure of the design is more complicated than need be - it could just as well be made up as a two-sided bag.  However, for the record, these blue bags are made from five pieces: two side panels; one other panel which is the length of two more side panels plus the base; and two pieces for the handles which are used to tie the bag closed.

A simpler construction of a two sided bag would work just as well.  These can be cut out of a single piece of fabric.  Instructions of how to make these can be found in my article:
I pack my freshly baked bread into two layers of bags to keep them as fresh as possible.   The first layer is a plain cotton cloth bag so that the bread doesn't 'sweat' in storage.  The bags shown in the photo below are flannelette, although calico or plain linen as used in tea towels would be a more suitable material.  They are now ready to go into the nylon bags for extra insulation which prevents moisture loss and air exchange: this:

The inner bag is folded over neatly inside and the outer bag is lightly tied:

Washing these bags is simplicity itself: I reverse them and put them in the washing machine along with other things.  Pegged out on the line they dry very rapidly.

The photo below shows a slightly different prototype which had a single tie rather than handles, which I later changed, but the bags are the same ones:

And there they are in the washing basket, all fresh and clean and ready to be be used yet again:

Later note ~ 8th July 2015:
I've had these same bags in constant use since I made them two years ago, and find them just as satisfactory as ever.  The only part of these bags to show signs of wear are the tie handles so they are lasting very well indeed.

My other articles about managing plastics usage can be found via the links below:
My standard bread recipe, which I have been using for years, is here:


    Eco Thrifty Living said...

    I've been searching for a way to freeze whole pizzas/ pizza bases in reusable packaging and I also freeze homemade bread. I would like to go totally plastic free, but I'm not sure that cotton fabric alone would do the job properly - have you tried it? I'd be interested to know if it works ok without the outer covers...

    Rebecca Godsell said...

    thank you for this post.... I am also trying to come up with a better way of storing homemade bread. I make 6 loaves a week- once a week and keep them in the freezer. When you used the calico or linen, did you still have an outer layer of something waterproof? I was thinking of using snaps for a closure. (btw- I LOVE repurposing old sheets!! :) )

    Leigh Christina Russell said...

    Hi Rebecca,thank you for your comments. Nice to hear that someone else also likes to re-use old sheets! :-)

    Yes, I store the sliced bread in two layers of bags, the inner one being linen or cotton, and the other one being waterproof-ish. There are two things I want to achieve: the first is that I don't want the bread to sit in anything in which it will 'sweat' or gather moisture from its container, and the other is that I don't want it to dry out. The double bag storage serves both purposes. I've found that good insulation is a key factor in much food storage.

    I've been meaning to update this article for ages as I am aware that the presentation has become somewhat muddled as I've experimented. The ties I made didn't work at all, but handles long enough to tie work PERFECTLY! In the article I wrote about swimming in July there is a photograph and brief description of the simplest possible way to make these - far easier than the construction given above. I'll put a link to it at the end of the article above until I get around to re-writing this one.

    Superseding plastic packaging is something I feel strongly about and is a matter of continuing experimentation.

    I've worked out excellent storage of fruit and veges in the fridge, so have achieved success there, which I will write about in a separate article.

    Other areas, particularly the wrapping of fish at the point of purchase, continue to be a matter of trial and error. For fish, paper wrapping is more or less okay if the seller has it to hand, which they may or may not. My latest tactic is to take along my own clean and lidded plastic container and get them to place it directly into that, which works like a charm. It's still plastic, but at least its a container rather than a plastic bag, and has a long life of re-use.
    Leigh. :-)

    Leigh Christina Russell said...

    Greetings also Eco Thrifty Living, thank you for your comment, which coincided with the other above.

    My response can be read there: the best method I have found is a two-layered one: cotton sleeve or bag on the inner and reasonably waterproof nylon bag with ties on the outer.

    If I am freezing anything that is likely to stick to the bag I freeze it flat between flexible plastic container lids first and then transfer it to 'freeflow' bags or containers after that.

    I've described this in my article 'Packaging gone mad'. Since then I have stopped using plastic snap-lock bags completely, and instead use either bags I've made myself or re-usable plastic containers.
    Leigh. :-)