Clingfilm alternatives

Alternatives to cling film that are so good, you will never need it again!

What are the alternatives to cling film?

We switched to sustainable alternatives for cling film years ago. To start off with I experimented with shower caps, flannels over bowls and froze pizza dough bases in tea towels , but now we don’t do any of those things. This is what we do to ditch single use clingfilm:

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May 2020: I originally wrote this post in 2014 and decided it was time to update the post! We are still using alternatives to clingfilm and don’t miss it at all!

1. Reusable plastic boxes

Lock and Lock* containers are great for transporting packed lunches and storing food in the fridge. They are air tight and leak proof, which is very handy for keeping mess contained inside them! I also like that I can put them in the dishwasher, as my family use them to take packed lunches to work and school every day. They make good alternatives to cling film!

Sistema* boxes are good too and come in all shapes and sizes. I tend to use them for smaller snacks. I recently bought some tiny ones* to transport raisins to give to the kids when I pick them up from school.

For storing larger amounts of food, or bigger food stuffs, just get a bigger box*!

The downsides are they are made of plastic and they don’t last forever. Usually the lid clips will break eventually. They are a very practical solution though.

Do you need to wrap up sandwiches in cling film, inside a Tupperware box?

No. Don’t wrap up your sandwiches or other foods inside the box. If you use an airtight box, no air will get to them.

If you are worried about your sandwich going soggy separate out other foods. Some Lock boxes come with inserts, so you can section them off. There are Sistema boxes which are the perfect size for sandwiches*. There is also a great range of bento boxes* out there, which may suit your needs.

What about the plastic though? Is there a plastic free way to transport sandwiches?

2. Reusable wrap alternatives to cling film

Beeswax wrappers

You can buy beeswax wraps* or you could make your own! The big plus to these wraps is that they are usually compostable and plastic free. You can use them to cover a dish or to wrap up a sandwich.

However, beeswax wraps are not for me. This is for a few reasons. Firstly wrapping up a sandwich in a beeswax wrap doesn’t keep it airtight. They are not stackable or safe from being squashed either. Also the wax on the wrap can melt and flake off. If looked after they are meant to last a while, but you can’t scrub them in hot water, or put them in the dishwasher.

Beeswax is not vegan friendly, so these wraps wouldn’t work for vegans.

Reusable sandwich wrappers

There are wrappers specifically designed to be used for sandwiches like these reusable sandwich wrappers*.

Again I prefer boxes to transport packed lunches and for storing food in the fridge. Plus this isn’t a plastic free option. They are generally made of polyester which is a synthetic fibre and can shed micro-plastics in the washing machine.

If you are going to be out and about all day, a sandwich wrapper might be a good option though. It means that once you have eaten your lunch you don’t have to carry a bulky empty box around with you. The wrapper will take up less space and be lighter.

The advantage of these wraps as an alternative to clingfilm over beeswax ones is that they are machine washable and you don’t need to worry about melting and flaking wax. The disadvantage though is that they aren’t biodegradable and they do contain plastic.

Silicone alternatives to cling film

I bought some cling wrap alternatives* as a gift for my mum, but she didn’t like them. I probably should have read the reviews first, as on first sight they aren’t great.

They are square and don’t stick to anything or create a good seal. If you combine them with an elastic band however, then I think they work much better! To cover a bowl, choose the right sized sheet and then fix it in place with an elastic band!

I also use the wrap as an alternative to clingfilm to take food with me running. I’m training for a marathon and with long distance running you need to fuel up along the way. Running gels come in individual portions in disposable packets. I’ve been experimenting with taking raisins and pretzels wrapped up in a sillicone wrap instead. They are squeezed into a running belt and I don’t even need to secure the bundle with an elastic band.

I bought my mum some different silicone cling film alternatives*, which are round and designed to go over different sized bowls

3. Put lids on glass containers as alternatives to cling film

Rectangular glass containers with clip lids

I bought some good sized glass containers with clip lids* from Ikea some time ago. I love using these to store food in the fridge like pasta salad, tuna mayo or potato salad. These are foods I make and buy these foods in bulk.

I also use these containers to store food prep for parties or for leftovers.

Jam jars

Jars are a great alternative to cling film. The brilliant thing about jars is that you get them for free with the food that you buy!

They are perfect for storing half cut lemons and onions. If you have any of the mini jam jars that you get from hotel stays, they are really good for a bit of leftovers. Such as garlic, chilli or ginger that was surplus to requirements.

I also like using jam jars to store loose leaf herbal teas. I take the mini ones out with me, to have herbal tea on the go.

You can store all kinds of things in jam jars! From dips, to salad dressings, to pasta salads, and homemade yoghurt. They can also be useful for the leftovers of an open packet of cold food after it has been opened. They make great alternatives to using cling film!

Glass bowls with lids

I have a set of glass bowls with lids* . When most of the food is used up in the big glass containers, I tend to decant it into these smaller bowls. I also use them for homemade dips, small amounts of leftovers and in similar ways to jam jars. I don’t have that many jars, because the downside to them is that they don’t stack like my other glass containers do. It is easier to have more of these glass bowls because they stack.

What are the pros and cons of using glass food containers?

I prefer to use glass over plastic where possible. It is inert and doesn’t absorb smells. Mine are dishwasher safe, which makes them nice and easy to clean.

The problem with glass food containers is the large ones are are heavy and all of them can chip and break. So you need to store them carefully. With the exception of the little jam jars transported carefully, they aren’t suitable for using when you are out and about. They can take up quite a lot of space, especially if they don’t stack.

I also find that the clip bits on the lids start to fall off over time. However you can get the silicone stretch lids if/ when this happens.

Some people do use them in the freezer, but there is the danger that they can crack and make a big mess. As liquids freeze they expand, so if you haven’t left enough space in the container (whether it is glass or plastic), the expanding food can cause it to crack. The other problem is that it is difficult to get the food out of glass after it has been frozen, until it is defrosted. You have to be really careful with cold glass not to give it any temperature shocks as that is another risk point for it cracking. For these reasons I prefer not to use them in the freezer.

4. Put a plate over a bowl as an alternative to cling film

If something doesn’t need to be airtight, or you are just covering it for a short while, putting a plate over a bowl is a quick, simple and easy option. It also means that you can stack things on top of it, without squashing the contents of the bowl.

5. Alternatives to cling film when you need to cover large and oddly shaped food

If something is big and unwieldy e.g. a leg of lamb, a pizza, a chicken, half a pineapple or a melon what can you do with it?

In the fridge

A chicken fits really well into a large short handled casserole pan*. I went through a period of taking mine to the butchers to buy chickens unpackaged. Then I would put it in the fridge in the pan when I got home.

Flan tins or dishes* and saucepan lids make good cling film alternatives to cover plates. This is useful to cover a plateful of food, or when covering homemade pizza in the fridge, before you are ready to cook it.

Stoneware dishes with stoneware lids* – prepare lasagne, or pies earlier on in the day, store them in the fridge with a lid on and cook them later (making sure the dish and contents has a little while to adjust to room temperature before cooking and that you don’t preheat the oven)

Half a pineapple or half a melon goes really well in a large tupperware container, or a bigger bowl with a plate over it (or a sillicone cover).

Another option is to cut things up to fit into the containers and bowls that you have.

In the freezer

Chop things up into smaller portions and freeze in reusable plastic freezer boxes * or in reusable silicone freezer bags*.

If you have unpackaged and unwieldy raw meat that you need to freeze, it can be a really good option to batch cook it and freeze the leftovers for another time.

With a food net or a tea towel

I’ve written a whole article on making bread the zero waste way and there is a section in there for using cling film alternatives while making bread. One of the tips is to put a food net* or tea towel over the dough in a bowl or on a pizza stone while it is rising.

These things can work well for covering bowls or plates of food which you are putting out for a party until you are ready to uncover them. You could also use a reusable napkin.

Another way to cover large food is in a cake tin or a big tupperware container.

A couple of bonus cling film alternative ideas!

Clingfilm is also used in beauty treatments. The cling film for your hands can be substituted with cotton gloves and clingfilm for your hair can be substituted with a shower cap!   

Whatever you think you might need cling film (or plastic food bags) for, why not try having a rummage through your cupboards instead. Work out which alternatives to cling film you have. It won’t take long, will save you money and will be much better for the environment!

Comments

  1. Hmm. Now this has made me think! We often cook more than is needed and then put some in the freezer. This avoids any desire for 'ready meals' or whatever, because there is always something. In order to do this, though, you need to have something to freeze things in, such as plastic food bags or something with clingfilm on top. Last time I bought a branded clingfilm which declared itself 100% biodegradable. I will use it, but I might have to think a bit more carefully about freezer storage. I may buy some plastic tubs. I reckon if they're going to be re-used over and over that's less of an environmental impact than cling film or plastic food bags. Thank you for making me think about this – there are always these little steps to be taken in the road towards a lessened 'footprint', don't you find?

  2. Zoe

    Glad it was helpful Sandy. I use a lot of takeaway style plastic tubs with lids which I found being sold in my local Chinese store or cash and carry type places. They do break every so often but can be reused over and over again. I have been looking into alternative freezer boxes and am considering getting some stainless steel ones when my year of eco challenges is over!

  3. I've been slowly buying glass storage with lids (plastic lids unfortunately), and so I'm hoping the cling film I have will be the last one I buy. I'm onto foil now – just read your post on it. My first thought was about cooking fish too!

  4. Anonymous

    I suspect foil is worse than clingfilm…

  5. Zoe

    At least the plastic lids are reusable, which is way better than clingfilm. Plus glass storage containers are great because they are non-reactive (so don't leach nasty chemicals into your food) and because you can see what's in them, so are less likely to forget about the contents, which means less food waste.

  6. Pie

    I always thought cling film shouldn't be used for freezing as it is potentially carcinogenic. I hate the stuff but my partner loves it so I'm looking for alternatives.

  7. Zoe

    Plastic freezer boxes aren't ideal but they are reusable which is better than throwaway bags. I think plastic is more of a problem with hot foods and less so with cold foods, but I'm not an expert so don't quote me on that!

  8. Helen Anderson

    Everytime you pull off a length of cling film to quickly over a pot for the fridge, or wrap your lunch… stop a second, and think about the whale, whose stomach your used cling film will end up in!

  9. Rosemary

    Anonymous, aluminum foil is recyclable but of course we are again using a lot of resources to remake it into what ever it is made into.However cling film just goes to land fill and the break down (if it ever occurs is very slow and toxic).Toxic to the ground and water tables and to the birds and animals that frequent landfills.

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