“Cardboardophobia” probably isn’t a real word, but when you live on a boat … it should be. Nothing – nothing – made of cardboard comes aboard. We know folks who take new purchases out of cardboard packaging on the dock before coming aboard or getting into the dinghy. (And doing so gives you a very real understanding of just how much waste our packaging generates, oh my!) So why are boaters so weird about this? Roaches can live in corrugated cardboard and eat the glue and lay their eggs; once you bring these little hitchhikers aboard they just love to hang out in the dark moist bilges. This is a concern especially in warmer climates, which of course is where most of our boating takes place. Isn’t being warm the whole point? Even if you’re not in a warm area, cardboard doesn’t do much to protect food in the humid boat environment; instead of keeping water out it’s more of a moisture magnet. Soggy crackers and moldy pasta just don’t work for me. Yuck.
Since moving aboard I’ve become obsessed with canisters and containers. No cardboard aboard due to bugs and sogginess, so food once purchased needs to be transferred to something else. But what? Glass? Better not, it could break in rough seas. How about metal? Nope, it’ll rust. That leaves … plastic. My e-friend Diane Sullivan is moving aboard and transitioning from a land-based kitchen to a cruising boat’s galley. She posted on Facebook recently, “Looking into things we'll need on the boat. Dehumidifiers, more line (rope) for the anchors, plastic storage bins, etc. All things plastic and polyester? Who woulda' thunk it? Me? Ms. Natural everything? How things change.” [slightly edited by me for clarity since I’ve taken her slightly out of context] Yes, Diane, we liveaboards and cruisers really do get into lengthy conversations at happy hour about the relative merits of zip-loc bags versus vacuum sealers and Snapware versus Lock-N-Lock or Rubbermaid or Tupperware or Pyrex. Welcome to our world!
But once we’ve decided on plastic, there are still so many choices! We invariably like square containers better than round when we have the option – less wasted space when lining up squares or rectangles on a shelf. Some of our containers are purchased and others are reused packages from things we buy a lot of. The purchased ones have the advantage of nesting to store compactly when not in use. The recycled ones may lack that efficiency, they take up as much space empty as full, but make up for it by being free. Selecting items in the grocery store can be as much about whether we can reuse the package it comes in, as it is about our choice of brands. Ziplock bags with the air squeezed out, or vacuum sealed packages, have the advantage of taking up no space at all besides the volume of the contents … but if you’re unfortunate enough to get pests, they can eat right through the thin plastic!
Sometimes I feel like a little kid playing house as I shuffle the contents from one canister to another as we use down the contents, trying to maximize space efficiency. What gets me the most is somewhat funny, though. By the time I’ve run out of something that has been carefully de-cardboarded and stored, I forget what the package looked like, necessitating a weird scavenger hunt at the grocery store.
|After we ate all the wild rice or salted peanuts that these once held, they are now on their second (or tenth!) lifetime storing dried beans or couscous. Don't they look cozy in there?|
|These both hold about 5 pounds of flour. Sometimes it is worth paying for the space-efficient square one, other times, being eco-conscious (and free!) is more important. We've done both.|
|Now what do I do with all this stuff? Transfer it to bug- and moisture-proof containers, for one thing!|