Bring Your Own Reusable Containers for Restaurant Leftovers


It was my goal to bring my own reusable containers for restaurant leftovers formonths. We don’t eat out very often, so it was only about once a month that I was reminded of my goal, usually when I sighed in disgust upon having to stuff a large Styrofoam takeout container into my fridge.

Once I finally remembered to bring them, I always forgot to take them in to the restaurant. (I still do, but I just run out and grab them when I need them.)

Then I finally remembered, used it once, and forgot to “reload”, finding myself sighing in disgust again the next time we were out to eat.

If you make and succeed at this tiny commitment, you will feel so good about yourself the next time you have restaurant leftovers and avoid the Styrofoam, and it’s such an easy goal to accomplish.

Why Bring Your Own?

Here’s why I go the extra mile (and endure the very strange looks from surprised waitresses when I proudly say, “I have my own box!”):

  1. I really hate throwing things away, especially oversized, non-biodegradable things.
  2. Those takeout boxes are almost always at least twice as big as we need.
  3. Styrofoam is actually plastic number 6, which is not recommended for food because of the BPA. Even though I use plastic, it’s number 5, BPA-free.
  4. I love accomplishing something, and I love feeling really “green” and “crunchy” when it’s really easy to do.

How-To Tips

After months of failure, I’ve finally found the system that works perfectly for me. I’ll share it just in case it inspires you to get weird looks from your servers, too. I mean, just in case you can figure out what works for you without as many “oopses” as I had.

  • The first time I finally remembered to pack my own, I chose a unique bowl that we only had one copy of in the house. My plan was to make sure that whenever it was cleaned, it went right back into the car. That plan quickly backfired when I wasn’t the person putting away the dishes and it got stashed in the cupboard.
  • Now I immediately replace whatever containers I use when I get home and put them into the fridge. I grab equivalent sizes from the cupboard and set them by my purse so they get into the car the next day.
  • I pack double what I expect I’ll need, so I have some on reserve in case I forget to reload. For us, that’s two square 4-cup boxes and two large cottage cheese containers.
  • The containers live in a bag so they don’t fly all around my van.

Why plastic?

I may have surprised some of you by asking you to pack plastic, when more often than not I prefer to encourage folks to switch to glass or stainless steel. Quite simply, I don’t have enough. I am constantly running out of my favorite sizes of glass dishes, and my stainless steels aren’t big enough to be practical for unknown leftover quantities. Ergo, I take baby steps.

Number 5 plastic that I don’t have to throw away is a huge leap of improvement from a number 6 Styrofoam container that fills nearly one-fourth of my trash can. I am happy with that, for now.

Will you join me in taking a little step to save God’s green earth?

Copyright 2011 Katie Kimball


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  1. Katie, such a simple suggestion, but if we ALL did this what a difference we could make! I am going immediately down to my container stash to stick a few in my car. Thanks for the easiest “feel good” suggestion I’ve had all week!

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