One Small Step: bring your own to-go box


For challenge 6 in One Small Step, we’re looking at where to put those leftovers when you’re dining out. I think this is a timely tip for the holiday season and for everyday.

It’s rare for my family to eat out. But if we do dine at a restaurant, we inevitably have leftovers. I always cringed at the sight of that big styrofoam or paper clamshell–destined for the landfill–landing on our table, so I would normally request just a piece of foil for wrapping up the food we took home. That worked, but was often a mess, and was still waste-generating.

But then it occurred to me that I could do better. And all it would take was a little pre-planning.

So I put together a simple take-out kit that I store in my car, to grab whenever we need it. The first time that Lupine and I ate out after we put it together, we were over the moon to dash to the car to grab it for our leftover dumplings. Even our server thought it was a great way to reduce waste.

My kit was crafted around what we had on hand, and how we dine out. Yours will certainly be different, depending on the types of food you normally need to store, and the size of your family.

(A few afflinks and some non-afflinks links are below, but I hope you “shop” your own kitchen first, then shop the thrift store before you choose to purchase new. I cringe a bit when I see empty glass jars being sold as “sustainability solutions”, while most of us toss perfectly usable jars into the recycling bin nearly every week.) 


My kit includes:

  • Two reusable silicone bags
  • A wide-mouth pint and a wide-mouth quart-sized mason jar
  • Three sets of thrift-store purchased silverware
  • Three cloth napkins

Our kit has proven so handy when we’re away for the day, and we spontaneously grab lunch out, or when someone needs a snack from the coop on their way to a lesson or activity. We happily use both the jars and the bags for a variety of purposes at our coop’s bulk bins, hot bar, and coffee station (just be sure to weigh the bag and the jar with the lid, then jot down the tare weight before you fill up).

Aside from the jars (which I store in a bag in the trunk), everything fits neatly in my car’s glovebox for quick, convenient access. I keep it all contained in one of the silicone bags, but storing it in a cloth bag would work equally well.

Do you need to go out and purchase fancy silicone bags to set up your kit? Absolutely not!

In the spirit of low-waste, I’m cheering for you to find something already on hand that can do the same job.

Begin by asking yourself: what else do you own that might serve the same function? (This question is a great one to ask anytime you’re tempted to purchase something new.)

An old canning jar or cast off salsa or jam jar is likely already tucked into your kitchen cupboard somewhere. Or perhaps you own a couple of glass storage container with fitted, spill-proof lids. Or maybe you purchased a bento box or tiffin that doesn’t get as much use as it could.

Think outside the take-out box, and come up with something that can contain leftovers while you’re on the go.

Even an old bread bag or two could serve the purpose for non-messy leftovers.

Whatever container you choose, make sure it’s something your family won’t miss if it permanently disappears to your backpack or vehicle for use on-the-go. Then make a habit of using it anytime you can.

You might feel a little awkward at first, bringing your own take-out kit into a favorite restaurant, but that feeling will soon fade. And hey, that’s how change happens, after all. By one brave soul questioning the unsustainable norms and doing better, one day at a time.

Do you carry take-out containers with you in the event of grabbing a snack on the road? What do you keep in your carry-out kit?

You can find the entire One Small Step series here, or click through below for individual posts:

One Small Step: a year of small actions with huge impact

Swap Plastic Bottles of Soap for Bars (plus a DIY liquid recipe)

Buy Less Stuff

Switch to Loose Leaf Tea

DIY All Purpose Citrus Cleaner

50 Ideas for More Sustainable Gifts


2 thoughts on “One Small Step: bring your own to-go box

  1. Genie says:

    What a great idea! We keep a “picnic kit” in the car with all these items (plus a small cutting board, sharp knife, etc.) which we use when eating away from home. It never occurred to me to use the containers to bring home restaurant leftovers. Game changer! Thank you. 🙂

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