How Much Does Your Plastic Cost?

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Ok, fess up- who has gone to the store and bought those sets of plastic containers to send to a friend that you were cooking a meal for?  I know I have – twice, and I regretted it.  When I look back on it, I wasted our hard earned money.

There are so many containers that get thrown away each week without their value being considered.  Most of the time it’s simple to toss these into the sink to soak before running through the dishwasher and they’re just as good as store bought containers.

Many fast food restaurants are now using sturdy plastic containers in their to go meals.  Little Caesar’s crazy sauce and Kentucky Fried Chicken sides both come in sturdy containers that are perfect for saving a bit of leftovers or for packing in a child’s lunch.  Chick-Fil-a’s Salads come in a nice tray that is perfect for taking cookies to a party.  Yogurt cups and baby food containers are also excellent for small servings and lunch boxes, not to mention playing in the dirt outside with.  Those plastic bottles are perfect for sending milk in your child’s lunchbox instead of an expensive juice box.  My favorite thing about reusing these types of containers is that I didn’t spend any extra money on them, so I don’t fret if one gets tossed at school or broken.

I’m not encouraging you to save every one and be overrun with little plastic tubs and dishes, but do consider saving some to have on hand. I keep my plasticware in these 3 canvas bins in my kitchen cabinet so I’m not overrun. One keeps larger containers like butter tubs and sour cream tubs, one has pediasure bottles and longer containers, and the one on the lower shelves has most of the smaller containers that we use regularly for leftovers and packing lunches. The more items in your house that you reuse, the less you need to buy.  Which means more money stays in your pocket.

Can you think of other items that can easily be reused in your kitchen?

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  1. I save the plastic trays from my microwave lunches I use at work – the uses are endless! I use them when I buy a big hunk of hamburger meat to seperate it out into 1 lb batches. They are light and uniform so I don’t have to zero out the scale every time! They are great for arts & crafts (mix paint, hold beads, dump excess confetti/sand & toss). I will pack a lunch in them if I know I’m going somewhere and want the convenience of throwing away stuff after we eat and not have to haul it around or have it sitting in the hot car for hours while were out. I can portion out the dogs’ food in it so the dogsitter only has to get the one with the dog’s name on it and I don’t have to give detailed (confusing) feeding instructions for each dog. If I find my house overrun with little kids it’s great to give them their snack or small meal in these – when they fall on the floor my good dishes don’t get broken & there isn’t any glass just a treat for the dogs plus it’s lightweight so I don’t have to worry about them carrying heavy breakable dishes to the sink. I’ve also used them to dispose of grease – just poor into them and mix some flour in so it’s not liquid anymore. That is only if I’m out of glass jars with lids though. This past weekend we used a V8 bottle to dispose of old grease. I keep 4 or 5 large juice bottles filled with water in the freezer – great for packing ice chests without everything getting wet. I used them last weekend to cool down my fridge quicker after I got it running again. I keep a few sour cream & butter containers in the garage too – they make great little bowls when you need to clean something with a soapy rag and I am NEVER without one when I am doing repairs on the house or car. When you take a screw out you put it in the container! When something comes up and you have to move onto something else you put the lid on it and voila no more missing pieces!!!!!! I’ve had a few guys think I was nuts doing this – they’d pick it up and shake it and want to know why I had cottage cheese in my car. If I had them just sitting out or in a dish without a lid they would all be lost!

    Also I know I’ve had 3 butter lids melted on the stove THIS YEAR! Instead of worrying about it I just grab one of the lids from the tubs I was saving and use it on the current tub of butter! The extra butter tubs are also great for carrying water for the dogs when we go somewhere – I put press & seal on before the lid just in case. The dogs don’t have to fuss with getting their noses into a tiny opening like a bottle of water that has been cut open for them!

  2. Wow Hollie! It sounds like you’re the queen of reusing plastic (although my mother would certainly give you a run for your money were there a contest for the title) LOL. I love the idea for reusing the micro meal trays. We have them so rarely that I probably wouldn’t think to keep them but I should. We did keep the plastic mickey mouse ear trays from some kids meals at WDW when we went in 05. My husband thought I was nuts for washing them out in the bathroom and carrying them around all day. He only questioned me once though. :-) They were fabulous for the little girls when we had fruit cocktail or other runny sides. I’ll have to remember the flour in the grease trick-I usually just use a bottle but inevitably…..

  3. I love your idea of using canvas bins. Will definitely buy some when we move to our new house because right now it’s a nightmare to keep them organized. In addition to sour cream/cottage cheese containers, I saved a plastic holder from store bought cupcakes. Now if I have to bring my homemade cupcakes to work, I have a perfect “carrier” for them. Last week we got 2 family chicken meal at Deli counter at Walmart and their “to go” containers with handles and lids would be perfect for packing a family picnic meals.That would also be a great size container for potlucks at church/work.

  4. Jayne @ Green Country Girl says:

    Couldn’t do it. Too many size variables for my mind to conceive…I have to know that things “fit.” My Nana did this, though.

  5. Where you aware – that most of those plastic containers used for fast food, are not meant to be reused? They are made to be one time use only. They break down much faster, especially if washed and reheated in. Most companies using them will tell you not to reuse them for that very reason – they are not made of the same plastic as say a sour cream container, which incidentally, is also not meant to be washed and reheated in. They are of a stronger plastic as these items are often on shelves for 2 wks or more, but are not meant to be reused continuously.

    I highly suggest getting glass storage ware – more expensive, but last much longer and will be healthier for the family.

    NEVER reheat in microwave in plastic – this has known health issues.

  6. Hi Kim, actually more and more fast food chains are joining us in trying to “reduce, reuse, recycle”. The KFC containers actually are marked reusable. While I agree that these plastics aren’t mean to or safe to microwave, I don’t see any harm in taking cookies to party on a CFA tray or sending fruit cocktail to preschool in a fruit cup from CFA. There also isn’t any harm in using a plastic yogurt cup to play with in the dirt. My point was that we throw away things that have value just because they came from a fast food purchase, then turn around and spend our hard earned money to buy more cheap plastic that isn’t mean for extended use either. We do own, and use regularly, glass storage bowls but I would prefer to send something else in my 3 yr old’s lunch to school :-)

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