The chances are that at some point in your life, you’ve eaten some take out food. The most common take-out foods being Chinese and Italian (and not just for pizza). Depending on the preference of your favorite take out place, your order will be packaged in either cardboard, foil, or plastic containers.
The iconic cardboard Chinese take-out box does really lend itself to washing and reuse, but it is easily recycled. The aluminum bottles (typical for many entree orders) can be reused, but are easily damaged, and the plastic or cardboard cover won’t last that long. Here, the focus is on the reuse of the plastic containers, both the round pint and quart containers you get your soup in (my favorite is Hot & Sour) and the round or rectangular containers with the snap on clear cover typical for all your entrees.
By the way, I’ve found these plastic containers to be quite durable, surviving multiple cycles through the dishwasher, so there is no worry about contamination.
Round Pints & Quarts:
Originally designed, and used, to hold soup, the obvious reuse is for soups and stocks. Measure a known volume of stock into each container (write exactly what it is (i.e., 2 cups chicken stock, 1/12/12) and freeze it for later use. The same goes for leftover soups, you can either pre-portion servings for later in the week, or freeze them for longer term storage. When thawing frozen stocks, just remove the top then hold the container under warm running water until the stock cube sides out. If using for soups (not frozen) transfer to a microwave safe bowl, or saucepan to reheat. Don’t microwave in the plastic container as you have quite a mess to clean up after the plastic melts.
Round & Rectangular Entree:
Think of these larger containers as generic Tupperware. These entree size containers are ideal for packing leftovers for family and friends after a big Holiday meal. They’re perfect for fitting a few slices of turkey, some stuffing (or dressing, depending on what part of the country you’re from), sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce for your guests (or yourself). But don’t just stockpile them for the Holidays. Everyday leftovers including pasta, chicken, rice, vegetables, etc., can be saved and stored in your fridge. Since most have clear covers, identifying what’s inside is not a problem. Additionally, since restaurants serve their entrees on them, you can pre-portion meals for yourself (or kids, or cooking-challenged spouse if you’re not going to be home to cook) later in the week. Again, avoid placing plastic in the microwave. Instead, transfer to an appropriate microwave safe dish, or saute pan, for reheating.
In addition to the kitchen uses listed above, all of these plastic containers can also be reused to sort and store any and all household items that will fit inside them, such as:
- Nails and screws
- Crayons, markers and colored pencils
- Spare Christmas light bulbs
- Picture hanging wire
- USB and adapter cords
- Well, you get the idea. So the next time you’re in the mood for Chinese or Italian take out, don’t toss those plastic containers once they’re empty.
- Do the Earth a favor and run them through your dishwasher, then reuse them for holding whatever you need.