Less Landfill-Bound TRASH When Dining Out

by Texas Homesteader ~
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During a recent trip, RancherMan & I stayed at a hotel that offers a free hot breakfast. We don’t often eat a formal breakfast here on the homestead so it’s a treat for us when we travel. But although I fought landfill-bound waste in the hotel room like a ninja last year, I was distressed over the waste created at breakfast. I vowed to work on a solution to the dining trash by Mother Earth News Fair time the following year.  (if you didn’t read last year’s revelations you can read that post here)

Whelp, the fair this year has come & gone and I’m happy to say I was able to significantly reduce the landfill-bound waste again. And many of  these same solutions can offer less trash at the more local dining establishments too.

If you’ll remember, at last year’s fair I had breakfast twice and each time I produced about this much trash for only 15-20 minutes at the table. Check out what I did differently.

I've found some simple solutions to the use-once, throw-away disposables when eating out. Come see what I did! #TexasHomesteader

Dining Room Trash Solutions

Last year involved lots of unnecessary trash for such a short time of use. So I vowed to ponder on a lower-waste way to enjoy that delicious complimentary breakfast without producing this much trash. My only requirement was that my solution couldn’t look overly weird. Although he’d never complain, I wanted RancherMan to feel comfortable with my public display of crunchiness.

I did skip the yogurt this time as I mentioned I would last year. My homemade yogurt is my fave anyway. So I’d rather wait until I get home to enjoy it instead of the rubbery overly-sweet commercial stuff. That eliminated the little plastic foil-lined tub right off the bat.

I also eliminated the disposable napkin, fork, spoon & plastic cup. This time the breakfast trash that I generated looked more like this:

Less Dining Trash. I've found some simple solutions to the use-once, throw-away disposables when eating out. Come see what I did! #TexasHomesteader

I’m not sure I can reduce it more than this while still enjoying a hot breakfast and keeping my goal of not having it look ‘weird‘ to the other diners which could make RancherMan uncomfortable. (I’m trying to work within RancherMan’s comfort zone too in my lower-waste quest)

I guess I could have eliminated the plastic tub of jelly but then my biscuit would have been way too dry to eat. And there’s that styrofoam plate…  (Ugh, styrofoam, the only thing I hate WORSE than plastic!) I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about that while still enjoying the hot breakfast they offer. I have notified the hotel ‘powers that be‘ that my preference is reusable dinnerware. We’ll see if that has any effect.

But let’s celebrate the accomplishment, shall we? I enjoyed a hot breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits and jelly with coffee and orange juice. And I did so while generating much less trash than the previous year. Do you wonder how I lowered the trash without looking too out of place for RancherMan’s comfort?

Well, the same as last year we brought our travel mugs from home. But instead of two cups of coffee on the table and two plastic glasses of orange juice, we used one travel mug to hold our coffee to share, the other held our orange juice to share. No plastic cups this time. Yea!

Disposable Plastic Flatware?  No Thank You.

But what about the plastic disposable flatware? Well, I’d been pondering over this solution since last year.

I was always kinda worried that there were so many different people constantly hovering over the container of plastic flatware and picking through it with their bare hands. Now I’m not what you’d consider a germaphobe or anything but watching the unsupervised kids rifling through those plastic forks was enough to give me pause. There had to be a better way.

I know you can easily buy an inexpensive *traveling flatware kit complete with its own case for as low as $3. There are kits that include chopsticks and metal straws. Almost every combination you can dream of and you can even have it delivered right to your door.

But you know my battle cry: Use Whatcha Got! So I sat out to see what I had at home that would fit the bill for my own traveling dining-ware kit.

Reusable Cloth Napkins

I had a few cloth napkins that were too lightweight and didn’t match our current set, so they were destined for Goodwill. But after our trip last year I pulled these napkins out of the Goodwill pile – they’ll be perfect for this project.

I folded the bottom up just shy of halfway & sewed these simple zig-zag pockets in minutes. Although I used white thread so you could see the pattern I followed for this project, using matching thread would make the pockets much less noticeable.

Dining Out Kit. I've found some simple solutions to the use-once, throw-away disposables when eating out. Come see what I did! #TexasHomesteader

So that my good flatware wasn’t in danger of being lost, I purchased a couple of lightweight forks & spoons at a garage sale for this project. I simply slid a fork & spoon for each of us into the pockets & folded the top over the utensils. Finally I rolled up the napkin & BOOM!

No more potentially gross, pawed-over plastic disposable flatware for us.

Plus the cloth carrying case also serves as a napkin! After breakfast I simply rolled our flatware back into the napkin and placed it in our suitcase to bring home. I’ll wash up the napkins & flatware & we’ll be in business again.

Perfect-Sized Pouch To Hold It All

But I’d like to add a few things that will help when we’re dining in our own neck of the woods too. I thought it would be helpful to have a small zippered pouch to store my dining essentials to store in our car’s glove compartment. This would make it easier to grab & go when we step out to eat.

I found a small unused fabric pencil case that’s the perfect size. So here’s what else I packed inside.

RancherMan & I love a Braum’s burger! But it’s huge so we often split a burger between the two of us. These days Braum’s refuses to cut the burger in half for us citing some sort of health code.  (ppfffft!)

So instead, I’d always cringe as I’m forced to use one of the plastic-wrapped flimsy plastic knives for the one simple act of cutting our burger in half.

Only TEN SECONDS use and then into the trash it went. Oh how I hated it – the plastic AND the waste!

Handmade Wooden Knife

But at this year’s Mother Earth News Fair I purchased a small handmade wooden knife for just a few dollars. I’ll keep this knife in the same pouch as my napkins & flatware. It’s there waiting when/if I need it and at only 7-8 inches long it takes up very little space. If I use it I’ll simply bring it home, wash it up and place it back into the pouch.

Disposable Plastic Straw?

One last item is packed into my trash-reduction arsenal. You see, I often opt for a straw when we go out to eat because of a very negative experience in my past.

Picture this: There we were, enjoying a delightful dinner, when I went to take a sip of my beverage & there was the faint outline of lipstick on the rim of my glass. Ewwwwww…  The outside of the glass didn’t get the cleaning attention that (hopefully) the inside received.

From then on I often request a straw. At least my mouth will never touch the rim of a glass that’s not been thoroughly cleaned. But c’mon, remember I hate plastic so eliminating that plastic straw every time we go to a restaurant is something that appeals to me.

So I bought an inexpensive *stainless steel straw.  It’s now tucked inside my little pouch in its own little sleeve to protect anything from getting inside it while it’s in storage.

Zero Waste Dining Out Kit - I've found some simple solutions to the use-once, throw-away disposables when eating out. Come see what I did! #TexasHomesteader

And VOILA, there ya go!  My own little compact trash-fighter bag.

This small pouch stays in the glove compartment of our car (unless we’re traveling & then I pack it in our suitcase). If we go out to eat I grab this tiny pouch & take it into the restaurant with me.  If the restaurant is fast-food & the flatware is plastic I’ll use my own reusable metal flatware instead. And I’ll use my own reusable stainless steel straw instead of requesting a plastic disposable straw every time.

After our meal I simply toss everything back into this tiny pouch & bring it home. Heck if we’re just at a restaurant & going straight home & I have any leftovers, I’ve even eliminated that crappy styrofoam clamshell (ugh) container by bringing my glass take-out container carried with a repurposed denim carrier. I get so  many compliments on this!

Repurposed Denim Casserole Cover. I've found some simple solutions to the use-once, throw-away disposables when eating out. Come see what I did! #TexasHomesteader

When we get home I’ll wash everything up, repack it & place the pouch back in our car’s glove compartment. There it’ll be ready & waiting for our next dining excursion.

So far, so good y’all! It works great for me and it cost nearly nothing!


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29 thoughts on “Less Landfill-Bound TRASH When Dining Out

  1. Greg Hill

    I just have to say that you are very resourceful and this is something everyone could do now you just have to get others not not be so lazy with convenience. Good Job !!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Well aren’t you sweet as peaches, Greg? I really feel that more folks would make the effort if they just knew where to start. Hopefully they see that it doesn’t have to look weird to those around you or be an expensive project requiring the purchase of special gadgets. Use Whatcha Got! ~TxH~

      1. Greg Hill

        You are right Tammy, by thinking if they just knew where to start . I think you have gave them a Great Idea on something basic that has good potential to help eliminate extra stuff that’s going to our land fills. Then to add using the “Whatcha Got” to make it, brings in the repurpose aspect which again saves the landfills.

  2. Rosie (@greenrosielife)

    This is such a simple solution and I realised recently I needed something like this when I bought lunch out and had to pick up a plastic fork wrapped in plastic to eat it as I had nothing with me. Many thanks for adding this post to my #GoingGreenLinky

  3. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

    I do this, too! Why not bring your own plates? I’ve been doing that for hotel breakfasts since about 2003 and never gotten any flak for it.

    You might enjoy this story of how I reduced the trash from my employer-provided holiday meal.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I may give that a try. My limit is none of my public crunchiness can make RancherMan feel uncomfortable. He’d never complain of course, but I care about his feelings. I’ll talk to him about this option. ~TxH~

  4. Judith C

    I love these ideas, the knife is beautiful. I have carried a fork/spoon combo (not a spork, it’s a spoon on one end and a fork on the other) in my purse for years. My sister got it for me from The Container Store. The only problem is that it’s frowned upon when they scan my purse in the airport, it’s metal. Like that’s going to become a weapon more than my bamboo knitting needles, do they not remember what the Vietnamese did with slivers of bamboo during that war? So now I have a couple of sets of bamboo ‘silver ware’. I have the set with a serrated knife and it really cuts meat! We’ve also discovered AirBnB and like staying in one of their places over hotels. They come fully set up with dishes and all we do is bring our on food to have breakfast there before setting out. My sister moved to Ruidoso, New Mexico last October and she’s working for a property management company that over sees AirBnB houses. Her job is to make sure the renter is fully set up when they get there. Having stayed in many, she knows exactly what’s nice to have when you walk in the door. Coffee, fresh linens, clean dishes as well as a clean kitchen to cook in.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Love it Judith! And that’s too funny about the airport security thing. LOL. But bamboo ‘silverware’ sounds very interesting, I may check that out. Thanks for the tip. ~TxH~

  5. Anna of stuffedveggies

    What a great idea! My Mom always carried flatware in her purse. She assured me that the old fashioned Chinese custom was to always carry one’s own chopsticks – so it was okay ; )

    Besides the environmental advantage – food just TASTES better with “real” flatware, plates & cups!

    (I also love that you go out of your way to let your DH feel “comfortable with my public display of crunchiness”) : )

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I agree Anna – food really *does* taste better on real flatware. And I snickered about your appreciation of me trying to make RancherMan comfortable with my public display of crunchiness. I’m so blessed that he’s on board with almost all of my crunchy behavior, but I do want to be sensitive to things that might make him uncomfortable in public. So far I haven’t found that level with him as he’s been comfortable with all the steps I’ve taken so far. Maybe I’m turning him into a Crunchy RancherMan! LOL ~TxH~

  6. ColleenB.~Texas

    Great sewing project along with your great tips / suggestions. I normally just carry my stuff in ziplock baggie
    along with small (4oz.) jar of my homemade jam or jelly besides taking small jar of my homemade strawberry sauce / syrup to put on my waffle or pancakes just incase I decide to order a Texas waffle or plate of pancakes. When done everything goes back into my ziplock baggie and into my purse . :}

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      How organized you are Colleen! I haven’t carried a purse in almost 4 years (since my breast-cancer surgery). Since RancherMan & I are always together he holds my driver’s license in his wallet for me. (I tuck it in my pocket when I’m driving somewh3ere without him, which is rare) I’ve always hated carrying a purse and over the years I went from a huge ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ sized purse to a smaller & smaller one until it wasn’t much larger than a large wallet. So the transition from small purse to no purse at all was an easy one for me. I must say, I absolutely LOVE not dragging a purse around with me everywhere I go! ~TxH~

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      How awesome – give it a try. Wouldn’t it be great if others saw you doing this & were inspired too? A single drop can make ripples that reach all the way across the lake. ~TxH~

  7. Jo

    What a wonderful idea!! I am to make a few of these and maybe give some as gifts to like minded friends and family. Now if I can just get himself on board with the idea it will be great.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      What a great gift that would be Jo! I know RancherMan’s pretty tolerant of my crunchiness but I do try to be considerate when I’m with him & try not to look *too* out of place. LOL ~TxH~


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