I hate going out to dinner. While I appreciate the break from cooking, I can’t help but think that the $20 I’m spending on two entrees could have been used to purchase 20lbs of chicken (manager’s special, chicken thighs, with skin and bones: $0.99/lb). However, there are just some times when I have no choice but to go out for a meal. When this happens, I always make the most of the situation by getting for free what I would have otherwise had to hand out some serious cash for: reusable containers.
The method is simple. Don’t finish your food and when the waiter comes, ask if you could take it home. If you’re lucky, it will be returned to you in plastic reusable containers. Likewise, ordering takeout will occasionally have the same results.
Calculating a cost savings from this is very difficult because it depends on several factors, such as the average price of dinner at a sit-down or takeout restaurant, the odds of receiving reusable containers vs. disposable containers, and the average price of new reusable containers, among other things. Buying a modest set such as the Rubbermaid 34 Piece Easy Find Lids Set will cost about $20 from Target. To get a modest set of containers from a restaurant will depend partially on a combination of luck and knowing which places give which types of containers most frequently.
|This is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I live for this.|
In terms of consistency, I get the best results from Chinese takeout. Ordering soup by the pint or quart will yield a round plastic container of the appropriate size. Entrees tend to be delivered in flat rectangular containers, usually about 1.5” tall and no smaller than 6” wide by 4” deep. Occasionally I won’t be so lucky with a new restaurant and my food will be delivered in standard Chinese takeout white folding paper containers. Once you know several restaurants that deliver reusable containers, Chinese food will almost always give the best container volume to food price (CV-FP) ratio.
I generally have worse luck in Italian restaurants, usually taking food home in disposable aluminum containers, where the top edge folds down onto the paper-aluminum lids to keep it closed. This hasn’t kept me away from Italian food altogether, though. One time I received delivery in a circular plastic reusable container, 2” tall with a 10” diameter. Unfortunately I don’t remember the place that I got it from but the container has nonetheless become a centerpiece in my collection. Thus, even though Chinese food offers the better CV-FP ratio, the hope of receiving a second one of these containers has kept me on Italian food delivery for some time.
|Now imagine this with leftover egg salad in it.|
After Chinese and Italian, other food is hit or miss. Reusable containers work best on messy foods (Penne Vodka, General Tso’s Chicken, etc.) so choose a style that uses lots of sauces. For example, you might have luck getting barbeque to go. If you end up with Styrofoam, don’t get discouraged. Stay with successful restaurants but don’t be afraid to risk something new. You could end up with a collection that puts a store bought set to shame.