Tips on eating out with less waste

I’ve encountered some perils and failures eating out since my lifestyle change.  While my boyfriend has (mostly) quietly accepted most of my madness, I think he would draw the line if I said no to eating out. I like eating out too, so I’m not partial to giving up on our restaurant date nights.

I never thought there would be a learning curve to eating out, but living less waste takes a bit of work. Here are my tips to help you avoid the challenges and failures I’ve encountered so far.

1.) Carry your own napkin if you’re opposed to paper waste.  Some restaurants have cloth napkins, others not. I found a set of 4 napkins for $1 at a thrift store.

2.) Get some cutlery, and chopsticks.  I went out for sushi with my sister and before I knew it, I had cracked open a pair of the single use chopsticks out of habit. At least they aren’t plastic and now I have a pair in my purse! If you’re broke you can almost always find silverware at a thrift store.  They’re also often sold at discount stores in singles. If you have some extra cash you can find portable sets on Amazon.

 3.) Ask for the dressing either on your salad when served, or specifically state you’d like the dressing in a small dish. Or this will happen to you

Hello Dixie! Plastic cup that is.

Hello Dixie! Plastic cup that is.

This particular restaurant and the one across the street side swiped me with these stupid single use cups. I don’t know if the owner’s talked together and decided these cups would be a great idea and save on dishes or what. By the end of this meal our cup tally due to my boyfriends extra sides of butter and such was four non recyclable single use Dixie cups.

4.) Skip the sandwich toothpicks. Even if your sandwich can’t hold itself together you’ll probably still manage to eat it. This picture is from the same restaurant with the Dixie cups. I thought I was clever and had diverted disaster by making sure the blue cheese for my sweet potato fries came in a bowl.

Floofy plastic tipped toothpicks are your enemy

Floofy plastic tipped toothpicks are your enemy

5.) Load up your leftovers fast! Bring your own container for any leftovers.  But more importantly get them off your plate before an especially attentive waitperson can set the customary Styrofoam container with accompanying plastic bag down. I’m not positive but I think once the container touches the table even if unused they have to throw it away. Or it gets left and the bus person dumps it.

6.) Request no straw. I’ve done this and have still ended up with a wrapped straw on my table. If you get one hand it back as I suspect if left on the table it gets thrown away when the bus person cleans up.

Please clue me in if you have any other tips I’m forgetting or haven’t encountered yet. I hate being surprised!


6 responses to “Tips on eating out with less waste

  1. Restaurants are the worst!! I like to get Mexican food ToGo from this place across the street from where I live and It’s always lots of plastic containers and Styrofoam and plastic utensils covered in more plastic and napkins and allll wrapped up in a plastic bag…. SO bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a Chinese food place I like to go for take out once a month. I’m trying to figure out if they would be cool if I brought them my own container. The only other thing I can think of doing is ordering on a plate and then packing it up myself. I’ve done that with desserts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oooh, I like the idea of ordering on a plate and packing it up myself. Restaurants can be a bit weird about sanitation laws and such but that is a great way to get around it! I’ve got to try that next time

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great list! I would like to start a solar-powered zero-waste food truck so I can eat out again ;p Today my boss and I went to a new co-working space that just opened and in the cafe, they sold granola by the 1/2 pound in a mason jar(!), the tea came in real cups, the napkins and cutlery were real and I didn’t see any straws at all. Real spoons for stirring cream and sugar at the little stand that holds all that stuff. Businesses are catching on slowly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How sad that we have to be excited about real dishes haha. I hope more and more businesses catch on! Have you ever approached a business about some of their wasteful habits? I’ve been contemplating talking with the owner’s of the two reuseable Dixie cup offenders. They are a local business, not a chain.


      • I haven’t said that much. A woman who runs a cafe near me wants me to do a waste audit for her and I really hope that happens. I occasionally ask for things at stores–like plastic-free cheese!–even though I already know the answer, hoping they will change their ways. I find that almost every time I shop with my bags and jars, the cashiers comment and say things like “This is great! or “I have to start doing this!” Customers comment regularly also and ask me about it. I will have to get more active about pointing out the excessive packaging and waste though.

        Liked by 1 person

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