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5 Easy Ways to Go Green With Leftovers

I love leftovers. Whether I went out for a great meal and get to have it again or I cooked something amazing at home and I’ve got enough to enjoy it for another day — it’s just nice to take a good meal and experience it more than once. Not to mention that it sure does make for a convenient and quick option on busy nights!

That said, leftovers tend to get stored in not-so-eco-friendly ways — especially when you go out.

I’m looking at you, foam to-go containers.

And, even at home, all of those plastic lids and containers with burn marks from the microwave don’t exactly scream healthy and sustainable.

But! Over the years, I’ve found some easy ways to go green with leftovers, no matter if the leftovers are coming from your kitchen or someone else’s. Give ’em a go and make a difference!

1. Bring your own containers and bags to restaurants.

This is an obvious one, but it takes some doing on the reg to form the habit. Simply keep a reusable bag in your car that’s filled with a few containers of various sizes. Then, before you go out, throw it in your purse so that if you do have leftovers, you have the ability to doggie bag it up yourself — complete with containers for the food and a bag to carry those containers in. (Although, keep in mind that some restaurants may have restrictions on what to-go containers you can use due to concerns about cross-contamination.)

Bonus tip: Kristen likes to keep one or two reusable bags that roll up into a tiny ball in the center console of her car, so that she can also bring them into Target or other restaurants or stores — or simply needs a bag on the go!

2. Invest in a few reusable items and take them with you.

If you’re going somewhere and you know there will only be disposable products available, consider bringing your own reusable plates, utensils, cups, and even straws. I’ve found a two-person camping table set (like this one) to be lightweight and small enough to store in your car or bag. Granted, you might get a few odd looks from people when busting out your own tableware or requesting that your food be put on it, but I’ve found that more people think it’s a novel idea rather than an odd or rude one — especially if you’re kind about appreciating and understanding the convenience of them offering disposable options … and that you’ll be doing your own dishes at home later (again, like camping — pack out what you pack in).

3. Think about how you reheat your food.

I spent years using paper towel after paper towel to cover my food when reheating it in the microwave. And, honestly, I really never thought much about it (because — let’s be honest — no one likes to clean a microwave that uncovered spaghetti has exploded in). Until I was sent a Cuchina Safe Vented Glass Lid, which is used to cook, steam, and reheat food in the microwave and oven. It’s been a small and simple tweak, but one that’s saved A LOT of paper towels from going into the trashcan.

4. Go green with leftover storage.

My husband and I swapped out our plastic food storage containers for glass ones almost a decade ago. And, although the glass ones are heavier, bulkier, and have a couple chips here and there, I’m happy to report that we still use the original set that we bought almost 10 years ago. (Here’s a similar style set.)

We also use a lot of Mason jars for all kinds of things — storing oatmeal, nuts, popcorn kernels, displaying flowers, etc. And, when those lids have started to rust, we invested in these colorful storage caps (which are also great for organizing!).  BPA-free, chemical-free and made of polypropylene which is certified food-grade, they’re also dishwasher and freezer safe.

5. Before your leftovers go bad, have a plan.

Another easy thing you can do to go green with your leftovers? Have a back-up plan. If you can’t get to your leftovers in time and they’re about to go bad, are there certain things you can freeze and enjoy later? Or, can you compost some — if not all — of it? Hey, something is always better than nothing!

What other ways do you go green with leftovers? –Jenn

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