Food packaging can be such a waste. Everything seems to come in a plastic bottle, a tiny box, plastic clamshells and aluminum pans. All of that packaging results in a lot of garbage, but it doesn’t have to make its way directly to the garbage. Reusing that packaging is a great way to save money and cut down on trash.
Here are seven ways to take old food packaging and turn it into something useful:
1. Leftover food storage.
This is an old one. Nearly every grandma has washed out the Cool Whip container and filled it with holiday leftovers. Cottage cheese, sour cream, butter tubs, they all work. This is an inexpensive way to bring your lunch to work, and when reheating your spaghetti in the microwave, it won’t matter that you ruin the container. Nor will it matter when you lose said container because you can just finish off the Cool Whip and you’ll have another one ready for tomorrow’s lunch. Ole uses small containers to bring servings of salad dressing, cream cheese and sour cream to work for his lunches and snacks.
Photo by lowjumpingfrog
2. Food preparation.
Use your foil lasagna pan for grilling by sending it through the dishwasher with your other dishes. It’s a free way to substitute aluminum foil and is a wonderful tool for grilling vegetables, mushrooms and other small things that would otherwise slip through the grates.
You can also take your yogurt cups and rinse them out. They make wonderful single-serve gelatin and pudding cups for snacks, and it’s much cheaper to buy the box of mix than it is to buy it in the prepackaged single-serve containers.
Tsh from Simple Mom recently shared several ways to “make” cheap or free toys for your kids (if you have them) including washing out plastic bottles like ketchup and salad dressing and using them as play food in the play kitchen. These stand up so much better than the fake plastic ones you can buy, and there’s a never-ending supply of them to be found in the refrigerator door.
We buy these giant clamshells of strawberries and organic spring mix from Costco, and this project from EnviroMom is so neat. I loved Shrinky Dinks when I was younger and watching them shrink into tiny plastic trinkets in the oven. This is a completely free craft for kids of all ages just by cutting up your clamshells after you’ve eaten all the strawberries and digging out those colored pencils that came home in the backpack at the end of the school year.
Photo by One Good Bumblebee
4. Craft containers.
There are so many ways you can reuse packaging to organize crafts, and I think Mandi covered nearly every single one already at Organizing Your Way. From mayonnaise jars to cottage cheese containers, baby food packaging and egg cartons, they make the perfect homes for all your beads, buttons and teeny, tiny craft supplies. You can also use the plastic containers as paint holders for dosing out tempera or for holding the clean water to rinse paint brushes off in.
5. Organizing small items.
Similar to the craft supplies, several food packaging containers make wonderful storage for tiny items. You could pack a mini sewing kit into a plastic baby food container by packing it with small spools of thread, a needle or two, a few small buttons and a thimble. It can be carried in your purse or stuck in the glove compartment in the car. Small jars and containers also make the perfect place to store rubber bands, twist ties and safety pins to keep them off the bottom of the junk drawer.
Photo by jspatchwork
6. Seedling starters.
Do you remember in elementary school when you saved your milk carton and planted seeds for mother’s day? You can do the same with yogurt cups and all the other plastic containers in your fridge. Keeping them in small, separate containers will also prevent the roots from getting tangled, which makes them much easier to plant in your garden when it’s time.
7. Say thank you or give a gift.
Cereal boxes have endless uses, but this has to be one of my favorites, using them to make a brand new box to wrap gifts in. Cara from Repurposeful had the wonderful idea of cutting up cereal boxes into postcard-sized cards to use as thank you cards. When’s the last time you sent a thank you card? (Trust me. I’m right there with you feeling guilty.)
By far, the most creative use of reusing old food containers I’ve witnessed came in the form of a cereal bag that had been washed out. That cereal bag was then used to gift ham to me. I’ve seen people use Ziplocs multiple times over, but the cereal bag was a new one for me.
Whatever you happen to use your old food packaging for, whether it be storing macaroni and cheese in the fridge or getting crafty with an egg carton, I hope you’re able to reduce both the waste in your garbage can and in your wallet.