My family’s eating habits have changed drastically since March, and I don’t think we’re alone.

I’ve always been a weekly menu planner and once-a-week shopper. But since the pandemic began, all the meal planning and prep has gone out the window. Now, I still go to the grocery store once a week, but I buy more-or-less the same few staples. Plus, we get a mixed bag of fruits and vegetables from either Imperfect Foods or our CSA. And then we wing it.

My family still always sits down together for a meal at the end of the day, but now we are each responsible for our own food and we rarely have the same thing on our plates. This system has virtually eliminated any stress I used to have around meal planning and eating—it is so weird for me, so different from what I grew up with, but somehow it works. Mostly because none of us like to eat the same things, and we’re all pretty stubborn about our preferences.

The only thing all three of us agree on is Friday night Gregorio’s.

Before the pandemic began, we would go to Gregorio’s, our neighborhood Italian eatery, every Friday night. It’s walking distance from our house. My husband is like a rock star there—because he will talk to everyone and spend way too much money on bottles of wine. And our daughter has celebrated her birthday there for the last four years.

So, when all the local restaurants shuttered their doors to dine-in customers this spring, there was no question that we would continue to support Gregorio’s by ordering takeout. Besides, they would not only deliver us our favorite comfort food; they would also deliver us wine. Yes please.

Of course, all this takeout comes with a lot of plastic. And this is the Plastic Free Challenge. So this past Friday, we tried a work-around.

Friday night takeout in reusables.

Instead of calling in our order, my husband masked up and went to the restaurant. He ordered pizza in a cardboard box and wine in a glass bottle for takeout, and while he waited for the pizza, he sat alone at one of the restaurant’s outdoor tables, enjoyed an aperitif and ordered an appetizer and salad for dine in. When the food arrived on plates, he boxed it up in our containers from home. Boom! Plastic Free takeout!

Of course, this method results in some unnecessary dirty dishes and a pizza box that cannot be recycled. Plus, folks these days understandably have varying levels of comfort with making a trip to a restaurant. So here are two more ideas for reducing takeout waste:

  • Call the restaurant to place your order. You can get so much accomplished with a phone call. You can ask the restaurant if they will let you take your order home in your own containers. If they won’t—or can’t—let you use your own containers, ask what kind of packaging the restaurant uses. At the very least, you can refuse all the extra stuff—the plastic utensils, napkins, condiment packets—over the phone.
  • Choose your restaurant wisely. At this point, you probably know which restaurants use eco-friendly takeout containers and which dishes come in minimal packaging (think burritos). I like to order from Sweetgreen, Naked Lunch, and Cava because I can throw the bowls in my compost bin (which is picked up weekly by local commercial composter Veteran Compost). Check out our list of local Earth Friendly restaurants for some other restaurants that are working to reduce their waste.

Which leads us to this week’s first Call to Action:

Email or tweet your favorite local restaurant and ask them to join the
Our Last Straw coalition by filling out this form:

Eliminating plastic straws from the menu is often a restaurant’s first step toward more sustainable practices. You can read more about the impact of straws and Our Last Straw HERE.

Finally, here are some resources you can share with restaurants that might need a little coaxing to trust reusables in the midst of a pandemic:

by Julie Kimmel