When we know we’ll be eating in a restaurant where we might have leftovers to take home, we bring our own containers. This is better for the environment because they’re containers we’ve already used several times and will use again, instead of new containers provided by the restaurant that might be a single-use type. It’s also more convenient for us because our containers don’t leak, don’t squash each other open when stacked in the refrigerator, and can be microwaved when we’re ready to reheat the food.
Usually we use the clear polypropylene buckets we’ve saved from Chinese food that was delivered–the kind they use for soup and particularly saucy foods. We also have a few of the Ziploc/Gladware-type polypropylene boxes in assorted sizes. We put the maximum number of containers we expect to need, and their lids, into a tote bag. They weigh almost nothing, so it’s no big deal to carry.
After we’ve all finished eating, we pack up the leftovers, then sit back and wait for the check and our server’s reaction. (Occasionally they’ll amuse us by saying something like, “Oh…you ate very well…” with a mystified stare at our scraped-clean plates.) We don’t consider the packing of leftovers a service the restaurant owes us, so it doesn’t affect the tip!
Some people react to this idea by saying it sounds like too much hassle. It does take a little bit of effort to remember to bring the containers and (if the meal is part of a series of errands done by car) to remember to bring them into the restaurant . . . but it pays off by eliminating those annoying disposable containers. I personally have a horror of Styrofoam (touching it gives me chills, foods that have been in it smell bad to me, and it’s made from a non-renewable resource, it never biodegrades, and it releases endocrine disruptors into food!) and foam boxes usually leave a lot of air space around the food, as well as closing in a non-airtight way, which means that the food dries out and/or goes bad after only a short time in the refrigerator. The little paper Chinese-food cartons are better, but both those and foam boxes can leak at the corners. I love saucy food, so it’s very disappointing to find my sauce dripping out of the bag on the way home, not to mention the mess–our old car had a permanent stain from oily Italian food in a foam box! Oh, and when I pack up food myself, I get all the sauce because I’m willing to scrape the plate more diligently than many servers.
It works for me!
See more advice about bringing your own containers at TakeOutWithOut.