I don’t buy that we only eat out 5 times a week. Eating out means “not at home”. Think about it: coffee or breakfast sandwich or muffin in the morning; sandwich or burger or Thai at your desk; Mexican or Indian or horrible excuse of some Asian food to-go for dinner. Even if you confess to doing that only 3 times a week, that’s still 9 times you’ve eaten food to-go. Picture—and if you really want to, as an experiment, stack in the corner of your kitchen—all the bags, containers, and eating-ware you accumulate in 7 days. I know! Pretty nasty.
Approximately 25 to 30% of people live alone and thus dine alone. Because there’s a stigma attached to dining alone in a restaurant, food to-go is the wasteful result. It takes the same amount of trash: Styrofoam containers, plastic-ware and plastic carry-out bags for 2, or even 4, is practically the same for a meal to feed one person.
Us middle-aged people remember when we never, that means zero times a week, ate a meal to-go, ever, for an entire year. Think about it… On vacation road trips, we would stop to eat at a diner. On holidays to Aunt Sheri’s or Grandma Bertha, we ate around a huge dining table (or the kiddy table) on plates, hand washed and stacked away a couple of hours later. Our dads ate lunch from lunch boxes or from a food cart or from the company commissary. Dinner was waiting on the dining table every night. There were no drive-thru meals after soccer practice. There wasn’t even soccer practice. We didn’t order pizza delivery and Dad didn’t bring home Boston Market on his way from work.
Food to-go has become so cheap that you really can’t argue the cost and convenience. Sometimes life gets so busy, but, once in awhile take a break from this nano lifestyle. Most restaurant food is not all that great for you anyway—high in sodium and all that. But this is about waste and being wasteful.
The remedy is a simple thing and it’s probably better for your digestion, health, and wellbeing. Dine out. Stay in the restaurant. If you’re dining solo then read a book, do some emailing on the electronic gadget of your choice or stare back at the other table of guests. If you’re with someone, don’t do any of that and enjoy the company. So you have to tip a few more bucks but you should be tipping your to-go waiter anyway.
Finally, check with your favorite restaurant to see if they’ll fill reusable containers you bring. It’s a few more minutes of waiting and you’ll have to do some dishwashing. Carry all that out with a reusable grocery bag. You know, the ones that you’ve bought and stashed in the closet or the back seat of your car.