I may only be “mint green” when it comes to being a crunchy mama, but believe me, I still stand out in a crowd.
When everyone else has sandwich baggies for a packed lunch, I have my reusable bags.
When folks are grabbing free water bottles at an event, I almost always have my stainless steel reusable bottle with me.
At a restaurant, not only do I completely confuse the servers by asking for “real” cups for my kids’ water (since kids’ meal cups are often pitched), but I usually run out to the van for my leftovers containers instead of accepting a huge chunk of Styrofoam to carry my food.
And when we show up at a friend’s house for a potluck, I have all sorts of unconventional solutions to not use any plastic wrap or foil to safely and effectively transport the food there.
I love easy ways to reduce waste and keep plastic off my food, which is especially tricky when you need a dish to travel with you to a potluck.
It bugs me when people get new plastic wrap to take a dish home when they already brought it covered in something that they had to throw away. (I try not to cause family conflict about it of course, but it gets my bristles up!)
I’m the type to carefully lay the plastic wrap in a hidden location, food side up, and make certain the same piece gets back on my leftovers at the end of the party. Using these tricks, sometimes I’m able to avoid that piece of plastic wrap in the first place!
Related: Minimize Plastic Kitchen Packaging
How to Pack a Dish Without Plastic Wrap or Foil
We live in a disposable society, and we’ve got to start being more conscious, or else.
I’m fairly adept at avoiding plastic wrap at home (and using aluminum foil is no better, probably worse!), but when it comes to taking a dish to a party, it is definitely more fun to use a fancy serving bowl or platter, which complicates things.
Other than just hosting everything at your house so your food doesn’t have to travel, I’ve discovered a few new ways to still use the special dishes – which often don’t have lids – and yet avoid using anything disposable.
1. Little Bowl Inside a Big Bowl
If you can find a bowl in your house with a lid that would fit one of your fancy bowls right inside it, you can not only cover the food without throwing anything away, but the dish is now much easier to pack and bring somewhere if you’re traveling a few hours. You can stack other things on top of it.
In goes the pretty bowl (filled with rice pudding from Healthy Snacks to Go, all dressed up for Christmas with dried cranberries and cardamom), and on goes the lid! I was even able to mound up the pudding inside for an attractive presentation, without the “mush” effect of plastic wrap.
2. Pack Normally, Serve Beautifully
This idea is a lot of work for layered dips like my 7-layer Tex Mex from The Everything Beans Book (above), but for some party foods or appetizers that just need to be served in a bowl, why not bring them in your regular lidded glass dishes and then transfer to the pretty bowl when you arrive?
As long as you can rinse out the pretty bowl before you go, you should be able to get to a party and home without any messes or waste. (The 7-layer dip could be done if you had enough time to assemble it on location.)
3. Cover with a Plate
I’ve used this trick in my own refrigerator for years. Lots of bowls and pie plates manage quite nicely with a regular old plate of similar size resting on top.
Now I can stack them or pack in an insulated carry-case without getting anything messy. Obviously you still can’t rattle things around too much, or the plate might slide off.
This idea is the only one doubled up from this article I wrote a while back: 7 Ways to Avoid Using Plastic Wrap
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4. Steal a Lid That Fits Well Enough
I could have used a little plate to cover this bowl, filled with Sweet Potato Garlic Dip that I took to a party on the weekend. I decided to try something that wouldn’t break if it fell out of the fridge after being jostled around:
It’s not a perfect fit, but it will keep the food in and other stuff out, so I’m happy with it.
5. Back into the Box
I have a Christmas tray that is rather deep, and years ago I realized that the easiest way to travel with it was to put it right back into the box! I can stack things on top of it and not worry about super huge messes.
Here are some Butternut Spice Bars (from Smart Sweets and the second edition of Healthy Snacks to Go):
(I didn’t think to take photos until after I brought them to an Advent by Candlelight service.)
Back into the box they go!
A perfect fit:
If you worry about the food touching the inside of the box, you could always line the top with a silicone mat or waxed paper.
Bee’s Wrap or other similar brands can be used like a sheet of plastic wrap, but it’s made from organic cotton muslin, beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin, and is a completely safe and sustainable food wrap that can be used again and again. Wrap anything from cheese, half an avocado, a crusty loaf of bread or just simply cover a bowl. The warmth of your hands will create the seal needed for keeping foods fresh.
Need Food to Put IN the Fancy Dishes?
You can also browse my own cheap and easy party foods and tips for menu planning at the holidays.
You might also be interested in:
- How to Pack for a Real Food Road Trip
- Reusable Shopping Bags for Every Grocery Run
- Don’t Drink BPA: Plastic Safety for People and Earth
24 thoughts on “6 Ways to Pack a Fancy Dish Without Using Plastic Wrap”
Pingback: How to Have a “Green” Christmas | Green Your Way
Sorry, but plastic wrap is way cheaper for me than using these sorts of things and much easier.
That’s the rub, Melissa — often easier and cheaper is not the best way for the environment or your health, so it’s all about striking a balance and figuring out what’s important to me. For me, I choose health and environment and take a little time to be creative. 🙂 Katie
I save big rubber bands. Two can be criss crossed to hold a small plate on a small dish. Or wrap a bigger plate and dish together in a dishtowel and safety pin (I have some saved diaper pins) it closed so things don’t shift. Love the beeswax covers too!
The stacked pie plates work great – if it’s a tall pie/whatever, I go ahead and stack them – and carry the stack in the Rubbermaid cake container. The flatter container for pies gets all sorts of use. We do a lot of charity cooking. At Sams Club, they get their cucumbers and tomatoes in heavy cardboard boxes that stack. Those work great! We’ve used the same ones for years. Free for the taking.
I have used the plate over a pie for quite some time. I usually invert the plate and find that gives extra head space to my usually-rounded pies. Can’t wait to try the beeswax covers and have my order in!
Great tips! They are simple but I don’t think I would have considered most of them. I especially love how you are able to stack things on top of each other with a sturdy lid like a plate, unlike with foil or plastic wrap.
Last night I had some ladies over for our monthly “moms night in”/book/bible study. A friend brought over homemade caramel popcorn in a beautiful bowl. What did she cover it with? A very thin disposable/hotel style shower cap! It fit perfectly and doesn’t stick together and get all weird like plastic wrap. I thought it was very clever!
That’s awesome! I bought a pack of 20 bowl covers at a dollar store (for really one dollar) that look like shower caps but are different sizes. 🙂 Katie
Maybe that’s what she bought too! I didn’t ask, but it looked like a shower cap (or something similar).
Great, timely post and you provided me with a solution for a few people I still needed gifts for 😉
Love the beeswrap idea. It always bothers me, too, to see all the foil and plastic wrap in the trash at a party. Such a waste!
I saw this at Learning and Yearning about how to make your own beeswax food cover http://learningandyearning.com/uses-for-beeswax
Good ideas! I like the beeswrap. Never heard of it before.
I use plastic wrap and aluminum foil as little as I possibly can (and what I do use, I wash and reuse) so I thought I’d become pretty good at figuring out alternatives. But there are a few in here that I hadn’t thought of. Thanks!
I use the bowl within a bowl trick a lot! 🙂
Briella, Denver IT Consulting
I absolutely adore this post. I hide the plastic wrap too! Great ideas and I may just have to go ahead and order the beeswrap. Does it smell like candles?
I never noticed a smell, so I just went to smell it just for you. 😉 The only thing it reminds me of is my MadeOn lotion, which makes sense, because there’s beeswax in that too. ??? I don’t know that I have any “real” beeswax candles – most are synthetic nowadays! There’s very little smell, bottom line. 🙂 Katie
I saw some silicone covers in a catalog, a pack of 5, that are reusable and stretch to fit “any bowl” supposedly. These and the bees wrap sound like great tools!
I use these and LOVE LOVE them http://www.abeego.ca/
Looks like they use the same materials as Beeswrap, so I’m so happy to hear they’re a great product for you!
Amy Dacyczyn (hope I spelled that right–the author of The Tightwad Gazette) washed and reused aluminum foil. She said she could make a roll last for years that way.
That’s a frugal way to go for sure, and “green” in some ways – but aluminum is a bit of a health hazard, so I try not to let it touch my food whenever I can. But I totally reuse it when I do use it! 🙂 Katie
BEESWRAP!!!!! 🙂 🙂 😀 I am so excited to see this product you have no idea! Ahh the little things that brighten my day! I can’t wait to try it in DD’s lunch box!