To Go or not To Go?

We Americans, on average, eat out a lot. A recent number puts the average number of meals taken outside the home to 18.2 per month, or 4.2 per week. That’s a lot but only one part of the topics of today’s blog. The other is portion size. I just read the following shocking information: food portions in America's restaurants have doubled or tripled over the last 20 years.

Obesity is at least in part to blame for that inflation in portion size – I am not making this up, the National Institutes of Health (webpage quoted above) states this in no uncertain terms.

Another consequence: those of us who a) don’t eat that much, b) hate to waste food and c) find it convenient to have a little something in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch take their leftovers home. The good old doggie bag still is in use.

Doggie Bag to the Rescue

Screen Shot 2019-01-02 at 5.11.52 PM.jpg

That’s all good, really, because as a nation we are wasting a lot of food: one pound per person per day, or 150,000 tons of food every day (for more interesting metrics check this webpage) so fighting this trend while saving some money is a great thing.

But – you knew there was a “but” coming, right? – for all the waste those handy-dandy take-out containers create: that huge Styrofoam box for two left-over pot stickers, or those three plastic clam shell containers for four spoonful of each Mu Shu pork, Kung Pao chicken and rice, plus the plastic bag to carry them in. That is a lot of waste for a few minutes of convenience. Waste that will still sit in the landfill or slush around the ocean in 500 years (or more) or will get burned and creates CO2 – something, I can assure you, we have already plenty of in our atmosphere.

Hard numbers about how many doggie bags are used and discarded per year are difficult to find (which means, I didn’t find them in a reasonable amount of research time, if you have more patience and find information, please do share!) mainly because they tend to get lumped in with take-out food containers, which, of course, are just as problematic and even more numerous.

Sustainable Approach to Doggie Bagging

But the topic for today is doggie bags and how to avoid them. I tried the “carry a reusable plastic container in your purse” approach and to be honest, it did not work. I am not to particular when it comes to purses and fashion but that stupid container was always in the way, my cell phone and keys just loved to hid behind it and it made my purse fat 100% of the time when I only needed the thing maybe 1% of the time. I finally took it out, mere hours before I actually wanted to doggie bag something. Darn!

A recommendation I saw online was using a ziplog bag instead – it is smaller and less annoying in the purse. True, but the whole idea of putting that Mu Shu pork in a plastic bag and then trying to scrape it out the next day was, well, not appealing. Moreover, it still creates trash, because washing and reusing that Mu Shu pork smeared plastic bag is simply not happening unless I am cool with using several gallons of hot water and lots of soap. Which I am not.

Then I had the – I believe – perfect idea. Here it comes: nobody ever walks to restaurants. At least outside of Manhattan and San Francisco, everybody takes the car. Therefore, there is no reason to have the container in the purse. It can just be in the trunk of the car and taken out when needed. And since it isn’t nice to have plastic containers flopping around the trunk and I was fresh out of sewing projects but sat on a sizeable, FabMo-caused, stash of fabric I decided to try and make a pretty, or at least pretty-ish, fabric bag in which to put my food containers. Should I forget it in the car, I can always send my teenage son to fetch it and at home I can simply take the containers out, put them in the fridge, put a couple washed containers in the fabric bag and send my teenage son to the garage to put them in the trunk for next time. (Ok, I am lying, my car hasn’t seen the inside of a garage in years. A girl needs some room to store all her crafting materials!)

Making a Doggie Bag Bag

baggie instructions.JPG

So here is what I came up with. The goal was to use FabMo Selection event materials and with that no pieces that were larger than about 26 x 26 “ (a “long”) and the bag should hold two containers of average size. In my cases 2 Ziplog containers, 7 “ square at the bottom, 2 “ tall. Therefore, I couldn’t go the one-piece-with-boxed-corners route, it would have required a piece of fabric at least 36” long.

  • So I cut 1 piece of 8” wide the entire length of the long, so approx. 8” x 26” (bonus: some sides are finished and don’t need to be zig zagged).

  • Then I cut two pieces of 8” x 9’5” for the two remaining sides.

  • I zigzagged all the sides that did not have a finished edge already

  • I sewed the small pieces with a 1/2” seam allowance to the middle of the long piece creating a cross shaped piece as shown in my very terribly hand-drawn sketch.

  • Then I closed the sides with a 1/2” seam allowance

  • For a little more shape I topstitched around the bottom

  • I put a tunnel into the top to put a string through.


Here is mine, it ain’t pretty. I didn’t have enough time to really do a good job and completely ignored the old rule of measure twice and cut once. And as we all know: ignore that rule at your own peril!


Anyway, you are all creatives and better at this sewing thing than I am, so I am sure you get the idea and can make prettier ones!

Green, ProjectTina Baumgartner