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Takeaways and Eating Out with children

Eating out and going green? How does that work?

Going green with food for us is about limiting food miles and packaging (green planet), eating healthily (green body) and eating ethically eg fair trade or paying fair prices for such food as milk (green mind).

Eating out, especially with children, and getting takeaways is a new challenge.

Eating out at cafes

For food when we’re out and about, we find cafes are usually great places to sit in and avoid the plastic packaging which comes with buying food “to go”.

However, a few places do have some strange ideas. We were in a garden centre cafe for tea and cake the other day. Cakes on plates, china tea cups and pot. I had asked for a cup of water for Eldest. The water came in a disposable, single-use plastic cup, which to me didn’t make sense. Next time, I will specifically ask for water in a tea cup now I know what their policy is.

Eating out at soft play

Eating out at a soft play venue can be a nightmare. They generally don’t let you bring your own food 🙁 which means you have to eat the food provided which, at best, is only pretending to be healthy and usually is over-priced. Given that we would only do a soft play if it is for several hours (the price isn’t worth it for a short play), we will have to eat at some point. So what can you realistically do?

Firstly, try to get something made fresh that will at least minimise plastic packaging. The last time we went, we bought a platter of food to share between the children. At least the sandwiches were made fresh.

Soft Play kids platter

Soft Play kids platter

Secondly, why not ask for coffee cups instead of plastic tumblers for children? We use china cups and crockery at home with our 18 month and 3 year old, and it’s not a problem. In fact, if anything, they’re probably more careful than they were with the light plastic stuff. The same goes for plates. If they have side plates for adults, there’s no reason why kids can’t have them.

Marvellous Milkshakes (to go, on the hoof, take outs, take away, carry out)

We’ve just been to town with the small people in tow. We decided to get a take-out milkshake. Fortunately, we had decided this in advance and I had taken our travel mugs.

When I went into the milkshake bar they were incredibly accommodating and instead of measuring to find out exactly what size of milkshake would fit into the travel cups, she filled them right to the top and charged me for the smallest size. I’m no mathematician but I reckon we definitely got more than we paid for!

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The small people loved the novelty of drinking from mummy and daddy’s cups, but next time I might consider buying and taking a reusable straw with me for Youngest since he found it slightly difficult drinking without spilling!

Result? High success. We enjoyed the adventure of doing something a little different, and would definitely do it again. Yes, people may have thought that we were feeding our children coffee, but who cares? We knew the truth! Yes, I may have been the first person to ask for the milkshake bar to fill my reusable cups, but they didn’t bat an eyelid.

Food to take away

We love takeaways as much as the next family. We can’t afford them very often, but when we do have them, we make sure we savour every bite (so normally, children are in bed!). But usually, they come with a lot of plastic which is single-use and not meant for reheating. If you’re unconvinced that takeaway plastic doesn’t matter, check out my blog on why plastic matters.

Pizza

Pizza comes in cardboard boxes, so they at least can be recycled. However, watch out for a few things.

Usually, Domino’s comes with those little plastic dip tubs that are built into the boxes. When you order, you could ask for no separate sauce tubs.

Domino's Pizza Box

Secondly, pizzas can come with a small plastic device that is used in the middle of the pizza to hold up the lid from the pizza. Totally unnecessary! Do you really mind if the top is very slightly squashed onto the pizza? I know I don’t. You could ask for this not to be used.

It takes practice to know what individual takeaways use, but just make a note of which takeaways tend to use what. Domino’s in our area doesn’t usually use the box-holder-uppers, but another pizza takeaway does but doesn’t use the plastic sauce tubs.

Chinese, Indian etc

I know the answer to this one but I haven’t managed it yet. The inspiring Beth Terry uses stainless steel Indian-style tiffins and asks the takeaway to put the food in it, and thereby occur no plastic wastage. I will update this page when I have purchased some tiffins (I love the idea, design and shininess!) and tried takeaways to see who is willing or not willing to do this. For takeaway restaurants who are unwilling or cautious about giving you food in your own containers, Beth recommends giving them a take-out without card to at least getting them thinking about the idea. After all, using your own containers saves them money.

The limiting factor on going green with takeaways is that as far as I am aware, it is not possible to get takeaway delivered to your door without plastic unless it is pizza and you have asked for no plastic ‘extras’.

As always, tell me about your experiences eating out with children..the highs, the lows, the problems and the solutions. I’d love to learn from other people’s experiences as much as telling you about my own!

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