Real Solutions: What to Do When You Don't Have Any Plates

July 31, 2015

Here's where we share real solutions, through design success stories in the homes of Food52 team members.

Today: Kraft paper saves the day.

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A few weeks ago, I found myself with the happy task of having my boyfriend's mother over for dinner (Hi, Leah!)—which wouldn't have been a problem, but I didn't have any plates. My boyfriend and I had just moved into our new apartment and the options were limited—the two of us had been eating out of ice cream bowls (priorities) since the move and serving a feast on paper plates just didn't feel right. Somewhere in the middle of my (slightly frantic) last-minute meal planning, it hit me to use the kraft wrapping paper I had stashed in the closet as "plates" and to serve the pizza directly on top of it (with Caesar-Style Kale Salad in our trusty ice cream bowls).

To do it, I simply rolled out the kraft paper, which I bought at a paper shop but is available at any office supply store, and weighted down one edge with a marble block and the other with wine glasses. Some of the grease from the Shrimp Pizza did leak through, but it was an easy clean-up—especially when doing the dishes meant tearing the used paper off and gathering it up to recycle.

And while this won't work with every meal—particularly those that involve a knife and fork—it's a great solution for anyone moving into a new place, for kids, and for dinner parties. I've been keeping a roll by my dinner-table-butcher-block in case the inspiration for a last-minute pizza night (or even clam bake!) strikes.

What are some of your last-minute dinner fixes when you're in a pinch? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ryan MacDonnell
    Ryan MacDonnell
  • Nicole Salisbury-Gaumont
    Nicole Salisbury-Gaumont
  • Christine Mohn
    Christine Mohn
  • sexyLAMBCHOPx
  • amysarah
I eat everything.


Ryan M. August 3, 2015
What a fun idea for the kids too! A few restaurants around here use the kraft paper and allow the kids to draw right on the paper. So many uses for this cheaper alternative. Can't wait to incorporate this into many family gatherings.
Nicole S. August 1, 2015
What a great camping hack!!!!
Christine M. August 1, 2015
Black plates from the dollar store to coordinate with the black and white " good" plates
sexyLAMBCHOPx July 31, 2015
I might have to buy some Kraft paper for my dumpling making parties!
amysarah July 31, 2015
Newspaper is compostable, and a big roll of newsprint (i.e., the paper without the print) is easily available and cheap - sometimes less than kraft paper. I usually keep some around for drawing - last time I bought it, I think it was ~ $20 for an 18" roll. 1500+ ft long. (Way cheaper than parchment!)
Greenstuff July 31, 2015
Depends where you are. Where I am, all food-soiled paper goes into the compost bin, whereas a little bit of food waste can ruin a whole batch of recycled paper. It's a shame there are so many "rules," but since there are, it's good to learn your own town's specifics.
AntoniaJames July 31, 2015
This is such a good idea. Is Kraft paper compostable? If so, that would be preferable to recycling. (Less energy consumed, smaller carbon footprint.) ;o)
Leslie S. July 31, 2015
So glad you like it! And some kraft paper is compostable! As long as it's unbleached and the packaging is marked with "compostable" (paper marked "biodegradable" or "degradable" needs to be recycled).
AntoniaJames July 31, 2015
I have some nice organic, unbleached compostable parchment - it's not very thick, but I am wondering if it could be folded over into placemats for this purpose. ;o)
702551 July 31, 2015
Recycling centers will not process grease-soiled paper (like pizza boxes); soiled paper will be separated at the transfer station and get tossed into landfill where it will biodegrade slowly.

If you have access to a compost bin, then most of the Kraft paper can conceivably end up in that bin, the soiled sections should go in the trash.

The Kraft paper sure looks swankier than the newspaper at crawdad boils though. :-)
Leslie S. July 31, 2015
That's an important point! Thank you for clarifying that, cv!
AntoniaJames July 31, 2015
cv, thank you; these are all good points! Also, I'm totally with you on the newspaper for crab and shrimp feasts. It's one of the reasons I don't care much for them. Bleaahhh. ;o)
P.S. Our "greenwaste" service provider (picks up all food waste for composting by the city) says that any food-soiled paper is fine. I read somewhere (Mother Earth News, I think) that the biggest problem for community compostable waste services is the little sticker with the UPC code on it that you see on bananas, avocados, etc.
702551 August 1, 2015
Antonia James,

Your greenwaste service provider is still doing a triage between compostable and landfill items. Human beings do the separation, so they are mostly looking for grease/meat stained paper to remove from the compost pile.

The stickers on grocery store produce are plastic, and yes that's a problem. I buy all of my produce at my town's farmers market, so I'm not contributing to the problem. If you buy grocery store produce, remove the sticker and toss it in the trash. The stickerless food scraps are now compostable. My guess is that your greenwaste service provider is tossing anything with a sticker into landfill.