How-To & Diy

8 Ways to Reuse Cartons, Crates, and Baskets from the Market

July 31, 2013

Every other week, Anna Hezel talks about the innovations, decorations, and other quiet touches that make a party memorable.

Today: How to put used cartons, crates, and baskets from the market to work at your next party.

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With end-of-summer produce in full bloom, you hardly need an excuse to have a party in August. All you need is a back yard, a pie recipe you've been dying to try, and a trip to the farmers market. Big, vibrant meals can come from the corn, zucchini, and eggplant that's in season, and believe it or not, so can your next round of party supplies.

If you're buying fruits and vegetables for a crowd, you'll probably wind up with a few extra cartons, crates, and baskets, and these happen to be great props for entertaining. Some stands at the market will even sell you the empty containers for a few dollars if you're looking for extras. Here are a few ways you can make these useful even after they've been emptied of their delicious cargo:

1. Big, rustic flower arrangements: Fill wooden crates with a few potted plants or wide jars of flowers. Place a few of these arrangements around the perimeter of a patio or balcony to fake a garden.

2. Napkin and utensil holders: Arrange napkins, straws, and silverware in paper berry cartons to set around the picnic table.

 3. A portable bar: Set a tray or baking dish of ice within a wooden crate, and use it for cooling and carrying drinks.


4. Bread basket: Line a basket with a pretty dishtowel, and use it for serving rolls or biscuits.

5. Passing out favors: If you have a lot of kids coming to your party, fill a basket with some kid-friendly favors [bubbles, pinwheels, wooden airplanes, etc.] to keep the younger guests entertained.

6. Aesthetically appealing trash bins: For a big outdoor party, line bushel baskets with trash bags and tuck under tables for a discreet and not-too-ugly place for guests to put their garbage.

7. Leave the fruit in them: If you can resist the temptation to turn your peaches, plums, and apricots into pie, consider serving some cookies and shortbreads alongside big, beautiful baskets of fresh fruit. Because who can beat this presentation?

8. Send your guests home with a treat: Paper berry cartons are the perfect size for packaging up a little gift of cookies, scones, or other treats for your guests to take home. Try one of my favorite make-ahead treats -- Tipsy Maple Corn with bacon and bourbon.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • satanbunnee
  • J
  • Jr0717
  • Patricia Boice
    Patricia Boice
  • Crystal Hall
    Crystal Hall
Anna Hezel

Written by: Anna Hezel


satanbunnee June 30, 2022
I use the plastic clam shells that salads come in to organize my refrigerator. Instead of paying for plastic containers at Ikea or Target, it is a cheaper method. Plus I like the idea that I am doing the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" thang. :)
J March 28, 2015
Wine bottle crate [with the dividers cut out] makes a great toy box for the Golden Retrievers.
Jr0717 March 28, 2015
I've been in 'renovation' mode in my house lately, and have found that crates, in particular, have been the best for storage. I've re-finished several and used them as decoration and storage on my counters, too!
Patricia B. March 28, 2015
Most people who care enough about good food to go to a Farmer's Market are probably fairly clean and take good care of their cartons!
Crystal H. April 26, 2014
The farmers' markets I go to in Chicago generally don't even give them to me. They usually place the the produce in plastic bags or in our own bags. Those cartons are probably pretty pricey to keep on buying.
rizzle August 6, 2013
I love the idea of sending guests home with something berry-y in the berry cartons.
Gabriella P. August 1, 2013
You're the Martha Stewart of our generation.
Rumi143 July 31, 2013
We save ours and then take them back to the farmers, who then reuse them. We do this with egg cartons, too.
Anna H. August 1, 2013
Another great idea for recycling!
Anthony R. August 1, 2013
awesome idea however it is technically against USDA and Ag & Markets regulations for farmers to reuse them.
ATG117 April 22, 2014
I have to agree that I do not like it when I see farmers taking cartons back from shoppers. There's no way of knowing how clean someone is and how they took care of those cartons that will be touching your food.
Kaja1105 June 30, 2022
I do this too with egg and berry cartons. I'm sorry to hear that it is against regulations. But my guess is that the risk is small. One should rinse berries before eating and should be always be careful handling eggs. The eggs I buy from the farmer's market are not washed, which means that they do not require refrigeration (though I refrigerate them anyway). My understanding is that the coating on the unwashed eggs protects the shells from absorbing bacteria and other pathogens.