Goodbye To Plastic Flatware

I briefly mentioned my solution to plastic flatware for large gatherings last week when I gave some tips for frugal parties. I had so many comments that I thought the concept deserved a post of it’s own instead of being buried at the end of a longer post.
I’ve always hated plastic flatware, but felt it was a necessary evil for large gatherings. It’s flimsy and hard to eat with- there are some foods that will cause the forks to snap in half. It blows away in the wind. It’s, well, plastic…in all plastic’s gaudy-colored glory.
But most of all it’s expensive for just one use. So in an attempt at frugality, I (and people I know) started buying sturdier, more expensive plasticware at the warehouse stores and then washing them.
What? Huh? Yeah, you heard me right, even though I think the idea behind them is to make it easier to clean up after a party. So it will come as no surprise that there came a day as I was taking a slightly melted fork from the dishwasher that I realized the ridiculousness of the situation.
And as I stood there I thought, “If I’m just going to wash these, why don’t I just collect a bunch of real flatware at thrift stores and garage sales and keep them for parties?”

So I spent a few months with flatware on my list of things to look for when I went to these places and in no time at all, I had a caddy with dinner forks, spoons, and dessert forks that I found for .10 to .25 each.
I have more of the large forks now than the small ones, because we usually always have ice cream and spoons can be used for that as well. I thought about how we used the plastic flatware- there never seemed to be enough forks. And recently I’ve realized I do need some knives instead of raiding our regular silverware drawer, so I’ll start collecting these this summer.
The flatware stays in this caddy all the time on a shelf in the pantry (just like plastic would) and is ready to go whenever I need it. I use the bigger part for napkins, but will probably put the knives in there that I’ve decided we should have.
Why not just use our regular flatware? There are a couple reasons, the first being that I don’t have enough for 25 to 40 people. Another reason is that I don’t have to worry if someone inadvertently throws a fork away with their plates (I do use compostable paper plates, but only if it’s outside)- it was only a .10 fork and not one from our set. And since much of the time I use these we’re outside, if any get left out or I find one in a flower border afterward, it’s no big deal.
I also like having them ready to go when and even where I need them in the caddy, because an added benefit I’ve found is that I’m able to offer to bring these extra silverware to other gatherings where they might be needed. Again, with no worries because we all know there’s more to be found in the bins at the thrift stores, don’t we?
I love eating with real forks and so do my guests, so I will never buy another box of plastic flatware again.
And everyone just thinks I’m so eco-conscience and am into reusing and reducing. Little do they know it’s just because I didn’t want my fork to snap in half one more time…

This is linked to:
Frugal Fridays @ Life as Mom
Frugal Friday @ Shabbynest




  1. Maureen says

    Great post, I totally agree–I always use real plates and silverware. I bought 24 white plates at the local dishbarn about 10 years ago for a holiday open house we hosted for my husband’s firm and have used them along with my regular kitchen dishes (also white) for all our family gatherings since then. I’ve used them twice in the last three weeks as we’ve hosted an anniversary party and another celebration–each with over 30 guests. My sisters are always shocked–why don’t you just use plastic? I tell them I really don’t like the feel of eating off/with plastic. Plus if you want to have heavy food (beans) it just never seems like the paper/plastic holds up.

  2. says


    Happy to find you on Blotanical! I’ve long collected interesting silver plate from flea markets. No plastic here.


    aka Bay Area Tendrils

  3. Anonymous says

    For the past couple months I’ve been collecting 10 cent silverware and mismatched plates from second hand stores to use for my wedding. I like an eclectic feel – not really into the perfect matching glam weddings and don’t really have the budget for it anyway. This is actually MUCH less expensive even than renting dishes! Now I know what to do with it all when the wedding is over – just keep some of it for future parties!

  4. says

    absolutely! i wholeheartedly agree with everything you said! and i’m like anon above, i have thrifted a collection of mismatched but interesting dishes that i bring out instead of paper plates. and if they break? no biggie. it probably only cost 49 cents and gives me a reason to hunt down another cool dish 😛

  5. says

    That’s a great idea. Very creative too…I like it. I always see good stuff like that at thrift stores and yard sales. Now I may just have to start a collection of my own!!!!!

    Hugs, Heather :)

  6. shopannies says

    love your idea I love to mismate dinnerware it is less expensive to replace and makes the dinner more appealing to me

  7. Amanda@The Hand Me Down House says

    I’m totally with you on the detest for the plastic silverware. I love your idea — and it least no one will accidentally throw away your “good silver” (not that we have good silverware but I’d like to keep my silverware set in tact as long as possible!). Thanks so much for the idea!!

  8. Elizabeth (blue clear sky) says

    What a great idea! With a very large extended family, this idea will come in very handy. Better for the environment too. I recently bought 16 flatware place settings for everyday and smaller get togethers but worry about it being accidently tossed in the garbage. Your idea will be great for the bigger outdoor bbq’s or even indoor buffets. I had saved several old sets of mismatched flatware for camping in our trailer. Now I will collect more for the large get togethers. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Muddy Boot Dreams says

    No matter what the reason, it’s a great idea.

    I was thinking when I started to read the post there has got to be a better solution then plastic. Glad that you thought of one.


  10. Marsha Neal Studio says

    It is such a great simple idea! I recently inherited my grandmother’s plethora of silverware – some are really cool antique silver… others just flatware for every day use. I think I will be using them a lot this summer when we have gatherings (I need to go through all the bins stored in the garage anyway) and leaving our “set” inside. I love old, slightly heavy flatware – it always adds an element of quality to the meal and something extra to talk about.

    Makes me want to run out and get lots of pictures of them! A good Tuesday Garden Party Topic to think about for future blogging! Thanks for the inspiration…

  11. says

    I have lots of silverware that I use for large gatherings and a boatload of plates I have gotten from different garage sales – the only complaint I get is from the dish do-ers, washing for 30-40 people is no fun – unless you have help!
    My extended family thinks I am crazy!
    Great post.

  12. says

    I’m so doing this! I’m slowly transitioning over. I host dinner for 30 every Tuesday night .(young adults from church and no I don’t always do the cooking), but I just can’t stand the amount of paper/plastic we go through. Yard sales and thrift stores, here I come!

  13. Heather says

    Hi there! Great post!! I’ve always washed our plastic utensils but I’m loving your idea – we have large gatherings at our house all the time too. Thanks for the idea (and I’m in Thrift Shops all the time too…)!

  14. says

    I’m glad so many of you are already, or going to say good bye to your plastic! I do have quite a few dishes I use, too, but when we’re outside, I usually do paper…

    As for the caddy that a number of you asked about, it was a gift from my kids one birthday, I think (they had some things in it), but I think it was from Target. I’ve seen them at places like JoAnn’s and such since then.

  15. says

    I love that idea! I’m usually not hosting the big family parties (of 60 people) but I do host smaller parties, and I feel the same way you do about plastic!

    Right now we just use what we have, but I may try that in the future!

  16. Stephanie Cameron says

    Great idea. I was at my cousin’s house for dinner when someone asked her if she was going to wash and keep the plastic wear. I laughed about that for months…why wouldn’t you just use your regular forks. But I see your point that you wouldn’t have enough for a large party. I think I’m going to start hunting utensils down!

  17. Gina says

    I am right with you! Last summer my mom asked if I wanted anything from my Grandma’s house (they were cleaning it out after her death) She had a large drawer full of mismatched utensils which I was given. I am enjoying using them this summer for picnics. They don’t match, and they aren’t valuable but they sure are nicer then plastic!

    I would really like another alternative to paper plates and cups too.

  18. says

    this is such a good idea. we have inexpensive stemware for parties, and since we live at a camp, we’re able to borrow plates and cups for our big annual picnic, but we still use plasticware then. granted, i bought the 300 pack 5 years ago, and pieces still manage to get washed and hang around…but metal is certainly nicer:)

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