Get creative with your takeout boxes

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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To make a difference in your personal trash output in the world, you only need to look at a few things a little differently. For instance, those lightly used food containers you typically toss with nary a thought. These items could be given a pardon from the landfill’s life sentence and easily repurposed as spring gift containers.

Now, we are not talking about the sticky, sauce-covered containers that hold favorite Asian takeout meals. Those belong in the trash heap with no parole. But, lightly used containers are often clean enough to repurpose.

These art projects leave a lot of room for creativity and show that in some small way, you’ve done something “green” while saving a little green of your own — cash that is.

Just in time for Easter, here are some ideas:

Tiny ‘houses’ with handles

Supplies needed

• 1 clean, empty 12-pack taco box

• Craft paints

• 1 small and 1 medium craft paintbrush

• Stickers, rubber stamps and ink pads, pack of pompoms etc. (optional)

Among the cool containers you get in life that are not that messy are those sweet little Taco Bell taco boxes. Each of these is shaped like a house with a handle and set to tote 12 individually wrapped tacos. Cafeterias like Furr’s often have similar boxes for takeout or larger catering orders The box hauls them nicely to a gathering or picnic. When empty, it won’t have a drop of taco sauce left behind.

I painted it with craft paint then went out on a limb, so to speak, to paint a simple bird and a branch on the side. You don’t have to be artistic to remake this box: Finger-painting might even be a fun method of decoration. There are lots of fun stencils at craft stores to help with inspiration. You can also use rubber stamps and ink, or elaborate stickers, or leave the taco box unpainted and unadorned, then glue fuzzy, crafty pompoms in a polka-dot pattern.

Once decorated, this box is light, so don’t plan on putting anything heavy in it. Sweets or baked goods, like an individual-sized batch of homemade cookies or muffins, fit nicely, and gift recipients will enjoy learning that you converted a taco box for the job.

A nest for jelly beans or jewels

Supplies needed

• Several sauce containers

• Craft paints

• 1 craft paintbrush

• Iridescent glitter (I used a clear, white one)

• 1 bloom from a silk flower cluster or a few paper flowers.

• Low-heat hot glue and glue gun

• Fragrant solvent (optional)

One of the easiest things to make with that tiny container that holds your extra salsa or side of ranch dressing is a small jelly bean or jewelry package. Make sure you rinse out the container and wash it with dish detergent and hot water. Dry the container well.

If the gift is not going to hold food items or candy, give it a spray with a scented solvent like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day fragrant, earth-friendly cleaners (sold at many stores like Target). I like to use the lemon verbena or lavender countertop spray because it will clean with mild ingredients, but it also will give your container a nice scent when the package is opened.

This is a good option if you are giving something like a pair of earrings or a sentimental pin.

Paint the bottom of the container or the lid and then, before the paint dries, sprinkle with a little fine, clear, pastel colored or iridescent glitter. Top the lid with a paper flower to complete the look. These often come with an adhesive bottom, but you can glue them on using a very small dot of low-heat glue and a glue gun to keep them adhered. Or use flower petals from silk flower clusters.

One or two small silk hydrangea or pansy blooms look sweet on these small containers.

The small but sweet gift container works well as a party favor for Easter gatherings. Some are small enough to fit inside a larger-sized plastic or papier-maché egg if you are packing eggs for an egg hunt and want to make a few prize eggs. Fill larger sauce containers with candies, jelly beans, a few marshmallow chicks or prepackaged candies.

Eggcelent egg cartons

Supplies needed

• Clean egg carton (either full or half-dozen)

• Iridescent glitter

• Craft paint

• 1 craft paintbrush

• Small piece of scrap, white faux fur fabric

• Low-heat hot glue and glue gun

• Shredded paper and bonbons or any type of filler candy

• Clear polyurethane spray (optional)

Egg cartons make super gift containers, especially around Easter time. Give the carton a blue or pink coating of paint and it’s okay if the lettering from the egg company shows through. The extra paint just tints the carton a little more.

Then, while the paint is thick and wet, use a fine, iridescent glitter shaker to give the lid some sparkle. The glitter will dry with the paint. Spraying the lid with a little squirt of clear acrylic paint will seal the glitter onto the carton.

Fill the carton with shredded paper to make a nest for bonbons, speckled malted-milk eggs, wrapped truffles or the chocolate of your choice.

To decorate the top of the carton, trace a pattern for a simple rabbit shape on the back of some faux fur fabric or felt from a craft store. Cut the shape out and glue it to the top of the carton for a classic Pat the Bunny-style tactile, touchy-feely bunny decoration. Other options: 3-D Easter stickers, wood cutouts, Easter-themed, flat ornaments or paper flowers.

Creamy-no-more Easter baskets

Supplies needed

• Small ice cream container and lid

• Dishwashing soap

• Fragrant cleaning spray (optional)

• Craft paint in pastel colors

• Craft paintbrush

• Plastic lid from an empty spice, cupcake-decorating, or condiment container

• Ball of twine

• 2 inches of craft wire or a pipe cleaner in a pastel shade

• Hot glue and glue gun

• 1 or 2 small packages of polymer, low-temperature baking clay in white or a light color

• 1/2 cup sphagnum moss, Easter basket grass, cotton or brown yarn

• 1 to 2 cups shredded paper

• Several silk, dried or paper flower blooms (repurposed from old arrangements if possible)

• Very thin craft ribbon or piece of yarn

Don’t throw out your ice cream mini tub after the sweet treat is gone.

Wash the container and lid very well with a light stream of hot water and dishwashing soap. Don’t soak or submerge it. Let container dry fully and spray with a scented solvent or countertop spray.

Paint the tub and lid by using either a spray craft paint or brush-on craft paint. Two coats are usually required.

Next, find a condiment lid that is headed for the trash. The top from a spice container may work or a cupcake-sprinkles plastic lid. Upside down, these types of lids create the base of the Easter basket.

Starting from the bottom and working up, wrap twine around the outer edge of the condiment lid in a circular pattern, so it resembles the bottom part of a basket. Add drops of glue as you go to keep the twine adhered.

Next, create a basket handle by wrapping twine around craft wire, or use a pipe cleaner, cutting it to size and gluing it in.

Add a sprig of silk or dried flowers and a tied bow to the basket. The ribbon needs to be very thin, so you might have to cut a small ribbon down the middle or use yarn. Adorn this with paper flowers to make it look like a real spring basket.

To make decorative eggs for the basket, hand-roll polymer clay into small elongated oval shapes. Cook them on low heat as per the instructions. Allow them to cool, then get ready to paint.

Decorating these tiny clay eggs requires craft paint and tiny, fine brushes. The easiest pattern to make is a solid color dabbed with polka dots. You can also color the dots or add some stripes with markers.

Use a hot glue gun set on low heat to stick the clay eggs into the basket, then hot-glue the whole basket onto the lid of the ice cream container.

Place shredded paper into the ice cream tub and fill it with an Easter or springtime gift like costume jewelry, perfume or flower garden seeds, putting the finishing touch on a container that started with a sweet tooth but ended with a sweet sentiment.

Terrific looks for takeout

Supplies needed

• Very clean, slightly used or new Chinese takeout container

• Craft paint

• Iridescent glitter

• 1 paintbrush

• Shredded paper

• Dishwashing soap

• Fragrant cleaning spray

Plain white takeout boxes that once held white rice or something like steamed soybeans are usually too cute to toss. There’s usually a wax coating inside the Asian food containers that can easily be rinsed very lightly or sprayed clean with a fragrant solvent and some paper towels.

An easy Easter transformation entails painting a simple egg shape using light blue craft paint on the two larger sides of the box, then shaking on some fine iridescent glitter while the paint is still wet.

Stuff with shredded paper and fill with a small gift.

If you don’t want to mess with leftover containers, you can find new takeout containers to decorate at retailers like The Container Store (locations in Arlington, Fort Worth and Southlake).

Jazzy glass jars

Supplies needed

• Cleaned glass condiment jar with lid

• Craft paint

• Paper roses

• Low-heat hot glue and glue gun

• Jelly beans or your choice of candies

Glass jars are often thrown away when they can be recycled into gift containers or storage units, and condiment jars are both easy and pretty to repurpose. A grated Parmesan cheese condiment jar with some decorative cuts in the glass, for instance, looks great for delivering or storing jelly beans or other candies. Paint the lid with spray paint or a brush-on craft paint.

It will probably take two coats, although a lighter coat offers a “shabby chic” vintage finish. Add a cluster formation of paper flowers on the lid.

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