9 Clever Things to Do with a Cardboard Cup Holder Before You Toss It Out

published Jan 4, 2024
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Head on shot of a cardboard drink holder sitting on a white marble counter, holding two cups of coffee.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

While it’s often a slippery slope to hang on to items because they might be useful, I try to find ways to repurpose them before I trash or recycle them. One of the best ways I’ve found to reuse things is for organizing. I love saving enchilada sauce jars from Trader Joe’s to use for homemade salad dressing, and I think a recycled can of San Marzano tomatoes makes the most adorable utensil holder

One item that has always felt especially wasteful to toss is a cardboard drink holder. They are so substantial, and this time of year especially I find myself dealing with a few. (My teen daughter loves her Starbucks runs.) I realized recently, however, that the same qualities that make tossing the drink holders feel particularly wasteful — their sturdiness — also makes them uniquely suited to repurposing. Cardboard drink holders are perfect organizers for the kitchen! 

Cardboard drink holders used as organizers are surprisingly versatile. Here are some ways to use them to keep your kitchen tidy.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Keep produce on the counter. 

I don’t typically keep produce out on the counter; usually, it stays in the fridge or the pantry. But if my home has fruits or vegetables that need to be used soon or they’ll go bad, keeping them in sight helps ensure they don’t go to waste. Setting that almost-ripe avocado or the pears that are a few days from being spoiled in a cardboard drink holder on the kitchen counter means they’re not out-of-sight-out-of-mind and also keeps them from rolling all over the place.

Organize disposable cups. 

If you’re anything like me, disposable cups for both hot and cold drinks end up in haphazard piles that inevitably devolve into messes on shelves or in cabinets. A cardboard drink holder keeps them neatly stacked and safe from toppling over.

Stash condiment bottles. 

Condiment bottles tend to get lost in the fridge or pantry, but a cardboard drink holder makes a perfect caddy. Not only do the holders keep your condiments from exile in the back of the fridge, but they also keep like condiments stashed together so you only have to grab one item to pull out the ketchup, mustard, and relish for hot dog night.

Corral small produce in the pantry. 

Garlic, shallots, and ginger tend to get lost amongst the larger onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes in the pantry. A cardboard drink holder is the perfect organizer for keeping them visible and accessible before they shrivel up or go bad. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Store miscellaneous items in drawers. 

Organize small miscellaneous items in drawers so they don’t get lost or jumbled. Examples include chip clips, disposable or reusable muffin cups, paper clips, and tape.

Organize produce in the fridge. 

Small produce kept in the fridge can also be organized in cardboard drink holders, keeping small items like cherry tomatoes, limes, or clementines from getting squished or buried.

Use as a disposable utensil caddy. 

Place cups in the holders and place plastic forks, spoons, and knives in them and you have a perfect one-stop and secure utensil caddy.

Stash bags with dry goods. 

Hold bags containing those last bits of rice, lentils, or dry black beans in a cardboard drink holder to keep them visible and neat.

Store small pre-packaged snacks. 

Packets of trail mix, a few granola bars, and fruit pouches can all be securely held in a cardboard drink holder. Bonus: Set out the drink holder as an after-school snack “buffet.”