These Ikea Serving Trays Give My Pandemic Meals Some Much-Needed Variety

When I moved in with my boyfriend this June, I knew we would be spending a lot of time not just together, but together at home. Our one-bedroom apartment suddenly became an office, a yoga studio, and a coffee shop. It’s also where we eat pretty much all of our meals. But sitting at the same table all day, everyday for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything else quickly gets stale. Enter: Ikea trays.

An impulse buy after trying every couch on the floor, the four trays we picked up at Ikea last fall have become crucial vessels for our life during the pandemic. When we eat dinner while watching 90 Day Fiancé, we’ll each grab a tray. Now that our apartment is also an office, we use them to eat lunch in the bedroom if one of us has a call; there are few to no crumbs as a result. Essentially, these trays let us create micro spaces in the same two rooms: cheese plates on the couch, a hangover breakfast in bed, and an elaborate condiment tray for tacos at the table.

There are many places that sell serving trays, sometimes in heavy decorative versions made of wood, glass, or marble. But Ikea’s trays are cheaper and less precious than the ones you’ll find in more upscale home goods stores. My favorite is a black-and-white checkered version that’s just $5.99. It’s a shiny melamine plastic with a slight lip, and it’s the perfect size for a big plate, a cup, and some utensils. It doubles as our office essentials tray, currently holding a Mrs. Meyers candle, two sets of headphones, a receipt, the cork from the sparkling wine we drank our first night in the new place, a box of Maldon salt, and several pens.

Ikea’s trays are also durable. They’re made out of plastic that doesn’t break and can be easily wiped clean when they get messy, and some of the trays are designed to keep spills from happening altogether: This non-slip one is perfect for the clumsy person in your household (it’s me).

If the past few months have taught me anything, it’s the value of finding joy in the smallest moments, and these trays carry some of that weight. I particularly like this chic, smaller tray for keeping coffee, water, and a little bowl of snacks lined up next to a workspace. This tropical-patterned option would be perfect for a bottle of rosé, two wine glasses, and a bowl of olives that you can then take with you out to the yard, up to the roof, or onto the fire escape. Plus, if you’re compelled to photograph your food like I am, Ikea trays make very cute Instagram backdrops.

Since the pandemic began, we’ve all been spending much more time in spaces that are likely equipped for different circumstances, so surely you need something from Ikea (a tiny desk, a laundry rack, a cheerful shower curtain). Add these under $10 trays to your cart and instantly expand the variety of dining experiences you can have inside the same four walls.

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