Another half-empty bag of crisps and crumbs…

I enjoy crunchy snacks; but, when I open the plastic pillow packets much of the contents has settled leaving half of the bag empty. It's filled with a gas, I am told, to preserve the stuff.
It helps prevent the bag being crushed on the shelf.
I don't think so.

I can't control what happens before the bags are put on store shelves.
I understand.
Perhaps, I could be more careful when I pick the bag off the store shelf; although, the gas-filled plastic bag makes it difficult to judge the condition of the chips/crisps, rounds, etc. inside.
So, I usually get two bags.

For snacking, I slide the little edible plates into a bowl for easy access.
The small shards collect in the bottom of the bowl—Good ol' gravity.

Small bits are not great for dips and hors d'oeuvres; BUT, I discovered that stuff is great for cooking, though. I found recipes that make good use of bread crumbs, crushed potato chips/crisps(BR), tortilla (corn) crumbs, etc. as breading and casserole filler.

That both the snack form (whole) and baking form (crumbs) arrive in the same package at the same time brings me here in search of a hack. I want a way to keep whole chips/crisps/rounds for serving in a bowl and separate those from the broken bits for cooking which I store in the pantry.

I have tried using an Acme™ Safety grater as a sieve over the bowl; but, it's not as efficient as I'd like.
the vintage Acme Safety Grater

Q: What's the best* way to separate/remove the crumbs from the whole bag of crunchy snacks?
I wanna keep "finger-food" separate from non-fingered "ingredients."
* with the minimum amount of handling—It's food after all.

  • Can you be a little more specific as to which snacks you are referring to? Size, composition and whatnot matter as to what would work.
    – MiG
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 13:51
  • @MiG No. I was trying not to be too specific. This applies to all crispy, brittle, snacks that are packaged in bags and sealed containers. When did you buy a bag or box that was in good condition without a significant layer of crumbs at the bottom? Well, I wanna separate the bag's contents to make best use of the "food" inside.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 14:40
  • 1
    @WeatherVane Any chance you could turn your comment(s) into actual answer(s)?
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 15:43
  • @WeatherVane Strong Hint: Sieve
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 15:54
  • 1
    Also, a sieve strongly depends on the size of the snack you are trying to filter. For nuts you'll need something quite different than chips for example.
    – MiG
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 15:56

2 Answers 2


For dipping chips.

Shake the bag around gently so that the crumbs are at the bottom. Lay the bag on its side, on a board, and open the 'crumby' end carefully, perhaps with kitchen scissors.

Grasping it firmly enough that it won't slip out of your hands, but gently enough not to crush the contents, invert the bag and shake it gently so that the remaining crumbs fall out, but your hands restrain the large pieces.

Then empty the large pieces that remain in the bag into the dippers bowl. Scoop the crumbs into your 'prepared earlier' container.

The food has not been touched and your hands are still clean.

Some more ideas transferred from earlier comments.

Eating from the bag:

  • Gently shake the bag so the bits fall to the bottom
  • Eat the whole chips/crisps, leaving behind those too small to eat
  • Tip the remaining bits into a canister

Separating for dipping:

  • Tip the bag out onto a board
  • Put on some food gloves
  • Pick up the whole chips and place in a bowl
  • Tip the remaining bits into a canister

Leave it to the dippy people:

  • Tip the bag out into a bowl
  • Let people help themselves to whole chips from the top
  • The bits will fall to the bottom
  • When people stop dipping because there are only small ones left, tip another bag in
  • After the meal, tip the remaining bits into a canister, if they will be cooked it won't matter much if people have touched them, and when sharing a dipping bowl people accidentally touch chips that someone else will pick up anyway.

Or, separate with some kind of sieve:
enter image description here

  • +1 for gained insight. I was opening the bag at the 'wrong' end.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 19:41
  • The key to solving this problem was the mesh size of the sieve. After poking around the house, I discovered several different wire things to try.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 16:07
  • A mesh just smaller than the size of a whole chip? Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 16:16

That's a crummy Lifehack

Often, a few small adjustments to an idea or concept makes it not only possible; but, practical and reeeealy easy.

The procedure is not difficult and quite straight-forward after a couple of details are settled.

** Key to the solution was the insight that I was opening the bag at the top rather than the bottom where crumbs were sitting.

** Second tip was the sifter mesh size. The ideal solution (so far) was to use an elderly office correspondence wire basket. My original choice for a sieve had openings too small to let the process work as well as possible.
elderly office correspondence wire basket

Lifehacks Procedure for particle separation

  1. Place the wire basket over a bowl to collect tiny bits.
  2. Place the bag of irregular size "mix" in the centre of the basket upright.
  3. Slit the bag bottom along the bottom seam to open it. (You will have to slightly tip the bag to do this.)
  4. Place your hands on either side of the bag to keep it upright and completely open. Do not lift the bag off the basket to keep the whole snacks in the bag. (The small bits will fall through the mesh into the bowl with very little movement.)
  5. Carefully, tip the bag to one side and then upright—but upside down—to keep the whole and nearly whole snacks inside the original bag. At this point, you can put the snacks into a bowl to eat; or, fold the bag and seal it closed to store it.
  6. Empty the crumbs into a separate container for use immediately or as needed in cooking when desired.
  7. Done. There was no unnecessary handling of the ingredients. Cleanup was minimal. Unfortunately, my last bag of chips had almost no broken pieces so I'll have to crush some to get the necessary amount for topping for my casserole.

Thank you.

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