The backpacks are hung by the front door with care. New shoes are all nestled on the mud room floor. And visions of free time dance in your head. Yet, packing a school lunch that’s both healthy and waste free can often feel like a Christmas miracle. With a few simple changes, packing a lunch can be simple, inexpensive and green.
Single-serve packages are colorful, convenient and so tempting – but create unnecessary waste for our landfills. Choose larger packages you can divvy up as needed. Skip the tiny packages of crackers & pretzels, which are expensive to begin with, and go with a full-size bag to divide amongst your kids or use throughout the week.
There are a variety of kitchen storage option that will work for lunches. The key to actually using them, rather than reaching for the plastic baggies, is keeping it easy. If you have 10 different sizes, styles and lid options, they’re going to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, by a bunch of the exact same size & shape – it won’t matter if a lid gets lost when you can just grab the next one on the stack.
Take it a step further and reuse containers you’re already bringing into your home. Butter & sour cream containers can be washed, stored and used until they’ve worn out their welcome & find themselves in the recycling bin. Better yet, choose self-contained foods for your child’s lunchbox.
Fruits are a favorite healthy choice for school lunch since the natural sweetness is pleasing to kids. Plus, there are a variety of foods that need no refrigeration – apples, pears, bananas, oranges & cherry tomatoes – so there’s no need to be concerned with food safety. With the exception of tomatoes, these fruits can be added to the lunchbox whole so you can skip the containers altogether.
There’s also no real reason to wrap a sandwich, if you’re using a clean lunchbox. Bento lunchboxes are specifically designed to pack a waste free lunch. Many will have their own containers & compartments so you can quickly & easily pack. They range from simple, Americanized lunchboxes to complicated Japanese systems.
Bento culture strives to fill the containers in a eye-catching way, which helps to ensure the lunch is full, healthy & balanced. Several Bento brands & websites include photo galleries for lunch inspiration. I’d never dream of packing sushi for my own girls, but it’s nice to get away from peanut butter & jelly now and then.
Where do you get your ideas for lunch, and what are your favorite tools?
Photo by lanastewart via Flickr