Tips for Packing a Zero Waste School Lunch
As a Mom of four, planning for means and shopping for food is a major part of my week. This year, two of my boys are starting school and I am adding packing lunches to my list of daily activities. While I want to provide fun and nutritional things in my kids’ lunches, I don’t want to pack landfills with plastic bags and packaging that won’t decompose for years. Here are some really great things I’ve found to pack zero waste lunches for my sons and ideas I’d like to pass onto you!
Packing lunches is new to me. Up until this point, I was homeschooling my boys partially because my one son has Ollier’s Disease and endured many surgeries last year and was at high risk for fracturing his leg. In February, the surgeon placed a metal rod down his entire femur and gave him the okay for playing with other kids and school! This Fall we start on a journey and it’s really important to me that when my boys open up their lunchbox…they feel special and have their favorite foods to help fuel their day.
We had a dry-run of school a few weeks ago. My sons had the opportunity to go to school for a few hours for camp, packing lunches and getting dressed in the morning just like they will when school starts fulltime. I quickly realized that I needed lunchboxes, a reusable sandwich holder, water bottle and something to hold loose items like chips and other crunchy foods.
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Here’s my zero waste school lunch supply list
1.Reusable lunch box
This part is really open to your imagination. You can get a character lunchbox, something less flashy and practical or even something vintage. What I have found to be really helpful is the lunchbox with a sandwich compartment on the bottom. It fits the reusable container well and allows me to pack a whole lot of things into the compartment above it also.
One of my sons has a toy story lunchbox and the other a plan box like this one below to match his backpack.
2. Reusable sandwich container
I have two versions of these. I have glass reusable containers with snap lids I got from Sam’s Club and I have BPA-Free plastic containers that I purchased from Amazon. While I prefer glass, the plastic is working better for the lunchbox because it’s lighter and less likely to break if my child sets his lunchbox down hard.
The container doesn’t have to just be for sandwiches either. It could easily fit pizza, pasta or anything else your little one would love to eat a lunchtime.
3. Reusable snack bags
I found these awesome avocado oil organic potato chips at our local Wegmans and my sons are crazy about them. I have been putting a fistful in their lunches and quickly realized that I need some sort of reusable ziploc bag. I found these awesome bags.
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4. Ingredients matter
While I can use all the reusable packaging I can find, even getting loose nuts and dried fruit with reusable bags from the bulk-goods section at the store, choosing items from companies who care makes an even bigger impact on the environment. Organic foods and locally grown items that put less chemicals into the environment are a great way to also reduce global impact. Finding bread from the local bakery in a paper bag instead of two plastic bags would be awesome too and is on my to-do list!
5. Reusable Drink Containers
Luckily, this one was easy! My kids like drinking water and are already used to carrying a stainless steel bottle when we go places. They’re happy to take it, the bottle can be refilled at school if they run out and the character bottles we found are really fun! Some of our stainless bottles are 7-8 years old and going strong! For lunch, I did get two new bottles to pair with the lunchboxes and are easy to clean with some hot soapy water and use again right away.
6. Reminding them to bring it all home!
I was trying to reuse ziploc bags at first. However, I found that the teacher at lunch went around and collected “garbage” from the table and was repeatedly throwing out the ziplocs away. Luckily, the reusable products scream “don’t throw me away!” However, I also make sure that my kids know to communicate that the items are reusable and that their Mom wants them returned home to wash and prepare for the next day.
7. Going Bento
While I love looking at Bento boxes, I personally haven’t dove into the creative lunch styles. However, there are many really amazing bento boxes that are great reusable, zero waste school lunch containers! Instead of having the separate sandwich container, bags and other reusable containers I mentioned above, the bento box has separate containers in a single mold or several containers put together to make the same configuration.
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Do you have additional suggestions to help others pack a zero waste school lunch?