It’s that time again! The kids are either anxiously awaiting their first days of school to start again or they have already started. For you parents, this time of year means that it’s time to start organizing and prepping all of the “to-dos” for back to school including meal prepping school lunches.
My kid is only two and I’m already stressing; he’s not even going to school. He goes to a Montessori Daycare that makes me question what I’ve done with my life. The kid already knows his continents and his teachers have him half potty trained. Yep – definitely feel like an underachieving parent.
One of the things that cause me the most stress is prepping Oliver’s lunches every day. It’s almost as bad as deciding what to wear. I stand in my kitchen staring into space going through a rollercoaster of emotions on what perfect foods to pack into his cute little lunch box. “They have to healthy…they have to be plant-based…Oh no! I can’t pack that…the teachers will think I’m a negligent parent…Ugh! I packed that yesterday…” You know what I’m talking about right?
Another key part of my lunch prepping is that Oliver’s lunches are waste and plastic free. I know right, let’s just add more challenges onto the impossible. Seriously, what is wrong with me….as I whisper that to myself while staring into the bathroom mirror. Some call me crazy. Just kidding, everyone calls me that.
Just so you don’t pull your hair out, I’ve done some work for you. I compiled a list of my favorite items and ways to make back to school lunches a little less wasteful!
How to Pack a Zero Waste Lunchbox
Skip the Disposables
Skip the paper bags, zipper bags, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and plastic utensils. There is a better way to wrap and transport your food
Utilize these alternatives instead!
Firstly, look around your home for things you already have. Existing lunchboxes, cloth bags, cutlery, and containers work perfectly for school lunches. Don’t go out and buy anything if you don’t need to. Consumption should be a last resort.
Instead of a paper or plastic bags to carry your lunch in…
Use a reusable lunch box or use a reusable cloth bag. Don’t forget to check your local secondhand stores for some good deals on vintage, metal lunchboxes. They will last a lifetime!
Instead of packing a plastic, bottled beverage…
Use a reusable beverage container for your drink of choice. Most thermoses will keep your drinks hot or cold for most of the day.
Skip the plastic, zipper bags…
Use reusable containers like silicone, zipper bags from Stasher Bag. You can also use the empty Stasher Bag to store your used silverware or compost at the end of the meal. Why spend money on items that are used for about 10 minutes then thrown into the garbage? You are really just throwing your money into the trash. You can also use existing plastic containers, glass, and metal food containers. You can even use cloth produce bags, beeswax wraps, or cloth zipper bags. There are just so many great options out there!
Ditch the plastic cutlery…
Bring your own from home! We have to change this common mentality of “Take and Toss”.
Instead of using disposable napkins…
Use a reusable cloth napkin. Simple enough.
What about the Food?
We are busy and stretched too thin most of the time. Packing a lunch is usually the last thing we want to do so reaching for prepackaged foods is very tempting. Before you do that, let me give you a few ideas for some healthy, low waste lunches.
That’s probably the most obvious solution to both reduce packaging waste and food waste. Besides, I can’t think of anything better than day old lasagna, soup, or chile. Uh yum! The meals that we make are plant based so they can usually be eaten cold. But, if you have something that needs to be warmed up, take that into consideration when you are choosing an appropriate container.
Opt for package free foods
- Fruits and Veggies
- Bulk Trail Mix
- Bulk Dried Fruit
- Bulk Nuts
- Bulk Chocolate Covered Pretzels
- Bagels From the Bakery
- Veggie Bowls
Batch Prep things in advance
I know, this is easier said than done. It’s all dependent if you have time at the beginning of the week to prepare. I continually stress that making time to meal prep is the single most important thing you can do to ensure you have a slightly organized work week.
Here are some things you can make in advance to pack into your lunchboxes:
- Roasted Veggies
- Fruit Salad
- And more!
For a list of great Back to School Lunch ideas while using reusable, sustainable items check out Stasher Bags: Stasher Back-To-School Lunch Ideas!