Packing a sustainable and healthy lunch for us and our kiddos is super important. The humans we raise need a good example set for how we take care of our bodies, our minds, our communities, our environment. Basically, it’s our job to show them that they have a big responsibility. And just as we all know it’s essential that we take responsibility for ourselves, we get to decide how we want to respond to others, and what we want to pour into them. What an incredibly beautiful thing.
Today I’m briefly going to go over the basics of packing sustainable lunches. For some, taking baby steps is the right way to start. For others, maybe taking a step further will be advantageous. It all depends on what’s feasible for you and your family. The hope here is to save you money, eat well, and minimize our plastic consumption and waste (both landfill and recycling).
Get these staggering numbers:
—->The average school age kid throws away 67 pounds of lunch packaging each year. In an average classroom of 25 students that’s 1,625 pounds each year.<—- I had no idea of how high this number was until my kid started preschool a couple of weeks ago. After being in the classroom setting and seeing it for myself (the quick snacks) it suddenly made sense. We’re busy people and it just seems easier to grab something measured out and prepackaged. There are more and more products these days that aim to make life easier, such as snack bars and yogurt squeezes. Unfortunately the packaging goes right into the waste bin and most of it is plastic.
“Prepackaged foods (especially those aimed at children) often contain a considerably high amount of sodium and sugar. With the increasing rates of childhood obesity and diabetes it is important to focus on a healthy diet starting at an early age. Choosing foods low in sodium and added sugar will also help set taste preferences and help them make healthier food choices later in life.” -American Academy of Pediatrics
Packing lunches in waste free containers helps you understand what your child is consuming during lunch each day, for the leftovers come home in the container and can also be composted. It leads to conversation about what’s happening during lunchtime and whether or not you need to rotate out a certain food for a while.
You’ll be saving money packing your own, too. Waste-free lunches are 35 percent cheaper than their disposable counterparts; that number is based on an average price of $2.65 and $4.02 respectively. Over the course of a school year, litter-less lunches net hundreds of dollars worth of savings. -Seventh Generation
Get some good reusable containers, or use what you have around the house. If you’re buying new expect an initial investment of $15-40 per set. If you buy stainless steel these last nearly forever. At the end of their life cycle they can be recycled. Pack a reusable napkin, too!
Here are some products I’ve really liked:
Pick a day of the week (Sunday is a good one for us in preparation for the school week) and cut veggies, divide fruit, divide yogurts, cottage cheese, hummus, applesauce, etc. into containers for a quick grab and go. This process shouldn’t take very long, and it makes mornings so much easier! For a step further, get some ingredients to make snack bars or muffins and make them with your kids.
Give your children options. Rotate. The meals don’t need to be exciting, and they can even be leftovers.
If your kid is hooked on juice boxes, try switching to iced tea. You can make a large batch and use it for the week. Add a small amount of honey or maple syrup. I bet you can slowly ween them off of the added sugar, too!
It’s all about training our taste buds. And kids don’t need special “kid” food. Yes, some kids are pickier (my child included), but that doesn’t mean they need special food just for children. This is a marketing scam.
Changes big or small, you can do it. Please reach out if you have any tips/suggestions for me, or if you’ve got any questions. What’s worked for you?