4 Components of a Waste-Free Lunch

Whoever said that quote, “the days are long but the years are short” must have been specifically talking to parents of young children. I’m sure it feels that way with older kids but raising little ones is really hard work.

It seems just yesterday we came home with our first born, completely terrified and lost, knowing we now had a little life to take care of.

Fast forward five years and we’re days away from the first day of Kindergarten. Kindergarten!! What the heck. How is my little baby about to enter the next chapter in his life?

*cue the water works*

I couldn’t be happier about the school he’s going into. They have an organic garden, compost, and chickens to take care of once a week, they do a lot of their work outside on their large 22-acre property, they don’t allow any fast food or sugary drinks, and they want all kids lunches to be completely waste-free.

So what does a waste-free lunch look like?

The lunch is essentially comprised of nothing but compostable material; that means no individually wrapped snacks, snacks in plastic zip-locks, throwaway lunch boxes, or plastic water bottles. Do we see a trend here?

Waste-free lunches are not only better for the environment long-term, but also for your pocket. While it’s true that packing a waste-free lunch requires a little upfront investment in getting your equipment together, but the good news is you typically only have to buy it once and it will last you a long, long time.

Below you’ll find the 4 components of a waste-free lunch, along with some waste-free lunch ideas.

1. A good water bottle

There are a lot of water bottles out on the market, and I’ve tried my fair share of them. Since we’re in a really warm (read: miserably hot) climate like Central Florida, I needed to make sure the type of water bottle we purchased was insulated (doesn’t sweat), BPA and BPS-free, durable, and most importantly, easy to clean.

Out of all the ones I have tried for Andrew over the last five years, the BottleRocket from PlanetBox has been the best, by far. It keeps his water cold all day, is SO easy to clean, and withstands many falls.

2. Reusable containers for snacks

If you’re on a budget, starting with plastic tupperware is always a great option; it’s also lightweight too, which helps with smaller children. The only thing I don’t like about plastic tupperware is you can’t put anything hot in it without the risk of the chemicals leaching out of the plastic into your food.

Small stainless steel containers like these and these are great to have because they’re small and not too heavy. If you’re looking for an even lighter-weight solution, I love these Lunchskins. They have various sizes if you’re wanting to pack bigger sandwiches or smaller snacks like crackers or grapes.

3. Durable lunchbox

Piecemealing your lunchbox with various containers works, but after washing all those individual containers every day, day in and day out, it starts to get old. The best option I’ve found is investing in a PlanetBox lunch box. There are various sizes for you to choose from, depending on who will be eating the lunch.

We first started out with the Rover, which has a ton of space for different foods. I found in Andrew’s pickier stage, the Rover worked really well because he could pick and choose between a variety of food - depending on his mood. The downfall is it is a bit heavier for a 3, 4, and 5 year old to carry when filled with food (and with a water bottle in it). I also found that if I am short on a lot of variety of food, I had a hard time filling up all the compartments.

I opted for the Shuttle to start him off in Kindergarten because I can fit a whole sandwich and a couple sides, it’s light weight, and easy for him to carry. When he gets a little older, I’ll probably upgrade him back to the Rover.

4. Waste-free Food

Obviously homemade versions allow you to pack waste-free lunches, but it is still possible to pack a waste-free lunch with store-bought snacks.

Instead of individually wrapped snacks, opt for the big box; this allows you to minimize the wrapper waste and save money (those individual snacks are typically more money!).


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