It’s pretty simple & cost-effective to “green” up school lunches you send with your kids.It doesn’t need to be overwhelming or break the bank. I am going to give you a few tips and also provide you with five different lunch bag ideas.
Tips to a Greener Lunch Bag
- Use re-usable containers and lunch bags you already own, there is no need to go buy a new lunch bag every year. If you need to buy one, check out the thrift store, rummage sales, or ask friends if they have one they don’t want anymore. Chances are you can find a used lunch bag in good condition.
- Make your own reusable sandwich bag like I did. Or make your own lunch sack out of plastic shopping bags.
- If you need to buy plastic bags, choose a brand like Pride Green that are biodegradable. Rinse out and reuse to reduce waste.
- Buy full-size products (organic if possible) and make up individual servings in reusable containers to help reduce waste and cost.
- Only give child the amount of food they will eat. Excess food will end up as waste.
- Offer cloth napkins that can be washed and re-used.
- Save those plastic utensils that come with to-go meals/snacks and wash them to use in lunch bags. It is better to have forgotten or lost a plastic utensil you are re-using than your metal silverware.
- Freeze the beverage (milk, juice, water) the night before packing. This will keep food cold and will thaw before lunchtime arrives. Be sure to allow space for the liquid to expand as it freezes.
- Use beverage containers you already own. It is best to have 2 on hand so that while one freezes the other can be in the lunch bag. Consider buying a stainless steel bottle or a BPA-free plastic bottle.
- Let your child help you plan out lunches. If they help pick out choices and tell you how much they are going to eat, chances are they will eat most of it and not waste any food.
- Consider using/buying an insulated food jar to provide hot food (think last night’s leftovers!)
If you need to be more efficient with your time, consider making multiple sandwiches and freezing them. A sandwich made with lunch meat and/or cheese freezes well. Do not add mayo or vegetables to the sandwich if you are freezing it, as these things will make the bread mushy as it thaws.
You can freeze PBJ sandwiches, but put a smear of peanut butter on each slice of bread with jelly in the middle. If the jelly is touching the bread it can make it mushy as it thaws.
Pudding made at home can be a sweet treat but also offers a serving of dairy. Have your child help out by picking out a flavor and making it. Pour in to single snack size containers right away.
If you do buy single serving size container of products, be sure to buy the size your child will eat. It might be cheaper per ounce to buy a 6 or 8 ounce single serving container of yogurt, but if they will only eat 4 ounces the rest will be wasted.
Remember your child’s likes & dislikes as you pack up items. If they don’t like yolks or crusts, remove them before packing otherwise they may choose not to eat the item and chances are any food leftover at the end of the day that is perishable will need to be thrown away.
Think outside the lunchbox and consider items that are not just sandwiches. Cooked shrimp and frozen peas can make a healthy and yummy lunch. Both items can be rinsed and packages in individual containers and frozen as well so that they will stay cool until lunch time.
Try to serve them juice, milk, or water in reusable containers rather than buying juice boxes. Although convenient & made in organic varieties, juice boxes will need to be thrown away after using which creates waste. If your child doesn’t drink all of it, it will be wasted. Juice or water at room temperature at the end of the school day will still be fine, but milk you will need to pour out.
Offer choices from your garden or the farmer’s market that they helped grow or pick out.
Let your child help pick out fruits & veggies for their lunch bag. It can be fun to try new things or things that are a different color than usual, like yellow carrots.
If your child will only eat a half a sandwich, just make a half. There is no rule that says you need to send a whole sandwich.
Enjoy the new school year!