If you’ve got school-aged kids and you’re anything like me, you’re in denial about having to start packing lunches on Tuesday. I got used to the lunch-making routine the last few years with our previous daycare but I have to admit: having a summer off (both for the kids and me since I now work from home) was really nice. But all good things must come to and end, and so begins the lunch routine. I have to remind myself that is really doesn’t have to be that bad, so I thought I’d share my tips for making litter-less lunch packing a breeze.
Don’t use Pinterest.
Seriously. This is my number one tip because I think it’s enough to make anybody want to throw a Lunchables and a yogurt tube in the lunch bag and call it a day. Unless you really get kicks from making your kids’ lunch a serious work of art, don’t search for visual inspiration. Save your energy and focus on packing healthy food and just hope your kid will eat at least some of it.
Use a bento box.
I used to use individual containers, but when I wanted to switch from plastic I invested in a couple metal bento boxes. One of the benefits is that you just have one dish to wash instead of 4 separate ones which saves time and/or dishwasher space. We use LunchBots, but I’ve also heard great things about PlanetBox, which has some fully sealed options.
If you’re not going to make everything at home (because not many of us are about to make our own crackers), the least you can do is avoid the extra wrapping. A bento box with separate compartments also makes it easy to pack things like crackers, cookies, and snacks without buying individually-wrapped portions.
Have small leak-proof containers on hand.
For kids who like yogurt, hummus, apple sauce, soups, etc., have some leak-proof containers on-hand. It takes all of 5 seconds to pour from a larger container rather than using single serving packages. For grown-ups, this is a great way to reuse mason jars. Since glass isn’t the best option especially for little kids, I use a combination of various containers. If you have those little Baby Bullet containers (and don’t mind using plastic), they work great for hummus and dips. You can also find small insulated containers for soups and stews.
Give them cutlery and a cloth napkin.
Avoid using the plastic and paper napkins by putting cutlery and cloth right in their lunch bag. I send baby cutlery with my kindergartener – the handles are easy to put a name on, and it’s no be deal if they don’t come home. Get them their own napkins as well, either cute printed cloth, or even cloth baby wipes, and remind them to use them instead of paper towel.
Save time by reusing what you’re having for dinner (my kids don’t think there’s anything strange about cold left-overs). You can either pack straight leftovers, or cut up some extra fruit and veg as you’re prepping to go into lunch. You can also pre-cut many veggies and some fruits (like melon) at the start of each week. This will help you save time while packing a healthier lunch and avoiding those single-serve packages. Packing lunch the night before will also help save you time in the morning, when you’re more likely to reach for ‘convenience’ foods with more waste.
If you go into the lunch packing process with a positive attitude and a commitment to avoid Ziploc bags and single-serve packages, you’ll soon find that packing lunches doesn’t have to be stressful. Be prepared with the right set up, and you’ll get into a groove in no time. Don’t make it more complicated than you want it to be so you don’t slide into old habits – I’ve been known to successfully pack a lunch in less than 5 minutes and if you have a dishwasher, the additional dishes aren’t even noticeable.
If you’re ready to give yourself a kick-in-the-pants to actually start making your home greener and healthier, I invite you to check out my new and improved website – with free resources, awesome services, and special promotions! I wish you all the best for the start of a new school year!