Whether or not you have someone in your household heading back to school, September is the time of year that we all return to some semblance of a schedule. In our house that means getting back into the routine of making school lunches and taking the time to pack a more substantial lunch to bring to the office.
Packing your own lunch can be a healthy, cost effective way to eat well. But it can also be a way to add to the trash pile if you’re in the habit of buying snack-sized processed foods and pre-packaged meals. Items for school lunches are the worst culprits but grownups who brown-bag it to work can fall into the same packaging traps.
According to Waste Reduction Week Canada, 35% of municipal waste is packaging. To reduce the amount of trash generated by your lunch, and the amount of recyclables that pile up at your house, avoid individually pre-packaged foods. Instead buy the family size of yogurt, cheese, crackers and other popular lunch foods and package lunch-sized portions in reusable containers at home.
Here are a few more suggestions for how to make your family’s lunches healthier for you and the planet:
Invest in wide-mouth, stainless steel lined thermoses. They’re great for packing soups, stews and pasta dishes because they’re easy to eat out of. As well, they’re good for hot or cold food items. Keep in mind that plastic-lined thermoses will leach chemicals into hot food.
If you like to pack microwavable meals for your lunch, keep this in mind: “Microwave safe” packaging refers only to the fact that the plastic won’t melt when heated. It says nothing about the fact that chemicals leach from the plastic into your food when heated.
Have extra stainless steel cutlery on hand to pack with lunches so you can avoid disposable plastic utensils (they can’t be recycled).
Invest in a good quality stainless steel water bottle and pack water rather than juice or sugary drinks.
Invest in a good quality stainless steel lined travel mug. Our best find yet is from Costco (Contigo brand). These don’t leak and are great for hot and cold beverages.
Invest in a set of glass food storage containers. They’re great for packing up and reheating leftovers. Look for lunch and snack-sized containers are department and hardware stores.
If you have a good set of food-safe plastic storage containers, transfer your food to a bowl or plate before reheating. Remember any plastics that you use should have the numbers 1, 2, 4 or 5 on them (inside the recycling symbol). These are the food-safe numbers.
When you’re tidying up leftovers after supper, package them in lunch-size portions so they’re ready to grab and go in the morning.
If you’re no into baking, buy lunch snacks from a quality bakery rather than buy processed, packaged snacks.
Getting into the habit of packing litter-less lunches is a great way to kick off the new school year.