waste free lunches

I don’t want to say this too loudly, in case the children hear and get upset, but school starts in one month.

In addition to getting all the necessary school supplies before the start of school, I also need to get everything ready to send lunches each school day. It’s a big task, preparing multiple lunches morning after morning, but I prefer that over the summertime “what’s for lunch?” question that comes every day at noon.


My oldest son, now in college, wasn’t able to eat the cafeteria lunches due to food allergies. Every day we had to make a lunch from home. He enjoyed variety, actually preferred something different every day, so that kept me on my toes.

My daughter is in high school, and since 1st grade has only purchased school lunch maybe half a dozen times. That’s right, half a dozen times in ten years of school. Which means I’ve prepared close to two thousand school lunches for her. She’s a picky eater and doesn’t like school cafeteria lunches (I can’t blame her… I’ve had them a few times when I was a substitute teacher, and found them to be on the yucky side), and she is happy with the same lunch brought from home each and every day. The exact same lunch … each and every day.

Next month my youngest will be starting full day school, and due to his food allergies it is best if I make his lunch. Plus he’s even pickier than his sister, so those cafeteria lunches wouldn’t work for him, even if allergies weren’t an issue. He’s the type that will get bored with the same thing every day, so I’m thinking up lots of different items that will make his lunch something that he will actually eat.


Having put together so many school lunches throughout the years, I know what works for my children. And I know how many plastic zipper baggies I’ve used. I’m trying to be more friendly to our environment, so in the past few years I’ve purchased a few products that help me reduce the waste in the lunches I send to school. This year I’ll be even better, because there are new products that I’ve found which make this task even easier. If all goes according to plan, I won’t use any plastic baggies from now on. Yahoo!


I’ve ordered some of these products at reuseit, some at amazon, and some at L.L. Bean, and have found others at local stores such as Target and Marshall’s and World Market.

The products I use and love:


LOVE LOVE LOVE these. Just flip from one side to the other when you need a spoon or a fork. On the bigger ones there is a serrated edge, which can come in handy, but not necessary for most of the lunches I make. Dishwasher safe. No more disposable plastic silverware for us!

LunchSkins sandwich bags

These LunchSkins sandwich bags are great for my daughter’s daily turkey on wheat. Unlike other brands I’ve tried, the Velcro seal on this brand goes the whole way across, keeping the sandwich fresh and protected. And you simply turn them inside out to wash them by hand or in the dishwasher. We’ve also used them for pretzels and chips, but by lunch time my daughter said the dry snacks came out of the bag soft. This year we’ll be using something else for dry snacks  (see below for the cute containers I just bought).

The lunch bag

These lunch bags are wonderful! The ones we use are from Built NY. They can fit all different sizes of containers and they come in fun designs and colors. I was frustrated with other lunch bags that didn’t offer flexibility and made me angry when I found myself having to use plastic baggies rather than small containers, in order to fit the lunch in the bag. This one is by far the best lunch bag I’ve found. It can hold a large lunch with snacks and drinks, fits into my daughter’s backpack, and is lightweight. And it can be machine washed if/when it gets dirty. Love it!

Something to put the drink in

My daughter is not a milk drinker, so each day I either send a juice box, or a container with water or juice (more economical as well as less waste, in comparison to the juice box). I like these Klean Kanteen containers (mine were purchased at L.L. Bean), and the 12 ounce size is perfect for lunch (when sending juice I don’t fill the container completely). They have never leaked and the sport cap is convenient. They are also dishwasher safe.


Containers for dry snacks

And new for this school year, and so that I can stop using disposable plastic baggies, I purchased these Rubbermaid Blox containers for dry snacks (found them at Target). In addition to snapping together, which I know my young son will find fun, they come in different sizes for all sorts of lunch foods, and are BPA-free and dishwasher safe (yes, I love when things are easy to clean, especially when we are using them daily).

Another similar product for dry snacks are these clic-tite containers that I found at Marshall’s. They don’t click together as the Rubbermaid ones do, but the lids click on and off easily. Dishwasher safe and BPA-free.

All-In-One lunch container

Another great idea I found online (and of course can not locate right now to give proper credit) is to use a divided rectangle BPA-free plastic container (the one I found at Target is made by Ziploc), and by using silicone baking molds (the kind you would use for cupcakes), put little bits of different food items into the lunch. The sections keep all the food in place, and with only one lid to open, lunch is ready to eat quickly. This is a great option for young children. When done eating, put the lid back on, take it home, and clean it out to be ready for the next day. No waste (okay, in the photo below there will be waste from the applesauce, but when these single serve cups of applesauce are done I will start using applesauce from a jar and put it in the smaller section).


Oh, one more thing. Toss in a cloth napkin instead of a paper one. This will make the whole lunch waste free. As with all the reusable lunch items, just remind your children not to throw it away when lunch is done!


If you will be making lunches for your children soon (or if you take a lunch yourself) I hope you find these products useful in creating waste free lunches. Now go enjoy what’s left of summer!


3 responses to “waste free lunches

  1. Love the lunch box…but with its shape do you have to put the divided container on its side? If yes…does it all stay where it is during transport? I bought the divided containers and silicone wrappers but was afraid it will be all mixed up by limch time. Thoughts oh wise one?

    • I just put the divided container into the bag and it fits without going on its side! You’d have to put the drink and ice pack on top of the container, but it will all fit in there.

  2. Wow, thanks for all these great idea! My daughter would love if I made her lunch more often. I still have to make my son’s preschool lunches and snacks. I really love those divider containers and the sporks and the idea of cloth napkins!

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