No matter how your kids are being educated – in a homeschool or classroom setting, packing lunches can be an overwhelming proposition. First, there is the struggle of feeding the fussy eater, and then websites like Pinterest make you feel inadequate because your lunches don’t look like works of art. Okay, maybe I am projecting. But still – there is a lot to consider. For me, it’s really important that when we pack lunches to go, we aren’t producing excess garbage. So, when we hit the road on a car trip, head to school, or even just pack snacks for a busy day, I am a huge fan of using waste-free lunch supplies.
My Favorite Waste-Free Lunch Supplies
The only complete lunch set that I’m featuring here is from PlanetBox. When you are looking for an all-in-one lunchbox solution, this is my top recommendation. It is filled with several compartments that make packing lunches easy.
For all other bag lunches, you will need a variety of supplies. It’s important that you use insulated containers (for either warm or cold foods) and that you pack an ice pack to keep other items at appropriate food-safe temperatures. Oh – and don’t forget reusable utensils. I was a little slow on this one and finally got tired of the kids taking my nice spoons to school. This set is perfect for outings.
These containers come in a variety of sizes, and the lids are fun colors that you and your kids will enjoy. They are leak proof, so they are suitable for juicy fruit or yogurt. Of course, you can also use them for whole grain salads, crackers or even tortilla roll-ups.
Sometimes, your lunch just needs a little pizzaz. I am not very creative at making our packed lunches look very cute. I don’t use cute toothpicks or cut sandwiches out of cookie cutters, although I admire the parents who do. Instead, I’ll sometimes add a splash of color by placing a silicone baking cup into a larger container and filling it with a special treat. It keeps the items separated too, which is a bonus for my daughter who doesn’t like her foods to touch each other!
Staying hydrated is a must. If you prefer to use a glass bottle, I love this one from Life Factory. If glass is a safety risk, these non-BPA plastic bottles from Contigo are also excellent, and they include a built in straw with a spill-proof valve for easy drinking.
Sometimes you just want to pack a sandwich and don’t want all of the fuss of finding the right sized container. This food kozy is simply a reusable food wrapper. The best part of using this wrapper is that it is really easy to rinse clean and folds to almost nothing when it’s empty. My friend Alyssa says that she has been known to stash them in her purse after a meal!
I remember when my kids would have field trips and the teacher would insist that their entire lunch had to be contained within disposable packaging. While that went against every grain of my being, I understood that it just wasn’t practical to carry around a bunch of empty food containers on a hike or through a museum. For days like these, I like these compostable, unbleached waxed paper bags.
It’s not always possible to wash your hands before mealtime, so this nontoxic peppermint and citrus hand sanitizer by EO Everyone is the next best thing. I like to keep one in my purse and another in the car, just in case.
For other Back to School product suggestions, including pencils made from recycled newspaper and soy-based crayon rocks, check out my What’s Cooking with Kids Amazon Store.
This Lunch Menu makes packing lunches easy!
At the bottom of this page, you can get my Lunch Menu printable template to help you plan lunches for each of the littles (or adults) that you are feeding! If you have more than member of your family, you can have them write their names on the top, and put them on the refrigerator as a cheat sheet. Better yet, have your kids identify one item from each category that they want to pack in their lunches each day and get them to help you load up the reusable containers!
Tips for packing waste-free lunches from Catherine at Weelicious
In this video, Catherine boils down her favorite lunch packing techniques. Here, she is using the PlanetBox that I have featured above.
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I'd love this free Lunch Menu planning template! All of these ideas will make packing lunches so much easier.