Back to school is upon us and I’m sure like me the subject of sending lunch to school, the what and how is on mind of many parents. I’m sure many schools are running a waste free lunch policy as most schools are trying to reduce the amount of lunch waste in their schools.
I’ve been sending waste free lunch to school for the past 6 years with ease and thought to share my tips and tools here. Truth is that I used to be so dependent on my Ziploc bags. I even washed and reused them as much as possible to get as many use as possible out of them. What a pain!
Like many I had started to cut down on disposables and failed so many times that I didn’t think this was possible at all, that I could actually do it for more than a few months in a row. Luckily I took a different approach to my waste free lunch journey. I decide to do the things I’m good at and forgive myself for the rest.
Here are a few things that I think let to my success:
- Starting Small
- Paying attention to my family’s needs and habits
- Being flexible
- Adjusting to meet my children’s new habits and likes
They say you can do anything with the right tool and that’s right. In waste free lunch, the right tool, right size and the right number is the most important to your success. Over the years we moved from using all reusable bags to a mix of reusable bags, plastic containers and thermos for hot lunches. However honestly my waste free lunch kit has not changed much. I invested in quality items then and have been reusing them every day of school days and for summer picnics for the past 6 years.
My Waste Free Lunch Kit
- Reusable Lunch bag
- Reusable water bottle
- Reusable stainless steel utensils
- Reusable utensil bag (Keeps utensils clean before and the lunch bag after used 🙂 )
- Reusable plastic or stainless steel containers, in different sizes and depths
- Reusable snack and sandwich bags
Size is important! I use a variety of sizes for plastic containers; smaller ones for dips, deeper one for yogurt, and shallow ones for cheese and veggies (if I’m not using a bag). I also use both snack and sandwich size bags for packing smaller or bigger sandwiches or snacks.
Washing and caring for our reusable!!!
Washing and caring for the reusables are key to our family’s health. This could also be the deal breaker if it’s too difficult or time consuming to do. The key is to make it very easy to wash and reuse the bags and containers. You need the whole project to be sustainable and trouble free on it’s own. Of course the plastic containers are washed with the rest of our dishes every day. It’s the reusable bags that can both be a pain and time consuming. They too can be streamlined and easy to do. There are two ways to tackle the wash of reusable bags, Dishwasher or Washer/Dryer. In both cases it’s important to to have the right number of bags for your family’s use.
Most of us don’t do laundry every day. If you choose this technique you need to know how many bags you need to last you between your laundry days. I like to wash my reusable bags with my tea towels and kitchen linen on weekends so I have enough bags to use for one week. Every day I use one bag and then throw them in my kitchen laundry basket. On weekends I wash and dry every thing, have them ready for Monday use. This seems a lot of bags but I only invested in one week worth of bags and have been using them for the past 6 years.
Of course there is the dishwasher technique which I recently discovered with our bags. gogoBags can be washed in dishwasher and it’s way easier than washer dryer since you don’t have to unfold them. Just shake the crumbs out and place them on the pins of the top rack where you place the glasses. They get cleaned very well but don’t get dry, so you need to give them a place outside the dishwasher to dry out when you empty the dishwasher. With this method you will only need 2days worth of bags in case your bag doesn’t completely dry out overnight.
The good thing about reducing waste and being eco-friendly is that no matter how little you do, it make a huge difference in the bottom line. So go ahead and be honest with yourself, see what works for your lifestyle and what is easier for you to do, start there and build on it as the time goes by. Just start and get your kids involved too. Believe it or not we are raising children for a waste free culture!
Good luck with your waste free lunch project!