Zero-waste lunches the kids will love


Creating zero-waste lunches for the kids is easy. Sure, it requires a little advance planning and commitment but once you have the hang of it, you’ll be a zero-waste lunch superstar in no time! It’s a great way to reduce the amount of waste your family sends to landfill and will also save you money.

By including the kids in your zero-waste lunch mission, chances are you’ll also get them eating a little more of the lunches they take to school.

Try getting them involved in each step of the process – from selecting fun and colourful food containers and lunch boxes, to creating a menu for the week and even packing their lunch boxes each day.

To find out more about getting started on a zero-waste lunch mission, Living Smart caught up with Sunshine Coast mum, Beck Urquhart who has been embracing zero waste lunches with her kids for years, sharing her journey at Lift the Lid on Kids Lunchboxes.

Beck says pre-packaged foods are the biggest source of waste generated by school lunchboxes but creative alternatives are readily available.

“While it is convenient for families to place individual packets or portions into lunchboxes, the amount of waste generated by all of these lunch boxes across the country is enormous,” Beck said.

“Any reusable container with a secure lid can be used for a lunchbox or for packing snacks that are purchased in bulk. Cloth wraps makes it easy to avoid plastic wrap for items such as sandwiches.”

Six tips for creating a zero-waste lunchbox
  1. Select reusable containers or wraps instead of single-use packaging (try beeswax wraps that you can make yourself, or reusable sandwich wraps)
  2. Buy foods in bulk (either in bulk packs at the supermarket or from bulk food stores) instead of in packaged portions and create your own snack packs
  3. Explore foods that can be used as wraps: tortillas, lettuce leaves, sushi seaweed, sliced ham and rice paper can all be used to wrap other foods such as salad and rice, and can be placed into a container
  4. Make your own snacks, treats and dips
  5. Plan ahead: many snacks can be prepared ahead of time such as making protein balls on the weekend or chopping carrot and celery sticks the night before
  6. Have a lunch box kit that can easily accommodate the foods your kids love. Some examples are stainless steel bento boxes, leak proof Yumboxes or simply your own combo of reliable containers that can be mixed and matched according to what’s on the menu each day

For families keen to become part of the zero-waste lunchbox revolution, Beck Urquhart recommends starting small, with one swap per week.

“Consider what is going into a lunch box and try making one thing per week at home that you would have usually purchased, such as a dip or biscuits,” she suggests.

“Alternatively, buy something in bulk that you would have previously purchased in portions, such as yoghurt which can easily be bought in a one kilogram tub and spooned into smaller containers.”


Waste-free lunch box ideas

Below are just some ideas to explore. You’ll find loads more by searching online or on Pinterest.

  • Slices or cakes
  • Protein balls (search Google for nut-free recipes if your school is nut-free)
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit (grapes, berries, chopped apple, mango, whatever is in season)
  • Stewed fruit
  • Veggie sticks with hommus or homemade dip
  • Crackers with guacamole or cheese and tomato
  • Cheese cubes
  • Sandwiches or wraps
  • Yoghurt or custard
  • Biscuits (homemade or store bought)
  • Sushi
  • Scrolls of ham
  • Rice paper rolls
  • Mini quiches or frittatas
  • Muesli slice
  • Pancakes or pikelets
  • Vegemite and cheese scrolls
  • Dried fruit
  • Chocolate covered strawberries
  • Boiled eggs

The best thing about these ideas for zero-waste school lunches is that they’re equally ideal for adults so if you’re finding work lunches a little monotonous, try getting into some of these tasty zero-waste treats!

Has your family embraced the zero-waste lunchbox challenge? We would love to hear what has worked (and what didn’t) below.

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