Wondering How To Make Your Lunch Boxes Sustainable? Read This!

OCT 28, 2021 | BY IRENE CROFT

How to make lunch boxes sustainable?

Being the owner of a gundog and two boys aged 8 and 5.5, all with energy levels that can be described as ‘intense’ means our weekends are rarely spent in the house slobbing around in our pyjamas (how I miss those days…).

Being packed lunch-savvy is also a must, unless you are ok with spending the equivalent of a month’s mortgage on pre-packed sandwiches that the kids will refuse to eat anyway when out and about.

The key to a good lunch box is convenience, which, incidentally, also happens to be intrinsically pretty sustainable as well as being a low- cost option.

Little/ no packaging = no rubbish to have to take home to recycle, often after having been sat in your bag for half a day or so. The low environmental impact is of course a significant bonus.

The boys have packed lunches at school and we use the same lunch boxes out on our many week-end adventures. Ours are unremarkable - looking, super cheap boxes that were purchased from the reduced shelf in Tesco for £2 about 8 years ago and are still going strong.

I appreciate that being plastic, they are not the most sustainable option and that if you are going to purchase one there more environmentally albeit not as purse-friendly (and cooler looking) ones out there.

But I am of course reluctant to throw perfectly serviceable lunch boxes into landfill for the sake of upgrading to stainless steel. This is one big caveat that I will actually highlight as a top sustainability tip: you do NOT need the good- looking, expensive option, that is touted as the most eco friendly item on the market.

Anything you buy new has been made using energy and as such it has a carbon footprint of some sort. If you already have something in the house that you are able to use, do it! You are already doing your bit this way.

My best advice is to look for something with compartments or smaller containers that can then go into a bigger bag or box, as the last thing you need is your child having a total meltdown over the fact that one of their blueberries touched a cracker at some point while we were walking to our picnic spot.

No? Just us?

Anywaaaay… 😉

Anything you buy new has been made using energy and as such it has a carbon footprint of some sort. If you already have something in the house that you are able to use, do it! You are already doing your bit this way.

In terms of what to put in a lunch box, I am a big fan of keeping it simple and team ‘whatever works for you’. I have been a vegetarian for over 26 years and my kids are completely meat (and largely dairy) free from birth, which I guess is sustainable in itself.

Once you throw food allergies and intolerances into the ‘dietary choice’ mix, there really isn’t much of a way of getting out of a well- planned lunch box!

One of my kids has issues with textures so ‘things that won’t go yucky’ like small bread rolls, crackers and chunks of parmesan, hard boiled eggs, chopped vegetables and salad-y bits like cucumber generally work well for us. My youngest is also a BIG fan of the common hummus sandwich. Blueberries are also always a winner, as are small baked goods, especially if they contain chocolate, as a treat.

With that in mind, I am a big fan of mini-muffins as they are very easy to make and you can throw almost anything in there and they will taste delicious, are easy to carry around and they tend to be sensory- friendly. I will include a favourite recipe below. Wraps are also a great option as you can shove most things in there, including your leftover curry or stew with some salad for the lazy option.

Single use plastic isn’t having a great deal of positive publicity at the moment (and rightly so!) and the easiest switch/ picnic/packed lunch must have is of course the reusable water bottle. We have a plethora of these in the house and believe me when I say they all get used regularly without fail. My absolute favourites are the stainless steel ones with leak free caps. The kids have them for school and what an awesome investment they are.

I won’t go into the importance of drinking water, luckily schools and activity clubs nowadays all seem very aware of this and we never seem to leave the house with ours, because you know it, if you as much as walk the dog down the road without one, someone will immediately shout ‘I’m thirsty!’.

And of course, doggo will drink water out of that muddy puddle if you don’t bring any clean water with you…

With this in mind, for a day out at the weekend I went and invested in a gigantic 2 litre ‘tank’ which I use to refill our individual water bottles. If we are having a picnic there are also some very cute, sustainable and fairly inexpensive items available on the market like wooden cutlery, plates, trays, even cups, that won’t take thousands of years to disintegrate or end up in a dolphin’s tummy.

And of course, don’t forget your compostable bags for the rubbish so that nothing leaks into your backpack on the way home.

Recipe for Paleo Breakfast Muffins

Ingredients:

½ cup roasted almond butter. Cashew butter is also an amazing alternative.

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

¼ teaspoon vanilla stevia

¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 finely grated carrot

Instructions:

Mix the butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer until creamy. Mix in eggs, honey, stevia. Add salt, baking soda, cinnamon and the grated carrot.

Mix well with the hand blender until all ingredients are combined, then transfer into muffin or cupcake cases on a tray and bake at 170 degrees C for around 12-15 minutes.

I recommend the toothpick test the first time, to check that they are baked throughout. Reduce temp/ time accordingly for fan assisted ovens.

Top tip: freeze what you are not using and defrost overnight for a tasty fresh supply the next day!

Written by Irene Croft

My name is Irene and I'm a Norwegian- born, half Italian half Norwegian mum of two living in South Manchester in the UK with my British husband Chris, our boys Yuri (8) and Nikolai (5) and our very lively cocker spaniel pup called Laika.
I work for the National Health Service (NHS) as a Contracts and Projects Manager, which I absolutely love.
I have a life long obsession with all things 60's/ early 70's, my university degree was in art & design and I wrote my dissertation on 60's youth culture, but interior design and modernist architecture also get my heart racing, particularly Scandinavian mid century stuff, to be true to my origins. I also have a passion for travel, reading and photography.
Cultures and languages fascinate me, I speak 3 languages fluently and I can understand 3 more fairly reasonably. Well, 4 if you count Latin, though in all fairness that's only helpful for playing along in TV quiz shows and to make up Harry Potter spells.
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