Saving Green and Being Green for Back to School Lunches

It’s here!  School starts in a less than two weeks for us, so back to school time is officially here!  Are you ready?  Save some green and be green by AVOIDING the back to school shopping!  Before you run out to the stores to spend a small fortune on new school supplies, see what you have in your home that you can reuse from last year, or better yet, make your own when you can!

Here is what we already have from last year for this year’s back to school lunches.

Lunch bag/lunch box: Luckily she still likes Minnie Mouse, so we are going to reuse her insulated lunch bag.

Reusable water bottle: We had issues with leaky plastic water bottles last year so I bought this new metal one on sale earlier this year.

Lunch Containers for Back to School

Lunch Containers for Back to School

Stainless steel containers: These are dishwasher safe, though I usually hand wash them, and are great for:

  • Yogurt (I often buy the big 32 oz. container and divide it up into these smaller containers for lunch).
  • Grapes
  • Cut up fruit (apples, strawberries, peaches, etc.)
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Dry cereal.

The options are endless really!

Stainless steel containers

Stainless steel containers

Here is a link to where you can buy these on Amazon:

Kids Konserve Set of 2 Leak-Proof Stainless-Steel Food Containers

Thermos: We have had this Dora one for several years now and has held up surprisingly well.  We put hot water in it in the morning and while it is sitting there warming up, we microwave pasta and veggies or other leftovers that she likes in a glass container (Thermos is NOT microwaveable).  Then I dump out the hot water from the Thermos and add the hot food.  My daughter said it is still very warm by the time she opens it at lunch almost 5 hours later.  This is a nice change of pace to sandwiches, esp. in the cooler weather when a hot cup of pasta and veggies or a thick hearty soup is comforting.

Thermos for Hot Lunches

Thermos for Hot Lunches

You can see if your local Walmart orTarget has it or you can get it at Amazon:
Thermos TherMax Funtainer Dora The Explorer 10 ounce Food Jar – 64352

Plastic compartment container:  We also have this plastic compartment container, sort of like a Bento style box with 3 compartments.  This works really well to put wraps, sandwiches, DIY lunchables (just throw crackers, cheese, small pieces of cheese and cut up lunch meat and voila, your own lunchables at half the cost!).  I usually use the large compartment for the “main” item (sandwich, wrap, etc.) and one smaller compartment for veggies and/or fruit (carrot sticks, celery sticks, cut up strawberries/apples or other fruit, grapes, etc., and the other smaller compartment for either more fruit or veggies or a treat (cookies, a piece of chocolate, a slice of homemade zucchini bread, banana bread, rice krispie treat or other homemade sweet treat).  When I use this container, I usually don’t include anything else in the lunch bag other than her water bottle.

Plastic 3-Compartment Container

Plastic 3-Compartment Container

I bought ours at a local store but you can find similar ones online too, like this one that specifically says it’s BPA free, easy open lids (very important for little kids-the first Bento style box I bought my Kindergartener couldn’t open it by herself so that is why I then went and bought this one):
EasyLunchboxes 3-compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers “BRIGHTS” (Set of 4). BPA-Free. Easy-Open Lids (Not Leakproof)

Sandwich wraps: I absolutely LOVE these Kids Konserve sandwich wraps.  We have 5 of them which is perfect because now with 4 of us, we use these whenever we go out for a picnic, to the park, on vacation or the beach.  We even used them recently when we took a day trip to an amusement park about 2 hours away and we knew we didn’t want to spend the $50 or more it would cost to get 4 of us an overpriced lunch within the amusement park.  My oldest loves these for school because when you unwrap the sandwich, the container flattens out to serve as a placemat!

Reusable sandwich wraps

Reusable sandwich wraps

Sandwich wraps opened to serve as placemat while eating!

Sandwich wraps opened to serve as placemat while eating!

I got these as a Christmas present a few years ago via my Amazon wish list (link below), and I haven’t yet seen them at the stores but trust me, they are well worth the initial cost since you never have to buy plastic sandwich baggies ever again!

Kids Konserve KK068MC Green Food Kozy, 2-Pack

Zipper bag: It’s much prettier than a plastic sandwich baggie, isn’t it?  I love the print and you can buy it in a variety of prints.  We use this zipper bag for things like chips, pretzels, or other snack items that won’t necessarily fit into the smaller stainless steel containers.  I just hand wash it in the kitchen sink when it comes home at the end of the day and it dries and is ready for use again in the morning.

Reusable zipper bag

Reusable zipper bag

I also got this bag from Amazon but on a recent trip to Target, I did notice they had similar ones to this.
Itzy Ritzy Snack Happens Reusable Snack Bag, Fresh Bloom

And last but not least, my handmade cloth fabric baggies:  We also use these for chips, crackers, cookies, pretzels, popcorn, to keep a whole apple, plum, nectarine or other piece of fruit clean, and any other dry snack items.  It literally is some scrap fabric I had by my sewing machine and one day several years ago I decided to mimic the fold top sandwich baggies.  They work great for dried foods but I will warn you, since they don’t have any waterproof lining and just fold over and don’t “seal”, bread or other softer items will dry out if you leave them in there overnight.  Now, if you make your lunch in the morning, then no problem. But if you are like me and make sandwiches/wraps/etc. the night before, then I don’t recommend you use these baggies for them. Save these baggies for the dry stuff.

Reusable cloth baggies

Reusable cloth baggies

Folded over reusable cloth baggies

Folded over reusable cloth baggies

It’s not pictured here but I also pack a bright yellow cloth napkin in her lunch bag for the messes.  You may also notice the longer baggie in the photos…that is for utensils.  I made a few extra long ones with a drawstring at the top to close it and use that for keeping the reusable metal forks and spoons.

I can hear it now…WHAT? You let your kids take REAL utensils to school?  Yes, I do.  They grab a fork or spoon from our utensil drawer and place it in the baggie. In all of last year, every single spoon and fork has made it back home safe and sound with the baggie.  Can I tell you how much money I saved by not having to buy plastic forks and spoons for her to take to school to eat her yogurt, pasta, etc.?  It happens to be very green too since I am not adding plastic disposable utensils to a landfill where they will remain for hundreds of years after only being used for about 10 minutes.  Ever think about that?  How we often consume or use something in a matter of a few minutes that will take hundreds of years to break down.

So in the end, what did I buy for my child’s back to school lunches?  NOTHING!  Here’s what we had from last year’s lunches…all reusable items!

  • Reusable lunch bag
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Reusable plastic compartment container
  • Reusable velcro Kids Konserve sandwich wraps
  • Reusable stainless steel containers and baggies for snacks
  • Reusable Thermos container for hot foods
  • Reusable utensils, utensil holder
  • Reusable cloth napkin

And when my daughter is finished with her lunch, what does she throw in the trash?  NOTHING!

Now if only every kid in America went to school with reusable containers, ate all their food and had NOTHING to throw in the trash?  That would be pretty cool!

And please, no excuses about the cost of these nice reusable containers versus disposable.  I’ve done the cost comparison and even with buying plastic baggies, plastic forks/spoons, plastic bottled water, individual serving/pre-packaged snack bags, etc. on sale WITH coupons, it is STILL much cheaper for you to make the one-time purchase and use these reusable items that will last year to year.

Saving green while being green, that’s what it’s all about!

**Side Note: All these reusable containers (and a few others including insulated lunch bags) are also used by my husband and I since we bring our lunch to work every day.  So what do we throw out after eating lunch at our desks?  Again, NOTHING!  Whoohoo!!!

 

This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported license.

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