When our kids started attending daycare a few years ago, they needed a lunch packed for them every day, and so started our daily need to pack lunches for two children. At first, as for many people, this meant the daily use and disposal of items like fruit cups, juice pouches or boxes, sandwich bags, paper or plastic cups, napkins, etc…
In retrospect, in the daycare days I had it easy because they provided the kids with morning snack and drinks. Of course, they still used the disposable cups and paper towels and napkins. (By the time our children started kindergarten our daycare had started using completely reusable dishes, silverware and cups, but that’s for a different post.) Now that our twins are in elementary school, I have to pack lunch and snack, and the school does not provide them with anything (unless they buy lunch). While this more work for me, it also provides more chances to skip the disposable stuff.
While we occasionally fall back to the the stand-by of a one time use juice pouch (which we upcycle through TerraCycle) or juice box (which we recycle through our city’s single stream recycling) we try to use as few disposable items as possible. Our kids even collect the juice pouches and boxes from their classmates, bringing them home to recycle them. (We provide them with ziptop bags that we wash and reuse to carry the containers home. Note, the zipper style work best for young kids enabling them to close it reliably and avoid leaks.)
Today, I sent them to school with a completely reusable lunch and snack consisting of:
- Pasta (with spaghetti sauce for one, olive oil and Parmesan cheese for the other)
- Fruit Cups
- Water for one, Lemonade for the other
Two tricks to packing a disposable-free lunch that I used today are Jars of Fruit and Contigo AutoSeal Kids Cups.
Fruit cups have always been a favorite of my kids, and we used to buy flats of them and send them in every day. We eventually trained their teachers to let them bring home the empty cups for reusing or recycling, but that still felt wasteful. We avoided making our own fruit cups for quite a while because of concerns surrounding BPA in the can linings. We tried, but we just don’t have time to be cutting up and preparing fresh fruit every day. Then we discovered jarred fruit at our local store. Now we can make up our own fruit cups in a cost & time effective easy way, that is BPA free. Today’s fruit cup included peaches and mandarin oranges.
Contigo AutoSeal Kids Cups have been wonderful and deserve their own post. For a while we were reusing milk containers with screw cap lids that we picked up on road trips. We would run them through the dishwasher and put fresh milk in them. Unfortunately, we had a few too many milk leaks in the back packs, so we had gone back to juice boxes & pouches. Because we really felt that single use containers (even if they are recycled or Terracycled) are wasteful – and expensive – we bought a pair of Contigo autoseal kids cups after having a wonderful experience with their no spill travel mugs for coffee. We got the 9oz model because they were smaller and our kids don’t need that much to drink with their lunch or snack. We have been using them daily in their lunches for over a month with no leaks plus they are dishwasher safe. Another tip for these (or any) kids cups, you don’t have to fill them all the way if your son or daughter isn’t drinking it all every day.
So, today was a successful disposable-free lunch packing day. And don’t forget to include the reusable cloth napkin and silverware (if needed for something like pasta).
p.s. from Alicia – Yes, Jon really packs all the kids’ lunches and snacks in our house!
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