Sustainable and EASY Tips to Pack A School Lunch


Packing school lunches during back to school can be overwhelming for kids and parents. New routines, early wakeups and everything else that is going on all at the same time can make school lunches feel like one more item to check off on an already long list. Adding environment-friendly options to that list? That seems like a tall order, right? Here are tips and small changes we can all make to pack a more sustainable and yet easy school lunch.

Ditch the single-use everything

No more individually wrapped crackers. None of the portion-sized yoghurt either. It’s a change I know but adopting this shift into our kids’ school lunches can make the biggest impact on our wallet and on the planet.

We may think we can afford the 6-pack of yoghurt. After all, it’s only $3.99. However, none of us can afford it and our kids will be paying that 3.99 down for the next few hundred years.

Instead, choose bulk containers that you can then serve into smaller containers.

Watch: Puneeta on CHCH Morning Live with Annette Hamm where she shares tips to pack an earth-savvy lunch box.
YouTube video

Choose reusable containers, cutlery and wrap

Transfer the food from bulk-sized containers to smaller reusable steel containers.

Research tells that only 9 percent of plastic waste is recycled.

The biggest change we can make here is to reduce our consumption of plastic.

I recently discovered reusable wrappers made with cotton fabric and covered in beeswax coating. This one in the picture is made by Abeego, a Canadian company. It can be rinsed and reused again and again, and it keeps food fresh for longer. There are many options out there.

Tips to pack an easy and sustainable lunch box | Packing School Lunches | Maple and Marigold

Offering kids flexibility in sizes of lunch boxes

Traditionally sized lunch boxes often feel big and overwhelming to young kids. That feeling means lunches will come back at the end of the day, uneaten. Such a waste, right?

Second Harvest Canada did research recently that found out 58% of the food we grow and produce in Canada is thrown away. That’s a shockingly big number.

Reducing food waste is good for our wallets and for the environment. We all want kids to eat their lunch, so make it easy.

One larger box and two snack containers work best for our school schedule. Find out what is yours. In our case, kids spend snack time outside, on the playground or at desks in the classroom. Containers that can be tucked into jacket pockets and are easy to open work best.

Tips to pack an easy and sustainable lunch box | Packing School Lunches | Maple and Marigold

Switch out paper napkins for cloth

Best way to reduce waste is by not creating it in the first place. And cloth napkins are a great replacement for paper.

With some patience, kids will remember to bring these back home to be washed and reused. Remember, it’s a mindset shift for parents and for kids.

Tips to pack an easy and sustainable lunch box | Packing School Lunches | Maple and Marigold

The solution to mushy, brown fruit

My kids love fruit but hate when it goes brown or mushy.

There are a few solutions to this without using tons of cling film or wasting food.

Try the beeswax wrap – it comes in handy in a number of places.

Talk to the kids and discuss the science behind it. But to be fair, in a crowded hot gym, the scientific process of oxidization is the last thing on their mind.

The last is the best solution – nature’s own solution. Keep the peel on as much as possible. Circle bananas sliced with the peel on, sliced oranges, smaller snacker-sized apples, grapes, strawberries, are all good choices.

Rebel against the cute cutouts

OK, this may go against every Pinterest board and picky eater blog out there that tells us to cut our kids’ sandwich into a star shape “because you know they are all stars.”

Instead, how about we just….. don’t?

Think of the food waste and think of your sanity. Put the sandwich cutter down and walk away.

Have your own tip for packing school lunches?

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About Puneeta

Author, Educator, Speaker

Puneeta is a writer, food advocate and guide for those who seek earth-friendly, delicious solutions that work for real life.

Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma, Food Writer, Climate Advocate, New cookbook - Good Food, Healthy Planet - out April 2024
Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma
Photo by Diana Muresan
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