Saturday, January 7, 2012

Waste and plastic free lunch on a budget

Children's lunches can be full of waste very easy.  With the world wanting more conveniences, companies have made it easier for you to pack lunches.  From single packaged apple sauce, single pack juice, and even single pack peanut butter. All of which are packaged in plastic completely and most are not recyclable.   Is it just easier for people to do or is it because it takes no effort on their part?

And lets not forget the napkins, utensils and toxins attached to the plastics.  How many tree's were cut down so you can have something to wipe your hands with? How much money are you wasting purchasing these items each payday?  Is that plastic container leaching BPA into your food?  So are you really saving money by purchasing all these disposable items? I want to show you how easy it is to have a waste and plastic free lunch.  If I don't convince you then try it out and watch how much money you will save.  Money makes people change fast.  And just think about how healthy that lunch is your packing.  Your children and their healthy will thank you.

Most importantly remember to pack a healthy lunch.  I always pack a well rounded meal for my girls.  One main meal, one fruit or veggie, one snack and a beverage. I make my own peanut butter and jelly which is great because I can limit the sugar intake.   Here are a few things I pack my girls.

Main meal-soups, sandwich, cold pasta, salad, and sometimes left overs.
Fruit/veggie- cut up apple, cut up orange, banana, celery with peanut butter, homemade apple sauce, or carrots with peanut butter.
Snack-Trader Joe's puffs, pretzels, bagels, or saltine peanut butter sandwiches. 
Beverage-Water only. 

Most people are on a budget and need to stretch their dollars as far as they will go.  Even if your not on a budget these tips can be used. 

Lunch boxes-The metal lunch box pictured above is my mine.  To me this is a classical lunch box that most men used years ago to bring their lunches to work.  I found this for $7 in a thrift shop.  You can find metal lunch boxes and even plastic ones from the 1980's.  Unlike the boxes made now these things were made to last forever which is why they are still found everywhere. Plus they are super easy to clean up.  Nothing is going to squash the sandwich and your box will never get moldy. Fabric bags are impossible to clean out and I have had to recycle many of them because of mold growing in them.  So get yourself a metal lunch box and let your kids help search for them.  Who doesn't love a Smurf lunchbox?

Sandwich/snack bags-You can find fabric bags in just about every store now.  These are so durable and can be washed numerous times.  They will cost about $5-$7 depending on the size.  You can even make your own from fabric and Velcro.  The green and black fabric bag was made by my friend Theresa and only take minutes to make.  There are free video's online showing you how easy it is to make them.  I just picked some up for 50% off at a kitchen store.  Once you buy these you will no longer need to buy any zip locks anymore which will save you a ton of money over the long run. 

Utensils-I started off by just packing our everyday metal utensils from my kitchen.  This works great because you already own them and its no money out of your pocket.  You can purchase them from thrift shops too if you don't want to pack your own.  I came upon a sale on a web site a few years ago of bamboo utensils and ordered a set for each of my girls.  My twins were not old enough to go to school at the moment so I just stashed them away.  So when my girls were in school full time I was prepared.  Bamboo is super light weight and last forever.  My girls love them. 

Napkins-Stop using paper napkins and invest in a small fabric napkin.  These can cost around $5 for a pack of 4.  Since we only use fabric napkins I simply tossed in one of ours.  No money out of my pocket!  Each day simply toss the fabric napkins in with your wash and reuse the next day.  If you don't want to spend too much money just head on over to a thrift shop.  They are loaded with fabric napkins and they will cost you half the price as new ones. 

Now lets move onto containers.  I started off using Tupperware because I had it and it was light weight.  To avoid the BPA in plastics I switched to metal or glass.  This was a challenge but it was worth it in the long run.

Metal thermos are expensive but I found mine at Costco for a good price.  $20 for a twin pack of a soup thermos and coffee thermos.  We parents use the coffee thermos and the girls get the soup thermos.  Each comes with a metal spoon that folds up and sits in the lid.  Metal thermos stay hot longer so remember to keep the soup temperatures down. 

Water bottles can also be expensive.  To get around this I searched for them in thrift shops.  I found that cute pink Klean Kanteen one (which sells for $15 new) at Goodwill for only $2.99. Very worth the money even if you buy them new. They last forever!  If you have the money you can find glass water bottles for $15-$21 in a few stores now.  They have a rubber outside shell so they will be somewhat durable and can be washed easily. 

Leak proof containers was the hardest thing for me to find.  I kept trying to find glass containers with BPA

So now there is no excuse for you to have a waste/plastic free lunch.  It also can cost you very little if you use what you have and know how to sew.  Keep an eye out for sales and plan ahead.  Then start watching the savings roll in.


a. marquardt said...

This has totally inspired me-I'll start small w/cloth napkins, baggies & thermos. I'm also intrigued with the use of mason jars as leak proof containers. Tomorrow I'm off to my local thrift shop! Thank you for the info & ideas!

Lydia said...

Very cool! I love how fun reusable bags and napkins can be over paper :)

Anonymous said...

I have a stack of old shirts I keep intending to make into cloth napkins....maybe you've motivated me!