Tag Archives | limit food packaging

Litterless Lunch Solutions

I’ve been asked for my opinion on what is the best litterless lunch solution for back-to-school and with so many great options it comes down to each lunch solution being compatible with different foods a family enjoys packing. I have several lunch containers from reviews over the years so I thought I’d photograph different combos and share with pictures rather than descriptions – sometimes a visual is more helpful. I do have a few rules I stick to with packing any food for my children (and self) so I’ll list these before the pictures:

– I don’t use plastic. I don’t care if it’s BPA-free, phthalate free, recycled, etc, etc. At the end of the day, I don’t trust plastic or want it near my children’s food.

– Ditto on the plastic for water bottles. I also don’t use aluminum water bottles that have liners. I trust 18/8, stainless steel bottles and these are what I use for myself and children. On hot days, I include a couple of ice cubes (made from stainless steel ice trays) into their bottles to keep water icy cold. This is a great trick for back-to-school and keeping water delicious.

– Stainless steel is my favorite reusable material for back-to-school lunches. I like using single walled stainless steel systems for most days – I find it keeps food at just the right temperature. Ice packs, etc. normally aren’t required. To keep food hot however, double walled stainless steel is needed. All thermos systems I’ve seen that keep food hot, have a bit of plastic around the top. I tried out the Laptop Lunches system from Organically Hatched and like the size for when I pack soup or leftovers for the kids.

– With lunch bags I’m sticking with organic cotton. I wrote an article months ago about non-stick diaper bag liners and discovered some brands contain teflon. It’s really turned me off of lunch bags – no knowing what they are insulated with. I love the Graze bags…I used them all last year when sending kids with a hot lunch and needing somewhere to put a stainless steel utensil.

– I love tiffins. They are my #1 system because I’m very rushed in the morning and don’t have time to work within the set confines or spaces that other systems offer. They are air-tight, fun for the kids to use and we’ve never lost a piece because kids can’t close the system unless the containers, lid, and latch are ready to be secured. I’m also making more items from scratch for lunches so these foods tend to be larger in size and won’t fit into traditional systems. Also note that tiffin is the name for a style of system – it’s not the brand name. There are many different suppliers making tiffins, I can only vouch for and recommend the tiffins sold via Green Planet Parties.

– Encourage your school to only be using reusable products for food, snacks, and lunches. If you’ve been asked to provide plastic sandwich bags with your back-to-school supplies, supply a few cloth bags as an alternative.

Now here are some pictures!  First up, you know it’s going to be tiffins. Here are two pictures so you see how a full apple (or larger whole fruit) can go in the top container because the lid is domed. This picture also shows how you can easily partition a container to separate fruit, veggies, etc. – I use parchment paper.

This sized tiffin is recommended for preschool to all elementary school aged children for back-to-school. A light-weight system that gives plenty of options with three roomy containers.

The next most common question I get asked with back-to-school is how to transport hot food (soup, left-overs, stir-fry, etc.) with back-to-school. In order for food to stay hot you need to have a double walled system. I picked up a Laptop Lunches thermos from Organically Hatched and it’s very roomy, stainless steel, and will grow with your child because it’s not marked with commercialized characters. It’s great to have a lunch bag to accompany a thermos because normally you need a side container of fruit, cutlery, and a cloth napkin to include. I used my Graze organic cotton lunch bags for this all last year when bringing left over Shepard’s Pie for my kids or soup. I love knowing they can be composted when they are tattered and torn. Here is a picture of this system:

My last visual is for parents that love to pack multiple smaller, separate containers for back-to-school. You’ll definitely need a lunch bag to keep them all together. I know parents love the lunchbots. I’ve had them leak on me before, so I tend to gravitate to a container that has clips and a silicone ring; this usually means that it’s airtight. You can find lunchbots here and greentainers (with clips) here:


For tips on navigating through greener back-to-school shopping, check out these articles:

Limit Your Food Packaging: Make Your Own Granola Bars


Save Money & Green Back-to-School Supplies!

How To Bring Green & Healthy Values Back-to-School

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Limit Food Packaging – Make Your Granola Bars

Sometimes saying words out loud and not in your head gives them more merit or purpose – for me anyway. Talking with a friend today I was reminded of something that will help you make healthier shopping choices with meal planning for back to school. We know that what isn’t good for the environment is also bad for human health right? Well anything you buy that gives you convenience is also not the best for human health. Think back among the years of materials that have bought us time and convenience: telfon, non-stick, plastic, drive-thrus, etc. What first appeared (and was marketed) as an amazing time saver has become toxic for our families! This is why so many green bloggers are talking about packing litterless lunches with back-to-school. Not just because many of the litterless lunch systems are made from stainless steel, but it encourages parents to limit packaging surrounding children’s food which very quickly improves the quality of the nutrition, etc.

What are the biggest toxies I can think of? The two biggest culprits that come to mind are string cheese and yogurt tubes. Why? They have been packed into a bendy plastic that is loaded with plasticizers that are leaching into the food. These items are long gone in our fridge but with our busy schedule during the school year, I’m guilty of always having granola bars for my kids to snack on. Granola bar wrappers are not recyclable or compostable and this can be a red flag about the food inside the wrapper. Most granola bars are loaded with sugar, soy, artificial flavours/colors and contain preservatives so they can last on store shelves. I’ve been playing with different granola bar recipes over the summer and finally have a recipe that my kids LOVE. The homemade granola bars, unlike store bought are nut-free so appropriate to bring into schools with allergies and are more like a powerbar, packed with whole foods that are filling & heavy making them the perfect snack. My thanks to the site allrecipies.com for the original recipe and I’ve incorporated some changes and love the results. I noticed in the comments that some parents even remove the 1 egg so it could be further modified to be sensitive to more allergies if necessary.

I now double the recipe every Sunday and the bars usually last until Thursday in this house. I plan to double this batch and make banana bread on Sundays each week to minimize feeling the need to buy store bought snacks. The fact that my very fussy 1st born loves these granola bars so much is very gratifying. It’s funny because my 2nd son was helping me make the bars and noticed me adding apple sauce. First thing he says to me is “don’t let Francesco see what you’re putting in these” since he knows his brother so well. It’s easier to trick even the fussiest of eaters with the different modifications and here’s how!

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour (I use half and half with whole wheat flour and all-purpose)
3/4 cup raisins (optional) (I use chocolate chips)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup apple sauce

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, chocolate chips and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil, vanilla, and apple sauce. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-30 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

I cut into square and leave in an air tight container on my counter. These bars are gone in days and fit into any size lunch container for lunch packing. Buy these ingredients in bulk if you don’t already have them – you’ll be making them a lot!

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