Waste free lunches for summer activities

This post is sponsored by Klean Kanteen and Green Sisterhood.

Well, it’s summer and there’s no more weekly break for me in the form of preschool/Mother’s Day Out! Aside from a few weeks at mini-camp in the mornings, the kids and I are together ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. This is the part where I don’t do the staying-home part of being a SAHM. Every night before bed, the kids ask “What are we doing tomorrow?”. They know that we’ll do something nearly every day! Sometimes it’s just the grocery store or a playdate with friends who come to our house. But now that it’s summer, it’s often trips to local fun spots like the Dallas Zoo, the Perot Museum, a splash pad, or our favorite zero-entry public pool. I’m always on the lookout for new places to play.

Now that they are older (2 and 3 years old sounds old compared to the babies I’ve been carting around for the past several years!), they can technically eat anything I would eat. Wouldn’t it be so easy to just stop at a drive-thru for lunch, or even buy slightly slower food at the zoo or the museum? But let’s think about what would be in that food:  hormones, pesticides, trans fats, nitrites, tons of sugar and salt, dairy that irritates my son’s stomach…

Not worth it!

And guess what else results from buying our lunches out? WASTE!

Trash can full of fast food waste
A trash can near the play area at the Galleria Dallas, full to the brim of fast food containers.

I’m sure this full trash can had to be emptied multiple times by the staff during the lunch hours. The styrofoam containers filling it up only represent one person each! And remember, styrofoam never biodegrades.

Instead, I pack our own food and strive for waste free lunches. It sounds intimidating, but it’s not difficult at all. Here are a few shots of the kids modeling their lunches on two different days.

Waste Free Lunches

Picnic (waste free)

Waste Free Lunch?

Waste free lunch supplies:

  • Bento style containers – Stainless steel is best, but as you can see, I also use some plastic. Remember not to put hot foods into plastic containers, as plastic does leach it’s chemical components when heated*. I also have glass containers but those are tricky around toddlers.
  • Silicone cupcake liners – for separating foods in bento boxes. You could use paper liners but remember — we’re avoiding waste!
  • Stainless steel water bottles – keep the water much colder than plastic in the Texas heat! One day my son put ice and water in his stainless steel water bottle and my daughter put ice water in her plastic sippy at the same time. 3 hours later, I went to empty both containers for washing and ice still came out of the stainless steel bottle, while my daughter’s sippy was completely room temperature!
  • Cookie cutters – completely optional but they add a fun component to sandwiches, cheese, and other soft food.

One extra tip: don’t forget to bring your own forks or spoons, the most common mistake I make is that I have to go get a plastic utensil from a nearby restaurant, because my son is extremely squeamish about touching food with his hands.

Why stainless steel?

I try not to put hot foods into plastic containers, as plastic does leach it’s chemical components when heated*. In fact, I go to the trouble of hand washing all my kids’ plastic to avoid the high temperatures of the dishwasher. Glass, as I noted above, can shatter and isn’t really practical for kids of 2 and 3 years old (or maybe this is just my kids. Either way, I’m tired of sweeping up glass shards on my hands and knees with a microfiber cloth).  Stainless steel is my favorite! My favorite reusable water bottles are the Klean Kanteen brand because I know and trust that they are not lined with BPA or other plastics that leach chemicals. Klean Kanteen’s interior is simply electropolished stainless steel. I also love that the openings in their containers are large enough to put a regular dish scrubbing brush inside so that the water bottles aren’t harboring bacterial.

Get to packing!

Now is a great time to practice packing your lunches more consciously! During the summer, there is often less of a rush in the mornings so I find that I’m able to put some extra thought into how I package everything. When fall comes, along with preschool and resumed activities, waste free lunches should be second nature.

Won’t you join me in going waste free now?

What are your favorite ways to pack waste free lunches for the summer? I’d love to hear how you like to pack your lunches!


* Source: There are many sources that have proved the leaching of chemicals from plastic, but a good summary can be found in the BreastCancer.org article “Exposure to Chemicals in Plastic” at http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/plastic

Happy Thanksgiving with turkey bentos & food art

We have been enjoying celebrating thankfulness and turkeys over the last few weeks!

Here is a short list of things I’m thankful for and then some turkey-related food art.

1. My husband, Christian! We have been going to ReEngage for the past 16 weeks or so and it’s been really great. He is such a great dad and good at his job. I am particularly thankful that he gets my weird sense of humor, since very few people do in real life.

2. Sleep. I am so thankful that this is the first Thanksgiving in 4 years that I have slept through the night. AMAZING.

3. The kids, of course. No matter how crazy they drive me, they are amazing little, funny, happy people who make me laugh every day.

4. Our extended families. They don’t live near enough to babysit or anything, but we still manage to see them about every 6-8 weeks and we always have a great time. I’m excited to be spending the day with my in-laws.

Since I’m blogging remotely today, I don’t have control over where the pictures appear. Below will be a series of two bentos that I made for my kids preschool/Mother’s Day Out and then a veggie appetizer tray I created for Thanksgiving today as my contribution to the meal.

Bentos: Daddy-made & Valentine’s

Last week I was feeling sick, so Christian volunteered to make Little Sir’s bento for Mother’s Day Out. He did a great job (better than I do sometimes!):

Daddy's Bento

To see all the details in the notes, be sure to click on the picture and you can hover over each item. The roll is a roll of sticky rice (Little Sir LOVES sticky rice!) wrapped in nori (LOVES nori!). Sort of like a sushi roll without the sushi! You can’t see very well, but under the star shaped cheese is a fruit strip with a heart cutout, and under the fruit strip is pineapple chunks. He also gets a cookie with Daddy. Mommy never includes cookies!

I made the bento again this week, and tried to incorporate a Valentine’s theme since they’ll be having their Valentine’s party today. It doesn’t have as much food as usual since their party will include lots of food.

Valentine Bento

It includes raisins, mangoes, heart-shaped cornbread, pickles, and freeze-dried peas. For some reason, both kids are currently obsessed with freeze-dried peas! Too bad they are so expensive. But I’m glad they’re eating peas nevertheless!

7 Quick Takes Friday #26

— 1 —

I have 3 bentos to share this week! It’s a little deceptive, because one is from 2 weeks ago but I just uploaded the pictures from my camera yesterday.

Bento #4

Bento #5

Bento #6

I think the shaped boiled eggs are soooo cute, but Little Sir still won’t really eat them. Also, he didn’t recognize the special sandwich pod in the third bento as a sandwich, so he wouldn’t eat that either. DOH.

— 2 —

OK, has anyone else been following yet another battle about formula marketing between two rather well-known feminists (one a blogger and one an author)? If you haven’t, I am not going to link to either of them because COME ON, PEOPLE!! I already commented on this regarding the controversial Babble post about covering up when nursing in public, but I am sick to death of women attacking each other about how we feed our babies. This time the aforementioned feminists are arguing about whether formula companies should be allowed to market in certain ways.

If you are new to this blog you might not be familiar with the fact that I combo feed Little Lady and only made it to 6 months breastfeeding Little Sir. I would like to point out that neither of my babies would have thrived, or perhaps even lived at all, past 6 months without the help of formula since my boobs seem unable to keep up past that point.

I have never given birth in a hospital, so I was never marketed to by formula companies. I got a sample of Enfamil before Little Sir was born and gave it away because I didn’t realize I would have breastfeeding issues. Formula is not the devil. Some mothers need it exclusively. Some, like me, just need it to help out. I am tired of the guilt and the mudslinging from bloggers. I can’t wait until my children are finished with that stage of life because I am just sick of the entire issue and I want every to SHUT UP.

Thank you, lactivists, for taking away my enjoyment of this whole breastfeeding (or not) stage of life.

— 3—

One a lighter note, I am continuing to try to use the DivaCup. I am having the worst time of it! I seem to get a lot of opportunities since my cycle is really messed up right now. I am not going to go into detail, but let me just say that it isn’t the best feeling in the world to have that thing pop out while you are dropping your kids off at Mother’s Day Out. Um… yeah.

What are your thoughts on a whole post on my exploration of alternative menstrual products? Would you like the info? Or TMI? I have to say, if no one comments on this, I’m probably going to do it.

— 4 —

In the scheme of work-life balance, I would have to say that somehow my part time work seems to be completely monopolizing all my free time so that I hardly get to spend any time with Christian and I never get to do things I want to do, like read a magazine or make snacks. Not sure how this happened because I’m not billing any more hours than usual.

— 5 —

We are actually looking at houses again, here in Richardson and North Dallas. If you think of it, say a little prayer or send good vibes our way as we look at the options. We love our realtor!

— 6 —

Green cleaning tip: Did you know that straight white vinegar makes a great carpet stain remover? While my kids were at Mother’s Day Out this week I went to work with an old toothbrush and a small bowl of vinegar on several stains on our area rug that had been there at least 6 months. All it took was a little scrub on each one and the stains were gone! And no toxic chemicals for the baby to encounter as she crawls around on the rug!

— 7 —

R.I.P. Steve Jobs. All the computers and phones in our house are a result of your invention.
We will miss you.


Well that’s all for this week, be sure to visit Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Fridays.

Me and plastic

This weekend, Little Lady smashed yet another glass dish by grabbing it suddenly from a distance I didn’t think she could reach, and dropping it onto the tile kitchen floor. It’s the second one in the last 2 weeks. You might say, “Jenny, you have two children under two – what are you doing with glass ANYTHING?”.

I am trying to protect my kids from the evil toxins in every plastic, that’s what! Nevermind that glass is becoming increasingly perilous. I am consumed by guilt every time I read about other moms who have gone plastic-free. I can just FEEL the hard-to-pronounce death-chemicals leeching into my kids’ food from anything that contains plastic. It’s going to make them all stupid in the head or give them some kind of horrible disease or something. I realize that.

But I will be honest with you. I am nowhere near giving up plastic.

You might have noticed that my bento boxes are plastic. There are stainless steel ones available, but they start at $12 apiece for the smallest possible size. Yeah.

Baby bottles. I found out that you can buy stainless steel ones, but neither of my children have taken anything but the Born Free (or Tommee Tippee) bottles, which are BPA-free plastic.

Ziploc bags. I use them. I have some great Snack Taxi cloth nylon bags that I love but again… $5-$8 apiece. Unfortunately, you can’t use them to freeze things because they aren’t airtight. How do people freeze things without ziplock bags? And don’t tell me glass tupperware, because that is way too expensive for me to fill my entire freezer.

I am working on slowly transitioning from plastic tupperware to glass, I wrote about it in one of my Friday posts. Again, not cheap, so it will take time.

You know what I would LOVE? These Kidishes by zoé b organic.
Check out this video!

Not really in the budget right now for me, but if they are in your budget, please let me know how you like them!

So…yes, plastic is probably bad.

But, every time I have to lock the kids in the living room while I painstakingly sweep, swiffer, and then mop the floor to get rid of any possible glass shards in the kitchen… I rethink the “evils” of plastic.

How about you?