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

18 thoughts on “Waste free lunches for summer activities

  1. karen says:

    Great tips for kids of all ages! You are teaching your kids so well. I wish I was that smart when I was raising my kids. Love those cute cheeks!

  2. Anna@Green Talk says:

    I love that you are teaching your kids so young. It’s great to know that in Texas heat,the water in the stainless steel containers stayed cool for so long! Maybe more people would consider bringing their own instead.

  3. Jen @ Go Green says:

    For B I don’t have to provide lunches (which makes things so easy!) but when we are on the go I put snacks in reusable snack and sandwich bags that I got off of etsy. We also always have our stainless steel water bottles with us. If I need utensils I have a bambo spork.

  4. Lyd says:

    Great tips! You might find it interesting that the college I attend strives for the same goal. No trays or trash here! Everything is reusable and cleaned then put back out for students to use. Go green 🙂

  5. Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) says:

    I recently bought my family insulated stainless steel water bottles. They are fantastic! While we are in Massachusetts and you wouldn’t expect Texas style heat, but it has been near or over 90 all week. Our water stay cool (even cold!) all afternoon outside!

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