Lunch at school or the office doesn't have to be wasteful, and full of disposable plastic packaging. If you or your child are going back to school soon, or you just want to change up your lunchtime routine at the office, here are some ways to cut out disposable packaging and make sure you have a homemade lunch.
Pack your own lunch.
If you bring your own lunch, not only are you avoiding the disposable plastic waste from takeout or the cafeteria, you are ensuring you are eating real, nourishing food. I usually pack myself a salad of quinoa with some veggies, avocado and beans, and throw in a piece of fruit, maybe some almonds. For me, it's easier if I usually pack the same thing daily, so I don't have to think about it, but there are plenty of ways to add variation to your lunch while sticking to the same basic formula.
Grain: quinoa/brown rice/barley
Bean: chickpeas/black beans/navy beans/pinto beans
Veggies: green peppers/zucchini/cherry tomatoes/carrots/celery
Dressing: apple cider vinegar/EV olive oil with balsamic vinegar and mustard
Extras: avocado/cheese/chia seeds
It is no fun scrambling in the morning before work to try to find something to bring for lunch. I've been there, and what that usually means is getting stuck with just a piece of fruit for lunch, or eating out and getting stuck with packaging you don't want.
As I said, I like to stick with a similar lunch each day, which makes things easier. On Sunday evening, I will cook about 3 cups of dried quinoa, which is enough for my husband and I during the week. I will do the same thing with dried beans or chickpeas--I'll soak a bunch on Saturday night, and cook them on Sunday evening so they're ready for the week. That way all that's left to do in the morning is cut up a couple of veggies and throw in some greens.
This is really the most important thing, because you can have all of the containers and lunch boxes you like, but they won't do you any good if you don't actually make lunch!
Use glass or stainless steel containers and utensils.
Say no to plastic baggies and take out containers! It's best to avoid storing and reheating food in plastic, so use a glass or stainless steel container to hold your food instead. After I broke one of my glass Pyrex containers using it to take my lunch to work, I decided to invest in a stainless steel lunch container. It works really well, and seems like it will last a long time. I use a mini one for nuts, and you could also use it for cut up fruit. I really like that the latches are easy to open--they're definitely easy enough for even a young child to use. You can bring a spoon or fork from home, or get a set of travel utensils or a stainless steel folding spork. I also throw in a cloth napkin from home, and I bring my glass water bottle.
We also use wool-insulated lunch bags (they also have an orange one) from Life Without Plastic. They keep food at the right temperature, and they don't contain any plastic or other harmful materials. According to a 2012 report, 75% of popular children's back to school items contained phthalates (which have been banned in children's toys since 2008). One lunchbox from the study contained phthalates "over 29 times the allowable limit."
Take your compost home.
Banana peels, apple cores, and orange peels don't belong in the garbage. Take them home in your lunch container to put in the compost! (Unless you are lucky enough to have a school or workplace which composts food waste!)
This post includes affiliate links to Life Without Plastic, a company whose mission and values I fully support. As always, I recommend trying to buy used or use what you have first, and as a second choice looking for products from a company who makes ethical and sustainable products.