Your Litterless Lunch Checklist & Buying Guide

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Your Litterless Lunch Checklist & Buying Guide

Cute schoolboy eating outdoors the school from plastic lunch box

As the first week of school approaches, parents are starting to smile again. Summer is coming to a close and our kidlets are heading back to school…but while we may have missed the school-day routine, we definitely haven’t missed packing school lunches (5 lunches a week for 40 weeks is entirely too many lunches to look forward to making).

This year, why not give them green lunches (and we don’t mean that week-old sandwich they never ate)? The word on the crosswalk is that litterless is the way to go. While every school has a different level of “litterless,” everyone could certainly decrease their disposable lunch packaging this year. The statistics show that a typical elementary student throws away their body weight each year in lunch packaging alone. This has to stop!

Your Litterless Lunch Checklist: What you need to get through a year of 200 litterless lunches

1. Lunch Bags:

Keep Leaf Lunch Bag Robot Skip Hop Zoo Lunchies Insulated Lunch Bag Unicorn Fluf Shark Zipper Organic Lunch Bag Parkland Rodeo Lunch Kit Cactus Flower
SoYoung Raw Linen Orange Fox Lunch Box Keep Leaf Lunch Bag Robot Skip Hop ZOO Lunchies Insulated Lunch Bag Unicorn Fluf Shark Zipper Organic Lunch Bag Parkland Rodeo Lunch Kit Cactus Flower


PRO TIP: Buy 2 or 3—one invariably gets left at school some days and one might be dirty)

Just like kiddoes, lunch bags come in different sizes, shapes and forms. They also come in every kind of fabric, colour and design. When shopping for a lunch bag, you need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Size: Figure out what kind of lunch your wee one likes. Do they like multiple small snacks as a meal (lots of space for small containers) or are they a sandwich and veggie eater (space for one large and one medium container)? Do you need to pack an extra water bottle with milk or water in it for them to drink at lunch or are they allowed to tote their “all day” water bottle to the lunch area?
  • Ease of cleaning: Spills happen (especially with littles manning the containers). Get a bag you can throw in the laundry when it’s dirty. The ones with a hard interior that are removable are great, as are the bag-style options. Being able to toss it in the wash without thinking about it is a life-saver. If your bag isn’t washable, look for one with a wipe-able, easy to clean interior to minimize mess from spills.
  • Closing/Opening: Zippers or Velcro closures work well. A great tip (from one of our Facebook followers) is to have a dry run at home and get your child to open their bag and all their containers to make sure lunch isn’t stressful on the first day!

2. Lunch & Snack Containers

Colibri Reusable Snack Bag OmieLife Meadow OmieBox Yumbox Original Neptune Blue
Goodbyn Hero Purple Colibri Reusable Snack Bag OmieLife Meadow OmieBox Skip Hop Zoo
Lunch Kit

PRO TIP: Have lots on-hand for their lunches and yours

It is good to have various sizes of lunch and snack containers for different foods and snacks.

  • Plastic Lunch Containers: The advantage of plastic is that they are light-weight, and the ones with snap lids are easy to open by even the wee-est of hands. Remember though that not all plastic containers are created equal–make sure you have BPA-free ones. Also, don’t put hot food into plastic containers (except for the OmieBox, which includes a stainless steel insulated compartment for hot foods!) and do not put any plastic containers in the microwave.
  • Soft Fabric Snack Bags: Reusable fabric bags and wrappers are awesome. Some close with zippers and some with velcro but they all hold a variety of foods/snacks/ingredients and are totally washable, making them totally kid-perfect.
  • Thermos Bottles: If you want to send hot/warm foods like pasta or chili or even soups, invest in a thermos or glass container that can be warmed in a microwave. Or try the OmieBox!
  • Stainless Steel Lunch Containers: Break-proof, easy to clean and lightweight and won’t leach flavours into your food. They also last for a long time and at the end of their lifespan can be recycled.

3. Reusable Water Bottles and Drink Containers

Eco Vessel Scout Kids Stainless Steel Water Bottle With Flip Straw Zoli TokiPIP Insulated Drink Bottle Unicomo U-Konserve Glass Bottle with Silicone Sleeve in Lime Skip Hop Zoo Straw Bottle Hedgehog S\'ip x S\'well Water Bottle Princess Charming
Eco Vessel Scout Stainless Steel Water Bottle With Flip Straw Zoli TokiPIP Insulated Drink Bottle Unicomo U-Konserve Glass Bottle with Silicone Sleeve Skip Hop Zoo Straw Bottle Hedgehog S’ip by S’well Water Bottle Princess Charming

Store-bought water in plastic water bottles are NOT the way to go. Juice and milk boxes are also on the no-no list these days. A refillable water bottle is great! Kids can drink juice (if they really want it!) at home for breakfast and milk at dinner. An excellent tip is to fill a bunch of bottles on Sunday night and put them in the fridge. That way, there is always one ready to go into a lunch box and available for any thirsty kidlets at home.

Answers to Your Questions:
  • What do I do if my child loses everything?

Other than taping the lunch containers to them or attaching bungee cords (which we might do this year), properly labeling all items will help to keep your lunch drawer full.

  • How do I change my shopping habits?

When shopping for lunches, stay away from single-serve containers and pouches. They are tempting but a waste of money and packaging. Buy a big jar of apple sauce  or yogurt and get kids involved in putting it into smaller containers. The same also can apply to single-serve snack bags. In most cases the same products can be purchased in larger bags or even better—in bulk!

  • How can I get my kids involved?

Young children love helping in the kitchen. Let them pack their lunches. Of course, it’s easier to do it for them, but by letting them be part of the process you will foster their independence and self-sufficiency and teach them that littlerless lunch is the way to go. And remember to show them you’re doing it too. Pack your lunch with them. Make sure you use a reusable water bottle and coffee cup (we love the Cuppow lids for coffee and even for salads!).

  • Can’t they just bring home their garbage?

Yes, that’s actually what some schools have started implementing and it’s cutely called a “boomerang lunch”. But, isn’t it easier to start eliminating some of the garbage then having to throw it out when they bring it home? Baby steps. Yes, you can still pack packaged granola bars and mini yogurts for your kidlets, just think about some of the choices you’re making and see if you can make their lunches (and yours!) as litterless as possible.

What’s your favourite trick to packing lunch without litter? Or do you still feel nervous? How can we help?

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