Back to School! Our tips and recipes for zero waste snacks and lunches

School lunches are a major source of packaging waste. Fortunately, this waste is entirely preventable! Here are a few tips to make school and work lunches entirely waste-free, and in many instances, also healthier and cheaper!

Tip #1 : Switch to REUSABLES

This is one of the easiest swaps you can make. Ditch single-use! No more Ziploc bags to pack snacks, no more cling wrap for sandwiches, no more juice boxes for drinks, no more single-use cutlery and napkins. Switch to reusable snack bags, lunch containers, reusable sandwich wraps, reusable bottles or tumblers, reusable cutlery and napkins.

You might have to invest in a few durable items to get you started (and I say “might”, because you can probably use what you already have), but this investment will pay off since you will never have to buy single-use items again. Options for reusables are endless! Check out our Back To School collection for a selection of our personal favourites.

Tip #2: Switch to healthy package-free snacks. For example, here are 4 swaps for the popular granola bar.

Granola bars top the list of packaged snacks that we add to our kid’s lunch boxes. They are easy to substitute with homemade alternatives that are less processed, lower in sugars, richer in nutrients, and that still serve the purpose of giving our kids the energy kick they need to get through a long school day.

Option 1: pack a trail mix

Why pack a bar when the same ingredients can be put into a simple trail mix? Customize your mix for your own taste. We like to create a school safe mix with banana chipscranberriespumpkin seedscoconut chips and chocolate chips.

A big advantage (other than eliminating wasteful packaging) is that you avoid the sugar and sweeteners commonly used to hold a granola bar together. Pack your trail mix in our nifty new snack bags and you're good to go!

Option 2: try our peanut butter energy balls

If you homeschool during the pandemic or work from home, and no one in your household suffers from a peanut allergy, our peanut butter energy balls make for a quick and punchy snack. Get them package-free at our stores or add them to your next delivery order!

 

Option 3: make your own energy balls

They are easy to make and there are endless ways to customize them to your taste! Many recipes are available on the internet, and can be tailored to your needs. For example, you can make them school safe by swapping peanut butter with sunflower seeds butter. You can also play with the amount of sweetener - reduce or even eliminate the sugars, substitute with honey, maple syrup or stevia. The beauty of homemade food is that you have full control over what you eat!

Here’s one of the recipes that we like to make:

Mix:

1 cup quick oats

¼ cup ground flax

½ cup peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter)

¼ cup maple syrup

⅛ cup toasted sunflower seeds

⅛ cup chocolate chips

Knead until you have a dough that has the texture of wet sand. Measure a tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Repeat until you’ve formed all your balls. Store in the fridge or freeze for later!

Option 4: make your own granola bars

Same as with energy balls, there are many recipes available online to make your own granola bars. Some require baking while others, like the one we feature below, are no-bake bars.

Here’s the recipe that we tried and really liked:

Mix:

2 cups rice krispies (we love the crunch that this ingredient brings)

1 ½ cup quick oats

½ cup buckwheat honey (the flavour of this honey is unique and adds a wonderful taste)

¼ cup brown sugar (I might leave out this ingredient next time I make those bars since we already include honey)

½ cup peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter)

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup coconut chips

½ cup chocolate chips

Knead until you have a sticky dough that you can press into a rectangular dish (ours is roughly 8” x 11”). Cut the dough into rectangles but don't remove them from the dish. Refrigerate for an hour. After an hour, remove the bars one by one and stack them on a plate. Store in the fridge or freeze for later!

Tip #3: The simpler, the better. Say no to processed foods.

The golden rule of the zero waste lifestyle also applies when it comes to lunch on the go. Keep it simple. The best way to stay away from packaging is to choose simple and unprocessed ingredients. Swap individually packaged cheese sticks with cubes of real cheddar that you cut at home and put in a reusable container. Swap packaged apple sauce with an actual apple, fruit bars with actual cut fruit. Those simple natural products don't just come package-free, they are more nutritious and come free of the nasty preservatives that you find in most processed foods.

The waste-free lunch is not just good for the environment. It is healthier, and often cheaper than the prepared foods that are marketed as products for lunch away from home. Once you change those habits, we promise you won't go back!

Valerie Leloup

 

 

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