Kids Lunches!

It’s back to school again for my kids and I thought I’d share a little about how we send them off with package-free lunches.  Packaged items are all about convenience, and I completely understand their appeal.  On a busy morning when families are trying to get out the door on time for work and school (and maybe squeeze in a dog walk or some exercise), there isn’t a lot of spare time.  So having food that you can grab and throw in a lunch bag is really helpful.  And it’s possible to do it without any waste!  

 

Our kids (aged 6 and 9) make their own lunches with a little help from us.  We encourage them to pack a fruit, vegetable, protein, and carbohydrate in each lunch, and try to make this process easy for them.  

 

These kids know how to make some food – pizza time!


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here’s our top TEN package-free Alternatives for Kids lunches.

 

Packaged baby carrots?  Swap them for:

  1. Easy to cut carrot rounds.  Our kids can safely cut carrot rounds, even with a butter knife.  We don’t peel the carrots usually, just rinse and slice.  
  2. Cucumber slices.  Our kids can peel these if they want, or they slice them unpeeled.
  3. Chopped sweet pepper – kids can slice them chunky and they are still delicious.  
  4. Cherry tomatoes are great too – no chopping necessary.

Granola bars?  Try switching them out for:

  1. Homemade granola bars.  I tried a recipe from Pinterest and the verdict was:  Homemade Chocolate Chip Granola Bars . Kitchen Explorers . PBS Parents | PBS
  2. No time for homemade granola bars?  Try a cute container full of loose granola from bulk bins.
  3. Try energy chunks or nibs from bulk bins.  We love cacao energy nibs – available at New Leaf and Staff of Life in Santa Cruz.  DELICIOUS!

Pre-packaged fruit snacks?  Try swapping for:

  1. Dried fruit!  My kids love dried mangoes, dried apricots, and raisins.  Plus, there’s generally no added sugar.  
  2. A small piece of whole fruit or half a fruit.  Apples, bananas, pears, berries, oranges, tangerines – these are easy to grab.  If the piece of fruit is really large, we might help them make a quick slice down the middle so they are less likely to waste the other half.  We also love all kinds of berries in our family!

 

 

Packaged nuts or chips?

  1. Check your local bulk bins for healthy, savory alternatives!  We can get pretzels, corn chips, sesame sticks, and more in bulk at New Leaf and Staff of Life.  Nuts are usually a staple as well.  

There you have it – easy zero waste options for kids lunches.  

I’d love to hear from other busy families – what’s in your kid’s lunches?

Thanks for reading!

 

Liz

ps – stay tuned for an upcoming post all about lunch containers

Kiddos out with grandma for lunch.

 


 

 

We just finished our first family backpacking trip and it was amazing! I’m proud to announce that my kiddos hiked 14 miles over 2.5 days with their packs, thanks to all the training hikes my partner did with them. And my accomplishment is that we had awesome (near) zero waste food and snacks all the way! We even carried out our compost (not much) and picked up other people’s trash during our trip.  Here’s my proud kids near the end of the hike.

I noticed that lots of campers bring freeze-dried, single packaged items for their meals, and individually packaged bars for their snacks. I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to backpack without all of that packaging. 🙂

Just as an overview to our trip – we went to Big Basin State Park in California. On the first day, we left for the trip after work to park and camp near the trail head. We brought dinner with us, pre-made, so didn’t have to cook that night. On the second day, we hiked 6 strenuous miles along the Sunset Trail and camped at a back country campground called Sunset Camp that night. On the third day, we hiked 6 miles along Berry Creek Trail and Skyline to the Sea Trail and camped at a second back country site called Twin Redwoods Camp. On our last day, we hiked out 2 miles along the Skyline to the Sea Trail and ended at Waddell Beach, where we got picked up by Grandpa. The trails were beautiful and Berry Creek Trail has three stunning waterfalls along it. Well worth the effort.  In the picture you can see how large the falls are in relation to us.

So, to the food! Backpacking food doesn’t have the best reputation for being delicious. It is one of the trickier parts of the experience – you want to have enough to eat after serious hiking, but you have to pack light. In planning for this trip, we searched the bulk bins at our local health food stores to see what we could find that would be tasty, filling, and easy to carry and cook.  We put everything into plastic bags that we re-use, since plastic is light and water resistant.

Here’s the food we took:

3 Breakfasts (everything from Staff of Life bulk bins):
  • Quick cooking oats
  • Raisins, dried cherries, and chopped dried apricots
  • Chopped nuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Two pears (from our tree ☺️)
  • Brown sugar
  • Dried hot cocoa mix
  • Dried soy vanilla protein powder – we mixed these last two for a type of “hot cocoa”. We need to work on our ratios because the first day it was very watery, and the second day it was like a pudding :).

This is a pic of our cooking and camping set up.

Lunches: (almost everything from Staff of Life bulk bins)
  • Dried hummus (delicious!)
  • olive oil in an old plastic water bottle
  • Sun-dried tomatoes*
  • Cucumber (from our garden ☺️)
  • Pita bread*
Dinner 1: (some bulk, some packaged items)

Burritos from home with flour tortillas*, home cooked beans and rice, avocados, cheese*, and cabbage tossed in Veganaise.

 

Don’t the burritos look cute snuggled together?

 

 

 

Dinner 2: (almost everything from Staff bulk!)
  • Instant refried pinto beans
  • Instant vegetarian chili (we mixed these two together)
  • Corn tortillas*
  • Avocado

The combo of chili and pinto beans was sooo delicious! I’m seriously going to keep those ingredients on hand at home for instant beans.

 

Dinner 3: (all from Staff bulk!)
  • Dried pasta
  • Texturized veggie protein (TVP) chunks (i.e., veggie “chicken” that you rehydrate)
  • Instant veggie soup rehydrated and strained on top of the pasta as a sauce
  • Olive oil and salt

Here’s a pic of our dinner set-up for night 3.  

Snacks: (all from New Leaf bulk bins)
  • Cacao energy nibs – like energy bar squares and soooo delicious – seriously, as tasty as dessert!
  • Sesame sticks
  • Fancy mixed nuts
  • Dried mangos

We also brought plaintain chips from Staff bulk but didn’t need these at all for snacking. I also tried making coffee with my compostable filters and fresh grounds, but this was a challenge and I need to do more research for next time. Complete fail.

A note about energy bars – my kids prefer the energy nibs to just about every packaged energy bar out there. And they come in bulk! I am so stoked we discovered these. Our hiking friends brought packaged bars and my girls preferred our snacks to theirs, despite the enticing, shiny wrappers.

Not everything was from bulk – the items marked with a * came in plastic bags that we can recycle. There used to be bulk sun-dried tomatoes in town and I won’t give up my search for more sun-dried tomatoes. Or maybe this is the year I make some ☺️. I’ll also keep thinking about other items we could use in the future to substitute for the pita and tortillas (or make some tortillas for the trip if I’m organized enough!)

There you have it. Do you have fun recipes for zero waste backpacking or backpacking in general? Do share! And thanks for reading.

 

 

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