11 Ways to Reduce Lunch Box Waste

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Below is a list of 11 ways to reduce lunch box waste.  You may be curious for yourself, your spouse or your children and all the suggestions below can help you cut back on lunch waste.

These tips will help reduce food waste and lunchtime garbage too.


Reducing Lunch Box waste
9 ways to reduce lunch box waste

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I’ve been packing my children’s lunch for years now, and I packed my own lunch for years when I worked out of the house. I’ve learned some tips to help reduce food waste and reduce other waste like napkins.

1) Pack the food they’ll eat

Surprises in life can be good, but opening up your lunch box and finding something you hate in there is just not a good surprise.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, packing foods your child will eat is an important part way to reduce food waste. (Reference)

2) Try packing less food

It may sound counterintuitive but if you send your child to school with lots of food they may end up eating less. This Today’s Parent column said that kids may feel overwhelmed.

I gave this a try with my daughter in Grade 1, and it made a big difference. She actually ate more when I sent less food.

3) Ask your child for their help and input on packing their lunch

If you ask your child to help pack their lunch you can learn lots about their at-school eating behavior’s.

For instance, I learned that my daughter only has 15 minutes to eat her lunch before they are sent outside to play.

This made me realize her lunch needed to be foods she could get at and eat easily. And though it doesn’t take long, even something like peeling an orange can feel like it’ll take too long.

4) Get a Good Reusable Lunch Box

Bentgo® Kids Prints Leak-Proof, 5-Compartment Bento-Style Kids Lunch Box - Ideal Portion Sizes for Ages 3 to 7 - BPA-Free, Dishwasher Safe, Food-Safe Materials (Dinosaur)

Having a reusable lunch bag or box that is easily washable is a great way to reduce lunch time garbage.

When she was in pre-school we had a Bentgo bento box lunch kit for our daughter.

It was handy. The main compartment (where you store the food) is removable and can be put in the dishwasher.

The external shell is easily handwashed to help preserve the silicone seal on the inner side of the lid.

Plus there are a lot of cool metal Bento Boxes for sale now too.  They have compartments to help organize your lunch items. Check out this one made by GreenLunch Bento by clicking here.

3-in-1 Stainless Steel Bento Box For Adults with Snack Pod - Holds 6 Cups of Food, 100% Crack-Resistant, Secure Locks, Eco-friendly Metal Lunch box Container

Innovative Product Highlight

PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag with Zip Closure, Black

This cool product by PackIt combines a lunch bag and a reusable ice pack into one.

You freeze the entire bag overnight and then in the morning take it out and put your lunch into it. Pretty clever.

You may be able to find it at a local store you can click to see more details on Amazon.

5) Reusable “camping” utensils

I think most of us already either use the utensils at work or bring our own from home, but if you currently don’t, or you like to get takeout then keep a set of these in your lunch bag. You can often find them at your local outdoor sports and camping store. 

I found an interesting set on Amazon made of bamboo. It doesn’t come with a knife though which could be a drawback depending on what you bring for lunch.

6) Washable face wipes

I was guilty of being a paper towel user at lunch time. It was just a habit: grab my food and grab a piece of paper towel then sit down and make a huge mess (just kidding I’m not that bad).

But when I started looking into reducing my garbage waste I realized I was tossing out a lot of paper towel. My work place doesn’t have a compost so that isn’t an option. But what is an option, a great option, is bringing my own washable cloth napkins from home.

So simple yet so useful.

Below is a picture of the reusable, washable napkin that I’ve started bringing to work. I bought some from my local Canadian Tire store, but bringing any cloth napkin or rag from home will do the trick. Actually the real “trick” is just remembering to bring it and use it.

Reusable, Washable Lunch Napkin
Bring your own washable cloth rags to work instead of using paper towel


7) Ditch the plastic bags and adopt reusable containers

Do you send your kids to school with snacks in plastic baggies? Do they come back home? Judging by the amount of litter I see around schoolyards, I’d say no, they don’t all come back.

7a) Reusable plastic food containers

This is where it can get a bit tricky if you are trying to reduce the amount of plastic you use. Do you buy a set of reusable, washable plastic containers even though they are plastic?

Depending on the age of your kids the answer may be yes. You’ll get a heck of a lot more uses from these sets than you do a plastic baggy. And because they are lighter than glass and they don’t smash they could be a safer option too.

Plastic Food Containers

I don’t microwave in plastic containers even if says microwave safe. And I also don’t like to put hot items into plastic.

But some people want to outright avoid plastic containers – especially for their kids – so there are some glass options.  And you can buy silicone sleeves that wrap around mason jars and glass containers to prevent breakage. Or you could even sew your own protective sleeves to wrap around glass food containers.


7b) Reusable glass food containers

Anchor Hocking SnugFit 26 Piece Glass Food Storage Containers with Lids, Mixed Blue

Several companies make glass options for food storage containers. One thing I like about them is the ability to microwave your food directly in them without having to transfer to a separate glass bowl.

I have the set by Anchor shown above.

The one negative thing about the set is that over time the plastic lids crack along the edges. And the other thing that sucks about them – though it isn’t their fault at all – is that everyone I know seems to have them.  It’s like they went on sale and all my coworkers bought them at the same time!


8) Keeping food hot or cold

THERMOS Stainless King Vacuum-Insulated Food Jar, 24 Ounce, Midnight Blue

There are some awesome vacuum sealed food storage containers that will keep your soup hot right up until lunchtime. This can be a huge benefit if there is a lineup to use the microwave at your workplace or out your child’s school.

I know sometimes my teenaged daughter will come home with her lunch uneaten because the lineup to use the microwave was too long.

The 24-ounce Thermos shown above is a popular option for eating hot lunches at lunchtime.

9) Water bottle

This one seemed so obvious, yet I almost forgot to even add it to the list. Sometimes I forget that just because I’ve heard something over and over it doesn’t mean you have. It may be your first time reading about this stuff. So, obvious or not here is a gentle reminder to bring a reusable water bottle to work or school.

I recently bought my girlfriend a Manna water bottle and she loves it. I bought it from a local store, but if you can’t find a good one locally I’ve added the link above so you can check out Amazon.


10) Reusable, washable straws

15 FITS ALL TUMBLERS STRAWS - Reusable Silicone Straws for 30 and 20 oz Yeti - Flexible Easy to Clean + 2 Cleaning Brushes - BPA Free, No Rubber Taste Drinking - Best Value for Money Pack

The amount of waste produced each and every day by disposable straws has been receiving more public attention lately. But are you doing something about it? Are you refusing straws when they’re unnecessary and using your own washable straws when required?

You can likely find silicone straws at your local stores, but if not you can check them out on Amazon.

11) Giving a Hoot!

This one isn’t a product or an item: it’s a state of mind. It is your willingness to care.  And I believe that since you’ve read this far, you do care.  So cheers to you!

It is your willingness to look different by pulling out your own napkin, your own straw and refuse disposable items that will quietly set you apart from your friends and coworkers. But fear not because what you are doing now will become the norm, and you’ll have been a trendsetter!  They will follow in your footsteps.

Thank you.

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