By Andrea Tomkins
In my previous post about litterless lunches, I mentioned some of our favourite lunch-related gear as well as a few new and popular items in the terra20 catalogue. Today I have extra few lunch-related tips and tricks to share with you.
Tip #1 (and this is the most important): Kids are smarter than we think
Young kids can pack their own lunches. As long as they have the supplies, a little bit of instruction, and can wield a butter knife, they are perfectly capable of packing their own lunches. Really! Fun fact: in the Montessori program, kids as young as three are using knives (real knives) to slice bananas and prepare snacks. Do yourself a favour and get the kids packing their lunches as early as possible.
Tip #2: Involve the kids in other ways
There are lots of ways you can get kids involved in the process: Talk about lunch, shop for lunch, and have them batch cook with you, even if it’s just chopping and measuring. One year I found myself at a breaking point so we sat down and wrote a list of lunch foods they’ll eat, making sure all the food groups were included. I pinned it to the fridge and used that as the basis of All Future Lunches. I was also surprised to learn that they didn’t really care if they ate the same sandwich every day. Amazing.
Tip #3: Work together to reduce food waste
Assessing the empty lunchbox is an important part of the process. Is everything eaten? Are there leftovers? If so, how much, and why? Maybe your kid is a slow eater, or they don’t have enough time to eat, or they didn’t like that day’s lunch offering. It’s tough, I know. Pack too much, and there’s waste; pack too little, and their tummies may be rumbling by the end of the day. Tweaking the amount of food that is sent to school is a great way of preventing wastage.
Speaking of food waste, and this might be a no-brainer, but school lunch is not the time to experiment with new foods. Every September we’re flooded with helpful articles about easy school lunches THAT KIDS WILL LOVE. Do yourself a favour and test out that great egg salad recipe at home before packing it in a school lunch.
Tip #4: Skip dessert
I know. This one is controversial and some parents won’t agree with this one, but there’s no real need to pack a dessert item in a lunch. I get it, everyone likes a cookie, but I’m that mother who only packed sweets on rare occasions. Why? I wanted my kids to focus on their sandwich, carrots and dip, and their apple. I saved the cookies for after school.
Tip #5: The perfect container? It’s out there.
The perfect lunch containers are the ones that kids can open themselves and wash themselves. (Yes! Get them washing them too. Why not?) Test drive lunch containers and thermoses in the store if you can. As for cutlery, buy second-hand utensils, that way you don’t have to worry if they go missing. We also packed cloth napkins. They’re great for wrapping around delicate fruit, like pears, and the kids uses them as mini-tablecloths and to wipe sticky fingers.
There were also some great lunch hacks, tips, and product recommendations posted on our Facebook page recently. Some of my faves:
“Get the kids to help pack/prep lunches and talk to them about how and why it's important to go litterless. Spending this time together and teaching them will help form healthy and eco-conscious habits for a lifetime...” - Jackie Lane
“Having multiple sets of containers is going to be a lifesaver for my twins starting school... That way we can make a couple days lunches all at once, or have one set in the dishwasher and one in use.”- Amanda Gadbois Brown
“We're also lovers of the Bento box, but my favourite litterless tool is the snack bag (small washable bag with a zipper - we have the owl pattern). I use it to throw extra snacks (usually a homemade muffin) into the lunch that may not fit into my Bento.” - Nadya Kushnerenko
“We LOVE the Goodbyn brand of boxes and insulated sleeves we bought at terra20 for the kids. The compartments save on using separate containers/lids for everything and the Hero size comes with matching containers for soft food like yogurt. Packing and clean up are super quick and easy. Using these systems the use of a baggie or plastic wrap doesn't even cross my mind.” - Brenda Galambos Asselstine
“We love the Sistema containers and the Soyoung lunch box. My son has a "balanced day" so two lunches and the Sistema containers with the dividers are great to separate out a sandwich (or cheese and crackers, pizza, wrap, etc) from fruits and veggies. I pack him a morning lunch and afternoon lunch container which helps him know how much he should be eating at each meal (he often moves more than he eats).”- Jenn Oberhammer
“We love wrapping sandwiches in beeswax wrap. It is reusable and doesn’t give food the plastic taste that plastic wrap might do.” - Amy Nickerson
“Make a list of food your child likes from different categories – fruit, vegetables, proteins, etc. Pick from each category, put them in a bento-style container, and you're good to go.” - Jen Fry