Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Waste-free School Lunches

Day 146.

I'm not the greenest mom on the block. There's much more I could do to live a greener lifestyle. But one thing I'm adamant about is packing a waste-free lunch. I haven't always felt this way, but throughout the school year, I couldn't help but notice how many plastic zip-top bags, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil we were using in our children's school lunches!

I was being frugal by not purchasing ready-made snacks and drinks, but our typical school lunch consisted of the following:
  • a sandwich in a zip-top bag
  • carrots or other crunchy veggie in a zip-top bag
  • fruit (in its own wrapper most times)
  • a snack - muffin, cookie, bar - in a zip-top bag
  • juice or milk in a thermos
  • paper napkin
If I made that lunch each of the 180 school days for my two children, we would have used 1,080 zip-top bags and 360 napkins! And that's just in one school year.

I'm converted. I believe in waste-free school lunches. So I've spent the past two months researching various companies, trying to decide which lunch system would work best for us. I had them narrowed down to a few companies.

Then, I won an Easy Lunchbox System, courtesy of Kelly at Easy Lunchbox, at a giveaway held by Keli of Feeding Four.

I'd seen a few reviews of the Easy Lunchbox System around the web, and was curious about it, but not ready to commit to a purchase because of my reservations. I was worried that the containers would feel flimsy and breakable, in particular.

I'm glad I had the chance to try it out! I'd like to share with you my thoughts on the system. Here are the pros and cons as I see them:

  • They cost less than most of the other lunch systems I'm considering. A set of 4 containers with lids runs $13.95. The cooler that fits the containers perfectly costs $7.95.
  • They're just the right size for lunch. There are three compartments of varying size. The cooler comfortably holds the container, a thermos, a piece of fruit, a napkin, utensils, and an ice pack.
  • They are free of BPA, PVC, lead, phthalates, and vinyl.
  • They're dishwasher safe.
  • The lids are colorful, which my girls loved. They enjoyed choosing which color to take to school with them the past two days.
  • The lids are easy for tiny hands to open and close easily.
  • the containers are NOT flimsy at all. I was expecting the tray those Lunchables by Oscar Meyer come in, but they are harder plastic and feel much more substantial and durable.
  • This is a big one for me: The containers are manufactured in China. I really am trying to buy USA-made as much as possible.
  • The lids don't fit completely securely. I would not suggest this as a lunch kit for a rough and tumble child who is likely to flip his lunchbox upside-down. If they're kept in the cooler, straight in like intended, they won't spill. But kids don't always follow those rules, do they?
  • The container is not leak-proof. See last point. Today, I sent the girls with pudding, but I put a small piece of waxed paper over the pudding to secure it. It's advised that you use a small piece of plastic wrap over any semi-liquid foods and you're not supposed to put liquids in the compartments.
In all, I'm pleased with my winnings! I've had fun creating waste-free lunches for my girls the last two days. I wish school wasn't ending tomorrow so I could play some more! Next school year, I'll keep using this lunch system, as well as keep my plans to buy a couple different ones. Maybe early next fall I'll compare the ones I choose.

Here are a couple of the lunches I made this week:

Main compartment: Egg Salad on lettuce with homemade Wheat Crackers. Side compartments: homemade Granola and cucumber rounds. A thermos of milk, some grapefruit, and a cloth napkin added to cooler.

Main compartment: Salad consisting of lettuce, cucumbers, carrot shreds, corn, wheat germ, dried cranberries, and cheese; homemade flat bread. Sides: Homemade vanilla pudding with jimmies; grapefruit. Thermos of milk and a cloth napkin added to cooler.

*Although I won this lunch system at a giveaway, I was not compensated for my review. My opinions are strictly my own.


Lisa said...

Glad you did this review. I've been looking at these or other "Bento" style lunch systems and can't decide what to get. My biggest concern is the leaking between compartments or the lid not fitting tight enough. I've seen the way lunch boxes are handled at school...thrown into a tub then dragged by kids down to the cafeteria.

tunamarie said...

I wish I had someone (besides myself) to pack me such colorful lunches every morning before work!

M said...

Make my lunch! Those lunches look yummy.

I was shocked by the amount of plastic baggies used over the course of the school year. Adding it up like that really makes your point.

Spoons Across America said...

Your work is AWESOME!

Looks like you have certainly mastered home cooking for a wonderful cause.

Please check out the Spoons Across America Blog ( and website(!

Spoons Across America is a not-for-profit organization that educates children, educators, families, and communities about the benefits of healthy eating. We work to influence the eating habits of children through hands-on education that celebrates the connection to local farmers and the important tradition of sharing meals around the family table. Our literacy-based nutritional and culinary education programs encourage children to make the smartest food choices both inside and outside of the classroom, while raising their self esteem and self awareness.

heather said...

I pack my husband's lunch using the ziploc type containers. I keep meaning to get some reusable baggies but haven't yet. I have the tupperware sandwich boxes too!

and seriously other people's lunches ALWAYS look better than mine do!

Keli said...

I'm glad you like the easy lunch box system! I totally agree with you on all the pros and cons.

I wish my boys would eat half of what your girls eat! Your lunches are so colorful!

Joy @ Joy Of Desserts said...

Wow, I had never done the math, but you are making me very glad that I packed our son's lunch in reusable containers when he was going to school (before we started homeschooling). We still do when we go out for field trips and such.

I tried several "systems", but what worked best for our family were the reusable containers from Ziplock (Glad, Rubbermaid, and generic store brands also make them). We used reusable terry cloth napkins, too. Never did find a "perfect" beverage container. We're still looking for those.

mp3 said...

We have a very good recycling program in our community that expanded to food waste, wet paper, etc for composting. just a few months ago, but doesn't take plastic except for hard plastic. Since then I have only been putting out one bag of garbage a week, the rest is various recycle boxes and I began to realize how much of that garbage was plastic bags and freezer bags. So now I am working on reducing that which means I'll likely get to under 1/2 bag of garbage a week. A real change from the three bags a week my family used to put out at the curb.

Amy said...

We have lots of ideas on our lunch website
We too have the easy lunchbox system and really are liking it. We have discovered that it is perfect for certain types of lunches - the covering with plastic wrap or waxed paper works if the kids don't turn the lunchboxes sideways, but since I can't always count on that, I don't always risk it. Anyway, check out my site for some great ideas - and add your own - everything has nutrition info and a picture and if you add things, we'll like to your blog and calculate nutrition for you. :) Amy

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