Zero-waste lunch tips for back to school

The summer is winding down and that can only mean one thing: it’s time to head back to school! Back to uniforms, school shoes, backpacks, pencil cases and packing zero-waste lunch.

What is zero-waste lunch?

We’re so glad you asked! Many schools have a zero-waste lunch policy, which means that all food needs to come in reusable containers. Accordingly, schools have phased out packaging like yogurt containers, chip bags, sandwich bags and other single use plastics in favour of more environmentally-friendly, reusable containers.

What are the benefits of a zero-waste lunch programme?

Single use plastics are clogging our oceans and contributing to climate change. By encouraging waste-free lunches, schools are contributing to currently reducing single use plastics and instilling eco-friendly habits within this generation of children.

As a parent, zero-waste lunches can save you money. You can pack the precise amount of food that you need for your child, while benefitting from being able to buy in bulk at a discount. Also, you don’t need to buy plastic bags or paper napkins.

Tips for zero-waste lunch:

Use the right containers

Avoid stale food or messes by choosing airtight containers. Since kids have limited space in their lunchboxes, you also want containers that are just the right size for the food you’re packing.

We love the Nude Food Movers line by Smash. This meal box comes with a built-in fork, a leak-proof container for dressing, and a microwave vent to make reheating easy. Yay, leftovers!

Nude Food Movers Meal Box

Save space and avoid waste with these Snack Time reusable sandwich and snack bags from ChicoBag. Food-safe and machine-washable, these adjustable bags are ideal for sandwiches and dry snacks.

These stackable containers from Fit & Fresh are convenient at first glance. Look closer, however, and you’ll discover even more! Each of the four containers has measurements on the side for easy portions. They also come with a reusable ice pack that snaps into the lid to keep food cool. Did we mention they are also microwave and dishwasher safe?



Plan ahead

Now that you have your containers, you need to decide what to put inside of them. To get really organised, you can plan a weekly menu. This will help you shop for only the food you need for the week. Once you have your menu, decide how many times you want to cook that week. There are some meals you can make ahead on a Sunday to last through the week. How good does this Deli Pasta Salad look? Yum!

If you don’t mind preparing food more often, you can pack lunches the night before to save time on the morning rush. Whether the night before or at the beginning of the week, the following tips will keep your child’s lunch fresh and tasty.

Separation is key

Keep different foods separated as much as possible. This might mean many smaller containers or bento boxes with multiple small sections. Each snack or type of food should have its own section.

Similarly, if you’re packing a salad, keep the dressing in its own leak-proof container. If your kid is old enough to put a sandwich together, pack the ingredients separately and let your child assemble a fresh sandwich on the spot.

Keep food neatly organised with a bento box. This Blue Water Bento Splash Box is designed to use with the Splash Pod. The two pods can sit on top of the Splash Box or fit inside for easy transport. With a sturdy stainless steel construction, this bento box is non-toxic and dishwasher safe.


If you need even more sections, the lunch box system from Bentology could be just the thing. It has 5 leak-resistant, microwave safe inner containers with lids.


Whole foods

Whenever possible, avoid cutting foods, as they will last longer uncut. Keep this in mind when choosing fruit snacks: blueberries, grapes, strawberries, bananas or clementines are good options to pack without cutting. (If packing whole grapes, be sure that your child is old enough to eat them without choking. Whole grapes are not recommended for children younger than 4 years old.)

Likewise, choose grape tomatoes over cut tomatoes for your salads. If you want to pack pre-cut veggies, stick to the ones that usually come on a vegetable platter: broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, and celery.

Fridge friendly foods

The secret to preparing meals in advance is selecting foods that will do well in the refrigerator. Essentially, you are just taking the food that would be in the fridge in a large portion and separating it into smaller, individual lunch-sized portions.

Stay hydrated

The perfect beverage to accompany a nutritious lunch is water. This can also be waste-free with a reusable water bottle. We love how these LifeFactory bottles let your child have that refreshing taste from a glass while the silicone sleeve prevents breakage.

Good to go

Once you have finished preparing a fresh, healthy, zero-waste lunch, the only thing left to do is pop it into your child’s lunch box. People’s has a wide variety of lunch boxes for girls and boys, with characters and without. Stop by to see the full range, as well as even more options for waste-free lunch containers.

Bon appetit!



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