5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste Using School Lunches
Wouldn’t it be nice to reduce the amount of food you throw out each week (and save money on groceries)? A big part about having a clutter-free kitchen is using the groceries you buy before they go bad, so try to keep your fridge, pantry, and freezer organized as a first step! I know—easier said than done, right? Well, with just a few labels and the FIFO (First in, First out) rule, you’ll be all set.
First In, First Out is where it’s at for making sure you consume the oldest groceries, before newly purchased items. This helps reduce the nasty surprises of expired or moldy food in the back of your fridge. For example, if you have 2 tubs of yogurt, always put the opened one in front of the newer tub in the fridge. You will intuitively grab the more accessible tub at the front and use it up first before starting the new tub. The same strategy goes for your pantry when organizing canned and packaged goods on your shelves!
When batch cooking and freezing meals, always be sure to label the month and year on the container (a strip of masking tape and a sharpie marker does the trick). This will help you use up the older frozen meals before dipping into newer ones!
Here are five tips to reduce food waste using school lunches:
1. Meal plan suppers with lunches in mind!
Menu planning—Easier said than done right? It can be hard to get out of a food rut, especially if you are the sole chef for your household. Check out this post Five Tips to Finally Start Meal Planning (for real) for inspiration.
I get it, meal planning can feel like such a chore. But planning your suppers for the week can be a great way to also cover lunches (for the whole family, including school lunches!). Cook once—eat twice! Supper leftovers are perfect for lunches the next day (or two), so plan to make extra on your cook days. Of course, planning ahead, seeing what you have in the fridge, and making lists for what you need, will cut down on food waste. Any effort that goes into planning and staying organized with groceries, even if it's just for suppers (with lunch in mind), will put a dent in the food (and money) you waste!
2. Keep your kid’s lunch box cool
- Make sure to pack your kids’ lunch in an insulated lunch box. Add in an ice pack, especially if cold foods are on the menu (like raw veggies, yogurt, or cheese etc.) to prevent food spoilage or unappetizing food temperatures that can lead to food waste.
- Keep it cool (and exciting!) by changing it up. It is totally OK to send your kid with a peanut butter (or a peanut-free butter) and jam sandwich every day. But if you notice more often than not, they come home with uneaten food, try switching it up, even if it’s just a little. For example, you could swap out the bread with a tortilla or leftover pancakes (the Susgrainable pancake mix is delicious!). Another idea is to change out peanut butter with a different nut/seed butter for more variety in flavor and nutrition. Getting your child involved in the actual packing of their lunch box can be a game changer. Involvement means a lot at this age, highlighting their autonomy and making them feel more in control. It’s a win-win when it makes them more likely to actually eat the food that they helped choose for their lunch box!
3. Use upcycled foods for your kid’s lunch!
- Add upcycled food products to your kids’ lunch! Upcycled food reduces food waste by using food surplus and ingredients that otherwise would have been thrown out, to make high quality and nutritious food products. Susgrainable rescues spent barley grain from breweries and repurposes it into yummy barley grain-based baking mixes (think banana bread, pancake and waffle, chocolate chip cookie and more)!
- Save scraps from vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, celery, carrots, onion, garlic and put them in a freezer bag. You can also put bones from chicken, beef, or pork in there as well! When your bag is filled up, you can then dump the contents into a large pot and boil the scraps, adding a few spices, and herbs to make a flavorful homemade broth. This can be used in your batch cooking to make soups and stews that are later portioned out for lunches.
- Turn peels into snacks for lunches:
- Stay with me here…. Instead of tossing out potato peels, turn them into high fibre, crispy potato chips for your kids lunch the next day. Try out this recipe Potato Peel Chips - Produce Made Simple
- Don’t throw out your juicy orange peels, they can be turned into a sweet and tangy candied snack (you can even dip it in chocolate)! Try out this simple recipe Simple Candied Orange Peel Recipe | Epicurious
- Save and freeze carrot peels and blend them later into the wet ingredients of a carrot muffin recipe. Try out Susgrainable upcycled barley flour in your upcycled carrot muffins to cut down even more on food waste! Muffins made with whole grain flour are also a great way to add fibre and essential nutrients into your kid’s lunch! Susgrainable upcycled barley flour is an excellent source of iron, protein, and potassium.
4. Repurpose breakfast or dinner leftovers for lunch
- Leftover pancakes or waffles make a delicious addition as the whole grain in your child’s balanced lunch box. Read Your Easy, Step-by-Step Guide to Packing School Lunches for more information about how to pack a balanced lunch.
- My kids absolutely loved the Susgrainable Pancakes with white chocolate chips and fresh blueberries mixed in (there were no leftovers for lunch unfortunately)!
- Left over shredded chicken, sliced roast beef or pork loin is great for making sandwiches and wraps for school lunch boxes!
- Leftover hardboiled, scrambled, or fried eggs are a quick and easy protein to repurpose into egg and cheese wraps or egg salad sandwiches for your kiddos lunch.
- Instead of throwing out leftover fruit at breakfast, toss it into a small container for your kiddo to enjoy at lunch later in the day.
5. The freezer is your friend!
- Portion leftover stir-fries, pastas, chili, soups, and stews into individual servings and freeze for lunches
- Blend up leftover veggies and fruit with milk (dollop in nut/seed butter and/or Greek yogurt for more protein) then freeze in ice cube trays. Add 3-4 smoothie cubes in a mason jar (or cup with a lid) with ½ cup of milk and leave in the fridge overnight. Pack the smoothie jar in your kid’s lunch box with an ice pack to keep it cool. Your kiddo can shake it up and enjoy it at lunch or for a snack at school.
- Peel and freeze over-ripe bananas. These are great to thaw later, drain the liquid and use for banana bread! Susgrainable has a delicious, high fibre banana bread mix!