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Lunch Without Litter

eco lunch pods

I’ve been faced with a conundrum in the Free Range household.

Given our free range children’s appetites are increasing as they grow, and the fact we send them out to public education as opposed to homeschooling or unschooling them I’m starting to lose sleep at night as to the best way to give them lunch for school that fits in with our free range philosophy; reduce, reuse, recycle.

As the free range kids have graduated from daycare and kindergarten through to primary school so to have the lunch boxes they’ve been using. Most simply are up to the task and don’t last the distance.

A year is about the average lifetime of a lunchbox in our household. Some that seemed like a good idea at the time have simply show themselves to be poorly designed; harbouring food scraps and crumbs, difficult or impractical to clean, or just unable to handle the rigors of hanging out with young children.

Then there’s the cling film and packaging issue. As a chef for twenty years I have no idea how many lifetimes it will take to clear my cling film karma. We used that stuff every which way, including to keep chef pants from falling down!

But with our shift to becoming sustainably free we’ve had to change our perspective and habits.

It’s an evolving process that includes a lot of trial and error as to what is best, practical and cost-effective for us.

We started by getting rid of processed, bought snacks. This eliminated a ton of waste as well. Muesli bars, individual chippie packets, natural gummy snacks, bought biscuits. All gone.

Initially this was due to cost cutting on our part but the flow on effect has reduced a ton of waste from the kids lunchboxes.

Here’s an example of the cost of a standard lunch vs a litterless lunch from 

wastefree lunch


We have moved to reusing plastic snaplock sandwich bags for sandwiches, cakes, cut fruit, etc. Also we’re about to trial making our own reusable sandwich wraps from fabric (click here for the post – coming soon) and the kids have their own drink bottles for water (NB: We did have plastic ones that came with a lunch box set but have since moved to stainless steel bottles – much better!).

Below is a list of other suggestions you can use to reduce waste and packaging in your kids school lunches:

  • Pack enough lunch – but not too much.
  • Make a little extra at dinner and use the leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • Get your children to bring home what’s not eaten, find out why and compost the returns for yourself. Some days extra school activities may mean less time to eat all the lunch or, as with the Free Range Kids, they may go off certain types of food for a time. Sandwiches are not being eaten at the moment.
  • Involve your kids. Get them into making decisions about what they want to eat, making their own lunch, and generally being responsible about what they eat. Involve them just don’t leave them to it. As I mentioned above our kids have gone off sandwiches, so I got them to write out a list of what they would like to have in their lunch (see post – coming soon)
  • Compost all uneaten food to save money on waste removal and to reduce waste at the landfill.
  • Bake at weekends (or evenings). Make biscuits, muffins – mini or texas (and batch freeze), muesli bars, scroggin, homemade yoghurt.
  • Buy bulk. This also reduces trips to the supermarket and unexpected surplus spending.
  • Use a drink bottle instead of pre-filled drinks and tetra packs.
  • Eliminate cling film and tin foil. They’re not recyclable.
  • Wrap in paper (get a big roll of brown paper for example) or cloth. If you haven’t already check out my homemade lunch wrap tutorial here. (Coming soon)

There are plenty of ways to go about creating litterless lunches for your kids, I’ve come across an idea using the bento box approach, so I’m working through ways to make it school bag-travel friendly and with alternatives to a lot of plastic containers.

Remember doing something is better than doing nothing at all. At the Free Range Family we’re by no means perfect in our approach, but through constant tweaking we’re definitely improving along our journey to the litterless lunch.


Stay free and happy!

Scott (Free Range Dad)

P.S: If you like what you’ve read, it resonates with the way you’d like to live your life, AND you haven’t yet signed up to get our FREE manifesto then click here now and get ‘er done.



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