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Low waste lunch ideas for children

Thinking up packed lunch ideas and avoiding the pitfalls of plastic waste can be tough. Here are a few ideas that can be batch prepped ahead of time and some ways to make your child’s snacks equally as “fun” as the pre-packed stuff.

Baby-hell-no

A pet hate of mine are Babybels. They’re something Lottie and I often have a battle about in the supermarket. As a compromise, I get a big block of cheese, cut some fairly thick slices (1 cm) then use a small cookie cutter to create chunky stars and hearts of cheese. The offcuts are usually just gobbled up there and then, but can be put back in the packet and used another time.

photo shows heart shaped cheese

Popcorn

To make sure your popcorn stays fresh, wait until it’s cooled completely before storing it in an airtight container, outside of the fridge.

Fruit leather

Fruit leather is a great way of using up mushy berries and apples but be warned they take a bit of time in the oven. This is the recipe I follow.

Pre-cut veggies

Getting these all chopped in one go can save a few minutes over the course of the week (I value my minutes more and more these days).  To keep them fresh put them all together in a big tub of water and pop them in the fridge. Lottie only really likes cucumber, baby corn, and red peppers, but carrots and celery stay fresh too.

The freezer is your friend

Frozen tortilla pinwheels

It’s a lifesaver to have a few of these ready to pop in their lunch bag. Spread or scatter your chosen fillings thinly over the tortilla, roll it up tightly into a log, slice the log up into pinwheels, pop them in a tub, and freeze. To defrost put them in the fridge overnight.
Filling ideas that freeze well:
– Soft and grated cheese
– Cooked meats
– Peanut butter
– Tinned tuna
– Most raw veg (lettuce and tomatoes don’t fare too well when defrosted)
– Cooked sliced vegetables, such as courgette, mushrooms, onions (allow them to cool completely before adding).

Regular sandwiches

Just like the pinwheels be careful what fillings you choose, as some things like mayo can separate as it defrosts.

Oaty Banana Pancakes

These are deliciously sweet, low-sugar snacks. Mush up 2 ripe bananas with 3 eggs and 70g of rolled oats. Then scoop a little of the mix into the frying pan with some butter and fry each side until bubbles start to appear and they turn golden brown. Cool them down and place a little greaseproof paper between each one, before freezing.

Cheese scones

Check out this simple cheese scone recipe, it’s easy enough for the kids to make.

Sweetcorn Fritters

For sweetcorn fritters, I follow this BBC Good Food recipe, sometimes adding grated courgette or carrot. If you do add extras, squeeze out as much of the moisture as possible and use a little less milk. These are so tasty that sometimes none make it to the freezer.

Frozen fruits

It’s totally ok to freeze some fruits, like strawberries, mango, raspberries, cherries, kiwi, pineapple, slices of apple, peaches and nectarines.

If you want to make sure the fruits don’t stick together then flash freeze. Don’t worry you won’t need liquid nitrogen, just a tray to spread the fruit out. Pop it in the freezer for around 20 minutes (just long enough for the surface to harden). Take it out and place it in a reuseable ziplock or other freezer-safe container and back into the freezer.

photo shows child reaching for strawberries

I hope this has given you a little inspiration. It’s often more effort to be green but ultimately it’s healthier and saves money in the long run. Stay strong in the supermarket 💪

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