Thursday, September 3, 2009

Saving Money Going Green with Your Kid's Lunchbox

This year my kids’ lunchboxes are undergoing a redesign. No, I’m not talking about swapping out the smiling High School Musical crew for a Hello Kitty box, I’m rethinking what I’m packing on the inside in an effort to make their lunches more eco-friendly. My efforts are not wholly altruistic. Turns out, going green is not only good for the environment, but it’s easier on your budget too.

Forget the juice boxes. Opt for a sturdy water bottle that your child can use the whole year instead of daily juice boxes. Not only will you be cutting out extra sugar (and trash!), but you’ll be saving on your grocery bill too.

Buy reusable, plastic containers. Look for a variety of sizes to pack up sandwiches, chips, cut up fruit and veggies, even good-for-them desserts like calcium-rich pudding or yogurt. Leah Ingram, author of the upcoming book Suddenly Frugal, says she bought plastic sandwich keepers for each of her kids’ lunches. “It wasn’t cheap,” explains Ingram who also blogs about green living. “But the containers can last two or three years, meaning I get my money’s worth out of it and it creates no trash, unless of course my daughter doesn’t eat the crusts.”

Create your own convenience packs. It’s easy to throw a bag of chips, a box of raisins or other prepackaged goods into your kids' lunches. But by spending a little time packaging snacks yourself you can save money. At the beginning of the week, have your children help create snack boxes of their own with favorites like raisins, pretzels, or even individual yogurt cups, then use them to fill lunches throughout the week.

Stash your trash. Ingram trained her two children to bring home their lunch trash instead of tossing it. Leftover food scraps go into the family compost pile while any paper goods or plastic goes into the recycle bin.

Choose local produce. Look for farmer’s markets or locally grown produce at your neighborhood grocers instead of buying fruit and veggies that have been flown in from far-off locales. For example, Ingram picks apples at a nearby orchard to include in her kids’ lunches.

Label everything! All your recycling/reusing efforts will go to waste (literally!) if you don’t write your child’s name in permanent ink on her lunch containers — so don’t forget to label and to remind your child to bring home everything.


  1. These are great tips, and easy to follow! Thanks for posting.

  2. Once again - I can use these tips for me! Great ideas.

  3. These are great ideas. Now if I could a) get my kid to bring home trash and b) not lose the reusable water bottle, I would be in good shape!

  4. Now that my kids are no longer kids, I was interested in reading these tips and see they are transferable to adults, too!

  5. Growing up, my dad would never let us have juice boxes or individually packed bags of chips. He wasn't about the environment, but he was about his wallet! All grown up, I never even consider buying individually wrapped goods. It's a great ingrained habit.