Toddler Dinners: Getting Rid of Excess Waste

Next up in the guest post series of Toddler Dinners we have the ever talented Laura Case. You know… the one I name drop like whoa. Well she has twin 6 year old boys. When she started packing for school lunches, she quickly realized the amount of waste that can happen with them. Sandwich bags, single serving packs, etc. It gets ridiculous. She set out to reduce the waste of 2 lunches per day while teaching her boys the lesson of thinking of the environment. When she saw Stacey’s guest post about packing for school, she wanted to talk about her goals. Take it away Laura!

SIDEBAR: If you are interested in guest posting for Toddler Dinners in the coming months, feel free to contact me. I know there are topics I can’t cover due to lack of knowledge but want to help everyone out! Also? Newborn.

Even though I am a software geek and a photographer, I actually have a degree in environmental engineering. Once I made the switch to software, I used my environmental degree to do volunteer work for groups like the Sierra Club. Part of my volunteer work in Chicago led me to visit the Chicago waste processing plant, where they process trash and recycling for 3 million people. That day I saw a MOUNTAIN of garbage and the majority of it was food packaging and empty plastic drink bottles.

This experience made me a CRAZY PERSON about reducing waste. Yes, I treat my kids to the occasional Lunchable at the pool in summer, but we are a no waste lunch family. I asked Brandy if I could share the products we use to help others looking for reusable options.

We love love love LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE the PBKids bento:

The bento has 5 “slots” for meals. We always pack a fruit and a vegetable in two of the slots, leaving room for a main course and two sides. This may look like a lot of food but my boys eat almost every bite every day! Both of them fit in the top rack of the dishwasher along with our other dishes. And only $14! And BPA free!

Our goal was to have everything else waste free as well. Here is what our daily packing looks like for lunch and two snacks (one at school, one at YMCA after school):


  • Cloth napkins from wherever you buy kids’ cloth napkins (we have some from PBK)
  • Lunchbox also from PBK.
  • To keep things cold, some ice packs from PBK.
  • Water bottles from Target. Orbit labels on water bottles from Inchbug.
  • Reusable snack containers from The Umbrella Girl on Etsy. I LOVE that they have tags on top to make them easy to open. We also have extras from WasteNot Sacks on Etsy that we use for the car or when these are being washed.
  • Reusable applesauce containers from Sili Squeeze. Not going to lie, these do leak occasionally so we send them in a plastic bag that we reuse. But SO MUCH BETTER and cheaper than individual applesauce squeezers every day!

(Please note: I did not receive any compensation or free products. We bought all of these with our money and have tested them for 14 months with twin boys, both in public school and at camp.)

Throughout the year, I went to lunch with the boys many times. It is truly shocking the amount of packaging and plastic bags that get thrown away every day at school. I would encourage every parent to visit just once to see it!

One of the things we are trying to teach the boys is that small changes can make a huge difference. We started kindergarten with this set and finished out the year using the same products. In just the above lunch, we saved using 10 plastic baggies. 180 days of school = 1800 plastic baggies! Even at Walmart prices for plastic baggies, a reusable lunch system like a bento is more cost effective in the long run. In response to public interest in bentos, places like Tupperware have started creating even cheaper options. I would love to hear about your favorite products to help with a no waste lunch.

Be sure to follow Laura over at her personal mommy blog she has been running for over 7 years. There is tons of great parenting advice from someone who truly knows nature vs nuture with 2 VERY different twins. You can also see her amazeballs photography over here and follow her hilarity on the twitters too. I mean she brought me moonshine IN the hospital in a brown bag. She is my people!

I am still documenting Landon’s dinners when I get a moment in the evenings over on instagram. You can see all the #toddlerdinners by me and many IG users throughout the week by following the hashtag. No time for photoshop with baby just yet..forgive me?

5 thoughts on “Toddler Dinners: Getting Rid of Excess Waste

  • August 13, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Love to be featured today! Love even more to be featured and hopefully inspire one person to cut down a tiny bit of waste!

  • August 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for the product ideas, Laura! We have to provide D’s lunch at day care every day, and in order to keep it simple for 3-year-old fingers, we are using reusable containers. It didn’t start out to be a waste-free statement, but I love being able to put them in the dishwasher and not mess with baggies as well as saving money. I’ll probably buy a bento-style lunchbox soon, and I’ll keep those other products in mind too.

  • August 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this! We have tried to get a little greener each year, and I first experienced lunch waste with camp this summer for my 3 and 5yo boys. Wow, it’s a lot, isn’t it? I love all these ideas and will try to incorporate them when I’m packing regular school lunches in the future.

  • August 13, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    I am just starting this process as this will be the first year of packing lunches for my three. Thanks for the great ideas and product ideas. I bought the Laptop Lunch system to start with and I’m hoping we will have success! 😉

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