As a parent, there is nothing more frustrating than packing your child a nutritious school lunch, only to have most of it come home again. Lunchbox leftovers can greatly contribute to your household’s food waste volume, but how can we tackle it?
Kids in schools are busy, social creatures, and have a different perception on eating to adults. This often means the secret to getting them to eat their lunch is packing foods that are quick and easy to consume.
Try these tricks to reduce lunchbox food waste:
- Cut food into bite sized pieces to make eating effortless. This includes fruit, sandwiches, wraps, baked goods and vegetable sticks.
- Keep things simple, such as ham sandwiches, cheese and crackers or pretzels with hummus. Kids tend to like plain foods that can be eaten with their hands more than exotic foods or meals that require cutlery.
- Get the portions right. If your child rarely finishes a whole sandwich, buy smaller or thinner slices of bread, or pack half a sandwich instead.
- Don’t pack too many snacks, or the main meal won’t get eaten.
- Encourage your kids to help you pack their lunch, and talk about which foods are for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. This will take the guesswork out of eating for them, and help them to develop a life-long interest in healthy eating and cooking.
A few more tips...
- Let your kids help you bake mini muffins and quiches rather than standard size. They will be more inclined to eat the tiny treats if they helped make them.
- Find out how structured each meal break is at school. If your school enforces a sit-down eating period you’re more likely to have success with a rice or pasta dish, but if they don’t - forget it. Pack them something they can eat on the run like a sandwich or wrap (cut into several pieces).
- Know what your child likes to eat, and build lunches around these sorts of foods.
- Use an ice brick to ensure food doesn’t spoil in the summer heat.
- Invest in a multi-segment lunchbox to make serving lots of small things more attractive.
- Ask your kids to bring home the food they don’t eat so you can see what and how much they are eating, and possibly reuse the items that weren’t eaten (where safe!).
- If your kids are hungry when they get home from school, encourage them to finish what’s in their lunchboxes before allowing them to snack on other foods.
- If, despite your best efforts, they are consistently bringing home the same foods uneaten, consider packing an alternative instead.
Ultimately, your best bet to reducing lunchbox food waste is getting the kids to help pack their own lunches. When they invest their own time and energy into making their food and packing their lunch, they are more likely to eat it. Good luck!