Many schools are getting on board with waste-free and plastic-free practices – including school lunchboxes. Why? Because it reduces waste going to landfill which is far better for the environment, it keeps the school tidy and it reduces the school’s rubbish and recycling pick up costs. The saved money means schools are able to put money towards more worthwhile things like learning resources for your children, and they are also teaching this younger generation another way of helping our planet.
While it’s tricky to adapt to initially, and might even make you a little uncomfortable, it’s not impossible – I promise! We teach our kids to keep practicing things that are new to them until they get them right, and it’s no different for us adults. Keep an open mind and with practice it will get easier!
What is Nude Food?
I’m sure you’ve heard of this term by now right?
Very simply – nude food is unpackaged food. From vegetables and fruit, to sandwiches and baked goods that aren’t wrapped up. It’s generally unprocessed and much healthier for us.
Schools who are wanting lunchboxes to contain nude food might introduce it one day a week, like a ‘Nude Food Friday’ or ‘Waste-Free Wednesday’ for example.
This is something important to support the school on and embrace with your children. Plus schools all over Australia are starting to adopt this.
What are the Benefits?
Other than hugely helping our planet, there are various benefits to providing a nude food lunchbox:
- Getting your kids involved in making recipes with you for their lunchbox and increasing some bonding time
- Being able to control portion sizes according to appetite, rather than packet sizes
- Less waste
- You actually save money!
- Finding new and healthier ways to pack lunchboxes
- Sharing environmental information with your kids during this process and finding out what their thoughts are – if you haven’t done that yet you might be surprised!
Tips to achieve a Nude Lunchbox
We are busy parents and don’t always have the time to make our children’s school food from scratch or get super-creative with them, so I have put together some ideas to achieve a nude lunchbox with or without the time constraints.
There’s the full DIY nude option, the short-cut option or a mix of the two… it’s all about taking small steps. Sometimes I do full DIY and the weeks I am just too tired or busy I do a mix with some short-cut options, but thinking about lunchboxes in a nude way does make a huge difference:
- Bake treats
Do these on the weekend with the kids and they’ll love spending this time with you. The treats don’t have to be elaborate or even sugar-free initially, just something quick and tasty for them to get you started and get them involved and happy about the change. Try choc chip cookies, cupcakes or even your own muesli bars.
- Get snacks from bulk food stores
I was confused by this term at first – what is a bulk food store? It’s where you bring your own re-useable jars or food bags to purchase whatever quantity of an item you need (eg. The Source, Flametree Co-op). Do you need just 1 scoop of sugar-free gummi bears or 1/2 scoop of choc malt balls? Then you can just buy that amount. You can also buy everything from shampoo bars to flour to nuts to maple syrup and more. Shopping this way reduces food waste at home by not purchasing too much of something that just sits in the cupboard unused.
- Shop in bulk
There are two ways of buying in bulk. The first is the above option of buying at bulk food stores. But if you aren’t comfortable with that or strapped for time, the second option is simply buying a big bag of something that you can divide up yourself to reduce waste (and plastic use) rather than having 10 or 12 individual packets of plastic eg. chips. It also works out cheaper!
- Use fruit & vegetable snacks
The one food type on the planet that doesn’t have to be packaged is the healthiest for us – fresh produce. While supermarkets do over-wrap and unnecessarily package fresh produce you don’t have to buy it that way. I buy it loose and put these on the conveyor belt because I know I wash them at home anyway. For things like snow peas or baby spinach you can use the paper mushroom bags (can be recycled or composted) or bring in your own reusable produce bags to reduce plastic waste. Even if you choose to purchase plastic wrapped options, fresh fruit and vegetables are great nude snack options to add to your kids lunchboxes!
- Buy bread from a bakery using your own reuseable bag
I go to a normal bakery that I know generally have fresh bread options that are unsliced and unbagged (Bakers Delight stores also have this available). So I choose the bread I want and ask for them to slice it and use my bag instead. They are happy to do it – hey it saves them money in the end by not having to use plastic bags they buy. Is it embarrassing? Yes at first it is because it’s something you’ve never done before. But you would be so surprised by how many people are starting to do this. I actually got the idea from a friend of mine who used to buy bread from supermarkets, but saved the plastic bread bags and took that to the bakery for them to put the sliced bakery bread into. Such a great idea! Even if you buy your bread from the supermarket, sandwiches are an easy nude food option.
- Remove plastic at home and send it to school waste-free
I think it’s unrealistic that everything our kids need or actually eat is going to be plastic or waste-free at the moment. I have tried a number of different muesli bar recipes and rice bubble bar recipes (healthier recipes which could be the problem!) and one of my boys will like it and the other won’t, or neither of them will like it! I haven’t cracked one yet that they both like – unless it’s a cookie with sugar in it! So rather than fill them with sugar I still buy muesli bars from supermarkets. I simply unwrap them at home! Why? Because soft plastic (scrunchable plastic) can be REDcycled and I can ensure it gets there by unwrapping it at home! Both Woolworths and Coles have REDcycle bins, so I fill up an old Aldi plastic bag with my soft plastics and when I go there to shop I empty it into the REDcycle bin and take the bag home to keep using. You can just drop the whole plastic bag in there tied off if you have them, because the plastic bag can also get REDcycled.
- Lunchbox container options
Use individual plastic containers, and if you want to keep it fresher and cooler put these into an insulated lunch box with an ice pack. If you want to go a step further you can instead buy ‘planet boxes’ which are metal trays with separate compartments for sandwiches, snacks or whatever you want to pack for your kids. You can buy them with an insulated lunchbox with pockets and extra metal containers. These come in handy at my children’s school for what they call ‘Crunch & Sip’ which is a healthy morning tea of fruit or veges and water in the classroom while they learn. I bought a ‘Planet Box’ for each of my kids online but they are sometimes sold at bulk food and other sustainable stores.
I know this change in the way we provide our kids with food for school, while a great step, can be uncomfortable because it’s something we’re not used to doing. But like any new thing, with practice and persistence it does get easier, and you may actually find you enjoy doing it this way! It’s also a really great lesson to be teaching our kids, that food doesn’t have to be wrapped in plastic to be tasty, and it’s generally fresher and healthier… so it’s better for us and it’s better for the environment!
What nude food ideas can you come up with? Please feel free to share! I hope you enjoy this new food adventure and even get a little ‘eco inspired’!