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Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com
Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com

Lunch Savers – Saving Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment

Sinking in food costs? Fishing for time? Drowning in food and packaging waste? Let us toss you a “lunch saver”!
It’s no secret that parents are incredibly busy, and because of this, many of us unfortunately have to rely on “fast and convenient” over "fresh and nutritious". There’s no denying the fact that plastic containers and single-serve food items are “fast and convenient” when it comes to packing a child’s lunch, but what impact do these items have on our wallets, our health, and our environment?
Much of the money we spend and items we waste come from food and its packaging. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2011, Americans spent 13% of their incomes on food. And in 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the total amount of Municipal Solid Waste discarded by Americans (after recycling and composting) was 164 million tons! The largest component of this waste was food scraps at 21.2%, followed by plastics at 17.6%, and paper and paperboard at 14.8%.
With these staggering statistics, our team at Wild Mint set out to discover what we all can do to help save money, better our health, and protect the environment when it comes to lunch packing. Read on to learn more about how you can both make a difference and start reaping the benefits of reusable, waste-free lunches!
Table of Contents
The Differences Between a Disposable Lunch and a Reusable, Waste-Free Lunch
Before we begin, let’s explore the contents of disposable and reusable, waste-free lunches...

Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com
Typical Disposable Lunch Packaging
  • Brown bag or large plastic bag
  • Disposable drink bottle or carton
  • Plastic baggies, foil, plastic wrap
  • Prepackaged foods
  • Plastic utensils
  • Paper napkin
  • Plastic straw

Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com
Typical Non-Toxic, Reusable, Waste-Free Lunch Packaging
Everything in a reusable lunch should be able to be eaten, reused, recycled, or composted. To help avoid exposure to toxic chemicals, choose lunch gear free from BPA, phthalates, PVCs, lead, and other heavy metals.
Reusable, Waste-Free Lunch Savings
To help us determine what makes up a typical school lunch and afternoon snack, we examined several school lunch menus, perused many food blogger’s lunch packing photos and posts, and asked several friends and family members to share with us what they typically pack in their child’s lunch.
Overall, we noticed that a typical school lunch consists of variations of the following:
  • Main Course (examples: leftovers from healthy dinners, a sandwich, pasta, pizza, salad with roll, etc.)
  • Snack (granola, crackers, yogurt, nuts, etc.)
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Fruit (apple, banana, strawberries, etc.)
  • Vegetable (carrots, celery, broccoli, etc.)
  • Drink (juice, water, milk)
With this list in mind, we calculated the estimated costs of packing a healthy, organic school lunch and afternoon snack in both disposable and reusable packaging. (We rounded costs to the nearest hundredth decimal and chose healthy, organic food options including the store brand’s organic alternative if available.)
The cost savings of packing a reusable lunch were astonishing! This is what we found:
Kid’s Lunch and Snack Savings Per Day = $2.32

Kid’s Lunch & Snack Costs Per Day
Lunch Item
(disposable/reusable)
Individual Disposable Cost Individual Reusable Cost
Yogurt container/Yogurt in a reusable container $0.99 $0.66
Apple juice box/Apple juice in a reusable bottle $0.75 $0.58
Apple, sliced $1.14 $1.14
Sandwich (turkey and cheese) $2.90 $2.90
Prepackaged snack/Packed snack $1.12 $0.97
Carrots and dip $2.00 $0.44
1 Plastic spoon/1 Reusable utensil $0.03 $0.00
1 Paper napkin/1 Cloth napkin $0.02 $0.00
2 Plastic Baggies/2 Reusable baggies $0.06 $0.00
Total Lunch & Snack Cost Per Day $9.01 $6.69
SAVINGS ON PACKING A REUSABLE LUNCH & SNACK PER DAY = $2.32

The Savings

By packing reusable, waste-free lunches and snacks…

The Savings Per Child Per School Year = $417.60

…that’s over $400 that can go back into your family’s monthly budget for groceries, bills, back to school gear, and more!
Take summer camp, for example. In the summer of 2013, American Express found that the average American spent $329 per child on sleep-away camp and $314 per child on day camp. So, with the savings from packing reusable lunches and snacks per school year, parents can more than pay for summertime sleep-away or day camps for their children!
Click to view savings for US workers who choose to pack a reusable lunch over eating out!

Kid’s Lunch & Snack Savings – Disposable vs. Reusable
Cost Notes
Total Disposable Lunch & Snack Cost $9.01 Cost for one lunch
Total Reusable Lunch & Snack Cost $6.69 Cost for one lunch
Savings on Packing a Reusable Lunch & Snack Per Day $2.32
Calculation: Disposable Lunch & Snack Cost minus Reusable Lunch & Snack Cost ($9.01 - $6.69 = $2.32)
Savings on Packing Reusable Lunches & Snacks Per School Week $11.60 Calculation: Savings on Packing a Reusable Lunch & Snack Per Day times 5 Days a Week ($2.32 x 5 = $11.60)
Savings on Packing Reusable Lunches & Snacks Per School Year Per Person $417.60 Calculation: Savings on Packing Reusable Lunches & Snacks Per School Week times 36 Weeks Per School Year ($11.60 x 36 = $417.60)

Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com
The Health and Environmental Impacts of Disposable vs. Reusable, Waste-Free Lunches
Health Benefits of Reusable, Waste-Free, and Homemade Lunches
  • Non-Toxic Materials – Many disposable and prepackaged lunch materials, like plastic, contain harmful chemicals that can leach into the food and drink they come in contact with. Over time, ingesting these chemicals can lead to health concerns. To help avoid these toxic chemicals when you make your own lunches, opt for safer, non-toxic lunch packing materials. Click here to learn more about toxic chemicals and how to avoid them. Click here to view safe and non-toxic reusable lunch gear options.
    - Reusable Lunch Bags: Look for bags free from lead, PVCs, phthalates, and BPA.
    - Reusable Containers: Try to avoid plastics and choose safer materials like glass, stainless steel, or food grade silicone.
    - Reusable Baggies: Try to avoid plastic baggies and choose reusable fabric bags free from lead, BPA, and phthalates.
    - Reusable Beverage Bottles: Try to avoid plastic water bottles and choose bottles free from BPA, lead, and phthalates.
    - Reusable Utensils: Instead of plastic, use utensils made from formaldehyde-free bamboo or BPA free stainless steel.
    - Reusable Straws: Instead of disposable plastic straws, choose reusable straws made from glass or stainless steel.
    - Reusable Napkins: For a more sustainable alternative to paper towels, use reusable hand towels made from 100% organic cotton and printed with eco-friendly dyes.
  • Less Junk – Prepackaged foods are often high in fat, sugar, sodium, and preservatives and made with artificial colorings, artificial flavorings, and many unpronounceable ingredients.
  • Eat Fresher Ingredients – When you prepare your own food, you can add more fresh fruits and veggies than if you’re buying foods things prepackaged.
  • Portion Control and Weight Management – When you prepare your own lunch, you can choose how much of each item you will pack instead of the size being determined for you. This will help with weight management because you can control how many calories your family will consume.
Eco-Impact of Disposable Lunches
Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com
  • On average, a school age child’s disposable lunch creates an estimated 67 pounds of waste per school year. This equates to over 18,000 pounds of waste per year for an average-size elementary school (WasteFreeLunches.org). To help put this in perspective, a garbage truck can hold an average of 26,000 pounds of trash, so the average-size elementary school’s waste fills a little over 2/3 of that!
  • Every year enough paper (which includes paper bags, paper napkins, and other disposable lunch gear) is thrown away to make a 12-foot high wall stretching from New York to California (EPA).
  • Plastic and Styrofoam are non-biodegradable and non-compostable materials that have been derived from petroleum. Instead of biodegrading, light breaks down plastics into smaller and smaller particles. Consequentially, plastics will stay in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years while leaching toxic substances into our soil and water. (World Centric and Clean Air Council)
  • Every day, over 20,000,000 sandwich bags from school lunches are thrown away (Kids Konserve).
  • Most traditional paper products (like paper bags and napkins) in the United States are made from non-recycled wood fibers, leading to the depletion of our natural forests (World Centric).
  • Every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times (Clean Air Council).
  • In 2012, the total amount of Municipal Solid Waste discarded by Americans (after recycling and composting) was 164 million tons (EPA). The largest component of this was food waste at 21.2%, followed by plastics at 17.6%, and paper and paperboard at 14.8%.
Tips to Help You Save Money, Food and Time
Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com
Cost-Saving and Food-Waste Reducing Tips
  • Cut up fruits and veggies. Kids will often only take a few bites out of an uncut apple or whole banana. With nowhere to put the leftover fruit without making a mess, it often gets thrown away. To help avoid this, pack cut-up fruits and veggies in reusable containers. That way, if your child only takes a few bites, they can close up the container and save the rest for later. (WasteFreeLunches.org)
  • Pack drinks in reusable bottles. Because you can’t reseal juice boxes or pouches, a lot can end up going to waste. To avoid this, buy drinks in large containers and fill up a small reusable bottle so your child can close the container and save the rest for later. Or, pack water instead—it’s free! (WasteFreeLunches.org)
  • Afternoon snack check. Ask your kids to finish their lunch before digging into their snack. At times, they may ditch the remainder of their lunch and go straight for their snack which was intended for later in the afternoon (WasteFreeLunches.org). One idea is to pack a dry snack they can put in their backpack so it is separate from their lunch foods.
  • Evaluate their leftovers. Instead of throwing out their leftovers, ask your child to bring them home. By taking a look at their leftovers, you may notice the types of food they tend to leave half-eaten or untouched. It could be that your child didn’t like the food or too much was packed. Either way, this will give you a better understanding of what and how much to pack in the future. (WasteFreeLunches.org)
  • Pack together. Kids are more likely to eat a meal they’ve helped plan and prepare! (WasteFreeLunches.org)
  • Food scraps. Have your kids save their food scraps for composting or even taking to a nearby farmer or zoo where they can use the food scraps to feed animals.
  • Shop for organic foods on a budget. Below are our top 5 favorite tips for buying organic food on a budget:
    1) Prioritize your organic produce purchases based on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) "Dirty Dozen", or top 12 most pesticide-ridden products, and the "Clean Fifteen", or produce with the least amount of pesticide residue.
    2) Instead of buying prepackaged/pre-cut produce items, purchase them loose and whole, then prepare them yourself. It will only take you a few extra minutes to wash, peel, and cut produce at home.
    3) Don’t forget to bring your coupons, as the savings can really add up.
    4) Purchase food items in bulk so you can save/freeze some for a later meal (you can usually save money on bulk prices).
    5) Plan your weekly meal schedule in advance and take a list to the grocery store to avoid over-buying items you don’t need.
    Click here for a more detailed list of our top 5 favorite tips for shopping for organic food on a budget or visit: http://www.wildmintshop.com/learn/recipe.asp?id=44

Time-Saving Tips
Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com
  • Pack the night before.
  • Pack as you’re putting away leftovers from dinner. Save some leftovers to pack for lunch the next day and freeze smaller portions for future lunch options. This is also a great way to save time during cleanup since your counter will already be messy from cooking dinner.
  • Before heading off to school, have your kids add the icepack and place their lunch bag by the door.
  • Have your older kids make their own lunches.
  • When your kids get home, have them rinse out their lunch containers and place them in the dishwasher.
  • Wash and cut fruits and veggies on Sunday for the week.
  • Plan your lunches for the week. Write down your lunch idea schedule so you don’t have to spend time thinking about what to pack as you make lunches during the week.
  • If your school allows Peanut Butter and Jelly, you can make these in advance and freeze them. Spreading peanut butter on both bread slices before adding the jelly also helps prevent soggy bread!
  • For non-sandwich ideas, you can save time by making turkey/cheese roll-ups on Sundays and adding crackers the morning you pack lunches.
  • Pre-make hard-boiled eggs on Sunday for the week.
  • Make soups in advance and freeze them in small portions to take to work or pack for school. The night before, remove the frozen soup from the freezer and allow it to thaw in your refrigerator. The next morning, heat up the soup and store it in an insulated, stainless steel container so it can stay warm through lunch.
  • When it comes to lunches for work, packing a lunch instead of going out to eat can save you valuable time during your busy day. By the time it takes you to drive to the restaurant, place your order, wait for your food, return to work, and eat, you’ve wasted a lot of time!
Eco-Friendly and Non-Toxic Reusable Lunch Gear
At Wild Mint Shop we thoroughly evaluate and research our product to ensure they are eco-friendly and free from harmful chemicals, making it easy for you to find green and safe lunch gear all in one place! Click the links below to find eco-friendly, non-toxic, and reusable lunch gear for you and your family:
Lunch Boxes and Accessories
Food Storage
Reusable Bottles
Kid's Lunch Ideas ~ Save Your Money, Your Health, and The Environment with Reusable, Waste Free Lunches - www.WildMintShop.com


Lunch Food Ideas
  • For fresh, new lunch ideas, click here to view our article, "75+ Lunch Ideas for Kids," or visit: http://www.wildmintshop.com/learn/recipe.asp?id=68.
  • For healthy snack ideas and snack-packing tips, click here to view our article, “Healthy Snacks for Kids,” or visit: http://www.wildmintshop.com/learn/tips-healthy-snacks.asp.
  • Gather inspiration for lunches from your child’s school lunch menu! Click here for examples on how to create your own healthy version of menu items or visit: http://www.wildmintshop.com/learn/recipe.asp?id=63.
  • Maximize leftovers by separating them into smaller, lunch-size portions and freezing them for future lunches.
  • Make large batches of soup, and freeze smaller, lunch-size portions for future lunches.
  • Always keep dried fruits and nuts on hand as “go-to” snacks if you run out of other pre-planned snacks.
  • Freeze puddings, smoothies, and drinks the night before to put in lunchboxes the next morning. These can serve as an extra icepack and taste like a slushy/ice cream treat by lunch!

Disposable Lunch Costs
Estimated Cost of a Disposable Lunch = $9.01
Disposable Lunch & Snack Estimated Costs
Lunch Item Individual Disposable Cost Notes
Yogurt container $0.99 6 ounce individual container
Apple juice $0.75 4-pack of juice boxes, 6.75 ounces each
Apple, sliced $1.14 Organic apple
Sandwich (turkey and cheese) $2.90 Two slices of bread, 2 slices of turkey, one slice of cheese
Prepackaged snack $1.12 Box of 8 individually packaged Late July Cheddar® Sandwich Crackers, 1.125 ounces each
Carrots and dip $2.00 2 pack of individually packaged carrot sticks and dip packs, 3 ounces each
1 Plastic spoon $0.03 Package of 120 plastic utensils
1 Paper napkin $0.02 Package of 160 paper napkins
2 Plastic Baggies $0.06 Package of 150 plastic baggies: one baggie for apple slices and one baggie for a sandwich
DISPOSABLE LUNCH & SNACK COST = $9.01
Reusable, Waste-Free Lunch Costs
Estimated Cost of a Reusable, Waste-Free Lunch = $6.69
Reusable, Waste-Free Lunch & Snack Estimated Costs
Lunch Item Individual Waste-Free Cost Notes
Yogurt $0.66 Comparable cost of 6 ounces of yogurt from a 32 ounce container
Apple juice $0.58 Comparable cost of 6.75 ounces of apple juice from a 64 ounce jar
Apple, sliced $1.14 Organic apple
Sandwich (turkey and cheese) $2.90 Two slices of bread, 2 slices of turkey, one slice of cheese
Snack $0.97 Comparable cost of 1.125 ounces of Late July® Cheddar Sandwich Crackers from a 5 ounce box
Carrots and dip $0.44 Comparable cost of 2.5 ounces of carrot sticks from a whole carrot cut into pieces.
Comparable cost of 0.5 ounces of ranch dressing from an 8 ounce jar.
1 Reusable utensil $0.00 For a set of stainless steel kid’s utensils (2 spoons, 2 forks), it would be about $2.99 per utensil. Pay for it the first year and use it every year after that!
1 Cloth napkin $0.00 For an organic cloth napkin, the cost would be about $6.00. Pay for it the first year and use it every year after that!
2 Reusable baggies $0.00 A reusable sandwich bag costs about $8.95 and a reusable snack bag costs about $7.95. Pay for it the first year and use it every year after that!
REUSABLE, WASTE-FREE LUNCH & SNACK COST = $6.69
Reusable Lunch Savings for US Workers
We also thought it would be interesting to see how much working adults could save by packing a homemade, reusable lunch. In 2013, research showed that the average amount a US worker spends on going out to lunch is $10 (MSN). Again, we found the cost savings of packing a reusable lunch instead per adult per year incredible. Here are the results:
By packing reusable, waste-free lunches over going out to eat…
The Savings Per US Worker Per Year = $860.60
…enough to pay for nearly 5 months of gas expenses for the average American!
In a 2012 analysis, H&R Block found that the average American spends about $2,120.40 a year for gas (Huffington Post). At around $176.70 spent on gas per month, the average US worker can allocate their reusable lunch savings per year to cover nearly 5 months of gas expenses!
Adult Lunch Cost Comparison – Going Out to Lunch vs Packing a Reusable Lunch
Cost Notes
Average Amount US Workers Spend Per Day Going out to Lunch $10.00 Not including purchasing a snack later
Total Reusable Lunch Cost $6.69 Using the same dollar amount of a kid’s reusable lunch & snack, assuming the kid’s "snack" is part of an adult’s complete lunch
Daily Savings on Packing Reusable Lunches vs. Going Out to Lunch $3.31 Calculation: Going Out to Lunch Cost minus Reusable Lunch Cost ($10.00 – $6.69 = $3.31)
Savings on Packing Reusable Lunches Per Work Week $16.55 Calculation: Daily Savings on Packing Reusable Lunches times 5 Days a Week ($3.31 x 5 = $16.55)
Yearly Savings for US Workers Packing a Reusable Lunch $860.60 Calculation: Savings on Packing Reusable Lunches Per Work Week times 52 Weeks Per Year ($16.55 x 52 = $860.60)
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