Back in mid-August, I wrote a post entitled “8 Tips for Greener, Healthier School Lunches,” with the hopes that it would provide families with a few fresh ideas for maximizing nutrition and minimizing empty calories during the school day. Most of the ideas also happened to be more eco-friendly as well – but why stop at just the foods you eat when it comes to having a greener lifestyle? The way those foods are stored can be just as important to the environment (as well as for your health!) So here’s a few tips for “greening up” your food when it comes to packaging – whether you’re packing for a weekend of climbing, camping, hiking, or whether you’re just packing lunches for your school-aged kiddos!
1. BUY IN BULK – Buying in bulk is not only kinder to the planet by eliminating a lot of excess packaging, but it’s also kinder to your wallet! Making your own trail mix from bulk containers of nuts and dried fruit is significantly cheaper than buying a smaller container of pre-mixed goods, as is buying a large block of cheese over individually wrapped slices.
2. STORAGE CONTAINERS – For produce and bulk items that are divided out, you’ll need some sort of container to transport your food from the kitchen to the trail/cafeteria/etc. Choose something that is easily washable as well as fairly inexpensive in the event that said container accidentally gets thrown away with lunch scraps. While plastic may seem like an obvious choice, there has been a lot of talk in recent years about the dangers of chemicals leaching into foods from plastic storage containers, in particular BPA. With that in mind, should you go the plastic route, please choose something that is labeled BPA-free. But while BPA is the most well-known culprit found in plastic, it’s not the only suspect, so if you are still leery, go with one of many hard container alternatives – glass, ceramic, or stainless steel.
3. FABRIC FOOD STORAGE – While hard containers work out great for a lunchbox or stacking leftovers in the fridge, they are bulky and take up a lot of room in a backpack on climbing trips. (Not to mention that glass and ceramic containers are breakable!) Our family used to rely on Ziploc baggies on climbing weekends – I’d gather up all of our bars, divy out fruit, crackers, and trail mix into snack-size baggies, and then throw everything into a big 1-gallon Ziploc. Though they are of course plastic, Ziploc bags are in fact BPA and dioxin free…but reusing them more than a few times is pretty hard to do, so it’s a fairly wasteful option. That’s where fabric storage bags really shine – lightweight and easily packable, but easily washable and reusable! The first ones I tried were from Snack Taxi – and they were so kind as to offer up a giveaway (see below for details.) All of the materials they use are lead, BPA, and pthalate free, and the inner liner (made from a polyurethane coated nylon, so technically still plastic, but far more reuable…) is easily wiped off with a damp sponge (or put in the washing machine for bigger messes!) Snack Taxi offers a cloth option for a wide variety of sizes/types of food storage – from sandwiches and snacks, to bread and produce.
MAKE YOUR OWN: In fact, I was so excited about this idea, that I recently went out and bought my own fabric to make loads of storage bags in various sizes. (For any who are wondering, it took me a while to find a “food-safe” inner lining – I ended up going with EcoPUL. And FYI if you just want your bags for “dry foods,” you don’t even need a laminated inner lining – just plain old cotton will work just fine!) I modeled the sizing off of the foods we most often take with us on the go – small rectangular ones about the size of a checkbook that are perfect for C’s half sandwiches and small snacks, square ones that accomodate a large sandwich, chopped up fruit, or trail mix, and a couple of giant 1 gallon size ones to replace the ziploc bags we were using on crag days! (And if you want to try your hand at making your own, I’ll be posting a tutorial next week!)
Kudos to Snack Taxi for offering such a brilliant storage option for on-the-go families, as well as sponsoring a giveaway in conjunction with this post! Simply leave a comment describing your family’s food storage habits, and you’ll be entered to win a Snack Sack of your own to try! (As always, more entries will be given for “liking” Cragmama or Snack Taxi on facebook! This contest will run through Friday, November 1st, when a winner will be chosen at random. But for those of you that don’t want to wait to see if you’re the lucky winner, Snack Taxi is offering 31% off of all full-priced items from now through October 31st!