In my chaotic universe, full of play rehearsals, baseball practice, gymnastic classes, school, work, and life in general, I tend to lean toward what’s most convenient. And I am sure I am not alone! Sometimes, making a box of mac and cheese or heating a frozen pizza is more manageable than cooking something for my children’s meals. Summertime is an especially laid-back time when it comes to cooking in my home!
Of course, the occasional fast food night or frozen dinner meal is fine; no one will guilt you here! But, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering if there are some quick and easy ways to make your children’s meals greener and healthier for them and our planet. My kids aren’t overall picky eaters because I’ve continually exposed them to different foods. So if I cook something new, they will generally try it. But again, my nine-year-old will take chicken nuggets, french fries, and mac and cheese over most other meals any day if offered!
But even with kids who are usually willing to try new meals, I don’t always have the energy or time to cook complicated meals full of chopping, stirring, and sauteeing. Not to mention, grocery prices are high these days, especially when buying fresh fruits and veggies.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the best way to start is with one meal. I recommend lunch or dinner. Whether you’re packing lunches or your kids are at home with you, here are five simple ways to “greenify” your children’s simple meals that won’t break the bank!
Scientists have been telling us for decades we need to step up and take care of our planet, but it is easy to forget how important this is amid the rush of our daily loves.
Head to your local farms and farmer’s market or mom-and-pop grocery store that stocks their fruits and veggies from local farmers. Summer and fall are the perfect time to shop at farmer’s markets. However, some cities and towns have indoor markets year-round, so check your local listings! Buying local is not only less expensive, but it supports local business owners.
Plus, the produce you buy from a farmer’s market is as fresh as possible. Because it’s not traveling long distances, the produce available reflects the season and is much more environmentally friendly, too!
Use Local Harvest to find a farmer’s market near you.
Use Reusable Lunch Containers
If you pack, skip the brown bag and invest in reusable lunch containers for you and your children’s meals. Not only will you avoid possible bag ripping, but you can also keep fresh foods at the correct temperatures. Skip Hop Zoo Lunchies offer styles that are functional with fabulous styles.
However, If your child, like mine, is prone to losing at least one lunch container per week, many grocery stores now sell compostable plasticware and sandwich bags. So, while they’re not reusable, they will save you from continuously purchasing new containers. My favorite is these shark-themed, sealable paper bags. We use them for everything from school lunches to snacks for the ballpark!
Learn How to Compost
Composting is easy to do in most homes and provides an excellent opportunity to teach your little ones some science concepts. If you drink coffee, even better, coffee grounds are excellent for composting and gardening! I must admit that composting is not something I have personally tried, but I know those who do and swear by it!
If you have a garden or are considering starting one, adding composting to your family routine will benefit you. There are many excellent online resources to help you get started if you decide to take the compost plunge! You can compost on a large or small scale, so it works in virtually any size or type of household!
Use Refillable Water Bottles
Forgo the packaged water bottle and use reusable water filters. Purification systems like Brita can filter your tap water if you don’t like the taste of your tap water. If you do buy bottled water, be sure you properly recycle. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools now require children to use water bottles instead of drinking from the water fountains.
Ensure you wash your refillable water bottle regularly to avoid germs building up! Wash a minimum of once weekly with hot, soapy water. Teach your child to wash their bottle to encourage independence and to teach about germs and illness. Please remind your child NEVER to share their water bottle with anyone at school!
Avoid Pre-packaged Foods
Those individually wrapped and portioned mini-bags of baby carrots or pretzels might seem more convenient, but they use more plastic, and waste usually costs more per ounce. Instead, purchase a large bag or container of snack items and use reusable or compostable snack bags to make smaller portions. If your week is always busy, set aside some time once a week to meal prep the household snacks. That way, people can grab a preportioned snack as needed.
Additionally, choose fresh fruit and many veggies for your children’s meals that don’t require a container to store or pack. Apples, bananas, and clementines are excellent lunch options! Fresh fruits and veggies are much better for you than canned fruit or cups in those tiny plastic bowls full of sugar.
If you opt for pre-packaged fruit, look for the options stored in water, and rinse and recycle the containers afterward.
Looking for a fun game for your KneeBouncer to play that connects them with the planet? Try out our color-learning game, Flower Power!
Updated August 24th, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry