One thing I am passionate about is reducing waste. Whether it’s finding plastic alternatives, avoiding single-use items, using products made of recycled materials, choosing bulk items with reduced packaging, or just consuming/buying/using LESS, I like to try to make choices that are a little better for our environment. I thought I would start sharing some ways that I do this here on the blog in case anyone else is looking for some ideas about how to reduce waste in their life too. Today I’m focusing on a specific area of reducing waste that’s big in my life right now and that is: toddler snack time.
Before getting into this, I need to share a disclaimer. Part of me hesitated to write a post about reducing waste because I know there are other things I could be doing in this area. While I would love to use the best, most environmentally-friendly option for everything, it’s just not always realistic. There are barriers like expense and time that are prohibitive and I’ve had to make some decisions with what to prioritize. In some cases, I know I’m not making the most environmentally-friendly choice. But have you heard the parable of the starfish? I think it applies here – just because a change is small, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a difference. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what works for our family, and I know that is all anybody can do. If these small changes I’ve made inspire anyone else to make a swap and reduce their waste in even one small way, I’m happy!
Now I love snacks and so does my toddler, but there can be a ton of waste when it comes to food. Obviously, some of it is unavoidable and I’m certainly not perfect here, but there are a few little changes I’ve implemented that make a difference.
Reusable Snack Containers
When it comes to dry snacks, I buy the bulk package instead of individual serving size packages. Then at home I’ll just pour some into a reusable container like this or baggie like this and LJ has an appropriate portion to carry around and eat. This is a quick (literally takes a few seconds) super easy option both for home and travel, as both the container and baggie can easily be thrown in my diaper bag.
I also like to use these stainless steel containers when I have something like fruit to take along as a snack – it keeps the food fresh and protected from getting squashed.
Reusable Food Pouches
When it comes to applesauce, LJ is borderline obsessed. When it’s served over lunchtime, he’ll eat it from a bowl with a spoon but when it’s served as a snack, he loves the pouches. Honestly, food pouches are a parents dream – so convenient, so easy to use, and a mess-free way of delivering different nutrients. The problem is, with the plastic top and individual packaging (compounded by the fact that we go through so. many.) pouches feel really wasteful to me. I found these reusable pouches online and they are a great alternative! I can buy applesauce in bulk or use my mom’s canned version and pour it into the pouches; it’s great because I can choose the type of applesauce (I choose unsweetened, but you could get different flavors or use homemade purees) and the amount that goes into the pouch. Plus they’re dishwasher safe!
In the interest of full transparency: I do not solely use the reusable options. I do still buy the individually packaged ones (included in the picture above) because the reusable ones need to be refrigerated since I opened the bulk container. Refrigerated options are not always feasible for taking along outside the house. When it comes to reducing waste, I think the important thing to focus on is reducing. I’m not perfect, but I think any effort still makes a difference. Hypothetical situation: even if LJ eats 500 pouches in his life and 400 of them are single-use packages, that still means I saved a landfill from 100 extra pouches by using the reusable option and I focus on the positive of that 20% waste reduction.
Misc. Items for Restaurants
When it comes to eating outside the house, I have these items stored in my diaper bag: a food-grade silicone mat, reusable utensil, and silicone straw. We don’t eat out very often, but when we do it’s nice to have these options instead of using disposable plastic items from the restaurant.
When Vi is a little older and eating food as well, I’ll throw a silicone bib and reusable spoon + case (I love the ones pictured from the brand RePlay because they are made from recycled milk jugs, helping with the waste problem again!)
While we’re on the subject of meals, at home we use RePlay’s plates and utensils. These are also made out of recycled milk jugs, which means my purchase kept a few more milk jugs out of a landfill. I believe there is power in the purchasing dollar and I will gladly support companies trying to find ways to create quality products out of recycled materials and reduce our society’s overall waste.
Paper Towel Alternatives
I was gifted these Swedish dishcloths (similar ones here) from my mother-in-law and they are awesome paper towel alternatives! Perfect for cleaning up toddler spills or wiping LJ’s hands or mouth. He doesn’t like when his food gets really sticky on his hands, so I usually wet one of these dishcloths and put it next to his plate for him to wipe his hands as needed. These are easy to clean and reuse, which is great! When we do use napkins at home, I have actual cloth napkins that can be washed and reused or I buy these napkins made out of recycled paper.
Also, when it comes to reducing waste around food, I try to reduce the waste of the actual FOOD. Making sure not to buy more than we’ll go through, trying to use produce before it goes bad, keeping track of expiration dates – all these things are important too. Again, I’m not perfect but I do think the effort matters.
What ways have you found to reduce waste around snack and mealtimes? I’d love to hear other simple changes to implement!