Lunch is one of the easiest meals to do completely waste free. That might feel pretty impossible when you stand in the supermarket looking at plastic wrapped sandwiches, bags of crisps and pre-prepared pots of chopped fruit. My zero waste lunch ideas are here to help.
Zero Waste Salads
Salads are a great lunch option to make zero waste style. Avoid the pre-made salad packets or the salad counter with the single use plastic pots and try this instead.
How to make a zero waste salad
First, pick your salad base ingredients. Avoiding the plastic wrapped lettuce or plastic bags of spinach is easier when you grow your own at home instead. It’s quick to get them started and far less wasteful than buying bags of greens.
Pro Tip: Everyone can grow micro greens on a small window sill indoors for year round fresh greens that pack a high nutrient punch.
Next, pick your favourite fruit and vegetable salad ingredients. I love lots of colour to make my salad inviting and exciting. Again, focus on the plastic free vegetables and fruits in your local shop, like loose sweet peppers, loose tomatoes and loose avocados.
Some tinned fruits and vegetables can work well here too, like sweetcorn or pineapple. Remember to clean out and recycle your tin. You may like this Vegan Rainbow Salad Recipe.
Then, pick beans and pulses that punch up the nutrient content of your lunch box. Again, tinned varieties are quick and cheap. I love tinned black beans and tinned kidney beans. Don’t forget to clean out and recycle your tin to keep your salad lunch zero waste.
Lastly, top your salad with lighter ingredients, like grated carrot (grate loose carrots at home to avoid single use plastic bags), grated red cabbage (loose cabbages) and hemp seeds (source these from your local zero waste shop in Essex).
Preparation is key to eating zero waste
Making a zero waste salad, or any zero waste meal, is easy and possible when you are prepared. If you aren’t prepared, and need a quick lunch option one day, visit a salad counter with your own lunch box or jar and say no thanks to the single use plastic one.
Not prepared for this either? Try keeping a clean lunch box or multiple boxes or jars washed out in your car, desk or bag. Then you’ll always have one with you.
Zero Waste Left Overs
An excellent way to make your lunch zero waste is to use up left overs. This avoids food waste which contributes to green house gases.
There are a number of meals that are very suitable for left overs for lunch the next day. Try left over vegan chilli, left over vegan lasagna or left over creamy chickpea curry. Use a reusable lunch box that you clean out and use again and again.
Takeaway Left Overs
If you had takeaway the night before, many can create excellent zero waste left overs. When your takeaway comes in plastic containers, clean them out and reuse them as lunch boxes, storage boxes or in other inventive ways.
If you find you have some bits and bobs left over, but not a whole meal, improvise. For example, with curry left over but no rice, simply pop a portion of rice on the night before ready for your lunch with the curry the next day. Avoid boil in the bag rice or rice packets, and choose loose rice from your local zero waste shop instead.
Random Left Overs
If you have leftover pasta from a meal, why not add some fresh veggies like loose broccoli or loose tomatoes, and a jar of vegan pesto. This is one of my favourite zero waste lunch ideas because it’s so easy to make and delicious. Remember to rinse out and recycle your pesto jar.
If you have leftover veggies from a roast dinner, cook a portion of rice or noodles (buy these plastic free from your local zero waste shop using a reusable container), add some soy sauce (from a glass bottle, not a plastic tube or packet) and some crunchy sesame seeds.
Pro Tip! I buy SO much of my kitchen staples like rice, noodles, nuts, pulses and seeds from my local zero waste shops in Essex. This saves my household heaps of plastic waste … and gives me a way to reuse take away plastic pots and rinsed out glass jars. Win win!
Got a random leftover you have no idea how to use up? I’m pretty savvy at finding ways to use up leftover food to avoid it ending up in the bin.
Let me know in the comments below which food/foods you are struggling to use, and I’ll help you find an inventive and yummy way to use it in a zero waste lunch!
Zero Waste Pick ‘n’ Mix
One of my favourite ways to enjoy food is in a pick ‘n’ mix style! Like Greek meze or Spanish tapas, I love to nibble on this and that, mixing the flavours and textures and varying healthier foods with less healthy foods.
Typically, snacking is not a zero waste activity. It’s not hard to bring to mind row upon row of supermarket shelves with plastic wrapped chocolate, biscuits, crisps, nuts, olives, breads, pastries and more.
So here are some of my favourite zero waste snacks that can be pick ‘n’ mixed to make a variety of zero waste lunch ideas.
Zero Waste Breads and Cakes
Say no thanks to the plastic wrapped boxes of cakes and biscuits in the shops by baking some of your own at home. I get lots of my baking ingredients from zero waste shops in Essex, like flour, sugar and vegan chocolate chips.
You may also like this Vegan Chocolate Chip Shortbread Recipe.
You can avoid supermarket plastic wrapped breads in the same way. Making bread can be a really enjoyable and relaxing Sunday afternoon activity for adults and children. Plus, it makes the house smell great. Keep your bread fresh for lunch by using reusable wraps and bags, like these beeswax wraps.
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Plastic Free Fruit and Vegetables
Loose fruits and vegetables are an excellent zero waste living choice, and have a huge impact on reducing your household packaging waste. For this pick ‘n’ mix zero waste lunch idea, I create a medley of fruit and veg snacking pots, using ingredients like tomatoes, slices of apple, carrot sticks and more.
Avoid the plastic pots of olives in the refrigerated section. Instead, buy glass jars of olives and pop these in a travel friendly pot as part of your pick ‘n’ mix lunch. I use cleaned out takeaway pots, reusable lunch boxes of all shapes and sizes and glass jars.
Pro Tip: There really aren’t many fruits and vegetables you can’t buy loose, so don’t be tempted to pick up those plastic wrapped ones. If you are struggling at your local supermarkets, try your local green grocers instead. And don’t forget to take your reusable bags.
More Zero Waste Snacks
Popcorn is one of my favourite lunch snacks, but most of the bags are non recyclable. You can buy popping corn from many local zero waste stores. Take a cleaned out container and enjoy making your own popping corn at home to accompany your zero waste lunch ideas.
Zero waste stores also stock plenty of nuts that make excellent lunch additions, like Brazil nuts, cashews or walnuts. You might even find some vegan chocolate coated ones too!
You may also like these 31 Plastic Free Swaps.
I hope you enjoy making zero waste lunches from these tips and ideas. And that these initial ideas spark lots of other zero waste ways of eating for you and your household. If you make one of these zero waste lunch ideas or feel inspired to do a zero waste meal from reading this blog, please share your images with me on my instagram or Facebook.