Oh Boy! Both kids are home for the summer and I’d nearly forgotten how much they eat! They get through mountains of snacks everyday and it feels like time to try and scale down the problem.Between the two lads, it would be easy for us to get through 8-10 individually wrapped snack items a day. Apple sauce pouches, granola bars, fruit leathers, fruit cups, raisin boxes and cheese sticks are all in high demand but all come with a high price both to my shopping bill and to the earth. The wrappings might help to reduce food waste and make them easy for the kids to grab for themselves or transport but I want there to be more balance.
As a result, I announced the first days of the holidays to be ‘Zero Waste Snack Challenge Week’! The oldest was dumbfounded. “But everything I like has wrapping?”. Yes! Exactly. Another side effect of the ‘convenience’ foods is that they’ve narrowed their eating choices. Gone are the days when my kids would devour home made fruit or hidden veg muffins; they’ve got pickier and pickier. When I realized I was the only one eating what I baked I stopped making the effort, and gave in to path of least resistance but haven’t found good replacements.
I want our alternative snacks to be varied, mostly healthy and enjoyed (apologies but my kids just won’t eat protein balls or soy alternatives or seeds or anything too far from center in spite of my best efforts and years of ‘New Food Thursday’) as well as low waste so I asked the children to help me think of things that came in their own wrappings – fruit and veg being the obvious choice here. We talked about our favorite treats and I did some research on how to make our own versions. And, I perused the bulk aisles to see what ingredients might inspire new snacks. Here’s what we came up with.
This is trickier for me than you’d think! I’ve got one kid who loves the stuff, one that hates it and a husband that’s never home to eat it. For a long while I’ve been buying fruit pre-chopped in small quantities so that we get variety without having to throw tons of rotten fruit away. However, we were all home on the weekend and three of us home during week so it was time to revert to buying fruit in all it’s natural glory…
The successes of the week have been:
- Watermelon (sliced or cut with cookie cutters).
- Pears (quartered and cored or diced in a tub for pack lunch).
- Apples with any kind of dip I can rustle up. (More on this later.)
- Bananas (well, one kid ate them).
- Raisins bought in bulk an portioned off.
It’s a start. And I’m going to try and use up any left over fruit in recipes for fruit leathers, smoothies and apple sauce for reusable pouches (they need to not be able to see the food!). Yum.
All things Icey and Pop!
We’ve never really been into popsicles/ice pops but the temperatures have been soaring and it seemed like a fun thing to try to make. I bought a set of these dinosaur pop molds (UK link) which really got the children interested and they both liked getting involved with experimenting on what we could fill them with. The silicon molds roll off really easily so that you can really see the shape of the dinosaur and make they are a great reusable packaging. My only complaint would be that they are terribly drippy! The rim on the handles stops you licking the drips so it gets sticky fast – my preferences would be a style that has the drip catcher and spout but the kids won… so I just sent them outside to eat…
Top of the pops was:
- Fruit juice (No added sugar)
- Homemade smoothies (yay too the extra sneaky fruit)
- Hot chocolate – cooled and with mini marshmallows.
- Pureed watermelon with a squeeze of lime (had to get rid of it all somehow!)
I love this book for it’s step by step instructions, great ideas and the cute stickers and place cards that it comes with. But I’d never thought about how it has many, many healthy suggestions that are also easy to produce with very little waste. She has a recipe for hot chocolate popsicles, nut butter, salsa, guacamole and a menu of popcorn flavors to name just a few.
We tried her granola bars and wrapped them individually ourselves with parchment paper and stored them in the fridge. Delicious and cute! You can get unbleached paper here (UK link) – the If You Care range also included baking cups and snack/sandwich bags. I’d put less sugar in the granola bars next time but it was certainly a successful snack with ingredients that you can buy in bulk.
Popcorn Possibilities –
Trail mix seems like another easy win that you could put together from bulk items, our local store even has a make your own trail mix bar that you can put into reusable containers…but alas only the unhealthy bits seem to actually make it into my children! So looking for an crunchy alternative I decided to invest in a microwave popcorn maker. This silicone microwave popper (similar UK link) doubles as a serving bowl and collapses down small for easy storage. Ideal.
I even managed to find popcorn kernels in the bulk section and our olive oil is in a glass bottle. Very low waste!
The possibilities for flavors and mix ins are endless. My kids like it plain or with a little powdered sugar best. But we also tried some savory delicacies such as grated parmesan, parmesan ranch and taco. I suspect they’d also like a s’mores mix, birthday sprinkles or a pizza themed creation.
They liked helping to make popcorn treats with melted marshmallows but wouldn’t actually try them!
Double Dip Attempt
In the interest of getting a bit more protein in them I thought we should branch out beyond the grains and fruit. Nuts are easy to find in the bulk aisle or paper cartons but only one of the kids will eat them as is. I managed to find nut butters in glass jars and thought our homemade option would be an extra special treat – homemade Nutella! Unfortunately, my blender is a tad rubbish and I couldn’t get the hazelnuts to become creamy… we’ll have to work on that in the future.
Anyway, the peanut butter has been great for spreading on apple slices, pretzels and our homemade bread (super easy and low waste with the bread machine).
While the chocolate chips were out I also let the children dip pretzel rods, dried fruits and graham crackers in chocolate and decorate. Not totally plastic wrapper free but at least they weren’t individually wrapped.
Overall this challenge has been great for us. The kids have been active in the kitchen and the oldest made more aware of the choices we make when purchasing food. There are a number of snack items that will stick with us even into the school year and I think the process has opened up us all to trying more new foods. Win-win!
What are the favorite zero waste snacks in your house?
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