How to Lunch Box without a Lunch Box - Vegan, Zero Waste Lunch Ideas

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Okay, perhaps my titles are getting a little clickbait-y... but bear with me.

At first, I wanted to give you some lunch box ideas as back to school is upon us (whaaaaat!). But then I realised that the cute (and only!) lunch box I own is in a box somewhere in storage. That's the reality of living in a small mobile home. Not that I'm complaining at all, this experience has been pretty great so far, but it does pose a challenge for recipe developing sometimes, my biggest complaint being a difficult to overcome lack of oven.

Anywho, I figured I would use my absent lunch box as a source of inspiration rather than despair and let you in on a few sustainable tips I've been applying to my own lunch needs when out and about.

Lunch boxes, despite being cute, don't always accommodate everyone's needs and, in my experience, they're not particularly durable either. So perhaps skip it altogether and consider these other solutions instead!

Tupperware / Reusable Glass Containers

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Whether you choose a glass version or you still have some good old Tupperware left from a previous life (do not throw anything out if it's still perfectly useful - that's rule number one of the zero waste lifestyle!), these containers can be very similar to a lunch box in their own right. In fact, they can be a lot more versatile and accommodate different types of meals because of the many shapes and sizes they come in.

They'll work for any salad type dishes and, while I know there are some reusable sandwich sleeves out there, I also prefer to opt for a box if I'm bringing a sandwich, wrap or pita meal somewhere because I find that they invariably get squished otherwise.

The glass containers are definitely my favourite option because they are actually quite durable and I'm never worried about them breaking, but if you (or your child) are a little more accident prone or if the additional weight is an issue, then plastic boxes can be great too, provided they are reusable and highly durable.

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Here, I'm using a glass container I bought years and years ago and it has seen so many lunches in its lifetime! For this pita based lunch, it was necessary to have something reliable but not too deep, so it was certainly the best option.

This lunch has a simple salad made with ingredients from the garden and crispy tofu cubes. The full how-to is on our Instagram highlights but, basically, you'll want to cut your tofu into whatever size cubes you like, toss these in oil, tamari and crushed garlic and fry in a well preheated pan until crispy.

Up-cycled containers

I'm also adding a little tub or hummus (aka a re-purposed pasta sauce jar!) and some additional crudites to this lunch option because it can be used as a protein rich snack mid-morning or in the afternoon.

I've been known to purchase things simply because I quite liked the jar, and to consider the food it contained to be a nice bonus! Why is that? Because buying a new jar or bottle often costs the same amount of money empty as it does full, and often even more! That little bottle of coconut water certainly could have felt like an unnecessary splurge if I had simply thrown out (or even recycled) the bottle itself. But I've been using it for years and even the cap is still good as new, which is a lot more than I can say about some other bottles I bought empty!

This time, it serves as a vessel for a wonderfully refreshing and easy to make little kid-friendly strawberry mylk: simply blend 6-8 large strawberries in a cup and a half of homemade or store-bought oat milk and you have yourself a portion or two of something that feels like an absolute treat while remaining as healthy as it gets!

And speaking of kids, I find air-popped pop-corn to be quite an interesting school break snack! Here I've put it in what used to be a plant-based yogurt container, which just so happened to have a lid! It weighs almost nothing and, even though it is not as durable as other options might be, it's still a good preferable to use any plastic you may have at home as many times as possible!

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For instance, the old vegan ice-cream tub pictured here with a hefty portion of tofu fried rice is both light and quite durable. I've been using it for months to carry stuff around and even to freeze the many dishes made with the mountains of fresh vegetables I've been getting from the garden.

And the small yogurt container now contains bliss balls instead of the pop-corn!

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But the epitome of up-cycled containers have to be...

Glass Jars

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They are probably the most versatile food container I've ever come across. At home, our collection of glass jars holds most of our dry goods and also serve as glasses and smoothie containers (and that's just the food related uses!) and when we're out and about, they are perfect for just about any meal we might like to carry around. Here, we're picturing one with a a lovely salad containing millet and some of the same tofu used for the fried rice (seriously a game changer, that tofu!) for a nice amount of protein plus lovely fresh raw veg from the garden. In winter, I might have added more cooked ingredients such as sweet potatoes or squash! And don't think they're only good at housing your meal: you can also put all manners of snacks in a glass jar and even use one to safely hold all your utensils, a napkin, some condiments, your drink...

Nothing at all

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Not everything needs to be packaged to be brought around. For instance, many fruits (such as bananas, citrus fruits, apples, etc) do not need a specific container of their own! Bringing whole fruits and veggies as a snack means there is also very little prep needed. You'll have a nutritious energy boost ready to eat in seconds and, in the event that you don't end up eating it (am I the only one who doesn't always eat ALL of the snacks she brings somewhere?) you can simply put it back in the fruit bowl when you get home and eat it another time - which is not necessarily the case for that sandwich you prepared or bought...

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What do you think? Do you have any tips for a zero waste vegan lunch without a lunch box? Let us know in the comments or share with us on Instagram!

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