A few weeks ago I read about a woman who fit one year’s worth of her trash into a tiny jar. I immediately started to recall how many times my family and I take out the trash per week and felt well…….quite a bit guilty. Limiting the amount of trash we produce is absolutely paramount for our environment, yet the idea of limiting food waste for many of us may seem “trendy” and extreme.
The “zero waste” movement is one trend that I hope is here to stay and is certainly something that we could all learn more about. When I came across one mother’s “musings on zero waste and minimalism,” I decided to see if she might be open to sharing some of her secrets. Read on for some fantastic ideas for zero waste snacks from Meredith Bay Tyack of Meredith Tested.
Prepackaged snacks for toddlers are everywhere, and since organic, low-sugar options are more readily available, they can be a good convenient choice when you’re on the go. If you’re a family attempting to live a zero waste lifestyle (like me), producing as little landfill trash as possible is a priority. Even if a product’s packaging is recyclable through TerraCycyle or another local program, there is likely an option with less packaging in the first place.
Let’s back up. So what is zero waste?
The term has become a short hand for people trying to dramatically reduce the amount of trash they produce. The movement launched into popularity by popular sites such as zerowastehome.com, trashisfortossers.com and myplasticfreelife.com. Some feel more comfortable using different phrases like “low waste” and “less waste,” which are good descriptors, but not currently as trendy.
Every individual and household is different, but when most people look into their trash bins, they find food packaging to be the number one culprit.
Let’s zoom forward again. To your kitchen. And a fussy toddler.
Here are 10 toddler snacks that don’t produce a lot of trash or food waste, yet are super healthy and delicious too:
1. Fresh fruit
At the farmers market or through a CSA, fruit can be entirely zero waste. At grocery stores, choose fruit that is loose verses in bags. If you notice that a packaged item is less expensive than loose, consider bringing this up to your local store manager. Feedback from customers is how many changes get made. You may end up with a few fruit stickers destined for the landfill, but some health food stores are opting for paper/ compostable stickers. Zero Waste Tip: Bring your own cloth or mesh produce bags instead of using the plastic or paper bags provided.
2. Dried fruit
Dried fruit is widely available in the bulk section of most grocery stores (many conventional grocery stores also have a bulk section). Look for fruit with no added sugar when available (otherwise this sugar coating basically makes them candy!). Zero Waste Tip: Use the Bulk App on your smartphone to find stores in your area with loose/ bulk items. Bring your own cloth bags to avoid the plastic bags provided. Simply jot down the bin number and keep handy for the check out line. If you use a glass jar or other container, ask to get the “tare weight” before you fill up your container to avoid paying for the weight of your container in addition to your bulk item.
3. Roasted potatoes
Slice up some sweet potatoes (with or without the skin–your preference) and roast them in the oven for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees Farenheight. Zero Waste Tip: Compost your veggie scraps or keep them in a glass container in your freezer to add flavor to stock later on.
4. Veggie fritters
Shredded zucchini, yellow squash and carrots are popular additions. Add almond meal, an egg and spices and scoop onto a rimmed baking sheet (bake for 25-35 minutes in a 350 degree oven) for a toddler-friendly snack.
5. Granola bars
Making your own granola bars is a great way to control exactly what goes inside. While there are lots of great snack bar recipes out there, most are quite forgiving and you can easily substitute ingredients to suit your own taste and dietary needs. Zero Waste Tip: Put your granola bars in small glass jars or reusable snack bags for on-the-go snacking.
6. Date and Nut bars
Dates are readily available in bulk–just scoop some into your cloth bag at the store. Some are not pitted, so be sure to remove the long pits before using. Throw together about a cup of dates (or more if you are making more), coconut oil and some nuts and seeds and push into a baking pan for easy homemade date and nut bars. Keep them in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
Most cracker recipes–gluten free, too!– call for flour, oil, spices and only a few other pantry staples. Zero Waste Tip: If you’re not sure you’ll be baking with a specific flour very much, buy only the amount you need from the bulk section. Scoop it into a cloth bag or glass jar and you’ll avoid wasting a whole package of flour that you don’t really need.
8. Muffins and quick breads
Muffins and quick breads are easy to pack full of veggies and freeze well. Traditional and gluten-free recipes typically call for just a few simple ingredients and are pretty forgiving if you’re not an expert baker. Double the recipe and freeze whatever you won’t eat immediately. Then pull out a muffin or slice of bread for a quick snack whenever needed. Toss it in the microwave or oven to heat through, or let it defrost on its own in your diaper bag.
9. Chia pudding
If you’re not quite ready to make your own yogurt, chia pudding is a good alternative to single-serving yogurt cups or tubes. Coconut milk (or any nut milk), honey, vanilla extract and chia seeds are a popular combo. You can then add whatever flavors you like from nut butters to fresh fruit. Zero Waste Tip: Bring your own glass jar to the store to get honey in bulk. If stores in your area don’t have bulk honey, call around to local honey producers. They may be happy to have you return your empty honey jars to their facility to reuse.
It may not seem like the most fun choice, but leftovers – strips of chicken, roasted veggies, pasta, a slice of frittata – can all be great snacks for your toddler and will help you cut down on food waste.