Feed your family snacks with less waste!

How to feed your family snacks with less waste

Hannah Blumhardt and Liam Prince from The Rubbish Trip stop by with some timely advice about feeding your family snacks with less waste. Snacks that are cheaper, healthier and better for the environment!

You can lessen your household’s waste footprint by having a go at making snack foods that you might otherwise buy pre-made in a packet. The Rubbish Trip has compiled some of their tried and true recipes for many go-to snacks. These focus on quick and easy recipes that won’t break the bank or take too much time. Using the kinds of ingredients that are readily available in New Zealand without packaging.

Another way of getting low-waste nibbles is to try buying loose, pre-made snack foods from bulk bin stores like Bin Inn and putting them straight into BYO bags/containers so you can skip the packaging.

You can also cut down your snack-related waste by refusing to buy single-serve packets and opting for larger containers you can divvy up instead.

Muesli bars, chippies, crackers, yoghurt suckies, packs of biscuits and cakes, pottles of dips like hummus and sour cream, chocolate, lollies…

Pre-made snack foods can be extremely convenient for many different contexts where food is required – the shared morning tea at work, the social potluck, kids’ (or adult!) lunchboxes, parties and get-togethers, and camping/tramping/road trips.

But all those little packets (and the bigger packets that the little packets come in) really do add up in our waste bins.

And a surprising amount leaks into our natural environment because little light wrappers are prone to blow out of pockets, around the playground, and even out of our rubbish bins and landfills. You might think you aren’t a litterbug, but sometimes these wrappers can evade even the most careful.

Sustainable Coastlines is a national organisation doing amazing work cleaning up beaches around New Zealand and spreading awareness about the importance of waste minimisation. Data from their beach cleans shows that 35% of the items they pick up are food-related plastic packaging. This is consistent with our own observations of litter around the country.

For example, when we walked the Abel Tasman National Park, the majority of the litter we found on this great walk was muesli bar wrappers…

How to feed your family snacks with less waste!

So, what can we do to lighten our waste footprint while still having convenient snack food on hand?

Option 1: Replace Packaged Snacks with Homemade Alternatives

Often we buy packaged snack foods because we assume making them from scratch at home would be too time consuming, or because we don’t know how to make them, or because deep down we feel that a company can do it better than us.

One of the messages we share through The Rubbish Trip is preparing some of these convenience foods from scratch doesn’t have to be hard or take ages. Not only that, but homemade snacks tend to be far cheaper and healthier. You can find our cheap and easy recipes for snack foods on The Rubbish Trip website.

Now, we’re not suggesting that to make a difference you need to eliminate ALL pre-made foods from your lives – even if you pick just one thing to try making from now on, that’s awesome!

If you’re not sure where to start, have a look in your pantry or family lunchboxes, identify the common re-offenders, and focus on one of those.

We often speak in schools, and when we ask the students what kinds of rubbish they have in their lunchbox, we always hear ‘muesli bar wrappers’ and ‘chippie packets’. So, we reckon homemade alternatives to these are a great place to start and we have easy recipes for both on our website (go here for muesli bar alternatives and here for chippie alternatives).

We also can’t stress enough how easy DIY dips are if you’re wanting to make finger food for a birthday party, or rushing to a potluck after work.

If you don’t have time to make crackers to go with the dips, buy a couple of unpackaged carrots from the supermarket and make carrot sticks – a great low-waste alternative ☺ Homemade dips and crackers and/or veggie sticks are also a nutritious and waste-free alternative to lunchbox fillers like Le Snak (though we admit that this can be a difficult sell to small children when all their friends have Le Snak…).

If you’re starting to wonder how you might get all the ingredients you’ll need for homemade snacks without producing rubbish, we’ll be discussing that in our post next week about low waste grocery shopping.

But here’s a sneak preview: the key is to get your wholefoods/pantry staples from stores that supply these goods unpackaged, in bulk bins (for example, Bin Inn), and to bring your own bags and containers to put the food straight into, packaging-free. But more on this next week!

Option 2: Buy unpackaged snacks and put them in BYO bags/containers to avoid waste

If you’re not sure whether you can manage homemade snacks, there are other low-waste options for snack foods.

Replacing snacks in a packet with snacks you can buy unpackaged and put straight into BYO bags/containers at the store is an easy alternative. For example, check out your local Bin Inn, local organic store, or even the bulk aisle at your supermarket (though note supermarket bulk aisles can be pricey).

Can you bring your own bags/jars/containers and get refills of loose items like:

  • Banana chips (a great alternative to chippies)
  • Popcorn (a great weekend snack that’s easy to throw together)
  • Dried fruit and nuts or trail mix
  • Savoury snacks like bhuja mix, pretzels or veggie chips
  • Lollies for treats/special occasions

If you’re going tramping or road tripping and like to take a treat bar of chocolate for the trip, did you know that Trade Aid’s entire chocolate bar range is wrapped in packaging made by a Hamilton-based company called Econic that is home compostable? So if you’ve got a home compost, this could be your go-to chocolate bar on those special occasions.

And of course, fresh fruit and veg are nature’s snacks!

It’s easy to buy fruit and veg without packaging. Simply go for the fruit and veg that is not already pre-packed and either put them into your trolley loose or put them into your own reusable produce bags (rather than the plastic produce bags).

For lunchboxes and after work or school, carrot, cucumber and celery sticks are good to snack on, while a couple of pieces of fruit have plenty of vitamins and are less wasteful and sugary than a juice box.

Option 3: Buy larger containers/bags of snack foods rather than single-serve packets

If you’re not ready to shift away from chippies yet or to try making your own yoghurt, you can also reduce the waste associated with snacks and lunchboxes by avoiding single-serve items and instead buying larger packets and containers that you can then divvy up each morning into small reusable containers. For example:

  • Large containers of yoghurt rather than yoghurt suckies or pottles.
  • Large bags of potato chips rather than bags of small individual packets.
  • Big blocks of cheese that can be sliced at home and wrapped in beeswax wrap for lunchboxes, rather than little packs of sliced cheese or Le Snak.

Now that you know more about low-waste snacks, why not find out more about how to shop for zero-waste groceries. And for more expert advice, check out our Lifestyle: Sustainability section.

Hannah Blumhardt and Liam Prince

Hannah Blumhardt and Liam Prince are the two No-Waste Nomads behind The Rubbish Trip. They travel the country delivering free talks to schools, businesses and community groups about how to reduce household rubbish. All of The Rubbish Trip resources, including tips and tricks for low-waste living, and regional zero waste shopping guides, are based on their own experience of living without a rubbish bin.

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