Naked Lunch

Published: January 23, 2020

by Irene Kaloyannis Science & Policy Exchange

If one of your resolutions is to cut down on your plastic waste, a great way to start is by looking at your packed lunch and figuring out ways to make it less wasteful. In this post, I will share how I aim to make my daily lunches waste-free. I’ll also drop links to two of my favorite zero-waste recipes below!

1. Visit your local farmer’s market

I live relatively close to Jean-Talon market and I try to take advantage of that in order to get fresh and local produce. Nearly any fruit or veggie can be purchased there without plastic packaging, as long as you have reusable bags on hand. Even the fish markets and butcher shops allow you to purchase their products without packaging if you bring some sort of reusable container. Also, many local dairy products are offered in glass bottles! You can check the Montreal Public Markets website to see if there are any local markets near you.

My favorite spot at Jean-Talon market is Les Jardins Sauvages, where I can get all sorts of local mushrooms year-round, like shiitake, maitake, chanterelle, king oyster, and more.

2. Make use of reusables

When I started my zero-waste journey, I used to purchase ‘’green’’ products. However, I found that the reusables I ended up using the most were the ones that didn’t actually cost me anything. For example, old glass jars and bottles have been a game-changer for me. I use Vegenaise jars and marinara sauce bottles for basically everything — from storing compost and homemade broth in the freezer to bringing lunch to work, and even holding homemade beauty products. If you don’t have any reusable jars or containers at home, you could ask a friend for some or visit a thrift store; it will save you money and avoid adding to your carbon footprint.

Here is my go-to lunch kit: a set of metal utensils in a cloth, some jars, a bento box I traded for on Bunz, a water bottle and my metal straw kit. It’s also a good idea to carry these around wherever you’re going, if you can — you never know when you’ll need them!

3. Start making “pantry meals”

In order to minimize my chances of having food waste, I do what’s called “pantry cooking” a few times per season. This means that I try to get rid of almost everything in my pantry before I buy new stuff from the grocery store. Most weeks during the year I engage in a less extreme version of pantry cooking: I scour my pantry and fridge for items that have just recently expired or that are about to expire and look up recipes that would use up those ingredients. I like to use recipes from websites like The Minimalist Baker because they are either 10 ingredients or less, one bowl or less or 30 minutes or less, which makes them very student-friendly!

4. Cook in bulk

Come up with some recipes you like that can be made a couple of days in advance in large quantities, like soups, stews, and casseroles. You can even just make a single ingredient in abundance — like rice, pasta or beans — and quickly add things to it the morning of. I personally make lots of soups, like this vegan ramen, and bread for sandwiches when I decide to meal prep for that week.

Some of these are pretty big commitments, so you can even begin by making small changes, like starting to compost your food scraps, making compostable candelilla wrap to replace cling film, or, when you can, opting for fresh herbs rather than packaged seasonings (or drying your own). All of these are ways you can make your meals a little more eco-friendly, and I wish you luck finding the strategies that work best for you!