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10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste with Babies and Kids

One of the hardest adjustments to life with kids is the crazy amount of stuff that kids need. And with all these stuff, unfortunately, comes the waste. There’s extra gear that’s necessary for a kid’s happiness and development or a parent’s sanity. But, a drastic increase in the amount of wasted food, gear, and packaging isn’t necessary.

Here are a few that are easy to implement and make a big impact.

1. Be Smart About Using Pouches

Yes, those plastic baby food pouches are go-to product for snack emergencies when you’re out of the house. But the they’re really expensive and not as nutritious as the label leads you to believe. Also, it may interfere with the development of healthy eating habits and skills.

The increase in pouch use in the U.S. has led to a massive waste issue. They’re relatively empty calories in a pouch since most of them are just fruit.

If you must use them, there are a few ways to cut the waste they produce. Try making your own pouches by pureeing whatever meal/snack you have on hand and pour it into a pouch. That way, when need to use pouches, at least you can provide a more nutritious and filling food.  Another option is to use reusable pouches, which allow you to get up to a year of re-use out of a single pouch. When you’re done with them, they’re recyclable!

2. Bring Snacks, Rather Than Buying Them

Always pack more snacks than you think you’ll need for an outing. This way you don’t end up buying a packaging-heavy and overpriced emergency snack.

Pack food that you can offer again for a later meal or snack on the same or next day. If it doesn’t get eaten, it won’t go to waste.

3. Buy In Bulk

Do what you can to buy in bulk. This way you’ll save the extra packaging of smaller containers of your child’s favorite food.

This way you can make your own snack packs and save money on the pricier pre-packaged snack packs. On top of it all, you’ll reduce some waste here, too.

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4. Wash And Reuse Plastic Food Storage Bags (Then Recycle Them)

Zip-top bags and other plastic bags are far more durable than most people give them credit for. You’d be surprised by how many times you can reuse a simple plastic sandwich bag- it’ll save you money and reduce plastic waste, one bag at a time.

After 5-10 uses, your bag might spring a major leak, which means it’s definitely time to send it on its way. But even then, don’t head for the trash. Some recycling programs will accept soft plastic bags in their curbside pickup programs. If your town isn’t there yet, you’re not alone. Luckily, many major retailers have a plastic bag recycling drop-offs.

Places that might have recycling places for the shopping and food storage bags:
– The local supermarket
-Drugstores
– Big box stores

5. Store Milk In a Savvy Way

If you’re a nursing mom and pumping, storing it can be a challenge. The best product for the job are Zip-top bags. They’re the safest most sanitized containers. They only store 4-6 ounces, then end up in the trash.

Luckily, there are a couple of lower-waste options:

1. If you have the budget and room to store them:

A. Freeze milk right in the plastic pumping bottles.

B. Buy glass bottles in 4-ounce and 8-ounce sizes that can be used to freeze, thaw, and warm the milk. 

You can wash the plastic and glass bottles in the dishwasher’s hot water cycle to thoroughly clean them.

2. You can get really convenient and affordable glass bottles on Amazon. The problem is they don’t always come with flat caps. To solve this, you can use the nipple top and cover that came with the bottles to secure the bottles for freezing. Another way is to use the yellow caps that come with your pumping bottles.Secure the cap before freezing and store the bottles standing up.

3. If you MUST use the plastic Zip-top bags, use the sturdiest bags out there. Why? You can overfill them. It  saves every 4th bag! Remember to leave extra room for the milk to expand as it freezes, so your bag won’t rip!

6. Make Baby Food Yourself

Believe it or not, making baby food yourself doesn’t take long. Babies can usually eat a version of whatever you’re eating. To make it suited for them, soft-cook and puree whatever produce and protein you have on hand. Stock up on sweet potatoes, carrots, and other starchy veggies to make a perfect base for baby food purees. You can always cook them to save time – that’ll guarantee you’ll always have a plan b.
It’s really simple! By making food yourself, you’re saving a ton of money and gaining so much more control over your baby’s nutrition. Also, you help your baby develop his taste buds. This way you’re keeping countless pounds of waste out of landfills and recycling centers.
Realistically, you’ll probably end up buying a few jars here and there. So do what you can to reuse them rather than trashing them.
You can use baby food jars for:

Freezing homemade purees
Freezing fresh herbs, or small amounts of sauces
Storing pantry items
Organizing the “junk” drawer, and corralling safety pins, rubber bands, paperclips.
Refrigerating small amounts of leftovers or odds and ends for smoothies (see #7).

7. Introduce New Foods Slowly

Every parent knows the feeling of making a lovely meal and watching it refused and thrown in the trash. It’s even harder when the food is new, and your kid outright refuses to try it and throw it all over the floor. Most toddlers aren’t going to dive into an adult-sized dish of new or previously-refused food. So, when offering new foods, start one or two pieces, rather than an adult portion. That way, if your child decides not to eat the food, there will be less waste. To prevent waste, use untouched fruit for smoothies and ignored vegetables for stock!

8. Buy Feeding Gear Secondhand, Or Borrow It

Usually kids mealtime gear is used for a few months, if that! Typically, a family has finished using their equipment long before the end the item’s lifespan. High chairs, booster seats, and those alike. They’re built to be durable and washable. They only get a few years of action before they get donated or, thrown in the garbage. Other parents are very eager to get the unneeded gear out of their house, so try asking your driends and famiy if their baby grew out of them. 

Other places to gear up with baby supplies and save unnecessary waste:
-second-hand stores
-neighborhood parenting Facebook groups
-Garage sales

9. Invest In Reusable And Dishwasher-Safe Plates, Cups, And Straws

When it comes to the hours spent washing dishes and doing laundry, all you want is to reduce the clean up time. Paper plates and bibs and plastic cups and straws can be tempting, they create a huge amount of waste. Luckily, kid-friendly dining gear comes in a variety of dishwasher-safe materials. Which means no extra garbage going out, and no extra clean up for you.

10. Clean Without Impact

Put down the paper towels! It’s easy finish a half of a roll to clean up the fallout from one meal. That sure adds up! Instead, invest in washcloths or burp cloths to keep in the kitchen. They’re inexpensive, ultra-absorbent and washable. Keep rags easily accessible in the kitchen to guarantee a quick floor cleanup. Throw it in the washing machine and grab a new one. Don’t forget to run full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher. Also, use the cold water cycle as much as possible!

Good luck – the planet depends on you!

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