One Portable Feast

Nicholas and I recently spent a wonderful day at the Carnegie Museum, which included lunching in the sculpture garden.  We brought our lunch from home.  It was tasty, healthy, and affordable and produced very little garbage.  I’ve been hearing lately, from real parents and in the media, that packing a meal or snack is just not feasible because the individually-packed foods you “have to” use are just as expensive and trash-creating as food purchased at the destination, or assembling the food takes too much time and effort.  As a counter-argument, I’m sharing our menu:

I made two sandwiches of peanut butter and all-fruit spread on bread.  One had strawberry spread and one blackberry so that Nicholas could have whichever one he wanted and I could eat the other.  After cutting the sandwiches in triangles, I wrapped each one in a sheet of waxed paper, folded it around, and secured it with a couple of surplus return-address labels.  (See Household Hints.)

I filled two 10-ounce glass bottles with cranberry juice from the pitcher we’d mixed up from frozen concentrate.  These bottles held single servings of orange juice when I bought them 4 years ago.  I’ve been washing and reusing them ever since.  (Nicholas has been able to drink from a glass bottle, without breaking it or spilling significantly, since he was under two years old.  That’s unusual.  If your child isn’t up to this, pack a lightweight cup and pour the juice into it.)

I also packed a full-size can of mandarin oranges (with pull-tab top), two spoons, and two washcloths.  It all went into the nylon lunch bag in which Nicholas takes his food to childcare.  At the museum, we hung it in the coat-check room until we were ready for lunch.

After unwrapping the sandwiches, we used the waxed paper as plates.  I used the labels to stick Nick’s waxed paper to the table so it couldn’t slide away and take his food with it.  We ate sandwiches and drank juice, then opened the can of oranges and ate them out of the can.  Nick had trouble reaching into the can with his spoon far enough to get the oranges once they were about half gone, so he asked me to scoop some slices onto his waxed paper, which I did.  He ate those with his fingers.

We used the washcloths as napkins.  Then I dipped one in the nearby fountain to get the stickiness off Nick’s hands and face.

Total cost: $2.44
Total trash: 2 sheets waxed paper and 4 labels
Total time: 10 minutes to make and pack lunch + 5 minutes to wash 2 bottles, rinse can for recycling, and put washcloths in laundry = 15 minutes
Number of items used that were purchased in individual packaging: 0

I know it can be difficult to find even 10 minutes to pack food when you’re racing to get out of the house with an excited kid!  But when we buy food at our destination, often we spend at least 10 minutes figuring out what to get, waiting in line, ordering, and paying.  Usually it costs a lot more, too!  The cost of this meal is estimated by guessing what fraction of each food we used and calculating that fraction of the food’s total cost (example: 4 slices is 1/5 loaf of bread; 1/5 of $3 is 60c).  We used all-natural bread from our neighborhood bakery, natural peanut butter, and fruit spread instead of jelly; choosing less expensive options would make this meal cost even less.