Low Waste Snacking
Updated: Apr 19, 2022
Go to any grocery store and you will find row upon row of individually-packaged snacks. Gas stations, pharmacies, and even health food stores are fully stocked with snacks wrapped in plastic. Marketed as easier and more convenient, these snacks add so much waste to our lives! Many foods come unpackaged or in bulk packaging for home or can be re-packaged if you are going somewhere.
I’ll start this post with a list of unpackaged, minimally-packaged, and bulk-packaged snacks and then add a quick guide to carrying snacks with you.
Homemade popcorn is super easy and stores well. We flavor the kids’ popcorn with honey, salt, and a little butter and ours with cumin, paprika, and brown sugar. Baked goods and fresh fruit are always good snacks and you can’t beat a homemade popsicle on a hot day.
Fruits and veggies: Bring your reusable produce bags to the store and stock up on fruits and vegetables. Not only are these your healthiest options, but they are also the least wasteful. Just compost your cores and peels and you are done.
Fresh baked items: Baking cookies, bars, breads, crackers, and other snacks helps you skip packaging entirely. Don’t have time to bake? Not a problem. Most grocery stores have freshly baked items you can put in a reusable bag or container.
Leftovers: We often use leftovers as a snack in our house. We tend to cook, bake, and even make smoothies and iced teas in bulk and we store food and drink in large containers where they are easily accessible for snacking.
Popsicles and smoothies: As long as you’re using low or no-waste ingredients (homemade oatmilk, frozen fruits or unpackaged ones, bulk peanut butter, etc), smoothies are a great snack options. And popsicles are basically frozen smoothies (in fact, we freeze leftover smoothies in our popsicle molds).
Popcorn: Popping corn on the stove, flavoring it, and storing it in a big container or reusable ziplock bag in your snack cabinet is one of the easiest ways to keep snacks handy.
I don’t love to bake, so I like to do a lot of baking at once and freeze cookies, muffins, and breads for later (remember to use your silicone muffin wrappers!). If nature gives you a whole bunch of apples at once, you can always make apple sauce and freeze it or shred the apples and bake them into cookies or pancakes.
Snacks from the Bulk Aisle:
Nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, candies, trail mixes, etc: Bulk stores have lots of variety in the trail mix department or you can make your own based on what you like or what’s on sale. In our house, we tend to buy large quantities of whatever’s on sale and make trail mixes as we go.
Cereals, granolas, etc: Bulk stores also tend to have lots of granolas and cereals to choose from. Add these to a bowl with some milk or yogurt (try to find local yogurt in glass containers) and you have an easy snack.
Olives, Hummus, cut fruit and veggies, and hot foods: All of the above and more can be packed into reusable containers are the grocery store or coop and used for snacking.
Minimally Packaged Snacks
Dried fruits: Dried fruits at your local bulk store will probably come in small plastic bags instead of in the standard dispensers. Although these little bags aren’t ideal, they aren’t specially printed and sealed, so take less energy to produce. And, as long as they are clean, you can recycle the bags. You can also opt to buy a big box of dried fruits through a buyer’s club and repackage them yourself.
Chips, pretzels, and other big-bag snacks: Most places I have looked don’t sell chips, pretzels, and the like in their bulk dispensers. You can shop more sustainably by buying these snacks in large bags and repackaging them into snack-sized portions. If you choose snacks recyclable through Terracycle, you can at least recycle the packaging.
I made these cute little snack bags from leftover fabric (my kids say their friends are jealous of their “bird bags” at snack time). Leftovers can make an awesome snack and hardboiled eggs come in their own wrapper! Buying snacks in bulk saves packaging and money.
HOW TO PACK SNACKS TO-GO
Loose snacks: Use fabric pouches or reusable ziplock bags to package loose snacks like trail mixes, chips, popcorn, and dried fruits.
Fresh fruits and vegetables: Wrap cut or whole fruits in Beeswrap or, for sturdy snacks like apples, bananas, and oranges, you can just throw them in your bag or car whole.
Baked Goods: Cookies, bars, etc can be wrapped in Beeswrap or carried in a stainless steel snack container.
Leftovers and hot snacks: Glass or stainless steel containers can be used to store messy or hot snacks. Don’t forget to bring your reusable utensils.
Liquids: Carry hot drinks or soups in your travel mug or smoothies in a glass jar.
If you are wondering what drink to pair with your snack, check out our post on Eco-hydration. Want to be prepared for low waste snacking on the go? Don't forget your Low Waste Travel Kit!