Reusable Lunchables

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By Martha Lee

It’s that time of year again, and as our kids head back to school, we’ll be packing lunch after lunch in plastic baggies and sticking juice box after juice box in a brown paper sacks, right?  But does it really have to be that wasteful and expensive?  I don’t think so, and neither should you. There are a few small steps that we can take to limit our impact (and that of our children) of lunch waste and save us money too.  We can teach our kids that by embracing the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), we can easily implement a smaller footprint on our planet by doing something as simple as slightly tweaking our lunchbox.  Baby steps, people. Baby steps!

A few saddening facts about plastic & lunch waste (source:

  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used and disposed of every year worldwide.
  • About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • Plastic bags are the second most common type of ocean refuse. Cigarette butts take first place.
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
  • Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
  • The average family accumulates about 60 plastic bags in only 4 grocery trips.
  • The average American school-age child throws away about 67 lbs. of lunch waste each year.  With over 70 million kids in the US, that is the equivalent of over 4.6 billion lbs. of lunch waste that could easily be avoided.
  • Many juice boxes cannot be recycled due to inseparability of cardboard, plastic, and aluminum foil used in the product.

So what can we do to limit our impact of this waste?  Simple. We can embrace a new idea and start using reusable items as a routine in our daily lives.  The use-and-toss mentality is incredibly wasteful, and if we all did a little bit to help this pandemic cease to exist, then we would be doing our part globally.  Our children learn from us, and if we teach them to reduce, reuse, and recycle and respect our planet a little bit more than we already do, then we are helping to pass on a better mentality to our next generation.  Who doesn’t like to help be a part of the solution? 

Reusable lunch products are available all over the web and increasingly so in more and more stores worldwide.  I love the idea behind a lot of these products as they eliminate unnecessary plastic bags, baggies, and utensils.  There are also many water bottles, thermoses, and cups that can be used as a trade-off from wasteful juice boxes and the likes.

We can make changes at the super market too.  Big retailers such as Target, Kroger, and Whole Foods offer customers a nickel back per reusable tote bag that you use at check out.  This discount may not sound like a lot, but over time, you are saving more and more money (and plastic bags from hitting the landfills).  This incentive is a great way to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags and save resources.  Also, by purchasing these $1.00 bags, many retailers give back some of the proceeds to charities and other non-profits.  We can all learn to love that aspect of the game!

If you keep an eye out on discount websites, you’ll quickly find deals at 50% off retail (or more) for reusable goods along with other great hot commodities for kiddos.  Some of my favorite websites to find these deals are,, and  My friend at also has a slew of reusable goods for your liking like bamboo utensils. Won’t you join me in the effort to lessen the amount of waste this school year?  What types of steps do you and your family like to take to be more environmentally friendly? 

Martha Lee and her husband began working for Paula Deen Enterprises in 2006 until Martha left to pursue a degree in Special Education. She takes a cue from her 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, leaving tiny footprints on the planet. Her blog shares practical, earth-conscious ways to live and parent in the 21st century. Born and raised in beautiful, soulful Macon, GA, Martha and her family now lives in Savannah, where she can be found outside hula-hooping and performing handstands daily.
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Reader Comments:


To quote Paula "Always cook with your children ". My kitchen has always been a source of comfort and fun in times of stress. I wanted to make my mother in laws birthday dinner extra special, she has been caring d for my father in law who has grade 4 brain cancer for over a year. Both of my sons Collin 18 and Connor 15 took to the kitchen and created a lasagna that was a masterpiece. The funny part of my story is, is the carrot cake. Connor had the mixture in the mixer while I was sautéing the garlic in the butter for the garlic toasts. I left the kitchen to answer the phone and when I came back my Butter & Garlic was GONE! At first I thought I was gone to long and it scorched. NO the butter and garlic all 8 cloves was in my homemade carrot cake! Well Connor and I laughed so hard. I had tears. Then I told Connor" Paula Deen says always cook with your children ". Jen says it may not be as perfect as I want it but we had great fun! Oh and watching Connor in my apron is the best. He was even a good sport and let me upload the apron picture to FaceBook. Nani's birthday dinner was a success and we wished her a Happy Birthday with brownie sundaes instead of carrot cake. Jennifer Avery

By Jennifer Avery on October 29, 2011


It was only in the past couple of years that our beautiful city of Savannah introduced curbside recycling programs, and we are grateful for it! Every little bit helps and can make a positive impact!

By Martha Lee on September 15, 2011


Everyone wants to save the whales. Too few want to sort their garbage. We live across the river from Oregon and as strange as they behave over a lot of things they are expert recyclers. We do what we can and everyone has garbage!

By sa on September 15, 2011


I LOVE the idea of re-using lunch products! Last year I volunteered at my kid's school and I couldn't believe the amount of trash from lunch! Ya'll should check out : a company geared towards helping parents make healthy fresh lunches in your own re-usable containers!

By Laura @SuperGlueMom on September 15, 2011

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm