Making the swap to reusable snack bags is a great step towards being ecofriendly and avoiding single use disposable plastic. There are a number of factors to consider in choosing the right food pouch options and of course personal preferences. Here are the key things to look out for before purchasing.
We use a variety of materials for food storage like glass, Stainless Steel, fabric, plastic and silicone. I prefer glass and ceramic, and my least favourites are plastic based.
Not all of these are completely suitable for packing snacks on the go or school lunchboxes, this is why reusable sandwich and snack pouches are just so handy.
What are Reusable Food Pouches?
Basically reusable food pouches and bags replace the need for plastic ziploc bags, gladwrap and other single-use disposables.
There are many different styles available now thanks to the zero waste movement and other programs like plastic free July and no-packet November. People are voting with their wallet and choosing reusables over single-use disposables.
Why Use Reusable Snack Bags When You Have Containers?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with reusable containers, but they don't provide you with the same convenience and versatility as far as bringing snacks with you.
Food pouches are super lightweight, generally easy to clean and are a huge space saver in school lunch bags.
Plastic containers do have a limited life and not everyone wants plastics touching food. As we know, plastic is made from oil which is a non-renewable resource, and not great for the environment. I'm certainly NOT anti-plastic and I still believe plastic does have a place in our day to day life but maybe shouldn't be the main feature.
Using a combination of containers makes our life easier, plus the food pouches are easy to fit into my handbag or glovebox, and I often use them for small quantities of bulk foods.
I can also mimic those tiny packets of crackers, pretzels, popcorn and other items, rather than purchase them at an over inflated price at the supermarket. Kids love tiny cute packets of things, and don't the marketers know it!
Are Food Pouches Expensive?
No, Yes & Maybe!
The cost completely depends on the style, materials and brand you choose. Higher prices don't necessarily guarantee better quality in all cases either.
Overall, no matter what price range you decide on you WILL save money long-term in comparison to throwaway food packaging.
> Types of food will you put in them
>Frequency of use
>What materials you prefer
>Ease of use and care
>Durability & repairability
>Disposal options at end of life, can it be recycled?
>Where they are physically made
> Availability to buy online or in a local shop
>Quantity needed and budget
A More In-Depth Look At Snack Pouch Considerations....
What Are They Made Of?
Waterproof pouches are generally made of synthetic fabrics and some are not really recommended as safe for touching food. Always double check and so your research to make sure. BPA and phlates are not the only issue with plastics.
Attaching plasticy fabric to cotton means it will be waterproof, and this can be a big plus when packing wet foods, not so great with foods that sweat. Plastic based pouches can be difficult to dry effectively after washing. The last thing you need is damp smelling food bags on a Monday morning.
Recycled PET bottle fabric is becoming more popular and although I LOVE that this is available, it's a great way to recycle, but I don't actually want it touching my food.
I really have no clue if it's safe or not and haven't researched it, but given its relatively new, there is probably not going to be enough data to make me happy with it yet. I'm still on the fence with silicone and it's been around for ages.
If you need that sort of protection, and plan on more wet foods than dry, then consider beeswax coatings or just using your regular containers that are durable and easy to look after. Beeswax wraps may be a better option in some cases.
If you already have waterproof reusable pouches please don't throw them out, keep using them as needed and remember these are a huge leap forward in terms of reducing plastic throwaway bags - I don't want to put anyone off using items they have, but it's food for thought when you next need to purchase one.
Silicone Pouches are super handy but personally not excited by trying to clean inside AND outside of them, plus I'm still a little dubious about too much silicone. Kids tend to leave items in the sun and heat and I hate trying to get all the crumbs off. I'm not implying they shouldn't be used, but consider if you really need them and what you will need them for. If it's an improvement on your current situation and you have loads of ways to use them that makes life easier, then go for it.
Fabric food pouches are my favourite (I'm biased of course) as they have no plastic lining and come in so many different sizes and patterns. There are also different thicknesses so some offer a little insulation and protection for a variety of foods. Again, double check any extra linings that might be a feature and consider if they may release microfibres.
Where Have They Been Made?
One thing I find fascinating about zero waste products is often they have been made in China and India and then sell under an Australian brand name. This makes me a little uncomfortable as I want to know for sure what is happening in those factories and why they are being manufactured off shore in places where there are less environmental regulations, epic pollution problems, and workers rights are often appalling.
I know it's cheaper to produce, but what's the true cost? I'm certainly not saying any of these brands are doing the wrong thing, I just want to know the facts. I'd love to see their environmental awards for their best practices in overseas factories, see their carbon footprint, water recycling and more. I also never want to hear another CEO claim they had no clue how workers were being treated or the environment was being polluted, and deny any fault.
So check the fine print on where they are made, and if they say they are produced in environmentally responsible ways, look for some proof.
How Will Your Food Pouches Be Disposed Of?
Can they be composted, recycled, or will they become more landfill? This is something worth considering before making any purchase including reusable sandwich bags.
Closures such as zips, velcro, buttons and plastic linings would need to be removed. Whereas natural materials like cotton, hemp and beeswax can be composted.
Consider the Pouch Closures Carefully
Velcro is a common closure, convenient but doesn't go great with food crumbs or mashed banana. It also wont last as long as other options like zips. Anything that gets caught in velcro is going to reduce its stickiness plus, it's made of plastic. I hate picking crumbs, hair and sand out of velcro. This choice may depend on the age of your kids and of course what types of foods will be in the pouch.
Zippered food pouches can be super handy but are extremely difficult to recycle. They also tend to become worn and rust after time and occasionally get caught in the pouch material and broken. Zips are awkward to replace, so once it breaks, you have an unusable food pouch.
Stud closures on snack bags are another handy option, available in plastic and metal. They are easy to snip off fabric in order to separate materials for recycling and some can be easily replaced using a needle and thread.
If buttons are a feature, assess what they are made of and their durability. Buttons are usually simple to repair but some more Eco-Friendly options may not last as long and be as durable.
Built in closures on food pouches means they are designed to close without extra attachments. The type I make and use are 100% cotton and are designed to fold over securing the food. I like them the best because there is nothing to break, can handle rough treatment and can go straight into the washing machine.
Lots of silicone pouches have built in closure, although I have to admit I don't really know how durable they are OR how to dispose of silicone at the end of its life. (If you know the answer, let me know in the comments).
How Will You Need To Care For Them?
Most reusable food pouches can be hand washed in the kitchen sink with a mild detergent or wiped down. Remember - anything coated in beeswax cannot be hot washed so keep that in mind when cleaning. Some pouches can go straight into the washing machine and hung out to dry.
It's important to understand the cleaning and care instructions before purchasing, firstly so they don't get damaged and secondly, so you know what level of effort is involved.
As you can see, there are a number of things to consider when making a swap to reusable food pouches. Some factors really come down to personal preferences and what appeals the most to you. Other areas can mean they might be a little less eco-friendly than you imagined.
Whatever you choose, it's a massive improvement on throwaway baggies and cling wrap!
I really hope this gives you some good ideas on making your choice AND let me know if I've missed something important. The only person who helps me write during the day is my dog, and he thinks everything is amazing - especially if the word 'food' is being said over and over!