Charlotte’s Sustainable Eats #2: No-Box Lunchbox

A zero-waste lunchbox. The name in itself sounds counterintuitive. So it’s no surprise that filling one’s lunchbox, even a reusable one, with zero-waste confections is no small feat.

That’s why I set out to find a completely vegan, zero-waste lunch that left me feeling full and focused.

My favorite thing to pack for lunch is a salad. No, really. I love kale. But even if leafy, high-in-Vitamin-K greens aren’t your thing, I am confident that you will see the value of packing a salad for lunch, even if it’s only occasionally. If not for its health benefits, then for the fact that you can pack a salad (without the dressing) several days in advance, get all your greens in before heading to happy hour, dinner, or ice cream, and easily enjoy a meal that is free of animal products and waste.

So, for my first edition of the no-box lunchbox, I decided to make the simplest salad I know:

No-Box Lunchbox - Sweet Potato, Chickpea, and Avocado Grain Bowl


What You’ll Need:

WARNING: Most of these items will be coming from bulk bins or the produce section. To really make your recipe zero waste, consider purchasing reusable produce bags. My favorite are Simple Ecology Organic Cotton Muslin Produce Bags (Thanks for the tip, Jordan!).

For the Bowl (makes 4-5 lunches)

Bulk item! These will fluff up a lot, so be cautious about how much you buy in bulk (unless you have a cool, dry place to store them). You can also use dried black beans or pinto beans.


½ cup dried Chickpeas

Bulk item! I love trying different types of grains, to add zest to my lunch. You can also use quinoa, millet, and more.

1 cup dried brown rice


I like Dinosaur kale, but Tuscan kale, or any kind of lettuce works too. Kale tends to be heartier and last longer, so it’s good for meal prep. Reusable produce bags to the rescue!

1 head of Lettuce

Did you know you don’t have to put sweet potatoes in bags? #skipabag

1 Sweet Potato


¼-½ red onion

#skipabag. Also, I like to buy 1 avocado every other day rather than all on Sunday. That way, you keep them from going bad mid-way through the week. You can also buy one ripe and one green avocado on Sunday to prep all your meals.

Avocado (½ avocado per lunchbox)

Bulk! But you probably already have your salt in bulk from the vegan cheesecakes.

Salt to taste

Some grocery stores, like mine, let you buy spices in bulk. Pick the theme you’re going for and use one of these spices for roasting your sweet potato and chickpeas (see below).

Optional seasonings: chili powder, cumin, or curry powder

For the Dressing:


1 lemon (produces about ¼ cup juice)

I base the amount of olive oil on the amount of juice I get from my lemon. You should use 1 part juice to 1 part oil.

¼ cup Olive oil (or equivalent of juice from lemon)


Salt to  taste


1 Tbs Honey

I haven’t seen a grocery store with bulk tahini yet, but I am still searching. If you don’t have access either, opt to buy your tahini in a glass jar that you can reuse for making dressing in the future.

1 Tbs Tahini (Sesame paste)



  1. The night before, soak your chickpeas in water (6-8 hours). If this isn’t possible, skip to step 2.

  2. Put your chickpeas in pot of water with 3:1 ratio of water to chickpeas. Bring the pot to a boil. When boiling, turn down to a light simmer and cover. Check the pot every 15-20 minutes for about an hour. Chickpeas are cooked with they are soft, but not mushy (should be about the consistency of canned chickpeas). Same process for dried black or pinto beans.

  3. Set the oven to 400 degrees.

  4. Wash and dice your sweet potato into ½ inch cubes. Fun fact: You don’t have to peel it! In fact, you’ll have more fiber and less food waste if you don’t.

  5. Place sweet potato cubes and chickpeas on separate cookie sheets.

  6. Drizzle sheets with 1-2 Tbs olive oil (just enough to coat all the items without making them soggy). Sprinkle with salt and add seasonings as desired.

  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 14-18 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft and chickpeas are crunchy.

  8. Put rice in a small pot of water with 2:1 ratio water to rice. Bring rice to a boil. After the water is boiling, turn down to a light simmer and cover. Cook for about 25-30 minutes or until rice is soft.

  9. Pick out a few nice containers for your no-box lunchbox. Arrange the rice, lettuce, chickpeas, onions, and sweet potato as you like and your lunch is ready to go.

  10. For the dressing, pick a container that you can shake (I use a mason jar). Combine all ingredients, adjusting salt to taste). Shake them up and pack for lunch.

  11. Before eating, drizzle dressing and add half an avocado. I also like to add hot sauce for extra zest.

Enjoy your Sustainable Eats!

P.S. Did you try to make these for yourself at home? Tell me how it went and any tips you have to share!

Charlotte Will