We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This post contains affiliate links
Back to School
Can you believe summer is almost over? We were at the store yesterday and they were already selling school supplies! I turned my head and walked past the aisles as fast as I could. I’m not ready to start thinking about that yet. My kids have attended a few camps this summer, so I have been packing food. But I have gotten out of the routine of packing lunches. Needless to say, their meals have been less than exciting.
My kids love to buy school lunch. The school doesn’t have a cafeteria so they have to eat lunch at their desks, which is typically assigned seating. They view standing in the lunch line as additional time with their friends. However, we work so hard to make sure our kids are eating healthy so I send them to school with home lunch at least 3 times a week. I am hyper aware of the toxins that can leach from plastic containers and sandwich bags have BPA, so I try to avoid them. Over the years I have tried several items that promised to make packing lunches easier. I’ll share the pros and cons of each.
#1 Laptop Lunches – Bento Ware Lunch Box
Laptop Lunches is based on the Japanese Bento box. It is made up of several small boxes that all fit in to a larger lunchbox. The set includes one large box for the main dish and several smaller boxes for the sides (which they call bento buddies). The product is made in the USA and it is free of BPA, PVC and Lead. The containers are leak proof and can be microwaved and placed in the top rack of the dishwasher. I have never been brave enough to put a liquid in these containers so I can’t tell you if they truly are leakproof. However, the lids always stay on and the kids are able to open it themselves. There are a couple of containers that don’t have lids. I’ve found that these work best for things like prepackaged applesauce. There is also a spot to hold a fork and/or spoon. These sets will cost you around $20 each + shipping.
The concept of this box is great. I love the idea of having different compartments for wet food vs dry food. However, in practice, these little containers can be a pain in the you-know-what. Imagine washing these little dishes everyday. Not a big deal, but it is still an extra step in an already busy night. Another downside is the overall size of the Laptop Lunchbox. It is larger than a standard lunchbox, so you will also need to purchase a separate lunch bag if you would like to add an ice pack.
Overall, I am happy with this lunch box. It does what it says it will do and it has held up for several years. I love that it doesn’t leach and it is great way to keep kids busy on plane trips.
Here is the affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2gUNyU3
#2 Kids Conserve Container
Kids Konserve is a stainless steel container made to hold just about anything. The lids are plastic but they are BPA, PVC, lead and phthalate free I bought this to put in school lunches but the top is on so tight that the kids aren’t able to take it off. My 7 year old can take it off now, but sometimes the food inside goes flying. I think she will be able to use it in second grade. Until then, I use it to carry food around on the weekend. It really is a great container and it is leakproof. That’s probably why the lid is to difficult to remove. I purchased this a few years ago and it looks like the company is now selling these under U Konserve. They sell for around $16.00 for a two pack but it’s worth it because these will last a very long time.
These are one of my top recommendations simply because they will last for years and years. Click here for the affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2vOzbmK
#3 Planet Wise Reusable Sandwich Bags
Planet Wise Reusable Sandwich Bags are a great alternative to plastic sandwich bags. They are reusable which is a great way to save money. They are made of an FDA approved material that is free of BPA, PVC, Phthalates, latex and lead. These are great for holding sandwiches and snacks. They have a velcro closure which makes it easy for the kids to open. They have also come out with a zippered version but I prefer the velcro.
To wash these, they easily flip inside out. They are top rack dishwasher safe but I prefer to hand wash it because of the fabric on the outside. The interior corners are sewn at an angle to keep crumbs from collecting. It seems like an insignificant feature, but it is actually very helpful. These last a long time but I still replace them every year. Although the interior is free of toxins, it is still a form a plastic so I like to be sure it isn’t breaking down after a year. There is nothing to indicate that it is compromised, but I like to be safe with the kids.
Give it a try! Here is the affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2tCoRla
#4 Silicone Cupcake Liners
I waited a long time before jumping on the Silicone Cupcake liner bandwagon. I wanted to make sure silicone was safe before I started using it with my kids. It has been around for at least 5 years now and the research still shows that it is safe. I purchased these Silicone Cupcake Liners from Ipow. It came with 12 round liners and 12 rectangle liners and I have been having fun using them both. These are great for making muffins or egg cups. Just let them cool overnight and then the entire thing can be packed in the lunchbox. I have also used these to keep dips separate from dry items. For example, I will put hummus in these and pack the vegetables and pitas in the same container without the pitas getting soggy. It is a great way to consolidate a meal!
The colors are also fun. They add a pop of color to their lunch, with the goal of making the food more appealing.
There are many options but this is the afifliate link to the one I purchased. It has both the round and rectangle shapes: http://amzn.to/2uqy1ya
#5 Thermos Funtainer Food Jar
Thermos Funtainer Jars are definite must have! I have always had good luck with Thermos products and this one is no exception. These stainless steel containers keep food hot or cold for several hours. They claim it lasts 7 hours, but honestly my only concern is about 4 hours, or until lunchtime. My food handling experience has taught me about the food danger zone. Both hot and cold food can only be in the “Danger Zone” (between 40 and 140 degrees) for 4 hours. After that the food should be thrown out because bacteria can grow. If you are using these for soup, be sure to heat it up well before putting it in the container. If you heat it to bubbling, it won’t reach the danger zone for a while and it will definitely cool down by lunch time so your kids can eat it.
As September gets closer, Amazon will start to have these as lightning deals. If you see it for under $10, buy it. The regular price is around $12.00. I love these so much. Here is the affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2eGDeym
#6 Lunch Box – Pottery Barn vs. Garnet Hill
There are 2 lunch boxes that we rotate between. A Pottery Barn Lunch box and a Garnet Hill Lunch Box. Both work well but one clearly out performs the other. When I purchased the Garnet Hill lunch box, friends were telling me that it performed as well as the Pottery Barn lunch box at a lower price. The lunch box was $20 but we purchased it along with a matching backpack so it was free (there was a back to school promotion). The lunch box was fine but not super impressive. By the end of the year, there was a small tear in the interior and the zipper started sticking.
The Pottery Barn Lunch box is about the same price at $18 but they are always having a sale, so it will be even cheaper. This one is definitely worth the money. At the end of the year the lunch box is still holding it’s shape. In fact, I plan to add it to the rotation again this year. The interior is has a hard support so it holds it’s shape. It cleans well and does not have any rips or tears. I would definitely recommend it.
Go On Mama, We Got This!
These are the items that work for us. I’m always on the look out for non-toxic alternatives. Packing lunches should be fun and we should enjoy these years! In the end, remember that it won’t kill them to eat school lunch.
Comment with your tips and tricks. If you purchase any of the items above, post to Instagram and Facebook and tag @naturaldeets. I look forward to seeing your back-to-school routine!