I’m going to be honest about school lunch packing….I love cooking and spending time in the kitchen, and even then it can be a struggle. I feel like I fall somewhere right in the middle between kale and quinoa cakes crafted into the shape of a favorite superhero (amazing but NO) and Doritos and a Snickers tossed into a paper sack. I’m willing to bet most of us do.
Even though I believe that teaching kids about healthy foods and feeding them well is really important, I don’t enforce it on them religiously 24/7. (The other day my son came home excited because he had discovered Funyuns in the cafeteria snack cart.)
But because I believe that what we eat can and does affect our health and how we feel, I make an effort to have them eat nutritious food as much as I can, or at least alongside the Funyuns ;). And since school lunch is an everyday (most days) thing, I like to do what I can to not make it all junk. Also, I want to find things that will hold up until lunchtime so they don’t end up tossed out as a soggy, leaking, banana-scented mess.
Here are some products I’ve found (and use) that make the job easier and more fun (did I just say fun?! Yikes.)!
For my daughter (in kindergarten), I use the Planetbox Rover, which is my absolute favorite of the lunchboxes we have used. (Even if you’re an adult who packs lunch for work, this would be an amazing option to consider!) It’s a plain stainless steel container with 5 compartments (although they have different sizes available), and you can personalize the top with magnets. I really love this feature because when I used it for my son, he chose skateboarding magnets, and now my daughter uses horses or stars. So the same lunchbox can be personalized for different children just by switching out the magnets.
We’ve never had any problem with the lunchbox leaking, and to clean, you can either throw the steel container in the dishwasher or wash it by hand. I always end up washing it out by hand which is quick and easy. Planetbox sells a carry bag – in different colors and patterns – that perfectly fits the container and includes pockets on the front for a drink or whatever else you want to toss in there. We don’t use the pockets too often, but its nice that they’re there (who doesn’t love a great pocket?!)
Here are some sample lunches I have packed in the Rover. You can see they aren’t perfect! You can just as easily sneak in Goldfish or chocolate chips as you can fresh chopped veggies and berries. This is what I love best about the Planetbox containers. I just open the fridge/cupboard and stuff things in the compartments. Lots of variety and room to be creative.
Clif Bar, Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups, blueberries, plantain chips, and a hummus/cheese/honey mustard/veggie wrap:
Grapes, granola bar, Justin’s PB cup, flax crackers and cheese, plus sandwich:
Granola and Greek yogurt, hummus and flax crackers, kiwi, and red peppers. (The containers that the yogurt and hummus are in come with the lunchbox and I use them all the time for containing food within the compartments.)
Apples, fruit snacks, almonds, sweet potato chips, and bagel with cream cheese:
Almonds/chocolate chips (container comes with lunchbox), apples, cherry tomatoes, squeeze yogurt (I keep them in the freezer), and leftover pesto pasta:
Almonds and chocolate chips, pretzels, half banana, leftover Chipotle:
FRIDGE TO GO
For my son (second grade), I use the Fridge To Go bag (Fridge-to-go Cooler Lunch Bag – Insulated Bag Comes WITH A COOLING PANEL, mesh side pocket and keeps COOL UP TO 8 Hrs). This looks more like a typical lunch bag, but it has a slab that you store in the freezer and can pop into a zippered compartment lining the bottom to keep things cold if needed. I use Ziploc bags for some of his food, but I also love these small reusable containers (Fit & Fresh Kids’ Reusable Lunch Box Container Set with Built-In Ice Packs, 14-Piece Healthy Lunch and Snack Kit, BPA-Free Microwave Safe, Portion Control) for things like fruit, cut up veggies, or crackers/pretzels, etc.
I use this Thermos (Thermos Funtainer 10 Ounce Food Jar, Blue) for his lunch, because it fits perfectly in the bag and works great for leftovers (pasta, soup, rice/veggies, etc). I asked him the other day if it kept the food warm and he said not totally, but a little. Hmmm. Sounds like a win.
My youngest (preschool) eats lunch at school once a week, and the classic trio 1 Lunchbots container is a perfect size for what she needs (wouldn’t be great for bigger kids with bigger appetites). For this box, you can also pick the color lid you want, and can change it out by snapping a new one on. I put the container in an L.L. Bean lunch bag and if there is something I want to pack her that doesn’t fit in the Lunchbot, I just add it to the bag.
(Planetbox has a similar lunchbox that would do the trick for younger kids as well, called the Shuttle.)
For the Lunchbots container, I love using these plastic cupcake liners (Pantry Elements Silicone Cupcake Liners / Baking Cups – 12 Vibrant Muffin Molds in Storage Jar). You can actually cram a perfect kid-sized amount of certain foods in them! Here’s an example:
Let me know if you have other favorite lunch packing products!