School Lunches – Ugh!
Isn’t that how most of us feel?
I mean I really think it is the thing I dread most about my kids going back to school.
However, having four kids who are now all school age, I do believe over the years I’ve managed to I’ve come to come up with system for making school lunches that makes it a little less painful. Dare I say even easy.
First, I came up with rotation of quick, easy & healthy school lunch ideas and some non sandwich school lunch ideas that have reduced the time and stress that can often be a part of preparing school lunches for our kids.
But the key to getting my system just right ended up being as much about the food as it was about the supplies. You know, finding containers that were actually spill proof and thermoses that kept the food warm until lunch time.
After trying TONS of different types of lunch boxes, containers and other lunch related products, I eventually found my must have, can’t live without favorites.
Now, I know I’ve got products that I can rely on that are durable, easy to use, and that will actually fit together in a lunch box. Hopefully, I can save many of you the trial and error I went through and have you Lunch Pros in no time.
The BEST School Lunch Supplies
Note: Almost all the items I’m listing are available at Amazon. Clicking the links or pictures will take you to Amazon if you’d like to read more about them or order them.
PackIt Freezable Upright Lunch Box, Go GoPackIt 10” inch 10 h hour Freezable Foldable Reusable Multipal Uses Lunch Bag with Adjustable Strap – Premium (Go Go)Ziploc Container, Divided Rectangle, 2-Count(Pack of 2)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 ControlThermos Funtainer 16 Ounce Food Jar, PurpleRubbermaid TakeAlongs Twist and Seal Food Storage Containers, 1.2-Cup, Clear, Set of 4 (2-Pack of 4)CamelBak Eddy Kids Back To School Water Bottle, Octopus, 0.4 LLunchskins Reusable 3-Pack Sandwich Bags – Tree, Bird, and Shark
School Lunch Boxes
I really and truly think this is one of the only “As Seen On TV” items I have ever bought and I didn’t buy it on TV. I actually found the first one at Bed, Bath and Beyond and then picked up a second a year later at Target, so each of my kids had one. These are amazing, b/c the cold pack is built into the entire lining of the lunch box.
They come in two styles. A traditional rectangular version and than one that collapses down to a flat rectangle that only takes up a small space in your freezer. You pull them out when you’re ready to pack the lunch and they will stay cold the better part of the day. I’ve found that these lunch boxes will keep stuff cold much longer than you’re typical freezer packs for lunch containers. When I’m sending items, especially dairy, that I know need to STAY COLD, these are my go to lunch box.
School Lunch Storage Containers
Alright, so how many of you have kids that BEG to be able to take Lunchables to school?
As we’ve become more educated in recent years about what is IN all that pre-packaged food, we are often looking for healthier alternatives, but at the same time we want our kids to be happy and to actually eat their lunch. Well, these handy containers meet both needs.
You can “create your own DIY lunchables” with healthier items, but that still come in a cool package. They typically come in a two pack and I’ve never had leakage between the compartments in three years of using them. EVER! I have a hard time finding them in stores, so I typically order on Amazon.
When I’m making a more traditional sandwich lunch with sides, I really like reusable containers, but separate cold packs don’t always work well and have a way of “accidentally” getting thrown out at school. It took me a long time to find these that have removable ice packs which snap in and out, but now I couldn’t make lunch without them. They do a great job of keeping food cold and fresh and are BPA free.
Another way I make lunch prep a lot easier is to cook one dinner a week that creates leftovers, which can be used later in the week for lunch or frozen and used for lunches later. A great one is our Meatloaf Muffins.
Most of the time, these items need to be kept hot until my kids are ready to eat them at lunch. I’ve found these do the trick and are just the right size. My kids like them b/c they come in all sorts of favorite character versions from Star Wars or Minnie Mouse.
So many of our kiddos love dips! Catchup, Ranch, Hummus – you name it. BUT for the longest time I couldn’t quite figure out what to put all these dips in that fit well in the lunch box and that wouldn’t spill. In the end I found these small round ziploc containers were the best for my kids. They were easy to open so my kids didn’t the liquid all over and could close them back up tightly and easily so no lunch spillage.
School Lunch Water Bottles
As I mentioned above, I don’t send my kids to school with juice boxes. This is a personal preference thing and yes I consider it more eco-friendly as well. Also, my children are allowed to keep water bottles at their desks during the day at school, to cut down on the interruption of constant fountain visits. However, since they keep it at their desks, I don’t want them leaking and I don’t want their to be a lot of condensation on the outside of the container that could get their school papers wet.
I’ve tried about a dozen different types and while usually a little more expensive, I’ve NEVER had one break or leak and they do manage to keep the water cool without ice for most of the day. I also like that they are just the right size for kids and they do also have lots of fun kid designs to choose from.
Okay, as mentioned, I do make some choices for my kids lunch that aim to create less waste. However, I’m also finding more and more that while upfront some of these items may be a slightly larger investment, over time they end up saving me money.
One item where without a doubt this proves true is reusable snack bags. Again, I’ve tried many of the brands that are out there, but the only ones that have stood the test of time (and that really come clean in the top rack of the dishwasher without failing apart) are these Lunchskins. They have a large selection of patterns that are super cute and stylish, so even BIG kids will want to use them.
That pretty much covers my “lunch making took kit essentials”, but along the way I’ve found a couple just for fun items that I’ve come to use more often than I might have originally anticipated.
Quirky Lunch Box Supplies to Make Lunch More Fun
Sunsella Silicone Popsicle Molds/Ice Pop Maker – Multi Color, Set of 6 with Lids – (Bright) BySandwich Cutter for Kids – Best Stainless Steel Sandwich Cutter Set – 4 Bread Cutters Shapes for Kids Suitable for Cakes and Cookie – Bonus 4 Vegetable Cutters ShapesIkea Kalas 901.929.62 18-Piece BPA-Free Flatware Set, MulticoloredAmazonBasics Reusable Silicone Baking Cups, Pack of 12
We like to make smoothies at our house and with this cool Silicone Ice Pop Maker Set, you can actually send a smoothie to go. You want to freeze it COMPLETELY first and I confess I sent them in a plastic baggie the first time “just in case”, but they didn’t leak, I couldn’t believe it. They also fit well into the larger section of the Ziploc containers above if you just bend the bottom flap a bit. They will melt a bit by lunch time and be perfect smoothie consistency.
Most of the time, I’m not into all the “cutesy” ideas where it looks more like artwork then school lunches. Plus, I just don’t have the patience. (I think my children have gotten one of those lunch notes about twice in their lives).
However, someone actually gave us these Sandwich Cookie Cutters and on occasion I will use it to add a bit of flare to an everyday PB&J. My kids have actually gotten a few others over the years, but none of them really seemed to be effective at cutting through the whole sandwich as these. They come in lots of different shapes.
Again, in my attempt to be eco-friendhly and reduce waste, I found these AMAZING brightly colored reusable utensils at IKEA (but they are available on Amazon!!) My kids often like to use them at home and not just at school.
They are incredibly inexpensive, so the fact that one doesn’t make it home from time to time is not the end of the world.
If you get on board with the whole DIY lunchables then these cheery silicone muffin cups can really come in handy for creating more sections. They also work great in the lunch containers I mentioned above if you’re just putting more than one item in. Overall, I just keep finding uses for these cute little cups all the time and so I had to mention them.
I have no doubt with these school lunch supplies, you’ll find making school lunch for your kids this year at least a little less stressful. I also think making them with a big mug of hot coffee totally makes it better. OR as you’re kids get older, teach your kids how to pack their own school lunches.
More School Lunch Ideas:
What are some of your favorite school lunch supplies?