This post is the first of a series of school lunch posts that are designed to help you pack nutritious and yummy food for your little ones!
Remember when school lunchboxes were metal with a cartoon character on the front? And they slowly rusted over the school year? Me too. Those days are long gone. If you find a metal lunchbox nowadays, it’s made of cruelty-free, organic, free-range stainless steel and will cost about as much as your first car.
There are an overwhelming number of school lunch boxes available for purchase today. This post will not cover each of them, because I could probably send my kid with a different lunchbox each day of school and not ever repeat. For the sake of (my) sanity and post brevity, I’ll overview some common and popular school lunchboxes, as well as food storage containers that go inside them. I conducted a highly scientific and statistically accurate survey* to gather information on this topic.
*I asked friends on Facebook.
New Wave Enviro provided one of their Litter-Free Lunch systems for review. It comes with four containers (large, medium, and two small sizes) and a beverage bottle. They also included a stainless steel insulated container. My daughter likes both variety and quantity in her lunches, so this lunch system is perfect for her. The containers wouldn’t fit a standard sandwich without some creative sandwich-cutting, so if your child is a loyal sandwich eater, that is something to consider. The lids are easy to remove, and the containers are easy to clean. In San Antonio, you can find their lunchboxes at Whole Foods. The lunch kits are also available for purchase online.
Bentology provided a Bento + Lunchbag Kit for review. My kids have been using these products for three years, and we are big fans. I love Bento-style systems, as they encourage packing a multi-component lunch. The quality is high, and the lunchboxes are quite durable. Bentology often sends out discount codes if you follow them on Facebook or subscribe to their mailing list. If your child is prone to forgetting to pack the lids or other components back into his/her lunchbox after lunch (like a certain child in my home), be prepared to order replacement lids.
photo from potterybarn.com
Several friends mentioned that Pottery Barn Kids’ lunchboxes work well with several different types of food storage containers, which leads to the next topic: Containers for inside the lunchbox.
Inside the Lunchbox
For two years I’d been sending my son’s lunch in a Ziploc portioned container every day. (My daughter likes a little more variety, so depending on her lunch, her lunch container varied.)
I loved that it only had one lid to be removed, made washing easy, and that extra lids were easy and cheap to replace. This summer I went looking for more containers, and after searching several stores AND commissioning my mom and mother-in-law to search their local stores, came up with nothing. After hitting up the Google, I found this post from 100 Days of Real Food sadly reporting that the oh-so-affordable Ziploc portioned lunchboxes are no longer of this world. The 100 Days blog post reviews two alternatives, one of which, Easy LunchBoxes, is a favorite of several friends and Alamo City Mom Blog contributors. They end up being about $4 a piece, so as a friend so honestly admitted, the frustration with your kid if he/she accidentally throws one away will be minimal.
photo from easylunchboxes.com
Another popular product that is readily available are the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox sets. I’ve seen these everywhere this year: Costco, HEB, Target, and Wal-Mart. I personally love the Salad Kits and use those often for myself, my husband, and my salad-loving daughter. My kids have used a flat lunchbox for the last couple of years (retired Bentology lunchboxes), and the Rubbermaid products are made to stack in a taller lunch bag with a pretty square footprint. Word on the street—or, more accurately, on social media—is that the Rubbermaid sets work really well with Pottery Barn lunchboxes. Rubbermaid also sells lunch bags that are specifically designed for their Lunch Blox system.
photo from rubbermaid.com
The other product that came up often in my oh-so-scientific Facebook poll was Sistema containers. They are readily available at major retailers as well as online. Folks appreciated the easy locking system, variety of sizes/shapes/configurations, and durability, not to mention the reasonable prices.
photo from sistemaplastics.com
The Planetbox system is pricey, but a few of my friends swear by it. The quality is high—most report they’ve used the same box for years. The multiple compartments in the Planetbox encourage sending a well-balanced meal.
Good ol’ plastic bags are always an option, but I personally appreciate the more environmentally friendly reusable containers listed above, as well as the gentle reminder to send multiple food groups.
Your turn! What is your favorite lunch system?