By Andrea Tomkins
It’s hard to wrap your head around back to school season, but it’s coming.
I used to get anxious thinking about all the things I need to do in preparation for the first day of school. It’s such a busy time, and there’s just so much to think about that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Trust me when I say that one way to regain that sense of control is to (a) make a list and (b) get ahead of the crowds.
First, make your list. This is the time to sit down with the kids and review the things you need to buy but don’t forget to make note of the things you already have. Divide and conquer! Although we need to consider clothes, shoes, school supplies, and possibly a haircut, today we are focusing on lunch gear!
A few weeks before school starts, send the kids in to organize that huge kitchen drawer that holds all the lunch containers. Swoop in at the end to assess. Is everything clean? Does everything have a lid? Which one is the leaky water bottle? Reviewing your current stash before you go shopping will save you time, energy, and money. Don’t forget to check last year’s lunch bags and backpacks too. Depending on the severity of the stains (and let’s be real, ghosts of lunches past), soaking them in a solution of Oxy Stain Remover can help a lot and may allow you to put off a purchase.
Food and snack containers
Bento continues to be a big trend in lunches this year. There’s something really attractive about all those little compartments, and they somehow make lunch a little bit more fun. Plus, bento-style boxes are easy to pack and carry. This six-piece Bento box set by Bentology is a budget-friendly way to keep order in the lunchroom! A terra20 website reviewer made some good points about this particular lunch system: “I love the bentology bento box! We use it mostly for packing a lunch and snacks for our toddler when we go out for the day because it keeps wet food and dry food separate.… Really convenient to have all food in one place and not in 5 different containers in our bag.” We agree. Thank you reviewer!
Another popular brand in the realm of the bento box is Planet Box. We love the simple design. These stainless steel boxes are built to last, and are customizable with fun magnets so if your princess decides she wants to be a astronaut (or vice versa), you don’t need to buy all new gear next year. See the different Planet Box lunch systems we have in store to see which is best for you.
Here’s something new by Yumbox, it’s called the Yumbox Tapas, and it’s a great way to pack food for active pre-teens, teens, and even adults. Each set comes with a 4-compartment tray. Younger kids would definitely appreciate the Original Bento Box, with six smaller compartments it brings a bit of fun and variety to lunch hour and snack time.
Drink containers and bottles
Our kids had easy access to water fountains so I never worried about them being thirsty, so I packed a smaller amount of liquids when they were in elementary school. I like the Tritan line of water bottles, like this space-themed one, for younger school-age kids. They’re 450ml and are dishwasher safe. Older kids usually appreciate a more subtle design. We really like Lifefactory water bottles. They’re glass, but don’t let this deter you. Their silicone sleeve make them amazingly resistant to breakage and easy to hold.
It’s important to get the right size lunch bag for the intended user and it’s helpful to “try it out” while you’re in the store. Go ahead! Fill it with some smaller containers, leaving room for loose food such as apples or oranges, and a drink container, if you use one. If it doesn’t fit, consider moving up a size.
I love the look of Fluf’s Classic Lunch Bags. They’re just adorable, not to mention durable and washable! Also good to know: their snap closures are easy for small hands and the lining is totally food safe (phthalate-, bpa- and lead-free).
Everyone gets tired of sandwiches, so switching things up with soup and crackers, spaghetti, or mac and cheese keeps things interesting. (I’ve known parents to pack hot oatmeal and pancakes too!) Hot-food containers are a great way to use up leftovers too, whether you’re serving them up hot or cold.
The trick is to keeping hot foods hot is to fill the thermos with piping hot water for a minute or two before pouring it out and adding the food. I’ve cheaped out on thermal containers before and always regretted it. It’s better to spend a bit extra on a great thermos because (a) they work and (b) will last a long time. Consider that you’ll probably never have to buy another one again! View an assortment of thermal food containers at terra20 right here.
Other helpful items for the school lunch box
I love ice packs! Paired with the right kind of lunchbox, they keep the interior a few degrees cooler, which is ideal for foods like yogurt, cheese, and grapes, which I don’t like to eat at room temperature. The designs are just so cute, like this Kitty & Fox due by Bentology. Who knew you can express yourself with an ice pack in your lunchbox? Check out the variety of ice packs in stock right now. They’re not just for lunches either. I use them for weekend picnics and have reached for one to ice a bumped knee or elbow.
Leakproof dip and dressing containers are a savior for the lunch box and help keep things clean and organized. These mini stainless steel containers are great for dips, condiments, and snack foods that are too small for other containers such as cranberries, raisins, and berries.
Reusable snack bags save you money by cutting down on the number of disposable baggies that get tucked in to lunch bags every day. Check out this Green Monster bag set by Russbe. Durable, washable (dishwasher safe!), with a stand up design, they’re perfect for kid lunches and will save money in the long run.
One last tip, make sure you label everything! On the surface it might seem like you’re spending extra at at time when the family budget may be tight, but these Emily Press labels will be money well spent when that lost themos or stainless steel bento box makes it home to you.
It’s helpful to keep in mind that you don’t need to have everything organized down to the last detail in time for the first day of school. You have lots of time, even after school has started. So take a deep breath, and enjoy that first day back.
Looking for more litterless lunch solutions? Take a look at our monthly features: https://terra20.com/pages/monthly-features