Whether you’re a veteran parent or sending your little one off to school for the first time, back-to-school season means it’s packing-lunch season, too. It’s hard enough figuring out what to feed the picky kiddos, let alone how to pack their food. But we’re here to help.
Here are a few tried-and-true product suggestions from our editorial team that will ensure your student’s food and drink stays at the right temperature, doesn’t leak and gives you one less reason to worry.
Gone are the days of creaky metal lunch boxes and brown paper bags. Today’s lunch boxes are soft-sided, insulated and close with a zipper or velcro. Kids can still pick their favorite characters or designs—there are more options than ever. Wildkin is a reliable brand that offers numerous shapes, sizes and non-branded designs for kids to choose from.
A bento-style lunch box has different compartments, so you can pack a complete meal in just one container without any food mixing. Bentgo is one of the best-known brands of this style of lunch box and with good reason: they look nice and they work well. You can put yogurt in one compartment and pasta in another, and there will be no cross-contamination or leakage.
Since most schools don’t offer refrigeration, you’ll need to help that insulated bag do its job with an ice pack. You don’t necessarily need ice packs specifically designed for lunch boxes, but you’ll want to look for something slim enough to fit in the lunch bag along with a bento box.
Whether your child prefers mac and cheese or soup for lunch, one thing is for certain: they probably won’t eat either cold. For those days when a PB&J just won’t cut it and you want your kiddo to enjoy a hot meal hours after you’ve packed it, you’ll need an insulated container. Thermos Funtainer stainless steel vacuum insulated food jars have an easy screw-on wide-mouth lid. Plus, they are leakproof and keep food hot for hours and hours.
There’s a good chance you’ll need to pack one or more snacks to keep your child full of energy throughout the day. Disposable plastic baggies work in a pinch, but if you want something more eco-friendly and economical, it’s worth investing in Stasher silicone food-grade reusable storage bags or something similar. Bumkin fabric snack and sandwich bags are also a good kid-friendly option for dry snacks.
If you’ve packed anything other than finger food, your child will need a fork or spoon. Unless you want your silverware set to end up missing a few pieces, it’s worth getting some inexpensive cutlery specifically for school lunches. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with them.
There are some specific requirements when it comes to water bottles for kids. They need to be leak-proof, able to keep water cold all day and easy to clean. A straw bottle isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s usually the vessel of choice since it helps prevent spills. Takeya insulated water bottles fit the bill. They come in various colors and in 14-, 18-, 24- and even 32-ounce sizes. If having fun characters on their water bottle is important, kids can always stick a decal on the side. Thermos Funtainer insulated straw water bottles are another great option and come with a wide range of non-branded and character prints.
The only downside of straw water bottles is cleaning them. But get yourself a water bottle cleaning set with brushes sized to fit both the water bottle and the straw and it won’t be an issue. If you want to skip the cleaning and pack a juice box instead, be sure you do your homework to determine the healthiest and unhealthiest juice boxes.
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