Having the right tools for a job makes that job much easier to accomplish. Packing school lunches is no different! If you have the right lunch packing tools, the job becomes so much easier and faster. 🙂
Conversely, the opposite is also true. If you are using tools that aren't right for the job or are unnecessary, it's hindering your work efforts.
With five years of lunch packing experience under my belt now (I can't believe it's been that long!), I thought I would let you know which tools are truly helpful to us and which ones aren't.
Helpful school lunch packing tools:
1) the Bento Box
This is a tool I didn't try until 2 years ago, and I'm kicking myself for not trying it sooner!
I spent years trying different systems and using plastic baggies (ugh!). In addition to adding more junk to our landfills and not feeling good about it (even though I would wash and reuse them), plastic baggies and the other things I tried just made packing lunches take longer.
Then about 2 years ago I discovered bento boxes. I think I had heard of them previously but didn't “see” the benefit of them at the time. I love them and don't know how I made lunches without them! They are now, by far, my favorite lunch packing tool!
Here are the benefits of using bento boxes:
- all the food is in one container (yay!)
- it's reusable so no need for plastic baggies
- the lid is attached to the box, so all you have is two pieces to worry about losing (the box and the inner tray)
- it's easy to clean!
Here is a comparison of our favorite Bento Boxes (you can also download it as a PDF here):
Plus, with the 4 compartments (as opposed to more compartments in the Yumbox), it can fit bigger items like sandwiches, pinwheels, bagels or pizza in there. And the best part? It's more affordable than some other brands – always a win for me! Get it right now for $12.95, instead of the normal $15-$19 price!!
2) Use a great lunch bag
I'm talking about the bag/box you put the lunch containers into. With 3 boys and several years of school under our belts now, we've tried so many kinds of lunch bags!
My favorite, by far, is the Arctic Zone High-Performance Expandable Lunch Pack!
- it expands to create room for more items (if needed)
- it's the perfect size to fit our favorite bento box inside
- it comes with fantastic cold packs and work all day long
- it's affordable
- and it's durable (so important with my boys!) – seriously, the same lunch bags have now lasted our boys 2 years in a row – that's never happened before!
- it's a little bigger than some lunch bags; however, I haven't found that to be a problem at all for us
I usually buy them at Costco when I can find them because they are cheaper there. If you can't find them there, Amazon has them. I really can't say enough good things about them!
3) Add a splash of color
These colorful silicone muffin liners help made lunch fun by adding a splash of color, helping even the pickiest eaters enjoy their lunch!
- help separate foods from each other – put veggies, treats or crackers in this muffin liner to separate them from other items in the lunchbox
- are safe to use
- are easy to clean
- bonus – use them for baking to reduce waste from paper liners!
4) A Great Spork
I love these for several reasons:
- they aren't made of plastic
- are very durable and safe
- they are all three utensils in one so there's less to keep track of/lose!
- Plus they are affordable with several in a set, making it a great deal for families with multiple kids.
These are great for putting smoothies or applesauce into your kiddo's lunches. They are:
- easy to fill
- close with a lid and don't leak!
And the company is owned by a mom! Their customer service is fantastic – I once had a problem with one of mine shortly after I bought it. I called them up and told them the problem. They sent me an entire new set for free!
There are many varieties on the market, but these Little Green Pouches are my favorite.
The Lunch Packing tools that aren't as useful (for us):
Now that you know which tools are super helpful for packing lunches, here are three that you are better off not spending money on:
1) Silicone Popsicle Tubes
I really wanted to love these. With their bright colors and ability to be frozen right up until being packed in lunch boxes, I thought they would be a perfect addition to our lunch packing tools set.
However, I didn't find that scenario playing out the way I had envisioned it.
The contents in the tubes melt quickly (even with cold packs in the lunch boxes), causing them to leak their contents all over the inside of the lunch bag. It is so messy!
Plus, they are really hard to get clean at the bottom, causing the ability for mold and bacteria to grow.
As a result, we haven't used ours in quite some time, and I don't plan to pull them back out.
2) Standard kiddo utensils sets
I have found these to be bulky in lunch boxes (especially when you perhaps need a fork and a spoon that day). Also, with the multiple pieces, it makes it that much easier for your kiddos to forget one and leave it at school, making the set practically useless.
Instead, I have found it to be much more practical to send these amazing sporks – fewer pieces to keep track of, made of stainless steel (no plastic and durable!), and less bulky inside the bag!
3) Plastic baggies
At the risk of being blunt, let me say that they just aren't needed. And because so many are needed to make just one lunch, our landfills are getting filled with them. In fact, with the other great tools mentioned above, they probably aren't needed at all.
However, if you find yourself needing a “baggie”, I recommend these Stasher silicone pouches. You can get them in 3 sizes: snack size, sandwich size, or half gallon. They are a bit more than the cost of a box of sandwich bags, and they can be reused hundreds, if not thousands of times!
Other pros of Stasher silicone pouches:
- are self-sealing
- safe for the microwave, freezer, dishwasher and boiling water
- a healthy alternative to plastic (for both people and the environment)
- are available in 2 different sizes
So there you have it! Born from 5 years of lunch packing experience, these recommendations will help save you time, money, and help the planet just a little too because they are reusable.
Tell us below…what are your favorite lunch packing tools?
Check out these other popular posts: