• Clear the Clutter – Make room for you with these tools:

5 lunch packing tools you need and 3 you don’t

This post contains affiliate links, for which we may receive compensation at no cost to you, should you choose to make a purchase.  All opinions expressed are genuine and all products mentioned are products that we personally use and highly recommend.  Thank you!


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):

My personal favorite bento box is the WonderEsque.  It’s a little larger than the Yumbox, so it’s perfect for slightly older kids.  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!

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 ColdLok Expandable Lunch Pack!

The Pros:

  • 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!

The Cons:

  • 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.  If you can’t find them there, Amazon has them here.  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!

They also:

  • 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 from plastic, are very durable and safe, and 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.

You can find these here!


5) Reusable smoothie pouches

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!
  • reusable

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.


How about lifetime access to our ever-growing FREE resource library? Enter your email to receive access to tips, recipes, and so much more!

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 great 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. They are only slightly more than the cost of a box of sandwich bags, and they can be reused so many 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?



Now how about a little fun?

With school just starting for some students and just getting ready to start for many kiddos, we thought we would share the Bento Box love with you!

Enter to win a free WonderEsque Bento Box (like the one discussed above) – but hurry, because this contest won’t last long!  Here’s to making school lunches easy! Rules are below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rules and Fine Print: This giveaway is completely sponsored and paid for by Made In A Pinch. The prize is valued at around $25. Giveaway Begins August 25, 2017 and ends September 4, 2017 at 11:59 pm Mountain Time. We will contact the winner on or around September 5, 2017 by email. The winner will have 3 days to respond before they are disqualified and a new winner is chosen. We may share your first name, last initial and comment publicly but will not share any other information with anyone. Giveaway only open to US residents, aged 18 or over, residing within the 48 US contiguous states. We are not liable for errors stemming from lost/delayed e-mail, posting or typographical errors, technical failures, etc. Void where prohibited by law.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to the owner of this Facebook page and not to Facebook


Check out these other popular posts:

25+ Ideas for School Lunches (that your kids will love!)

Tech in a pinch: Kids’ headphones

Simple and delicious Slow Cooker Peach Crisp




  1. My biggest challenge is trying to keep the food cool

    • The lunch bags in the post come with reusable cold packs (score!) – AND they have zippered pockets on both sides of the lunch bag where you can put the cold packs – it works like a charm!

  2. My biggest struggle when it comes to making school lunch is not being able to reheat for my kiddos at school. It would be great to give them a home made hot lunch when it gets cold!

  3. It’s hard to keep it fresh (berries, veggies, etc!) and also to keep it all separated!

  4. The biggest struggle is the leaking from my daughters lunch bag.

  5. I love the idea of reusable items, like the silicone muffin cups to keep things separated and full of color… I’m just afraid they’re going to get thrown away. So fingers crossed….and away we go!!

    Thanks Heather & Lisa for sharing all these awesome tips!!!

    • I was afraid of that too at first (and still am sometimes, given my middle son’s impulsivity!), but I just explained to them and showed them what I was talking about when I asked them to make sure to bring them home each day. Thus the reason I LOVE the bento boxes – fewer pieces to leave at school!

  6. My biggest challenge for lunches is variety. Hubby prefers sandwiches & finger foods for on the go eating.

    • I completely understand! I have this deep rooted feeling from my past that sandwiches and finger foods are more filling, which isn’t at all true! It IS hard to find variety, but totally possible!!

  7. I never have a container like this to put it into. I dont like when foods run together and this keeps them separate.

    • Yes it does keep them separate! Plus, because it’s leakproof, you don’t have to worry about spillage into other compartments or outside of the container!

  8. Bento boxes are so fun and these are great! I like those popsicles makers too!

  9. I would say making sure to get enough good for you foods.

  10. What great ideas! Packing school lunches every day is no joke and any ways to simplify the process, I’m all about it.

  11. These look good for travel too!

  12. This are great ideas! I need to pick some up!

  13. My son isn’t even in school yet and I found this post super useful! We do eat on the go a lot (and we love our day trips to the zoos, museums, etc), and these products really seem like they will bring a lot of use to our family! Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *