My Favorite School Lunch Supplies

A lot of these items have been shared at one time or another on the blog, but I thought it would be helpful to have everything together in one post. So below are the supplies I love to use when it comes to packing school lunches. Before I dive right into the school lunch products though I have one other back to school tip for you…and it’s our newest sponsor, Cozi. Cozi offers a pretty impressive (and free!) service, which is a shared family calendar that can be accessed from anywhere. It helps keep busy families organized by tracking different schedules (including sending appointment/activity reminders to your email or phone), shopping lists, to-do lists, recipes, and meal plans. Does anyone currently use Cozi? What do you think?

Okay, back to school lunch supplies…please feel free to share your favorites in the comments below:

  • Ziploc Divided Lunch Containers. These are my favorite lunch containers because they are inexpensive, leak-proof, and easy-to-use with only one lid to open. For other lunch container options check out our recent lunchbox review post.
    [UPDATE 9/23/14: These containers have been discontinued, but I researched alternatives for you.]
  • Thermos Bottles. We love these bottles because they are insulated, leak-proof, durable, and they don’t sweat on the outside.
  • Thermos Containers. These containers are great for sending warm lunches when you need a break from sandwiches …think oatmeal, soups or leftovers.
  • Mini Round Containers. These happen to be the absolute perfect size for a single muffin and it also keeps them from getting smushed. When I send soup in a thermos I oftentimes send a muffin in one of these as well.
  • Ice Packs. I don’t like to hold back when it comes to keeping my daughters’ lunches cold…so I usually add 2 – 3 ice packs. I like these flexible blue ones because they can be cut to any size (and they are light-weight), and I also like to throw in a fun animal ice pack as well.

  • Lands End Soft Sided Lunch Bags. To ensure all these goodies will fit in one lunch bag you don’t want to mess around…not all lunch bags are created equal! We use the Lands’ End soft sided bags and love them. They will hold a lunch container and Thermos bottle along with several ice packs. Alternatively you can fit a Thermos bottle, Thermos container, and one other container (that will hold something like a side of fruit or a muffin) in these bags as well.
  • Smoothie Pop Molds (a.k.a. Ice Pop Makers). We freeze smoothies, yogurt and applesauce in these molds and then wedge them into the Ziplock divided containers where they partially defrost by lunchtime. To learn more about how these molds work check out my recent post all about them.
  • Reusable Napkins. When I first started packing lunches for my daughter I would look in her lunchbox at the end of the day and not even be able to tell if she used her napkin or not…and then it would go in the garbage. That seemed like such a waste so we started using cotton napkins that I wash with the rest of our laundry on the weekends. We bought some plain white, small cocktail napkins and tie dyed them ourselves, which by the way is a great way to hide stains, but you can also get napkins that are already colorful and ready to use like these solid colored ones from Laptop Lunches.
  • Reusable Silverware. If I am no longer going to throw away lunchbox napkins at the end of the day then why still use plastic, disposable silverware? For things like soups, cut up fruit, pasta, and oatmeal we’ve been using an inexpensive small set of silverware and it works great because I don’t fret if a utensil gets misplaced.
    lunchbox silverware on 100 Days of #RealFood
  • Fun Toothpicks. It’s hard to resist a sandwich if there is a bumble bee toothpick sticking out of it. I always keep my eyes open for cute toothpicks, and I usually have good luck finding them around the different holidays at Target or anytime at Party City. Here are some fun and colorful Martha Stewart picks.
  • Cute Cookie Cutters. Whoever said “cookie cutters” only had to be for cookies! Now just imagine that sandwich with the bumble bee toothpick in the shape of a flower. You might just get the “Mother of the Year” award. :) If you are worried about wasting the bread ends after you cut out a shape simply throw them in the freezer for things like croutons or breadcrumbs. You can also use the cutters on other lunchbox items like fruit and cheese.
  • Biodegradable or Reusable Baggies. Yes plastic throwaway bags are quick and easy, but I am going to try to be better about not using them this year. Some great alternatives are “monster” Wexy bags, which are biodegradable or these reusable bags from neat-os, which I think most resemble the ziplocs we are all know and love!Neatos Storage Bags
  • Silicone Cups/Muffin Liners. These liners are great for both baking muffins (because they are non-stick, colorful and reusable!) and also for adding some cuteness to your child’s lunchbox by holding side items like fruit or trail mix. Note we use both standard and jumbo sizes depending on our needs.
  • Freezer-Safe Glass Jars. These jars are perfect for freezing individual portions of soups and other meals that can then be defrosted, reheated, and added to a Thermos container for your child’s lunch bag. I defrost my soups in the fridge overnight and then reheat them on the stove the next morning before school. Just be sure to leave some room at the top of the jar so the food has room to expand.
  • Ice Cube Trays. These trays are the perfect way to freeze small portions of things like applesauce or tomato sauce so you can add a few cubes to your child’s lunchbox the night before school. Now you no longer have to worry about jars of sauces spoiling before you can use them all up.
  • [New item added in 2013] Lunchbox Love Cards. We quickly fell in love with these adorable little cards last school year and have been sending them in our daughters’ lunch boxes ever since. Sure I could write my own note daily, but the thing is I could never be as creative or funny or thoughtful as these. Also, I love the fun facts and jokes for kids on the back of each card. I flip through the pack and pick one that’s appropriate for the day…and my daughters look forward to getting them and sharing the jokes and trivia with their friends at the lunch table. Be sure to use our coupon code “100Days” for 20% off your order. (Note: The cards are sturdy enough to be reused a few times if they don’t get wet.)
    lunchbox love cards

For ideas on what “real food” to pack using these school lunch supplies the check out my recent School Lunch Roundup post!

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  • Comments

    1. Betsy |

      Do I need to purchase “freezer safe” mason jars? I have A LOT of mason jars and don’t understand why I can’t just use them. Thanks!

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Hi. Most mason jars (Ball and Kerr) are freezer safe. It is important to use wide mouthed jars when freezing. Those with shoulders will crack when food expands. Pay close attention to the freeze lines on all canning jars.

    2. Nadia Baird |

      I am sad too that Zip lock has discontinued those helpful containers. I am wondering if everyone got together to write letters or signed a petition to the company, someone out there should take notice.If Zip lock refuses after we make the effort to voice our demand then that would be a careless business decision. Lisa, are you willing to organize such an effort?

    3. Ashley Greer |

      First, I want to say I got your cookbook (as requested) for my birthday Tuesday and I LOVE it!! It is so well later out, and the grocery list template AHH thank you!!! My grocery list this week is all from the cookbook I’m so excited to dig in! I am also so upset about the ziplock lunch containers…I seriously feel lost without them! I am hanging onto dear life to my two last containers but the lids have cracks in them lol I cannot keep sending these to school but don’t know what to do! I cannot find an alternative :( I find it weird ziplock cannot tell you why they pulled them?

    4. Kristi |

      As of today 3/21/15 when I looked at the Wexy bags, they are no longer available on Amazon. :/

    5. Alexis |

      I’m trying to find a lunch bag that will work with the easylunchbox AND the thermos you show above. I was looking at the land’s end bags you have and was wondering, does the thermos fit in the side pouch or do you put it inside the bag. Do you have any photos of the box and thermos and bag in action? We are trying to do this mid year when stores have limited or no lunch stuff in stock so I can’t see anything in person (my daughter switched schools to a pre-school that does not supply lunch so we are trying to get all the gear now). Thanks!

    6. Katie Clark |

      Why did you take the yumbox off of your favorite school lunch supplies? I saw it earlier this year and have been saving to buy three for my kids for school this fall. I just noticed that they weren’t on your list anymore. You were offering a discount on them earlier.

    7. |

      With two months remaining in the school year, my daughter declared that she could no longer tolerate the processed food at public school. After packing my son’s lunch every day in private school, I had nightmares about packing lunch for her. The solution we found was Zojirushi’s Mr. Bento. There are a variety of sizes and the parts aren’t dishwasher safe, but you can pack a variety of foods safely. Her model contains two separate compartments that will keep foods either hot or cold – not both – and two compartments for foods that can be at room temperature.

    8. Julie |

      Hi, Wondering if the Ziplock lunch containers fit the Lands End soft sided lunch box. I have found the Ziplock containers at Target about a year ago and now what to buy my son his first lunchbox. Thanks!!!

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Yes, they do.

    9. AJ |

      Does the yumbox and the thermos container fit in the land’s end lunch bag together? Can you put icepacks in to keep the yumbox cold while the thermos stays hot? Figuring out my options for the upcoming school year… :)

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Hi AJ. Not together. But, you can put the thermos in one of the outside pockets. You can definitely use icepacks with the yumbox.

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