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.
- 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!
- 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. 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.)