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. 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.
- 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.
- 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. (Note: The cards are sturdy enough to be reused a few times if they don’t get wet.)
For ideas on what “real food” to pack using these school lunch supplies the check out my School Lunch Ideas post!
374 thoughts on “My Favorite School Lunch Supplies”
I’m always surprised that none of these back to school lists include pack it lunch bags which have built in ice packs and keep food cold up to 10 hours or stainless steal food containers which hold cold for much longer.
What are your thoughts about plastic vs stainless for school lunches?
We should always avoide using plastic material for food packaging, Specially hot food.
Since plastic lunch boxes releas some kind of chemicals when kept in contact with hot food, according to the latest research these chemicals increases the chances of cancer and various diseases. For a child this is more harmful than an adult person.
But with the stainless steel there is no such problem.
I can’t seem to find the neat-os bags – any ideas? No longer available on Amazon and no luck elsewhere on the web either.
PS – I really appreciate this post – my daughter is starting a new preschool after a move and this is the first time I have to provide lunch for her. I am excited to have control over what she eats at school – but also intimidated. Your school lunch plans have been great inspiration.
Hi there. I can’t seem to find them, either. We will try to get that updated. :)
Have you discovered a leak-proof waterbottle? I have found SIGG to be great, but they are super expensive and my kids still lose theirs regularly since they are 6 and 8. I am looking for a more affordable option.
Lisa’s girls use the thermos one pictured above.
Getting ready to send my oldest to school for the first time this fall. Very helpful supplies!! I so enjoy your blog, website and books. It has been a very easy helpful way to improve what I provide my family. Thank you for all you do!!
Thank you for this list – though I realize it is a few years old. My family loves your recipes and we use both of your cookbooks weekly. Your spelt pumpkin muffins are a real favorite and my two year old asks to make them again as soon as we run out. I will start packing school lunches for my soon to be pre-schooler next year and I am thankful for this list. Fortunately she is a great eater, but I have to get used to packing things she can open and eat herself. I have enjoyed seeing the lunches you pack for years – now I have to put it into action!
I also found the ziplock containers back at Walmart. So happy mine were pretty worn out.
Was so happy to see these back at Target since our last one just cracked. Surprised this hasn’t been updated onews here. https://www.facebook.com/Ziploc/?ref=ts&fref=ts
Not sure if Ziplock changed their mind and started manufacturing their divided boxes again, or if they found a bunch in their warehouse and shipped to my local Target, but I found some yesterday! Crazy, because I was ready to get rid of the last remaining one I had due to a couple corner cracks in the large compartment (after about 2 years of weekly use).
My kids are outgrowing the funtainer thermos pictures. What safe drinking containers that don’t leak in backpacks do you like?
There are larger versions of the thermos that works well: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/my-kitchen-essentials/?sShop=thermos&allshopcats=all. They do not have the straws. Klean Kanteen is a good choice, too.
I am surprised that you have not recommended “packit” frozen lunchboxes. http://www.packit.com/ You can check them out, they are sold everywhere, not just on the website. They keep lunches cold ALL DAY. Seriously still cold when they come home from school.
I have 3 yumbox’s for my young kids and love them, have been using them daily for over a year. My only complaint is the silicone lids smell now. I’ve tried baking soda/vinegar. Wondering if anyone else is experiencing this and found any miracle cures out there? I’m seriously considering switching to something else. I frequently put salsa, tuna, yogurt, cheese etc. & the mixed smell of all that in the silicone lid is horrible :(
You can buy those silicon cups in all different size 10pacs for $1.50 at Daiso.
Johnson & Johnson: Bring Back Ziploc 3 compartment lunch containers – Sign the Petition!
Hi! You used to talk about a special divided lunch box but I can’t remember what it’s called. It was safe and very useful.
This will help: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2014/09/23/lunch-box-rumors-true/.
What brand thermos will fit in the side of the lands end lunch box?
Hi. The tall thermos pictured above with the Disney princess. If you click on the highlighted word “bottle”, it will take you to the link. :) They are Thermos (brand) Funtainers and there are many designs.
My husband packs lunch and takes our regular flatware. He wraps it in foil every time. I need a reusable container for regular fork spoon and knife. Any ideas?
Hi there. Can’t find any type of container for flatware outside of those which are resusable sets: http://www.thekitchn.com/green-on-the-go-10-reusable-ut-94914.
The collection is very useful, you gave me an idea how to make my kid’s lunch more comfortable. And Lunchbox Love Cards are super ones to entertain oneself while having a break. Thank you, Lisa! ;-)
Which size Casabella silicon muffin cups fit a ziplock divided lunch container without spilling? It says standard is 3 inches and large is 4 inches in diameter (link no longer shows jumbo) but the height is not specified.
Hi. Lisa uses both sizes.
hi, love your book. Just checked out from the library and had to renew again! Thats my gauge for needing to purchase a book! Suggestions for BPA free thermos? I found one on Thrive Market that is a stainless steel one. My youngest had to have the batman thermos but I was hesitant because of the plastic top and doesn’t say BPA free so I gather Thermos insulated containers like these have BPA.
Hi there. This is from their webpage: http://www.thermos.com/bpa.aspx.
I recently bought the Lands End soft sided lunchbox and am very happy with it. Only problem I am having is finding a thermos or water bottle that will fit in the mesh holder on the outside of the bag–it is a pretty narrow opening. I wanted to know if you have found a bottle that fits on the outside or do you just pack it inside with the food containers? Thanks.
Hi Kim. The tall thin thermos is the one Lisa uses. I did notice with our new LE bags this year, that the pouch seems tighter.
Do you know if the yumbox will fit a smoothie pop mold?
The smoothie pop mold should fit in a Panino, but not the 6-compartment box. You will have to bend the end of it to get it to fit into the Panino.
I want to get some lunch box things for my 3 year old boy. He is starting preschool in a month!
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… :)
Hi AJ. Not together. But, you can put the thermos in one of the outside pockets. You can definitely use icepacks with the yumbox.
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!!!
Yes, they do.
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.
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.
Hi Katie. You can find them and the discount here: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2014/09/23/lunch-box-rumors-true/.
The coupon 100Days no longer works – it indicates it is expired.
I am also interested in the coupon and it isn’t working today!
Hi. We just checked and the coupon is working.
Hi. Give it another try: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2014/09/23/lunch-box-rumors-true/. It is working on our end. :)
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!
Nevermind! I did another search of your site and found 2 pictures. One with the thermos in the bag
and one with the thermos in the pouch
Granted those were the ziplock boxes but I think they are roughly the same size. Thanks!
As of today 3/21/15 when I looked at the Wexy bags, they are no longer available on Amazon. :/
Hi Ashley. Have you seen the alternatives in this post: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2014/09/23/lunch-box-rumors-true/ or here: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/08/09/product-review-lunchboxes/.?
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?
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?
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!
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.