This product review is a guest post by Kiran, our Sales Manager…to learn more about Kiran check out our team page!
Whether you pack your little one’s lunch, bring a bag lunch to work yourself, or take family road trips near and far, storing snacks and other sides are an integral part of the packing process. And with messages everywhere reminding us to “go green” why not ditch the disposable baggies for some more eco-friendly choices instead? The concerns are numerous though: What’s the best material to store food in? Will the storage system leak? Will it help the food stay fresh? How easy is it to use? And at the end of the day (literally), how tough will it be to clean up?
Because I pack lunches for all four of my children, it’s important to me that the products I use are effective and not too time-consuming. And naturally we are concerned with what materials are coming in contact with our foods. Last month we looked at the lunchboxes to use; this month we’re scoping out the best in bags, tins, and other creative containers. I’ll start with an overview and then dive into the details. Let’s take a look:
|Lunch Accessory Product||Material||Made in USA||Leak-proof||How to wash|
|snackTAXI||100% Cotton; interior lining is polyurethane coated nylon||Yes||No||Machine-washable|
|Eco Lunch Gear||100% Organic Cotton; waterproof nylon liner||Yes||No||Machine-washable|
|To-Go Ware||Food carriers/sidekicks: stainless steel||No||Not guaranteed, but was for me||Dishwasher/hand wash|
|Cotton Polyester, 100% Polyester, 100% Organic Cotton||Yes – others also available||No||Wipe clean/top rack dishwasher-safe|
|Biodegradable plastic||Yes||No||Biodegradable/ disposable|
|Lunch Accessory Product||Reusable||Cost||Size||Uses|
|snackTAXI||Yes||Snack sacks: $7.95 and up
Sandwich sacks: $8.95 and up
|Snack sack: 6″W x 4.5″H Sandwich sack: 7.5″W x 6″H||Sandwiches, snacks, fruit and non-food items also|
|Eco Lunch Gear||Yes||Snack bags: $9.50 and up
Sandwich wraps: $9.50 and up
|Sandwich wrap – 13″ x 15″; Snack bags 3.5″ x 6″ or 4 3/4″ x 7″||Sandwiches, snacks, fruit and non-food items also|
|To-Go Ware||Yes||Sidekicks – $4.95 or $6.95||Small sidekick: 1 7/8″ H x 3 1/2″ D (1/2 cup liquid)
Large sidekick: 2″ H x 2 1/2″ D (1 cup liquid)
|Food carriers – full meals Sidekicks – fruit, snacks, nuts, dressings, yogurt, etc.|
|Wrap-N-Mat||Yes||Wraps – $6.50 and up
Pouches – $7.50 and up
|Original: 13″ x 13″ Grande’ Wrap: 17″ x 14″ Large Pouch: 6 3/4″ x 7″ Mini Pouch: 5″ x 5 3/4″||Sandwiches, snacks, fruit and non-food items also|
|WEXY Bags||Disposable or reusable||28 bags for $3.99||5″ x 6″||Snacks, fruit, nuts and non-food items also|
Packing 500+ lunches a year wasn’t just taking a toll on Erin Kelly-Dill; it was promoting the use of plastic as she fell prey to the easy appeal of plastic sandwich baggies. The mom of three decided to take matters into her own hands by creating a bag that empowers everyone to embrace business practices that respect the community, environment and Earth.
snackTAXI’s have been around since 2003 and are made in a Massachusetts workshop by local sewers. The 100% cotton materials, which are lead-, phthalate- and BPA-free, are fun and fresh, boasting designs such as bikes, bunnies, mittens and more. There are options for organic cotton material and even gluten- and nut-free labeled bags. In April 2009, the bags caught the eye of Oprah; a mention on the show’s Earth Day episode sent sales through the roof. In addition to snack-sacks and sandwich-sacks, the company also offers napkins, sporks, containers and more.
I had actually purchased some snackTAXI bags about 3 years ago. I got both the large and the small and have used them over the years. I love the super-fun fabrics that they have; the whole packaging is very appealing. I also love that they are still made in Massachusetts by local seamstresses. In terms of a reusable bag, this bag fits all of my desired criteria. They are fun, sturdy, easy to open, a great size and easy to clean. Simply dump crumbs out, hand wash and air dry, or occasionally throw them in the washer if need be. Unfortunately the pretzels I placed within were somewhat stale after 24 hours. Not horrible, by any means, but not fresh out of the bag. My suggestion: don’t pack the snacks the night before, simply throw them in the morning of. With that one suggestion, this product gets a green light from me.
snackTAXI products are available here on Amazon.
Eco Lunch Gear
Northern Michigan mom Tina Beatty had an itch: she wanted to make changes around the home to be more eco-friendly. It started off with eliminating plastic wrap, aluminum foil and plastic baggies in order to decrease their trash. But without them, she was at a loss in terms of strictly organic packaging items for sandwiches and such. So she went on to create her own. Design goals for her included creating something free of plastics and vinyl and something that could be washed quickly.
A Michigan-made product, the snack bags, cloth napkins, placemats and sandwich wraps are all made with 100% certified organic cotton that is fully certified by the Green America’s Green Business Network. The company quotes that they are “made with love, not pesticides” and stands behind their ambitious ideals that people around the world find attractive.
Their company name sums it up: If you are looking for the most eco-friendly product, Eco Lunch Gear is your answer. The all-organic cotton sandwich wrap inner is covered by nylon, to be void of plastic. The envelope-style design ensures that no little crumbs get caught in the corners. Simply brilliant. Oh, and if you thought that organic prints had to equal boring, think again. These prints are absolutely adorable. Did I also mention that products are machine-washable? Truly the only possible negative is a slightly higher price – but when you weigh your options, they are truly worth the cost. One other slight downside: while many want to be void of plastic, I feel that it truly keeps foods fresher. My test concluded that the Wrap-n-Mat (below) kept the sandwich a tad bit fresher than this product. However, my sandwich was an 8.5/10 on the freshness scale after 24 hours. My advice? Pack your sandwich in the morning.
Eco Lunch Gear products are available on their website and at select retail stores. Check Eco Lunch Gear for details.
While dishing over college topics at a local ice cream store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Stephanie Bernstein took notice that her “for here” sweet treat was served in a “to go” cup. That initial concern turned into an inspiration of the then University of Michigan student, who went on to spend years in the Natural Products industry, food service and wellness fields. The knowledge she gained over the years helped her envision ways to bring her mission, to offer waste-free lunch/snack items, to fruition.
Bernstein’s inspiration started in 1997, but it was 2004 when she founded To-Go Ware. An impressive (and related) resume helped her create everything consumers would need to build a better brown bag. Today, the company offers food carriers, snack “sidekicks”, bamboo utensils (and chopsticks) and more.
The Sidekicks absolutely rock. They’re made of stainless steel and can store lots of great goodies – think nuts, cereal, snacks and sides. The kicker – they are not guaranteed to be leak proof. However, I sent my daughter to school with applesauce in one and cantaloupe in the other. The verdict? No leakage! When it came to my kids, my 4- and 6-year-olds could not open the Sidekicks without assistance. My 8-year-old opened it with ease.
The 2-Tier Stainless Steel Tiffin is definitely a product that adults/teenagers will be keen on, though in my opinion it’s too large for a younger (elementary) child to tote with them. It is sturdy, fits a great quantity of food within and latches up securely to ensure little spillage – please note that it’s not leak-proof, though. With that being said, keeping it upright is most helpful and the bag that can be purchased separately helps to do so (and is handy in carrying it). Great for camping, it’s sturdy, lightweight and easy to clean (dishwasher safe). I love that it’s made of stainless steel and also love that it’s good for hot or cold foods. You can even heat it over the stove (adults, of course) if you wish to warm your food.
Check out To-Go Ware products, including reusable bamboo utensils, at the To-Go Ware website.
Back in 1997, Bonnie Stromme found herself in a pickle: her family of six was headed out to hike in the Rocky Mountains and she was out of plastic bags. Grabbing a paper towel and masking tape, she created a speedy substitute. The concept was a winner, but the sandwiches within were dry. After cutting and creating prototype after prototype, she discovered a winning solution that doubles as a wrap and a mat, hence the name.
Who knew that an octogon-shaped material topped with food-safe plastic could be such a simple solution to keeping sandwiches soft and providing a placemat at the same time?! Stromme stumbled upon the solution 15 years ago and has been providing safe and sustainable products ever since. Products are lead, phthalates, PVC, BpA and formaldehyde free and are offered in two sizes: Original and Grande. The company also produces snack pouches. Choose from organic cotton, polyester and other materials and select between made in the USA or made in China. With so many choices in packaging, the final choice will be easy: it’s a wrap.
My first impression is that there’s a lot of velcro on the wrap … but once I opened it up to my sandwich that I had packed the day before, I quickly got passed the velcro. My sandwich couldn’t have been better. I was fearful of stale bread – and who wants that when they sit down to eat, hungry and all? The bread was moist, and the fillings were perfect. To ensure that it wasn’t just beginners luck for me, I also packed a nut butter sandwich in a Wrap-N-Mat for one of my kids and sent it in her lunch. She also gave me the thumbs up on taste.
What I liked the most was that the wrap provides a great mat to put your foods on. Kids at school can keep their foods from touching the tables (yuck) and you can easily transport crumbs straight to the trashcan. I wipe the wraps down at the end of the day; cleanup couldn’t be easier. Bottom line: yes, it has plastic. But if you can get past the plastic, this wrap is a great solution.
Wrap-N-Mat products are available here on Amazon.
When life gave her son allergies and a food intolerance, Carie Connell made it into a success story. By partnering with a fellow mom, Tracey, whose beliefs about children’s health matched Connell’s, the two ladies set out to create a healthy food package that features four funky monsters that the bags visually interactive and the snacks inside exciting.
More than just biodegradable bags, the eco-friendly BPA-free and disposable snack bags are designed to change the image of “healthy” foods for kids. Fun characters on the outside can compete with the oh-so-attractive packaging that’s constantly marketed to kids on “non-real” food’s packaging. “Sammy the Surfer” eats foods that are gluten- and dairy-free; “Scout the Soccer Player” loves making healthy snacks, and two other monsters illustrated on the bags promote organic and raw foods. The characters depicted on the bags are fun, they have a story behind them, and they are characters kids can relate to. If your child has ever asked for “fun” foods (i.e. – lots of non-real foods that are heavily marketed to children) your answer could just be in the bag.
As much as I’d like to go plastic-free, sometimes the plastic sandwich baggies are just going to happen. Whether I’m rushed, making messy foods to send or my reusables haven’t been washed, I love to have an option on hand that isn’t the basic Ziploc. My kids thought these bags were so fun and they definitely can compete with other “packaged” products, which is a bonus for the kids. The only negative is the cost; I definitely reuse mine and use them sporadically or when I’m in a pinch since they are more expensive than Ziplocs. Sad, but true. They also aren’t large enough to hold a full sandwich but a half fits in nicely. The good news is that they definitely survived the staleness test: I packed pretzels (a very general, easy-to-judge staleness snack) within and after 24 (even 48) hours they tasted as if they came straight out of the bag.
WEXY bags are available here on Amazon.
Our Sponsor: Plan to Eat
Before I ask your opinion about lunchbox products, I want to share my opinion on one of our sponsors, Plan to Eat. I’m sure you’ve heard us talk about them before, but truly they’ve been such a gift in getting my meal planning organized. Each Sunday I sit down and plan out my week. I use recipes that I’ve previously imported into Plan to Eat, or import them in while planning and put them on specific days. The calendar shows me exactly what I’ll be making each day of the week, and the shopping list function makes it almost brainless. My kids love knowing what I’ll be making ahead of time (I post it in the kitchen on a dry erase board) and I love not making umpteen trips to the grocery store. It’s a tool I’m so glad to have found!
Now a question for you: when it comes to packing sides and snacks, what is the most important to you? Material? Price? Being leak-proof? What quality do you look for the most in your accessories?
32 thoughts on “Product Review: Eco-Friendly Lunchbox Accessories”
Does anyone have an eco-friendly thermos to recommend? My son’s school requires a thermos. I’d like something that is not plastic and is kid-friendly. I recently bought one by Thermos but it broke after one day. :(
Hi Allison. You can find Lisa’s choices here: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/08/24/my-favorite-school-lunch-supplies/. ~Amy
Does anyone use cloth napkins? I would like to stop using the paper ones.
Yes, I use cloth napkins, they are a cinch! Just throw them in the wash. I don’t even get a new one every time, even my 2 year old only uses 1 (maybe 2) in a day. I generally use washcloths, though, most napkins are very smooth and I find that the nubbiness of terry works a little better for us. Up to you if you want to use something nicer-looking for guests, or yourself, though. Give it a try, I doubt you’ll regret it!
We use the Snach Stack from Wrap an Mats. A realy useful thing. The slogan: “Just pack it, stack it and go!” ist not lying.
Anyone ever try of hear of Re-Pac? I see there’s a $15 for $30 value Groupon available for them right now. Wonder if they are any good?
We’ve had SnackTaxis for a little over a year. Two notes — if you use smaller loaves of bread for your sandwiches, a “snack” size might do just fine (does for us). Also, you have to *really* let them dry well, or they can start to stink. Not a problem, but I’ve found I have to be careful. In a year, I think we’ve washed them once in the laundry (otherwise just with the dishes). LOVE them.
We also love to use wax paper sandwich bags (especially Natural Value: http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Value-Waxed-Paper-Bags/dp/B001KUSK5G). They can be reused many times, and then you can compost them (or trash, if you don’t have access to composting). The wax covering keeps foods fresh, and they’re easy to make fun by adding stickers on the outside.
These are a great option! I also recently just got them; great idea with adding stickers.
My family uses GreenTime Bags. We have been using them for over a year and they are great. I always pack lunches the night before and the sandwiches and snacks are still very fresh at lunchtime. We love them!
My trouble is we have to be out the door before 7 am. Lunch must be packed the night before. I am trying to rid our home of plastic, but can’t find a way around it yet. I have 2 preschoolers and myself to prep for, and sometimes hubby too. Any suggestions?
We have an early start also … we have to be out by a.m. too. The Wrap-n-Mat seriously kept my bread fresh for 2 days (I tested it out just to see). It’s a great option; yes, a little plastic, but it keeps it fresh. I did a review on lunchbox containers that you can also check out; LunchBots are a great stainless option you may want to consider, it’s a perfect size for preschoolers. HTH!
I’ve used snacktaxis for a number of years and really like them. I would agree with the review that snack will go stale in them so I pack the same day we need them. Also I machine wash them regularly because although they can be wiped out they definitely will develop an odor if not well cleaned. My kids love them!
We use “Planetwise” reuseable snack bags by Nicki’s diapers. They are made locally (local to us anyway) in in eco-friendly manner by a stay at home mom. I agree that they are not leakproof, but I mostly use them for dry/solid things, carrot sticks, raw green beans, sandwiches, pretzels, etc. Works well for us and I feel better for not sending all those plastic bags to the landfill. Occasionally, I also use unbleached “Natural Value” brand wax bags as well. They contain no dyes and are compostable. I found them at whole foods. Though the use of ziplock divided and square storage containers usually eliminates our need for bags in school snack and lunch.
I tried the discount code at snackTaxi and it doesn’t seem to be working. I called them, but just got a message machine. Any help?
I tried it and it worked. It’s case sensitive – did you use 100DAYS20?
I adore my 3-level To-Go-Ware tiffin. My son used it for a while, then stopped because “it wasn’t cool, Mom.” The only thing I don’t like about it is having to put my rewarmable food in something else to microwave it.
But I’ve been packing food for my son in Glassware (like Snapware, but the bottom container is glass) lately, and he hasn’t complained of the weight–and I love that he’s able to microwave his food in something that isn’t plastic! It’s sturdy enough that I’m not really worried that it’ll break, either.
I looked into that plastic-covered vinyl for making our own snack/sandwich bags and couldn’t get past the plastic. Apparently, you can use linseed oil to make your own oilcloth, but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s trying it for a commercial product these days. I may try it just to see one of these days.
You didn’t mention waxed paper bags! I like those for sandwiches and snacks when it needs to be disposable (for a school trip, for example) but I don’t want to use plastic. This would be a pack-your-sandwich-in-the-morning item, of course.
Thanks for the info!
Ah, never mind. Just found it. I had to click on the shopping cart to show my order. Thanks,
Oh good, I was just going to reply. Glad you found it! :)
I tried to order some things from Snack Taxi and went all the way up to confirm the order but saw no place to enter a promo code. Any ideas?
I have the To-Go Ware tiffin, and I like it. One other benefit to mention is that the top tin has its own latches, so you can use just one tier when you don’t need both. Most tiffins require both (or more) tiers stacked together for the latch to work.
You are right … thanks for mentioning!
I love To-Go Ware!! I have a bunch of the sidekicks, and they are perfect. I send them with my kids everyday and have just recently purchased more to use for myself.
I love my lunchbox. It;s a lot like the To-Go carrier – three tiers. People always laugh and say it’s my “war rations” but I love it.
My kids love the wexy monster bags! I can’t leave the house without a snack in one of the bags. We also use thermos for messy wet foods and they are completely leakproof.
I really liked the wrapnmat! These are easy, fun, convenient.
I am looking forward to see a blog on containers that keep thr food/lunch hot. My 7 yr prefer hot lunches…i am having trouble finding the right container.
I bought something very similar to snackTAXI about a year ago. They are BPA free, made in the USA by Seattle moms. Check them out. http://reusies.com/index.html.
Another good one is lunchskins (http://www.lunchskins.com). Created by moms and made in the USA. Ease of use and cleaning are important to me.
Thanks for the very helpful tips!
I am so excited to try a few of these for my preschooler! I’d like to get in the habit of using Earth and people friendly items for her and my lunch as much as possible.
My 10 year old daughter’s biggest concern is that her lunch not leak everywhere. A mess is embarrassing to her. So for now my biggest concern is that what I purchase must be leak proof.
That is the EXACT thing both my boys complain about. They dont even want a drink or iceblock that “sweats” in their lunch box. The insulated thermos fixes that & I wrap the block in a reusable napkin, which then doubles as a nice damp “handi-wipe”, but with applesauce…. Those lids BETTER stay on or the whole day is ruined.
For ice packs, I would recommend the Kids Konserve Sweat-Free ice packs. They have worked so well for my kids, we love them. It’s an ice pack with a cover made from recycled plastic bottles. You can find them on Amazon. Hope this helps!!