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The BEST School Lunch Gear

The BEST School Lunch Gear - Columbia SC Moms BlogLike most parents in mid-August, I begin the school year with the best of intentions.

I lay out carefully selected matching outfits the night before the school day and the backpacks have been double checked and lined up by door like soldiers awaiting their orders. Shoes are placed on the floor next to them to avoid the last minute dash of trying to locate footwear, and breakfast ingredients are prepped and waiting in the fridge and on the counter. My own clothing is set out and ready and coffee maker is on standby. The only hitch in this perfectly staged back-to-school dance is the fact that my husband keeps laughing at me.

Please don’t misunderstand! He is just as much a part of this process as I am as we work together to make sure our children are fed, clothed, and sent off to be educated every morning. But he knows something that I continually plead ignorance about: This whole system will dissolve by October.

I think I will be diligent in keeping us on track, but there is a 100% chance that my enthusiasm will taper off and give way to the drudgery of repetitive school days. I forget there will be future days of wearing mismatched socks to school and starting the day with a tummy filled with toaster strudel instead of the whole wheat pancakes and fruit they are used to now. It is the inevitable ebb and flow of the school year.

But. They still have to eat and lunches cannot be forgotten. I may occasionally send them to school with unsigned reading charts, but by golly, I can’t slack on meals. I have children who are older and can make their own lunches, and children who are younger and still need help.

And over the years I have realized something. No matter how crazy the rest of our days get, there are a few things that make packing lunches SO much easier, efficient, and enjoyable. A no brainer, if you will. Good lunchbox gear has helped streamline our mornings and that can only be seen as a very good thing!

These are some of the items that worked for us and our friends. Be sure to leave some comments below on what YOUR favorite lunchbox supplies are!

L.L. Bean Lunchbox-Basic


When it comes to lunchboxes, I am pretty neutral. This one from L.L. Bean holds the square containers mentioned below and I can still fit a skinny water bottle in next to it. My son happens to have the design pictured here. My daughter’s lasted from kindergarten thru 4th grade with no problems and we only replaced it this year because as a 10-year-old, the design was a little young.

They stand up to machine washings and have never broke, frayed, or ripped. However, there are a gazillion different options out there and we have occasionally used random designs that have crossed our paths, all with success.

Just be sure that you are purchasing your containers and your actual lunch sac with BOTH in mind. If you can’t fit the thermos in the lunch box, it obviously isn’t going to make it to school!

PackIt Freezeable Lunch Bags


These lunch bags are so cool! Ha! No pun intended…

The whole thing folds up and stores in the freezer, chilling the whole bag! No need for freezer packs and I kind of love that! They come in a ton of different designs and sizes so this just may be your new favorite cooler. Lots of designs to choose from and easy to pack, carry, and store. My daughter is 10-years-old and this is perfect for her as she heads into Intermediate and Middle School!

EasyLunchboxes 3-Compartment Bento Lunch Container


These beauties make my life so easy! What is it about different compartments that make meals so fun?

There are lots of different places to get something similar, but these have worked for me and my family. They fit snug but not so tight that my kids can’t get them open, which has been an issue in the past.

They aren’t completely spill proof if there is liquid in them which was an initial concern of mine. As it turns out, if I send my kids with soup or yogurt or anything else that may leak, I always put it in a thermos to keep it cold/hot anyway, so it didn’t matter.

The compartments are just big enough to give my kids some variety in their meals, but not so big that the portions are more than they can finish during the lunch period. They are super easy to clean and the different colors make it a cinch to keep each one separate. I recommend getting two sets!

Thermos 10 oz Funtainer


What can I say? These things are so awesome. We have been using them for years and they seem to be indestructible. They keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Simple right? They are easy to just toss in the dishwasher and they come in such a huge array of designs, the hardest part will be picking one out. Get one for yourself too! They are so darn handy you will be using them for your own lunches. My kids love to get soup or stew in them for lunch, but oatmeal is fun too!

Trudeau Fuel Soup On The Go Container 16 oz


I found these containers about a year ago and the adults in the family love them. The middle colored part is actually an extra compartment for bread, crackers, extra veggies, etc. It keeps whatever you want in there completely separate and dry. These seal tight, are microwaveable and dishwasher safe.

The only reason my kids aren’t a fan is because they are a bit harder to twist apart and they are rather big. Perfect for older kids, but a bit much for grade school and they don’t fit in a standard lunch bag. Their usefulness, however, trumps most of that for me and we love them. You decided for yourself!Random Note: These come in a two pack and only in the colors shown.

Sistema Lunch Cube


In a nutshell, all I have to say is that these things are super neat.

The lid closes and the whole thing folds in half like a book and clips closed. It keeps a ton of food all tucked together in one spot, as long as that food can be turned upside down. My kids think this is the neatest thing ever, but the compartments are too big for my youngest munchkins. Older elementary on up, it is perfect. It stays closed nice and tight and has lasted us YEARS!

Sistema Split Food Storage Container-Small


Yup! Another product from Sistema. These items from the KlipIt Collection are pretty awesome and these are probably my most favorite container ever. The compartments are small and perfect for extra lunch items. I use these almost everyday and occasionally pack my own stuff in them when I am running errands.

They are thin and super durable and very easy to open and close. My kids have to pack their own snack everyday and that is where these get the most use. Just big enough for a few different things, but nothing gets crushed or mixed together. Love. Them. Ours are several years old and still look like new!

Nalgene Jar


Originally purchased for camping, I grabbed this tiny 2 oz. container for veggie dip one morning when I was in a hurry. It was the perfect size, didn’t leak, and was super easy for my kids to open. From that day on, they were confiscated for permanent lunch box duty. They are great for holding ketchup or dip or salad dressing, but I also use them to tuck a few pieces of candy or a scoop of chocolate chips in there for a treat.

Lifefactory Glass Water Bottles


I have been on a personal mission to find a water bottle that doesn’t leak. So far, regardless of leakproof claims, most of them have let me down. I am, however, pretty impressed by just about everything Lifefactory Sells. The bottle come in several sizes and the little ones are great for lunch boxes. Nothing has broken and while they aren’t quite perfect, they are pretty close. We like being able to choose the different colors and I hope they last for a really long time! Plus, they look pretty cool. 🙂

Nalgene Grip N’Gulp


For the most part, these water bottles have always been a favorite of ours. They are durable, easy to use, and virtually leakproof. All of our kids have used them and they have made it years with the family.

The only drawback I can’t think of is that the mouth spout doesn’t collapse. I have had Moms protest about this before, claiming it would get dirty being constantly exposed and therefore, unsanitary to drink from. This has never concerned me and while my children are not animals, I have no doubt that something more disgusting than a water bottle mouthpiece has been in their mouths at some point in time. So for now, we continue to use these and we continue to love them.

Looking for food to fill these awesome lunch boxes?

+ Click here for lunches and snacks perfect for toddlers and preschoolers!

+ For recipes that any age will love to have packed with them to school or work, try this list!

+ Focusing on super healthy, whole food options for your family? These are just what you need!

What are your must-have lunch box essentials?

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