Monday, August 23

School Lunches: What to pack 'em in!

I honestly don't remember my lunch bag as a kid.  I know I purchased lunch on pizza day, but my mom packed my lunch most of the time.  My lunch bag, I'm sure, was a basic lunch bag.  Because if it was something really cool, I would remember that.

My son is entering the second grade.  Cool is of the utmost importance right now.  Can't be too babyish.  Yet, he's not into superheroes or cartoon characters.  Last year he had a lunch bag that lasted him 5 months.  That's ridiculous, in my mom-pinion.  If it's created for a student, it should be practically indestructible!  What's the point if it's not?!  This year we have a lunch mission: Healthy, Earth Friendly and Fun!

Our lunchbox needed a few specific characteristics:
1) It needed to have compartments.  (We're a "food shouldn't touch" family.)
2) It needed to be an appropriate size.  He doesn't have a lot of room to store things at school.
3) It must be easy to open.  A lot of little lids and containers was one of our problems last year.
4) It should be able to stay cold when it needs to be.  My lil' guy's lunch will sit in his cubby for approximately 4 hours before being consumed.
5) It needed to be affordable and durable.

In my many weeks of research for the ultimate lunchbox, I came across many, many options.  A lot of this research was done in tandem with my friend, Jennifer over at Whatever.  These were some of our family's top qualifiers:

Bento Box & Laptop Lunchbox
These little compartmented boxes are very popular in Japan, where Bento means "a picnic type lunch".  They come in LOTS of styles and designs.  They are super cute and there are tons of websites devoted to people who make adorable little lunches in the boxes.  The kid version of the Bento Box is the Laptop Lunchbox.  Bento boxes do not come in a cooler bag, you have to buy all that separately, but you can buy a Laptop Lunchbox as a full kit for around $40.  It includes the case, the box, the "buddies" you put food in, a set of silverware, a water bottle and a book to help you with ideas for packing lunches.   These look like a great option for many families!  They are reported to be incredibly durable and safe, also a bonus.  The main reason we did not choose the Laptop Lunchbox was a few reports I received of it being difficult to open smoothly.  I admit I have not personally tried, nor has my 2nd grader tried to open one, however.  I also was concerned that the containers would leak into each other if I put applesauce or something into one of the compartments.  It's something still in our thoughts and may become our 'second' lunch box after school starts.

This was P's top choice for his lunchbox.  This box comes in two styles (with and without ears), in 8 colors.  He really liked the slate blue 'too cool for ears' lunchbox.  I really liked the size of the compartments and the water bottle being part of the box.  It's all in one piece and easy to handle.  It looks easy to open and like the foods would remain in their intended containers.  We opted not to go for this box because of the lack of a way to keep cool foods cool.  It didn't fit into any of our current lunch bags and it was a bit tall for the ones I could find online.  I do, however, think it's adorable and I am considering getting one for Maxwell.  If only he needed to take lunch somewhere... ($25)

This is a great plastic free option!  It's a stainless steel tray system with a hinged, fitted lid.  The system comes with a bag, the main tray and two smaller containers with lids for things like applesauce or yogurt.  I'll be honest, right off the bat I knew we wouldn't get it.  $60 for the system was just too much for me.  But the compartments are awesome.  The bags are adorable and the magnet sets really are great for personalization.  I would be concerned about getting those magnets home though.  It seems as though my son would take them off during lunch and they'd never come back. 

GoGreen Lunchbox
This is our winner; the one P can (hopefully) make last a full year.  This system seemed to have it all.  It's compartmented with tight seals, it's an appropriate size, it has a cooler bag and it's only $30.  I like that I can buy an additional tray to fit the bag for only $13.  That's affordable.  I also thought if we needed more food room, we could just take the water bottle out of it's designated area. I was concerned about the locking system that keeps the tray sealed.  Jennifer, my lunch box search partner, who has already received her system she said her little "A" who's going into 2nd grade handled the system fine after a few practices.  I also talked to Kim, the designer of the GoGreen system, and she said if my P couldn't handle it I could send it back for a refund.  That's someone who stands by their work!!  And as a bonus, I'm supporting a mom, not some major company. 

So we have finally made our choice.  I'm happy with it.  Finding a system that allowed for more eating time and less "opening" time was crucial.  Additionally, I found one within our budget, that keeps the food cool and is cool enough for my 2nd grader.  I'll give an additional review after a few weeks of use and let you know how it's working out for us.

Wednesday, I'll be posting some great resources and sites to use for making healthy and fun lunches for the kids.  Make sure you sign up on the side of the blog to become a "follower" so you don't miss anything!

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