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I’m not in a situation where I need to pack lunches for all my kids every day, but I know that many of you are! Regardless of how many kids you have, planning for lunches is part of your grocery costs and part of the burden you bear for managing your household.
This week I’m sharing a short series on school lunches, this is #2 of 4. Check out the others in the series:
Today we’re going to focus on saving money on school lunches with some practical gear. Yes I know the brown bag and ziploc bags work, but some other items will be a much better (and possibly cheaper) option in the long run.
Best Lunchbox Products
The thing about packing your child’s lunch is that in order to really save money, it’s best to make an investment up front in products that you can use for years to come. Here are some lunchbox products with excellent ratings that will hold up over time:
L.L. Bean Lunchboxes
L.L. Bean lunchboxes are high quality and come in a variety of designs. The best part is they have a return policy where they will replace your lunchbox if it fails. I have a friend who bought a lunchbox when her son was going into kindergarten and had to replace it two different times over the course of his elementary school days, but each time L.L. Bean replaced it for free.
We definitely see deals on lots of brands, and this may be one area that you let your kids get a new design every year. I would highly recommend that you always go with the flat box type rather than bag designs. When it comes to fitting in containers and leftovers you’ll find it much easier!
Yumboxes are designed to fit into a lunchbox with an ice pack so that things can be kept cold. They sell several varieties with various options for how it’s divided; some have 6 compartments and some have fewer so that you could include a whole sandwich. These are great for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that even young kids can easily and close the latch. Also, it’s spill-proof, so you can put yogurt or applesauce in one section and not worry about it spilling into another section. You can buy them on Amazon, but sometimes the Yumbox website runs special deals (right now, first-time customers can get 10% off).
A cheaper option than a Yumbox is to buy a set of Easy Lunchboxes. These aren’t quite as durable, but they also claim to be spill-proof and come in a variety of sectioned designs. There are many other types and brands to pick from, some that come in 21 packs if you are worried they will get lost.
You may ponder why this will save money…
Going with a hard container to hold items, especially ones that won’t leak is going to increase the number of options you have for items to add, plus you’ll be able to grab a big jar of apple sauce rather than individual pouches or cups. Here are a few ideas that containers allow:
Applesauce, Yogurt, Pudding, etc. that you divide up
Cut vegetables with dip
Homemade fruit salad
Not to mention fruits that would be mush by lunchtime in a ziploc and many other things.
Contigo Water Bottles
You may choose to pack juice boxes in your child’s lunch for convenience’s sake—no judgment here—but another option is to buy a durable water bottle. Contigo water bottles hold up to heavy use and will probably fit in the side pocket of your child’s backpack. This is also our brand of choice of coffee travel mugs, Contigo as a whole is a brand that doesn’t leak and everyone will love!
Even the most predictable of kids might get tired of sandwiches after a while. These Thermos containers are great for sending hot food to school—they can keep it warm for up to 5 hours. This opens up a lot of options for what you can pack: think meatballs, chicken nuggets, leftover pasta, or soup!
You can go off-brand here, but we also see great sales on the name brands. Anything that is going to hold hot liquid is probably not an area to risk leaks.
Reusable Ziptop Bags
If you’d rather not keep throwing away small Ziploc bags, consider investing in a package of reusable bags for packing lunches. I will say, though, that I’d only recommend these if your kids are trustworthy enough now to throw the bags away accidentally!
Instead of purchasing individual applesauce or yogurt containers, invest in some reusable pouches and fill them with whatever you want. You can even make smoothies, fill the pouches and freeze them, and then put the pouch in the lunch to slowly thaw until lunch time.
Before you start sending a fork or spoon to school, check and see what is available at lunch time. You’ll probably find that the kids can easily grab any cutlery they need right there and have one less they need to bring home. If not though… I’d recommend going with a catch all spork. The Light My Fire brand designed for camping is the most durable and will last for a few years! We have these in our camping gear and lunchboxes.
Don’t buy all of these products at once. Start small and slowly build your collection of lunchbox products!
Do you have any brands or products that have worked great through the years? Let us know in the comments!