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School Lunch 101: The Basics

*Special thanks to a military mom of five for all of this great information.

I LOVE school supplies. My favorite time of year was back to school shopping. There is nothing better than new notebooks, folders, pens, and something to organize it all. Even now, while I am insufferably cheap and use random pens that come home in my husband’s pockets and free pads of paper from various organizations, I love to look at fancy stationary stores and office supplies. While most schools have taken the fun out of school supply shopping with the standard list of supplies that are to be delivered anonymously in an unmarked bag, they have not taken the fun out of lunch!

There is nothing wrong with sandwich baggies and a brown paper bag, but it can be more economical, environmental, and fun for your child to have his or her own containers, utensils, and lunchbox. The most important trick for all of these items is reminding your child that it all comes home with the lunchbox and does not end up in the school cafeteria trash!

Lunchbox: Let’s be honest, lunch boxes can go through a lot over the year. I remember watching my youngest brother kick his down the street as he walked home. It is important to pick one that is durable and easy to clean. (L.L. Bean’s Back-to-School sale runs until August 27 with code KIDS20). Here are three of my favorites:

Pottery Barn Kids Classic Lunchbox

Lands End Classmate Lunchbox

Hanna Andersson Whats For Lunch Bag

Yumbox: Now we need something to put in the lunch box. Yumbox is a Bento style leakproof lunch box – You can fill it with yogurt, apple sauce, dipping sauces, etc…, and it will NOT leak. There are many different styles and colors to choose from. I purchased ours on Amazon, but Yumbox also has a website and the company currently has a 20 percent off coupon for first-time customers. The Yumbox has several compartments, and many are labeled with food groups, making it easy to fill with food the night before and slip it right into the lunchbox in the morning while prepping breakfast.

Yumbox

Yumbox on Amazon

Silicone muffin tins: Want to make lunch box clean-up WAY easier (and lunch more colorful)? Place these muffin tins inside the Yumbox dividers and put the food inside. Place one in each of the smaller divided sections for fruit, veggies, applesauce, cheese, etc. Then when the kids come home, toss those into the dishwasher and wipe down the inside of the Yumbox. Just make sure you order enough muffin tins to make it through two to three days!

Pantry Elements Silicone Cupcake Liners

Silicone Smoothie Pop Molds: Fill with a smoothie and pop them in the freezer. Take the molds out of the freezer in the morning and they are slightly melted by lunch, just enough for kids to push the pop up from the bottom. Include an empty plastic bag for kids to put the mold in when they are finished to ensure no leftover smoothie leaks into the lunch box. The molds fit in the lunchbox next to their Yumbox. The best part about this is that you can make the smoothie in bulk ahead of time!

Food Works Silicone Ice Pop Maker

Thermos: There are a lot of items that kids don’t mind eating cold, but if you want to send a warm lunch, consider a 10 oz. kid-sized thermos. You can send anything cold or hot and it lasts 5 to 8 hours which should be plenty of time for your kiddo make it to his or her lunch break.

Thermos Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Food Jar

Lunchbox size friendly Tupperware: Here is the trick. Depending on the size of your lunchbox, you may not have room for the Yumbox and a thermos. On the days you send a thermos, pack fruit and veggies in mini Tupperware that easily fit into the lunch box. You can most likely fit three mini Tupperware containers and the thermos in the lunch boxes. You also can use the silicone muffin tins in the Tupperware to make the lunch more fun and possibly more convenient when it comes to cleaning. I actually have an amazing set of tiny plastic containers that I purchased in Copenhagen several years ago, but I doubt I can tell you how to buy them. Yes, I am that cool that I went to Denmark and came home with tiny containers for food!

Glad Food Storage Mini Containers

Lunchbox Utensils: Want to be environmentally friendly? Put one of these spoons and forks in the pocket of their lunch box. For bigger kids, try the reusable spork. Again, remind them they come home every day to be washed, and they don’t go in the lunch room trashcan.

Ikea Plastic Multicolored Flatware

Light My Fire Spork

Reusable Snack Bag: Do you have to send a snack for your child? Try Itzy Ritzy reusable/washable snack bags. Saves on the plastic baggies and they are cute and fun! Lots of different prints to choose from.

Itzy Ritzy Reusable Bags

Kleen Kanteen: There are many water bottles out there, but this is one of our favorites. This bottle fits in the outside of a lunchbox and comes in several different colors. Fill it with cold water in the morning and it can be used at snack and lunch time. If you have super little ones going to Mothers Day Out or preschool, you can by the leakproof spout as opposed to the sport spout.

Kleen Kanteen Stainless Steel Bottle

What other gear do you like for school lunches?

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