Head of the Class: Eco-Friendly Lunch Containers for a Smarter Planet

With back-to-school time just around the corner, I thought it might be helpful to Simple Kids readers to re-run this post by contributor Mariah Bruehl, founder of Playful Learning, about eco-friendly lunch containers.  Enjoy! ~ Kara

Every winter tends to lead to the infamous lunch-packing rut. To break the cycle this year we made a resolution to reduce our lunchtime waste. We decided to shed our plastic baggies and set out to investigate eco-friendly lunch containers. As a family, we learned a lot along the way and feel great about the choices we made for both the planet and our bodies.

Here are some tips that might be helpful as you start to navigate your green minded lunch-packing options.

The Food

When deciding which food-storage products are right for your family, the first thing to consider is the types of food you will be putting into your new reusable containers. When making choices about what to include in your child’s lunch, it is helpful to have a formula in the back of your mind.

Below is a list of the daily food essentials that we use to guide our decisions, along with a few options for each category:

  1. Fresh fruit: apple, orange, strawberries, blueberries
  2. Fresh vegetable: carrots, cucumbers, edamame, celery
  3. Main meal: sandwich, soup, leftovers
  4. Salty and crunchy: nuts, seeds, whole grain pretzels or chips
  5. Sweet: dried fruit, yogurt, applesauce, Fig Newmans
  6. Drink: water, milk

The Reusable Containers

With a clear idea of the types of food that you will be putting in your new containers, it will be easier to make selections that suit your family’s needs.

Here are a few of our tried and true favorites:

  • LunchBots Stainless Steel Pico (small) – LunchBots’ Pico is a versatile container that has two small compartments that are perfect for holding two halves of a sandwich, fruits, vegetables, snacks, and desserts. I bought two for each of my children’s lunches and use them every day. I find it helpful to use one Pico to hold their fruit and vegetables and the other to hold their sweet and salty snacks. Although the lids are not leakproof, they stay closed tight and have never opened unexpectedly. The only drawback to these containers is that the paint starts to chip after repetitive use in the dishwasher—yet the convenience of their size and two sections keeps me coming back to them on a daily basis, paint chips and all.

  • To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Sidekick – These small, round stainless steel containers are great for snacks on the go. They are the perfect size for small helpings of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or pretzels. The lid seals tightly and I often put these in my bag so that I have snacks on hand when needed.

  • Lunchskins Snack Bag – Lunchskins Snack Bags are simply genius and have allowed us to completely replace our plastic bags. With Velcro closures that seal tightly and keep food fresh, there is no need for the plastic alternatives. The Lunchskins bags are made out of the same food-safe material used in bakeries and are easy to clean with soap and water. We use these for lunches and for on-the-go snacks in the car. They come in really fun colors and patterns and are a big hit with the other kids in class.

  • Klean Kanteen 12-oz. Stainless Steel Bottle – We have been happily using our Klean Kanteen water bottles for years now. We started off with the sippy-cup lids, transitioned into the sports tops, and now use the screw tops for lunches (the sports tops are not leakproof)—all with the same 12-oz. bottles. Klean Kanteens are dishwasher safe and nearly indestructible!

  • Thermos Lava Food Jar – The Lava Food Jar is a nice compact size and is great for keeping soups and pastas warm. They seal tightly and are a breeze to clean both by hand and in the dishwasher. We have been Thermos fans for many years now and have been happy with all of their products thus far.

What we found after investing in our reusable containers is that the routine of using them on a daily basis inspired a more consistent approach to packing healthy foods. Our daughters love the fun colors and prints, and we love the empty lunch boxes that come home from school!

More Lunch Packing Inspiration:

What are some of your tricks of the trade when it comes to packing lunches?

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  1. Great ideas. This is also a great way of educating kids about waste, reuse and eco consciousness and these learnings will stay with them for life.
    Arohan´s latest post: How to Find an After School Program for Your Child

  2. I have a friend who lives in Canada and her daycare REQUIRES that they use all reusable containers in the packed lunches! What a great idea!
    Also, I use my LunchSkins all the time!
    Just Plain Joy´s latest post: Link Love- 8 Favorite posts from the past week

  3. Those containers are adorable! I want one!
    Samantha @ Mama Notes´s latest post: In Which I Try to Explain Being a Stay-at-Home-Mom

  4. I’m just about to buy Dacey’s lunch containers for the year. Thank you for this timely reminder of the great stuff out there!
    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s latest post: Links for 2010-08-03 delicious

  5. Oh I love those reusable snack bags. I throw so many plastic bags away and these are just so cute!
    Tina @ Ride On Toys´s latest post: Power Wheels Jeeps Provide Twice The Fun

  6. love this post. I’ve tried to become better about carrying lunch but I have a number of abandoned lunch boxes as they all seem to get dirty, not keep cool and not fit food as well as I would like. eventually most jobs have a fridge and I just bring food for the week and eat that way.

    linked to your post on my blog though as I think its worthwhile for everyone – http://parentplanet.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/great-sites-8-12/

  7. I just wanted to let you know about a leak-proof stainless steel Bento box that is available at http://www.steeltainer.com

    Since they are leak-proof you can include dips and yogurt as well in your lunches. They have an adjustable and removable compartment divider so the size adjusts to what you need. Being airtight, food stays fresh even if stored for days (such as cereal, trailmix, crackers etc.


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