While some might consider packing school lunches as a mundane task, that gets more repetitive and tedious as the school days go by, having the right tools at hand can make this chore a breeze. The most important tools are the lunchbox and bottle, but of course, having a small variety of accessories will make life easier.
The choice of lunchbox will have a great impact on the way you pack your lunches. There are loads to choose from but make sure you choose something durable that will last more than one scholastic year. Look out for lunchboxes made from safe materials and that are also dishwasher safe. You don’t want to be hand washing lunchboxes every day!
We fell in love with the 3-compartment Yummi gear lunchboxes which are available from Vanilla Mummy. They are affordable, and light so they are easy to carry even on picnics. Made from BPA-free wheat straw material, they are convenient for many reasons: they are stackable so easy to store, microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe. They are also easy to open, easy to clean, and have colour options, which is ideal with more than one child.
Another favourite is the Yumbox. It is completely leak proof and you can serve yogurts, sauces and juicy fruits all in the same lunchbox without them leaking out, or even between compartments. The layout of compartments allows for a variety in the lunch ingredients and also helps as a guide on portion size. Although a little pricey, it is durable and ours still looks the same after a couple of years. Whatever box you choose, make sure that your child knows how to open and close it or that a teacher or carer can help them with it.
For everyday use, a bottle which is lightweight and leakproof is the best choice. Make sure your child knows how to open the cap because some might be tricky or too hard to open. My daughter changes her bottle style every season, but right now she’s loving the Sistema Twist ‘n’ Sip Bottle . This is easy to use and easy to clean with only 2 parts. For the warmer months, choose an insulated bottle such as the Thermos Funtainer Bottle. This bottle can truly keep water cold for hours on end, even in the hot summer days when my daughter had a longer day at summer school.
3. Other containers
Silicone baking cups are handy when the lunchbox is not divided into compartments. I usually use them for muffins, fruit, crackers etc, to section them off from other foods. They also add colour to the lunch and make it seem more interesting.
You might also need separate containers for other items outside the main lunchbox. For example a yoghurt, cereal or fruit that has to be taken at a different time than the main lunch, or as an added container when the lunchbox is small. The Sistema Containers shown below are small and flat and ideal for this job.
Insulated food containers are handy when you want to send warm foods such as soup, pasta, and other meals. However always check if this is allowed in school. Make sure you buy a good brand and that you are likely to use it. Pour hot water inside it and let stand for a few minutes before using the jar. This will preheat it and keep food warm for longer. You and also use it tokeep food chilled such as yoghurts and milk. I’ve used the Thermos FUNtainer Food Flask shown below ever since my daughter was in childcare.
4. Ice pack
Check with the school what time the children have their lunch. If you think the food might go warm or there is food like ham, egg or cheese which could go off by that time, do include an ice pack with the lunchbox. This will make sure the lunch remains fresh, just the way you prepared it. These flat ice packs shown below are slim and will fit inside a lunch bag easily.
5. Insulated bag
An insulated lunch bag is an extra bonus, whether you are using an ice pack or not. It will also keep the lunch separate from other school items in case of leaks (keep in mind that even though the lunchbox and bottle might be leak-proof, if the child doesn’t close them well they will, of course, leak)
6. Additional items
These are not necessities for the packed lunch but they are good to have since they make lunch more interesting and child-friendly. They also make lunch-preparing more fun for us:
- Food picks and forks – for picking fruit and pasta
- Sandwich cutters – For transforming a boring sandwich into an animal, car, butterfly , dinosaur etc.
- Cookie cutters – I use these for shaping cheese slices, pancakes and other small lunch items
So these are the basic accessories to make packing lunches easy. Make sure to have a designated area for preparing lunches, so that the above are easy to find in one part of the kitchen by assigning a cupboard or trolley for all the items that you use.