The very first posts that I shared on my Instagram account were those of my oldest's lunchbox when she started Moms Day Out in the Fall of 2015. At that point, I was a young mom, feeding my first kid, and still very much figuring out the ins and outs of not only packed lunches but also picky eaters.
Since then, I have packed hundreds of lunches and learned a lot along the way. I have found products I loved, realized which ones are unnecessary and which are essential, and come up with an arsenal of the best lunch packing supplies.
So if you are doing some back to school shopping for items to use in your child's school lunch, check out my recommendations below. You'll quickly see which are essential, as well as get a bit more insight on the extra special product additions we enjoy.
For most of us moms, we were raised on the good ol' Ziplock bag. In my case, I can recall my parents always wrapping sandwiches in plastic wrap and otherwise using those plastic bags that folded over the top for everything else (instead of zipped). Rarely was there a tupperware tossed in and even then, it was most definitely not compartmentalized.
As a kid, I remember thinking how "all the cool kids" got zip-top bags in their lunch and envied those over my "fold over the top" types. Now, there are so many items to redefine what makes a "cool lunchbox." What is most ironic about it though, is many of the items shared below are intended to make packing school lunches EASIER on your, not the other way around.
So check out the items I share under each of the following steps to see which items I recommend you stock up on for this school year. Then, be sure to snatch the coupon codes (where available) so that you can save a bit more on your back to school shopping!
The Best Back to School Lunch Packing Supplies
Please note that some of the following lunch packing supplies include affiliate links. These do not cost you more money, but help Veggies & Virtue continue to grow and offer you fun free resources like this post. For more on my disclosure policy, please visit my legal page here.
Step 1: Add Food
To pack a lunchbox, you don't actually have to have a bento box or lunch box (although I highly encourage that you do). While other approaches to packing lunches have worked for generations, I have to say I am 110% on the bento box band wagon.
Bento box systems (like Yumbox) or compartmentalized tupperware containers (like EasyLunchboxes) are seriously sanity savers. Instead of opening up, filling, and sealing several little containers or bags for your child, you can put everything that is needed in one single container and call it lunch. Not only does this waste less, but it gives you an obvious platform to pack a lunch from.
This is the bento box we have used since my oldest's first day of school. She is now 3.5 and still uses the same Yumbox we bought for her first year of Mom's Day Out in the Fall of 2015. I shared a previous product review of the Yumbox here if you would like more product details. Since the time of this review, we have also added the MiniSnack and Tapas boxes to our lunch packing arsenal and love each of them in their own ways. I recommend these lunchboxes to anyone who wants a high-quality, long-term lunch-packing solution.
Okay, so these are amazing. Awhile ago, we had bought something similar to this by Ziplock brand. However, they were hard to find and when we went to buy more, they had changed the design. Since a cluttered tupperware closet doesn't make anyone excited about packing lunches, it drove me to find a new solution. That's when I found EasyLunchboxes. They are a super cost-effective option for anyone who likes the basic premise of bento boxes, but chooses not to spend quite as much on anyone single box. My husband and I have been using the classic colored EasyLunchboxes for over a year now, but we just got a new set of the EasyLunchbox brights (which I love)! EasyLunchboxes also has some mini dippers as a great way to include small containers of sauces and dips that won't spill (as EasyLunchboxes are not leak proof).
So whether you have several kids, like to pack a few days worth of lunches in advance, or want one system your whole family can use, THIS is your box. It is universal enough for a little in Mom's Day Out, a preschooler or school-aged child, a stay-at-home mom, and working dad to all have their lunches packed and ready for where ever their days take them.
Full disclosure - this is a brand new bento box to us this school year. However, it helps answer a problem I hear a lot of parents having: I need more ideas and options outside of just cheese and crackers or cold sandwiches. With its design, the OmieBox is able to hold both hot and cold foods while keeping them at their intended temperatures. Considering we have packed only cold lunches for the last two years, I am already certain this lunchbox will have a new place in our lunch packing routine. I have loved playing around with it so far and am excited to start sharing what I pack it in soon.
For 15% of your OmieBox, use this link (affiliate link).
If you aren't convinced that a bento box or reusable lunch box system is what you want this school year, there are some reusable bags by Stasher that may be your school lunch packing solution. These work well in addition to a packed lunch or in place of the bento/lunch box solution all together.
For 15% off your order, use code VIRTUE15 when ordering at www.stasherbag.com.
Step 2: Add Fun
I know some parents who won't use a cookie cutter in their kid's lunch if their life depended on it. Then there are others who use egg molds everyday to shape the most elaborate bento boxes. I like to think I fall somewhere in between depending on the day. Sometimes I keep it SUPER simple (especially since our second child came along!), and other times I get a bit more festive and utilize fun options to flare up my girl's packed lunches. Here are a few of my favorite fun add-ons!
Fun and yet functional, Pick-ease are kid-safe pokers that take your traditional toothpick to a new level. With a design intended for small hands and a dishwasher safe material, these are age-appropriate and economical additions to any lunchbox. They make getting small items out of bentos even easier on kids, plus they may help picky eaters get more excited about what's being offered - all because they get to poke it to pick it up (i.e. they don'd have to touch it!).
When you want to create barriers between different foods (due to preference or to prevent something from getting soggy), using silicone muffin cups can be a great way to go. With a variety or shapes and sizes, these are an easy way to design your own bento box in any sized or shaped container.
The options for cookie cutters are endless but we have found a few that are our favorites for year round use (affiliate links).
Step 3: Add Love
Lunchbox Love Notes
There are a lot of times I feel like I channel my mom as a kindergarten teacher, and adding in little lunchbox notes is no exception. I think to all the notes she wrote and tucked into my lunchbox as a kid and what a warm reminder it always was of her love, presence, and support during the school day. With sweet messages of encouragement, words of wisdom, and the very sentiments we would hope stick with our kids at school, these are another addition I love to keep on hand. These cards also have fun facts on the opposite side, so you not only have double the options but also may be able to get two uses out of each if they come home unruffled.
Step 4: Add Labels
The fact that I have been able to use one single set of these labels since my 3.5 year old was born (because they're still on some of the first items I ever put them on) is just darn right impressive. In being cheap, I admittantly tried a few other brands since our youngest was born because I didn't realize what a difference there is between good vs bad labels! Now knowing and having had the frustration of labels that fall off with each wash, I am loyal and a big lover of Mabel's Labels.
Step 5: Add Bag
My personal favorite lunch bags are by Lands End. I love the matching soft-sided lunch bag and backpack combo they offer for the size, quality, and functionality of the set. Unfortunately, their patterns are limited and in a way not to my liking, so we went with another backpack and lunch bag for our youngest this year. Our oldest continues to use her matching set from Lands End though and it remains in excellent shape after two years in Mom's Day Out. The Lands End lunch bag fits the Yumbox Panino perfectly as well, which has made this our favorite bento box + lunch bag pair.
Another great option if you are going to use an EasyLunchbox is their lunch tote. EasyLunchboxes also shares ways to jazz up and personalize their lunch totes here, as well as a list of other lunchbag options that fit and the necessary dimensions here.
Step 6: Add Ice
These are my favorites (affiliate link). We have used these ones for going on two school years now and continue to be pleased. They work well, are a slim fit, and work in every lunch tote we've tried them in! We have never had an issue with them leaking, and they seem to stay cold for the course of our daughter's school day.
A Few Final Items You May Want to Add
A few of the other items that all parents may want to consider packing each day include a good leak-proof cup or water bottle and hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial hand wipes. Also, depending on if you send finger foods or a more involved dish, also consider along sending reusable silverware as well.
Off to School They Go!
So there we are. All packed and ready for another school year! I hope this round up of some of my favorites was helpful to you and will get you set up for a successful year of packing school lunches.
If you haven't done so already, be sure to enter our Back To School Lunch Packing Supplies giveaway over on my Instagram page!
I am teaming up with Yumbox, EasyLunchboxes, Lunchbox Love, Pick-Ease, and Mabel's Labels to give away all the lunch supplies you need to get started this school year! Giveaway runs from 8/16/2017 until midnight on 8/18/2017.