August 11th, 2011
What? Who? Where am I?! It’s already time to start thinking about back-to-school?! Wowzers! Though it’s hard for me to believe, in some places I might even be a little behind schedule. (Thankfully that’s not the case here in Brooklyn.)
Whether school starts in just a couple of weeks or not for another month, I’ve got the goods you need to know about. These are (over 20 of!) my favorite lunch boxes, baggies & accessories for the season. All non-toxic and BPA-free, many uber eco friendly.
Before we dive in, you should know that I am not currently working with any of the companies represented in this guide. I have not been paid by anyone to write this, nor have I received any products related to this guide for free. I have either tried and loved the products on this list or am excited to try the ones that fit my very specific guidelines, developed by lots of experience packing lunches. If you have experience with any of these products—good or bad—chime in. We all want to hear from you.
Now let’s get to it!
An old standby perhaps, but with good reason. Skip Hop Zoo Lunchies are still, hands down, my favorite, especially at $14.00. These BPA- and phthalate-free lunch bags are fun (especially if kiddo has a matching backpack), easy to maintain and roomy. They are also durable. Ours from last year is still going strong. The only problem with that? I have no excuse to by one of the new styles!
Another go-to option, Crocodile Creek lunch boxes are a great size, durable and PVC-, phthalate- and BPA-free. And, like all of Crocodile Creek’s products, totally adorable. With so many of their signature illustrations to chose from—from ballerinas to race cars, outer space to under water (pictured, each $16.99)—you’ll surely find one to tickle kiddo’s fancy.
Though popular Built lunch totes are great in many ways, they never quite worked for me. Plus they’re made of neoprene, a material you should learn more about before buying. Built’s new Big Apple Buddies lunch box look more up my alley. These $19.99 bags are PVC- and BPA-free but, sadly, they can only claim “to meet safety standards” for lead and (other?) phthalates. You decide.
Dabbawalla lunch bags offer everything the soft Built lunch bags offer, but in a non-toxic material. These bags are made with eco-sponge, a lead-, PVC- and phthalate-free fabric. They keep food just as insulated and come in many styles, most of which are less cheeky and more preschool friendly than my favorite union jack style (pictured). Larger bags are $30, smaller lunch sacks $28.
Some folks like modular systems while others prefer a complete set. Lunchopolis offers you latter folks an entire litter free lunch kit, complete with a bottle that, when filled with ice, doubles as an ice pack. The lunchbox is lead-free and the containers BPA-free. Buy two sets, each $29.95 (other colors available), and you’re set for the year.
If you’re not familiar with FreckleBox then your child hasn’t hit the stage where everything needs to be personalized. When they do, you’ll go to this personalization mecca for everything from stickers to lunch boxes. These $29.95 containers might be no-frills, but they are stainless steel (ie, non-toxic), come emblazoned with kiddo’s name and come in TONS of styles.
Another rectangular (my preferred shape), insulated bag, I’m drawn to this $29.95 “In Flight” lunch box for its retro look. This shape also comes with an airplane on it, or you can opt for the more upright style which comes with a blue bicycle or purple dandelion pattern. Both shapes and all styles are phthalate- and PVC-free.
These insulated lunch totes by Jane Jenni get a mention for sheer cuteness. I’m enamored by the scenes with our favorite Jane personalities. I mean, who can resist a diner-themed lunch tote? (Not this Jersey girl!) These bags are PVC-, lead- and phthalate-free and retail for $18.99.
Goodbyn boxes are the hip new packed lunch solution and with good reason! Each BPA- and phthalate-free container has 5 compartments that stay sealed when shut, one of which fits the bottle that comes with the lunch box. That means that foods stay separate without requiring 5 different containers. Goodbyns are dishwasher safe and recyclable, come in many bright colors and retail for $25.95 each.
I cannot deal with the sweetness that is this baby lunchbox by Lock & Lock. It’s almost enough to make me want another baby. This is definitely for the early eater set, whether on-the-go with mama or sitter or for a packed lunch at daycare. The food containers are glass (not sure about the lids) and water bottle polypropylene (ie, BPA-free plastic). You can get either pink or blue for $30.19.
I love that these$3.00 containers by Citizen Pip are “muck free”—no lead, no BPA, no phthalates. They come in several sizes and colors and are leak proof. Safe and straight to the point. Can’t complain about that.
While we’re talking Citizen Pip, I should also mention their $15.00 food jar. It’s a favorite for the same reasons I mention above. These are perfect for hot or warm lunches like leftover pasta or soup.
I’ve already mentioned that Crocodile Creek is a favorite and, lucky for us, they’ve expanded their line for 2011! One of the new products is this sandwich keeper (which also comes with a ladybug drawing). Each $5.99 reusable container is made of polypropylene and is BPA- and phthalate-free.
Laptop Lunches are American-style bento boxes that are reusable, recyclable and dishwasher safe. Their eco-friendly lunch boxes contain no phthalates, BPA or lead. They offer tons of options, with or without lunch boxes, but my favorite is the simple Bento Box Sets (pictured here in primary, $27.99). A practical box for a healthy lunch.
Who packs hummus for lunch all the time? I do! And this $3.99 Take-a-Dip container is how I do it. Fill the small compartment of this polypropylene (non-BPA plastic) with your favorite dip and the big one with whole grain pita chips, carrots, cheese and a hard boiled egg, and you’re good to go.
It might seems strange to recommend silicone cupcake liners, but these make great little containers/dividers. Like the lunch I describe just above: use a few cupcake liners to keep your hardboiled egg, pita chips and other stuff separate from one other. Perfecto! This set of 6 retails for $8.45.
I don’t know much about this $24.95, BPA-free Beaba lunch box, but included it because it looks good. I love the look, function and that it’s designed specifically with babies and toddlers in mind. I don’t think this is practical for your sandwich eater, but chicken and rice will be no problem. The keep warm lid and way that the fork and spoon tuck into the side are great ideas. Let us know if you give it a try.
Lunchskins are my favorite lunch box accessory of all time. I have three sandwich bags ($10.99) and three snack size bags ($9.99)—each BPA-, lead- and phthalate-free—and they are worth every dime. I love the super secure velcro and that these are dishwasher safe. I used Lunchskins daily last year and they are still in great shape… but I still want more!
I’ve heard great things about ReUsies, another brand offering reusable alternatives to plastic baggies. They come in two sizes, snack ($6.95) and sandwich ($9.00), which can be purchased separately or as part of a pack. Each dishwasher safe ReUsie is 100% cotton lined with leak-resistant nylon and secured with velcro.
If you prefer a zipper closure on your snack bags over velcro, then the Snack Happened bags by Itzy Ritzy is your ticket. These BPA- and PVC-free bags, made with lead-free zippers, only come in one size (7″ x 7″) but lots of patterns. They are also machine washable and retail for $9.99 each.
Bobble water bottles are a stellar example of how products can solve problems and make the world a better place—not the opposite. These gorgeously designed bottles filter water as you drink, eliminating the need (if you think there is one) for bottled water. They are made in the USA (smaller carbon footprint, North Americans), BPA-free, reusable and recyclable. Not bad for $8.99 (for the small size).
You ask, I listen. Last year on my Facebook page I had more questions about these Zoo Fork Picks than almost anything else. Now you can get a set of your own for $9.95, or check out the other available sets. (“Like” One Hungry Mama to follow along as I post a packed lunch every day of the week!)
Last year I purchased a metal fork, knife and spoon set designed for lunch boxes… and never used it. I always ended up packing one utensil, one of our kid-sized teaspoons or a dessert fork. This year I’m thinking that this handy-dandy all-in-one spork (plus kid-safe knife) might be the ticket. For $2.99, I plan on giving it a try. If you do too, be sure to buy the model made of “tritan,” a BPA-free plastic.
Kids Konserve is one of the OG’s of waste- and toxic-free lunch accessories. If you haven’t already seen their products, take a look: they have everything you need to pack a lunch. My current favorite offering are their napkins. Last year I packed one paper towel in every lunch. This year I can put my shame away thanks to Kids Konserve’s napkin sets (each set of 4 napkins is currently on sale for $12).
I know you love sandwiches cut into trains, butterflies and other shapes, but they kinda drive me crazy. It’s something about how the shape never comes out looking exactly right. A train or a, um, rectangle? These $16.95 sandwich stamps look like they might be an exception. Simple shapes + stamp of cute characters. Love! Maybe even worth giving cut out sammys another shot.
So there you have it: the One Hungry Mama 2011-12 Back-To-School Lunch Gear Guide! Have I forgotten your favorite? Chime in and tell us what we’re missing!