Posted: Sep 02, 2014 5:00 AM
Packing lunches doesn't have to be a headache. The right containers can be the difference between easy lunch prep and a jumble of things that will never fit together in a lunch bag. Evaluate your needs — from bento boxes to reusable, zippered pouches.
Photo credit: Derek E. Rothchild/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Be prepared for lunch prep

The morning rush can make moms break into a sweat, but calmly packing lunches the night before school doesn't always happen. Having the right containers can really make a difference in the time it takes to get lunches ready for school. Using a bunch of plastic baggies is bad for the environment and often leaves lunches squished and unappetizing. Be honest with yourself about what your children will eat, and invest in reusable containers that fit your family's needs.

Lunch boxes for kidsEX wipe box

Investing in a quality lunch box will save headaches later in the school year. Though it's tempting to grab the box that most closely fits your kids' favorite character preference, a durable lunch tote will keep lunches contained for the whole year. The ClassMate® EZ Wipe Lunch Box has a seamless interior that can be easily cleaned (Lands' End, $24). Moms will appreciate the ease of cleaning the first time their kindergartners forgot to put the lid back on the unfinished hummus.

Keep your food containedSandwhich kit

Kids can be picky about various food stuffs touching each other, and Rubbermaid knows just how to pack lunch for that child. The Sandwich Kit makes it possible to pack different foods — so important for picky eaters — without mashing everything together into the nearest container. The kit has a main large box, a medium container and two small containers that are perfect for dips, condiments or small fruits like blueberries. All of it will stay cool with the perfectly-sized cool pack (, $11).

Plastic-free bento boxesLunchbot

For families who prefer their reusable container to be plastic-free, stainless steel is a popular option. The Lunchbots 5 Compartment Stainless Steel Lunch Container is a fantastic option for a variety of foods. The lid isn't waterproof, and the sections aren't soldered to the bottom, so the bento box works best with drier foods and snacks. The whole container is dishwasher safe, making cleanup a cinch (, $30).

Environmentally-friendly snack bagsSnack bag

Even with all of the great options for boxed containers, there are some times you need a snack bag for your child. Whether you are packing an actual snack for a non-lunch time during the day or want the bags for an extra treat in their lunch bags, reusable snack bags are a mom's best friend. Itzy Ritzy snack bags come in adorable fabric options and two different sizes. The lining is waterproof, and the bags can be tossed into the washing machine for easy cleaning. Buy a "bundle" for a bargain. The Snack and Mini Snack Happens bundle includes one snack bag and two mini snack bags (, $19).

Leak-proof water bottlesBottle

Keep lunches dry with a spill-proof water bottle. Kids toss their bottles in the bottom of bags, so it's important to find a kids' water bottle that doesn't leak the minute it tips onto its side. The AUTOSEAL® Kids Scout Stainless Bottle holds 12 ounces and keeps beverages cold for up to seven hours (, $16). Remind kids they need to close the bottle completely to keep it from spilling all over their bags.

Label reusable itemsLabels

Reusable items aren't helpful if they don't come home every day. Make fewer trips to the school's lost and found by labeling each container in addition to the lunch box itself. Skinny Minis labels will fit on even small dip containers, and there are enough labels to last for quite a while (, $21). If your child has a food allergy, add a custom Allergy Alert identifying sticker to lunch and snack bags (, $21).

Bottom Line^

Reusable, packing-friendly lunch containers will help your mornings go more smoothly. Kids will learn an added bit of responsibility by making sure they return home with everything in their lunch bags. Responsibility-building and environmentally-friendly lunch options are definitely a win-win situation.

More about kids' lunches

Ideas for kids' lunches
Looking at free lunch nutrition
Let kids pack their own lunches