Showing posts with label lunch supplies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lunch supplies. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back To School Lunch Gear - Containers & Lunch Bags

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As Back To School shopping gets into full swing, I am going to share with you some of my favourites in the lunch gear category, Containers & Lunch Bags



The main lunch container

Seriously, no one wants to open (or store) a bunch of different containers and their lids. No one wants to spend their precious morning time assembling the lunchbox puzzle with said containers to make them fit the lunchbag, all the while crossing your fingers that your kids can repack it all after lunch. Especially if you have more than one lunch to pack. These are my top picks for practical lunch containers that will not leave you frustrated. They will also save you time!

Planetbox - Launch, Rover & Shuttle

These are family favourites, the lid is attached, the compartments are divided, there are small dip/yogurt/applesauce sized containers that fit inside and seal shut without leaking, they are easy to open and close. Plus stainless steel is a breeze to clean (even if accidentally left in the car over the weekend - not that it has ever happened ;) ) Local friends in Bermuda - you can also purchase these locally at People's Pharmacy. Although I have had several requests, I am not organising a group order before school starts.

 

It's best to choose the size container by your child's appetite and food needs.
The Launch  has 3 different sized compartments, is the deepest and best for large appetites, used most often by my husband, although I reckon it's great for athletic teenage boys.



The Rover  has 5 different sized compartments and is good for children around age 5 and up, although my children have used this since age 3, just not filled to its maximum. I have also used this many times for my lunch. It really can hold quite a bit of food. A sandwich or small salad can be packed in the square spot.



The Shuttle  has 2 compartments, it is good for younger children, snacks, or small appetites. This is the newest Planetbox and I used it extensively for my 2 year old last year. Yet, my 8 year old also prefers this one as she does not eat very much.


Here are some more examples of these lunchboxes in use: Launch, Rover, Shuttle
Another family favourite, made up of a case and an insert. The case lid seals each compartment so you can pack yogurt, applesauce or similar in any spot and it won't leak into the next one even if it's tossed around. Easy to clean but takes a bit longer to dry as the tray insert has a channel on the underside that can be tricky (no dishwasher here!). I do believe that there has been an upgrade and this has been partly solved with a solid bottom on the new inserts.  Original Yumbox has small 6 compartments, best for non sandwich lunches with lots of variety. Although I have been known to fit some mini sandwiches in there.


There's a new kid on the block from the Yumbox brand. The Yumbox Panino - this one has 1 larger compartment that will definitely hold a full sized sandwich plus 3 small compartments. I have one on order - can't wait to try it out!

   

Here are some examples of lunches that I have packed in the original Yumbox

Used most often by my 8 year old and husband, or the whole family on a picnic. Easy to remove lids, not leakproof by design. They have mini dipper containers that can fit inside if you want to pack some dip or dressing. There are two colour sets - classic and brights, each lunchbox has 1 large compartment & 2 smaller ones.

We love it for:
  • packing full sized sandwiches, salad  & leftovers (microwave safe), 
  • outings where you might have to eat your lunch on your lap or on the move. 
  • great for hot lunch day at school, ours bring their own container and the caterer fills it up. 
  • lighter to carry than a stainless steel lunch container 
  • lids are easy for young children to open and close
  • economical choice yet sturdy lids and containers
  • stack easily in the fridge and with different coloured lids you can colour code lunches for your family

The volume that can be packed is significant, so you would just not fill them up for the younger set.
This is a great option for families that pack lunches ahead of time. You would only have a small upfront investment as packing ahead does require you to keep a larger quantitiy of containers on hand.

 

Here are some examples of lunches that I have packed in EasyLunchboxes

Lunchbags

We have two favourites!

Planetbox Rover carry bag

This fits all of our planetboxes, one small snack container, cutlery, ice pack, cloth napkin & a drink on the outside. Hands down our favourite lunch bag. The girls need easy access to their drink for gym days so I love that it's on the outside and they don't have to unpack their lunch to find it. 

My top tip - the aqua and pink colours dont't seem to stay as clean. In my experience, Purple, Red & Navy look great all year long.  If you put them in the washer it will void the warranty. I do this anyway and mine look good inside and out. I have melted one in the dryer because it wasn't set to low heat. Wash & Dry at your own risk!  It can also hold the Yumbox and Easylunchbox if your ice pack isn't too big.



I recommend buying the complete set Planetbox Rover with the carry bag, if you want only the carry bag you will have to shop directly at the Planetbox Website. On Amazon you can have free Prime shipping so that is where you can find a small savings.

This can fit up to 3 Easylunchboxes if you're going out for a picnic, or on a school day - 1 easylunchbox, ice pack, drink, napkin and a couple of snacks. We love it for days when the girls have after school activities at school and need an extra snack. The Planetbox Shuttle or the Yumbox can also fit in this carry bag with plenty of room for extras. They come in 7 solid colours. Here are some tips for DIY personalisation.



We also have a couple of the usual sized, rectangular print or character lunch bags. I consider these more of a luxury item. Every other Friday is pizza day and the girls just bring snack, drink, napkin & a plate. While we can certainly use our usual bags, I like to make it more fun with a Friday fun lunchbag. In my experience, there isn't a lot of room in these lunchbags. If your child carries their drink seperately it could work as a regular option with a full lunch. Ours don't actually take a backpack to school yet so that would just be a nuisance. You can fit  Planetbox Shuttle, or Lunchbots and many other smaller divided containers and a small snack. With a Yumbox or EasyLunchbox there wouldn't be room for much else, perhaps a napkin, super slim ice pack & cutlery. 


Snack Containers
Planetbox come with their own - perfect for use in the outside spot of the carry bag. They don't snap shut so they should only be used in the planetbox or in the outside compartment of the bag, not loose in another bag for instance. There are LOADS of fun choices if you are sending a small snack. These are my favourites.

Bento Triangle Rice Ball Onigiri Case Hello Kitty Japanese Small Bento Box Snack Blue BearJapanese Small Bento Box Snack PandaJapanese Triangle Rice Ball Bento Box Onigiri Case Boy Japanese Triangle Rice Ball Bento Box Onigiri Case sheep


















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Back to School Lunch Gear - Water Bottles

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Water bottles - truly my nemesis!

I am always on the hunt for the perfect water bottle. Seriously. Always Looking. Summer vacation is nearly over and it's time to get my Back To School Shopping finished. I thought I'd share with you my top tips for choosing a water bottle.

Wide mouth opening is best - you really want to be able to fit a bottle brush in there to clean it, plus it's easier to add ice cubes if preferred.

Check the cap for odd crevices and parts that come in contact with your drink. In the quest to manufacture the ultimate no spill cup some odd designs have emerged. If it looks too tricky to keep clean skip it. I have encountered some unexpected moldy looking parts of water bottles in my years and now I always check the caps.

Take younger children with you when purchasing - make sure that they can open (and close!) it properly on their own.

Extra Straws- if you do have water bottles with straws always buy an extra straw kit to keep on hand if available. Cleaning them with Dr Brown's Baby bottle brushes is quite effective.

Smell it - I know this sounds weird - but trust trust me, there are some funky smelling water bottles out there. If you encounter a strong smell just don't buy it. Even if it says BPA free, food safe etc some of them just have an odd smell. Leave those ones at the store. Check stainless steel ones too - some of them have a lining.

I really want the following features in a water bottle - stainless steel, insulated, no straw, no spill/leak and easy for kids to open and close. I can't always get all of those choices so I compromise. The girls also like fun designs or characters on their water bottles so I get a couple of fun, yet practical ones too.

We made it through last year using mainly our Klean Kanteens, but they looked pretty beat up by the end and have been retired. This is not a judgement on the Klean Kanteens. I swear my eldest child lost one twice a week last year but thanks to Mabels Labels it was always returned from wherever she had dropped it. We'll likely go with these choices for this school year.

     
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

These are a few of my favourite things!



I am often found chatting to other Moms about packing lunches. Two things that usually come up are where are good places to find certain items and what they should buy to get started. I have packed a lot of lunches in the past  5 years and have definitely learned what works for us and have have settled on some favourites. Here's a round up of those favourites. I admit that I have WAY more lunch making items than I need. You might have noticed this if you've been following my blog for awhile or have seen my post about storage. Well, my stash has increased since then and I thought with Back To School around the corner I'd share some of my most loved lunch packing items. I personally own and use all items exactly as shown unless specifically noted.

This isn't meant to be a starter list as it's still more items than you NEED to get started. For a starter set, I recommend buying some fun bento boxes, a set of EasyLunchboxes or a Planetbox and then adding some cutters - sandwich sized and mini, sandwich or cookie stamps, silicone cups and a few decorative picks. If you find you've been bitten by the fun lunch bug you can expand from there! This is a long post so I'll separate into categories for ease. 


Disclaimer: if you make a purchase using the links on my site I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support!

Lunch Containers 

Here are my all time favourites - PlanetBox Rover, EasyLunchBoxes, Lunchbots Quad (The whole LunchBots line is available locally at People's Pharmacy), Green Sprouts Safari Friends lunch box, various fun bento boxes that are used for light lunches, after school outings and pre-activity snacks,  


Japanese Bento Box 2 tier Lunch Box with Strap Panda FaceJapanese Bento Box 2 tier Lunch Box with Strap Frog FaceMicrowavable Oval 2 Tier Bento Box Lunch Box BlueJapanese Bento Box 2 tier Lunch Box with Strap Giraffe
I honestly don't think that I have posted a single photo of a lunch packed in my Green Sprouts container and very few in my LunchBots containers but I use them almost everyday for my youngest daughter's lunch. She'll be 2 in October. She cannot open or close them by herself but they are very convenient to use. The Safari Friends comes in other animal designs and has two layers when you open it. All of the cute bento boxes in the last row have 2 layers. Here are a couple of examples of them in use - Giraffe, Frog,

New Kid on the Block for  2013-2014 school year.
The only new lunch container that I am buying this year is the Planetbox Shuttle. It has just been released this summer and I have been given one for review. I will definitely be ordering a couple more and I will review it shortly on my blog once I have had a chance to use it a few more times.


Cute Snack containers - just for fun! There are so many to choose from.
Japanese Small Bento Box Snack PandaJapanese Triangle Rice Ball Bento Box Onigiri Case GirlJapanese Triangle Rice Ball Bento Box Onigiri Case sheepMicrowavable Nested Container 4pcs Hello Kitty Oval

Insulated for Hot food lunch container. I don't send a hot lunch very often, when I do it's leftover spaghetti or soup. My children have said that their lunch remained warm at lunch time and they like the designs on these containers. They are also easy to fill with a wide opening. I didn't buy anything else to try as these work well and they are infrequent use items  we don't need more than one per child!

Thermos Funtainer - we have the Dora, the pretty purple butterfly and a pink print but my girls would LOVE this Hello Kitty print, you know if we needed another one ;)

 

Water Bottles 

These are the ones in our current rotation: Klean Kanteen with sport cap, CamelBak (available locally at People's Pharmacy), Skip Hop (Available locally at People's Pharmacy - best for my youngest. It's light and the best cup I've ever given her that is resistant to huge spills when she purposely shakes it upside down!), Thermos Funtainer. 

In my opinion, the perfect water bottle is stainless steel, insulated with no straw, easy to close and leakproof. I don't own such a water bottle but all of these have performed well for us last year and some brands have been used by us for years!

 

As I am always on the hunt for the perfect water bottle I will be testing out some new ones this school year. Specifically the Eco Vessel and two different Nalgene water bottles shown below. As straws are such a pain to clean (even though we use the Dr Brown's baby bottle cleaning brushes!) I am willing to choose BPA free plastic over stainless steel to avoid a straw. Stainless steel can be heavy for my littler children also so I'm hoping that these will be a good choice. If you have a favourite water bottle that I have not mentioned here and you think I might like to try it - leave me a note in the comments. PRETTY PLEASE.



 Lunchbags


Planet box Carry bag & EasyLunchboxes Carry bag
loading preview... Easylunchboxes Cooler Insulated Bento Lunch Bag - Pink
These are both good choices. The planetbox lunch bag can fit an ice pack, cloth napkin, planetbox lunch container and cutlery on the inside and a drink and snack on the outside. The EasyLunchBox can fit the EasyLunchbox container flat on the bottom so it is not carried on its side, plus ice pack, cutlery, cloth napkin, water bottle and two small snack containers. Either one is also suitable for our pizza lunch day - although we do have some other character lunch bags that get a little love on pizza day when I am only sending a reusable plate, small fruit & veggie side, plus cloth napkin and a drink.

It's pretty hard to pick a favourite out of these. I use them with their corresponding containers so both are used regularly. If I need to send two snacks then 9 times out of 10 I send an EasyLunchbox to school. This arises when there are after school activities at school for my oldest child as she needs to bring a mid morning snack, lunch and then a small snack for after school before her activity. My younger children do not take a morning snack as they have community snack, so if they stay at school for an activity the one snack is adequate and the Planetbox can easily accommodate them. 

Cutters & Stamps

I have some favourites for sure! Cutters can be used for almost anything. Larger ones are great for sandwiches, homemade bread or biscuit shapes, single serving pizza crusts, pocket pastries. Mini ones are great for fruit, vegetables, dried fruit leather, homemade cheese crackers, cheese, ham or veggie toppers for sandwiches or salad, mini cookies. Really if you use your imagination the possibilities are endless. You might have a bunch of suitable cookie cutters at home already. Get them out and think of some new uses for them!

Wilton Comfort grip cutters are great for sandwiches. They are deep and metal so it's easy to cut through a fully assembled sandwich. A good local shop for Wilton items is International Imports. They will have a selection of comfort grip cutters, silicone cups, and other cake & cookie making supplies that are adaptable to lunch making. I often use the daisy shape below to make 3 hearts.

Bento Decoration Accessories Cookie Cutter Flower    

CuteZcute cutter set - makes several different shapes - bear, frog, pig and cat. You can make cutouts or stamps and their are many possibilities with this cutter set; it's not just for sandwiches. The little tool that comes with it is perfect for use with all mini cutters when you need to pop out a small cut out.
CuteZcute Bento Sandwich Cutter and Pastry Stamp Kit

Fun Bites cutter. Makes perfect little squares. I use this for my toddler often. Great for sandwich on a stick too. Possibly available locally at People's Pharmacy although I have not checked that it is in stock recently.
Food Sandwich Cutter set Small Fun Bites - Cube
Lunch Punch cutter sets. These are plastic sandwich cutters. Although not the advertised way, the best way to use them is to cut out the top slice of bread and leave it in the cutter, then cut through the rest of the assembled sandwich. This is particularly important if you have soft bread to keep the bottom slice from being flattened too much. For firmer bread you can cut through the whole sandwich as advertised. We have every set of these and all are fun! Possibly available locally at People's Pharmacy although I have not noticed them in stock for a while.
Food Sandwich Cutter set of 4 Sweet Shapes Food Sandwich Cheese Cutter set of 4 Whimsical Shapes Food Sandwich Cutter set of 4 Puzzle Shapes Food Sandwich Cutter set of 4 Vehicles ShapesFood Sandwich Cutter set of 4 Animal Shapes
Mini Cutter sets.  I very likely have too many to count! These are some of my favourite sets. I also have various Halloween, Christmas, Spring and Easter sets. If you would like seasonal ones, the best local place is International Imports. At different "holiday" times they always have some Wilton mini themed cutter sets. Their regular selection of mini cutter sets is usually quite limited but worth a look. Metal cutters work for everything and are good for cutting hard veggies like carrots with ease. Plastic ones are good for softer items like ham, cheese, fruit, bread. You can still cut harder items with them but you will need to push with some force. If it seems really tricky use a hand towel to avoid hurting your hand or use a thinner slice!

Japanese Bento Carrot Vegetable Cutter with Case LargeJapanese Bento Carrot Vegetable Cutter with Case smallBento Ham Cheese Cookie Cutter Alphabet and CaseDecorative Bento Accessories Ham Cheese Cutter 12 designsJapanese Bento Decoration Ham Cheese Cutter Set 9pcs FlowerJapanese Bento Decoration Ham Cheese Cutter Set 9pcs SeaJapanese Bento Decoration Ham Cheese Cutter Set 9pcs Space Japanese Bento Accessories Ham Cheese Cookie Cutter Set of 3


Stamps. Stamps are used to make an impression on the top of bread or a cookie. It's a great way to add a little flair to a sandwich without too much effort. Just stamp the top slice of bread only and assemble your sandwich. Here's an example using the bunny from the progressive cutter set.

Japanese Bento Sandwich Cutter and Stamp SquareJapanese Bento Deco Cutter Cooking Mold 9 pcs Ham Cheese Cutter


Silicone Cups & Sauce Containers 

Silicone cups are good to hold something a little juicier, or corral small items together like grapes or berries. Also adds a pop of colour or adds to a themed lunch.

Japanese Bento Accessories Silicone Food Cup Bear BrownMicrowavable Bento Silicone Food Cup Animal 6 pcs Japanese Bento Silicone Food Cup Star 6P StarMicrowavable Bento Silicone Food Cup 3 Deluxe
Sauce containers are good for dip, salad dressing, yogurt, ketchup, sprinkles, mini chips, sunflower seeds, vitamins, gummies etc. The mini dippers on the left are larger than the mini sauce containers on the right. Those last two are true mini containers. FYI - Four of the EasyLunchboxes mini dippers fit perfectly inside the large compartment of the EasyLunchboxes container.

 Mini Dippers for Bento Lunch Box Japanese Bento Accessories Food Cup with Animal Head Lid 3 sets   Japanese Bento Mayo Cup Sauce Container Hello Kitty set of 3  Japanese Bento Box Accessories Sauce Container set of 4 Mayo Cup Happy

Egg Molds & Rice Molds

Egg molds are used to shape boiled eggs into a cute shape. Rice molds are used to shape rice. Only one of my children likes cold rice so I don't use the rice molds very often. On the other hand, I can't make boiled eggs fast enough so those egg molds get a workout. There are also character egg molds available.
Hard Boiled Egg Mold Rabbit Bear for Bento Decoration Japanese Bento Accessory Egg Mold Fish Car for Bento Decoration Japanese Bento Decoration Animal Shaped Rice Mold 3 Designs

Decorative picks -

Bento picks, cupcake toppers and cupcake rings. These are a few of my favourite ones. There really are so many to choose from. It's hard to pick just a few. I use a small items tool box (or 2!?!)  from Masters to hold them all. You can use these to add a little fun to lunch. Longer picks can be used kabob style and smaller ones can be used as an eating utensil to spear small items like grapes. These are not recommended for children under 3 and supervision would be required for all little children since you don't want them choking on the picks! When my younger children had picks for the first time I only used them at home and stuck to ones with fork like bottoms until they were used to the whole concept. Cupcake rings would also be good starter items for younger children still with supervision. 
Japanese Bento Accessory Cute Food Pick Animal 10 pcs for Bento BoxFood Decorating Pick Long Pix Stix AssortedFood Decorating Pick Puffy Pick Heart XoxoJapanese Bento Accessory 3D Food Picks Honey BeeFood Decorating Pick Puffy Ladybug BeeJapanese Bento Box Accessories Food Pick Cute Animal Fork 8 pcsFood Decorating Pick Puffy Ring Mushroom Flower 9 pcsFood Decorating Pick Puffy Pick Baby Flower 14 pcsFood Decorating Party Ring Topper Angry BirdsFood Decorating Pick Puffy Pick Sea Animal 20 pcsJapanese Bento Box Accessories Food Pick Animal Fork Pick 8 pcsJapanese Bento Accessory Food Pick Letter Set 26 pcs

Dividers & Decorations

Probably the least used items in my supply box, mostly because I forget about them! Intended for traditional style bento when you need to put a barrier between two items. Also great for a little decoration in a regular lunch.These are the ones that I use the most, there are loads of others available.
Microwavable Bento Baran Food Partition Sheet Set Rainbow 16pcsJapanese Bento Baran Silicone Sheet Microwavable ReusableRabbit Microwavable Bento Baran Food Partition Sheet Set 18pcsFood Decorating Topper Hello Kitty My Melody Set

Tools

These are my most used items -set of three tools including a very sharp cutting tool with slanted edge great for cutting apple designs and cheese details, nori punches for really cute details, angled tweezers for placing delicate details, food colour markers.
Japanese Bento Decorative Scoop Carving Knife Set  Bento Nori Cutter Seaweed Puncher 3 Design Series 1  Bento Essential Food Scissors and Tweezer Bento Food Deco Pen Americolor Gourmet Writer 10 Colors

Cutlery

I often forget to include a photo of our cutlery in lunch photos. Mainly because I am rushing the photo and the cutlery, napkins and Lunch Box Love notes are already packed!  These are the ones that my girls like the best. You can also find the Stainless Steel spork locally at People's Pharmacy.



Cloth Napkins


As my children's school has a trash free lunch policy, they always take a cloth napkin to school. In the past, we have just used plain cloth napkins that are usual for the home table. Near the end of the school year, there was a school fundraiser to purchase Funkins napkins. I purchased several and the girls love them! There are so many reversible fun designs and the quality is great. I highly recommend them.

Fun for Kids

Lunchbox Love Notes - there are many volumes and these are a fun surprise. One side has trivia or a joke and the other side has a positive note - for example - "You're beautiful inside and out." Each pack also includes a couple that are blank on one side for you to write your own personal message. Here's one or two in action! 




Label it all so your most loved lunch packing items make their way home when misplaced!

Mabels Labels - my favourite labels by far. This year we are trying out the Tween Labels as a fun new addition to our labeling line up.
Tween LabelsBasic Kit

What foods could you pack for lunch 

using all of these fun items?


Now that I've mentioned all of my favourite supplies you may be thinking about researching some new lunch menus. I  have two recommendations for you. Momables and my Lunch Box Ideas list.


Momables is a lunch menu service. You sign up for a subscription and they publish weekly menus with 5 lunches and a shopping list plus some tips. Each lunch menu has a photo. There are also many other recipes on the site that you can gain access to with a subscription. There is a conventional menu subscription option or a gluten free menu subscription option. I have the conventional subscription.



My Lunch Box Idea list is a list of items that I print and keep on my fridge to help me with menu planning and shopping. It also saves me from standing in front of the fridge with the door open pondering what on earth I am going to make that day!

Well that is a pretty comprehensive list of my favourite things. If you have any questions please ask - I always love to chat about packed lunches.


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