Healthy Kids, School Lunches

How to Pick a School Lunchbox

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It’s nearly time for the kids to head back to school, and that means school lunches! Which means you probably need to find a lunchbox. But with so many different types out there, which one is best?

So I’m going to be totally annoying and say that it really depends on what type of lunches your kids like… Which really isn’t helpful! But it’s ok because I’ve put together a list of the pros and cons of each type to help you choose.

First off, though, I have some general things for you to think about when deciding on a lunchbox.

Plastic vs Metal

My kids had the most amazing metal lunchboxes in kindy. They were really hard wearing, and the boys loved them. I was sure they would last them for all of primary school. Except we discovered that their primary school didn’t actually allow metal lunchboxes and drink bottles. So we had to replace everything with plastic versions. So learn from my mistake and check if your child’s school allows metal lunchboxes before you buy any, because they certainly aren’t cheap!

Do You Need A Cooler Bag?

We live in Brisbane where it gets very hot in summer. Our kids bags are stored outside during the day, and it gets quite hot. So we need cooler bags to keep their lunches cool. So definitely check out where your kids lunches will be stored during the day to see if you need to get a cooler bag. There are some really great options on the market these days. Just make sure you get a cooler bag that will fit your lunchbox (I may have also made that mistake in the past….).

Munch and Crunch Containers

A lot of schools have “munch and crunch” or something similar where kids bring in a piece of fruit or some veggies that they can snack on in the morning to keep them going to morning tea time. If your school does this, you’ll need an extra, small container that they can keep on their desk.

Make Sure Your Kids Can Open Their Lunchboxes

Every year teachers plead with parents to teach their kids how to open their lunchboxes. Apparently they don’t enjoy having 25 kids thrust their lunchboxes in their faces to open each day!

So sit down and spend some time making sure your child can open all of their lunchboxes on their own. The same goes for any yoghurt tubs and packets that you send to school. Your child’s teacher will love you for it.

Bento Style Lunchboxes

Bento style lunchboxes are really popular these days. These are the style that I use for my kids, and I find that they work really well.

The Good Bits

You can pack a variety of different small foods, which tends to appeal to younger children. I find that young kids like to be able to try a little bit of everything at morning tea and lunch.

They work really well with non-sandwich style lunches.

The Less Good Bits

When I bought a bento style lunchbox with 6 different holes, I quickly discovered that my kids expected 6 different things for lunch. So be warned, the more spaces you have, the more creative you’ll have to be.

It can be hard to fit things like sandwiches and pizza slices in bento lunchboxes. I found that I needed to cut some very creative shapes to fit everything in.

They work for small tummies, but some bento style lunchboxes don’t actually hold that much food. I had to buy a bigger lunchbox for my 8 year old this year, because his old one didn’t hold enough food to keep him full.

Bento style lunchboxes don’t tend to be waterproof, so you can’t put really wet food into them. They’re ok for dips and yoghurt, but you can’t pack any soups or stews in them.

Mini Containers

This idea follows the concept of the bento style lunchbox, but gives you a bit more flexibility. You have a number of small containers that you put different things in for your kid, and then put them altogether in a lunch bag or cooler bag.

The Good Bits

I love that this option is really flexible. You can get different shaped containers depending on what sort of foods your serving, so you don’t have to cut foods down into crazy shapes like in the bento lunchbox.

You can get leak proof and themos containers so that you can serve hot or wet foods. This makes dinner leftovers an easy option for lunches.

If one of the containers gets lost or broken, you can easily replace it without having to buy a whole new lunchbox.

The Less Good Bits

Your child will lose bits. And knowing the laws of containers, they’ll probably manage to lose all the bottoms, and you’ll end up with a drawer full of lids.

You’ll possibly have more washing up to do with more containers.

Large Lunchbox Container

We’re going old school with a simple lunchbox container. Just get a large lunch container, and wrap everything individually inside.

The Good Bits

You have lots of flexibility with this style, and can definitely fit in sandwiches, rolls, pizza, or any other large foods.

This style works well for older kids who might be happier with a couple of larger things, rather than lots of different foods.

Large containers are much easier to clean. And anything that cuts down on washing up is good in my eyes!

The Less Good Bits

It can be really annoying to have to wrap everything individually, and it means that you need to keep up a supply of lunch wrap.

Unless your lunchbox has dividers or some sort, it can be hard to stop heavy foods like apples crushing cakes and sandwiches.

You can’t pack any wet foods like soups or stews.

So What’s the Best Lunchbox?

Well, as you can see, it really does depend… If you have younger kids I recommend a bento style lunchbox, or the mini containers in a bag (as long as you’re up for replacing them when they get lost!).

For older kids who might be more inclined to want sandwiches or salads, I find either a single large lunchbox, or some larger containers in a cooler bag work best.

Get Lunchbox Recipes

Now that you’ve got the lunchbox sorted, you’ll need some lunch ideas to put inside it! I send out free weekly lunchbox recipes straight to your inbox every week. Sign up below to get them!

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