Don't you just love the beginning of a new school year? Everything is so crisp and shiny and new, from the bright red apples that hang in the trees to your kids' shoes and lunchboxes and binders and pencils. Never mind that by the next month or so, everything will look dusty and torn and frayed. Back-to-School is all about new beginnings. This year I've made a renewed commitment to packing earth-friendly lunches for the kids, so naturally I spent the last two weeks before school collecting all kinds of lunchbox paraphernalia. Here are some of my favorites:
I received this nifty red cereal lunch keeper about a year ago, and it has been great! You keep the cereal in the top half, and the milk in the bottom half. The bottom half is lined with insulating gel; putting it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes and pour cold milk into it, then screw the top half on. The spoon folds and fits into the snap-on lid. 3Po and Jammy were in kindergarten then, and they only stayed in school for lunch three days a week, so I usually sent it with The Pea. She loved being able to have cereal and milk for lunch, and the boys were always jealous that she got to have it (even though I served them cereal and milk for lunch at home, it was never the same for them). I was overjoyed when I saw they were giving these away at the Milk booth at BlogHer, and I quickly grabbed two so that all three can have cereal and milk for lunch (and speaking of cereal, check out my latest Kellogg's cereal post and $100 Visa giveaway).
I've seen and read all the glowing reviews about Laptop Lunches, and I have to admit I love the concept (in fact when I was a schoolgirl I ate lunch out of a Zojirushi bento-style lunch set every single day), but the thought of keeping track of all those little lids and containers -- and worse, washing them!! -- is just no fun. Again, swag comes to the rescue, this time in the form of a Sistema lunch cube from a recent Clif bar event. I like that it's all in one piece, but I have no idea if it's microwaveable or dishwasher-safe. How silly, you say, this is the age of the internet. Just go to their home page and read the product information! Well, what if their home page looks like this? So I'm handwashing these babies for now, and I'm only tolerating them because they come in such cute colors and the kids like them so much.
My latest "toy" is this hot-food container that I found at Target. These past 3 years I've been looking enviously at kids who eat soup and pasta for lunch; what caring moms they must have! My kids get cold peanut-butter or ham sandwiches and cereal. Okay, they do get some yummy food -- smoked salmon wraps, burritos, quesadillas, hummus and carrots, etc.. -- but it's always cold. I'm of the mindset that the only containers that really keep food hot are the ones insulated with the glass vacuum tubes, like the red-and-black checkered Aladdin Thermos bottle that I used to have. Problem is, of course, those things are as fragile as, well, glass. I went through at least two per schoolyear, but even if I could afford to buy 6 of those per year I don't think I could find them. Does Aladdin even make those anymore?
In any case, I decided I'd give these babies a try. They're also made by Aladdin, so I'm relying on their reputation. They've got a cute little spoon nested in the screw-on lid that pops out when you push a button. My warning buzzer did go off at that -- buttons, pop-ups and slide-outs means "will break in two weeks!!" -- but they are so cute. I figure, if they break, the kids will just have to pack a spoon in their lunchbox. Boo hoo.
I wish I could tell you what these are like, but I can't, because I haven't even tried them yet. The label says not to put any dairy products in them, which rules out pasta with cheese, mac and cheese, anything with white sauce, butter, or half the things I wanted to pack hot for the kids. Soups would be good, but I know from experience that microwaving tomato-based products in a plastic container stains the plastic a permanent red. Ugh. So no minestrone or pasta with tomato sauce either. What's left, split pea soup? Should I just go for it, pack some hot mac and cheese and see what happens?
Disclaimer: I purchased one of the products I talked about in this post, but the other two were given to me for free. I've kind of written this post like a product review, but the companies that provided the items had nothing to with lunch containers and I was not obligated to talk about the companies or the containers.