Reusable lunchbox basics

When I was a kid, getting a new lunchbox for school was as common place as buying new crayons, pencils and notebooks. It was so much fun to pick out which characters you wanted to represent your lunch that year. And lunchboxes came with so many choices–for girls it was My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, or New Kids on the Block and for the boys, He-Man, Transformers (the cartoon, not the movies) and G.I. Joe, just to name a few (can you tell I’m a child of the 80s?). 

Although the characters on lunchboxes have changed, the basic concept of what items are needed to pack a lunch haven’t changed at all since I was a kid. Besides the food, the following items are needed to pack a school lunch:

  • A sturdy lunchbox
  • A reuseable drink container, water bottle or juice box
  • A thermos
  •  Reuseable utensils
  • Snack sized reuseable containers (I prefer Gladware)
  • Sandwich sized reuseable container
  • A reuseable ice pack

(If you have some extra cash, check out Laptop Lunches or Easy Lunch Boxes. Even if you don’t have the cash to buy those products, there are ideas for what products to look for.)

That’s it. You can pack so many tasty, healthy and inexpensive lunches with just those few products. And these products last! I have been bringing my lunch to work pretty much every day since I entered the workforce 9 years ago. I still use the same lunch box that I bought back then; that more than makes up for the $10 or so I spent on it. I know that kids are way rougher on products than adults, but even if a lunch box lasts for 2 or 3 years, it still adds up to money saved.

It’s also comforting to know that I’m reducing the amount of waste I contribute by using these types of products. I’m not going to lie; I’m not a major environmentalist (I leave that to my husband) and I do use plastic bags. But I try to use reusable products as much as possible for my and my husband’s work lunches and our daughter’s afterschool snacks (her daycare provides her meals).

What’s nice about these items is that, although you have to spend some money up front for them (and all of these items can be purchased at a Dollar Store or a Wal-Mart-type store, they do not have to come from expensive places), they actually save you money in the long run. Sure, a 20 pack of plastic forks may cost $1 and last a month, but for $1 at the Dollar Store, you can buy 1 for that will last year (or more). That’s an $11 savings. Or just grab one out of your drawer; those are free!

Investing in these types products for our lunches has saved so much time and money, not to mention worry (none of the last-minute “we’re out of bags” or “we’re out of forks”). The extra dishes at the end of the day are a pain, but it’s worth it!

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2 Responses to “Reusable lunchbox basics”

  1. summer April 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    My family made the investment of Laptop Lunches about a year ago and we couldn’t be happier. Yes, it was a lot to spend up front but we’re saving a ton of money by being able to buy in bulk rather than single serve items and not having to go through all the disposable wrapping products. In addition to offering a great product, they also offer a great deal of support with their menu library and weekly feed which helps me keep our lunches fresh and exciting: http://www.laptoplunches.com/bento-menus/. We even use our bento boxes for weekend outings since and we love them so much that we don’t even miss eating out. We’re saving a ton of money and eating healthier and feeling great.

    • theemptykitchen April 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      thank you for that glowing endorsement of laptop lunches! it’s definitely on my to-buy list!

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