As soon as Spring Break hit a few months ago, I knew I would need to replace my girls' lunchboxes that had been doing overtime for two years. I found myself completely sucked into a thread on the *Portland Mamas FB group that had been discussing lunchboxes for the last two days, which caused the topic to resurface in my head. This is big stuff, folks. I like newfangled technology as much as the next modern mama, but sometimes I just wonder if the metal Rainbow Brite lunchbox of my childhood was really just fine.
My oldest had been carrying a Blue Q bag that originally contained a birthday gift. She was more into the bag than the gift so it became an accessory as part of her daily ensemble. I have to admit that in a world of the Thermos, insulated sides, waxed canvas, removable liners, and 100% machine washable, I was suspicious! As the months dragged on, that super cute polypropylene bag did its job, and did it well. It suffered endless half-empty, half-closed containers of applesauce, sticky fruit leather, and tuna fish smeared all over the inside. At first, this stressed me out, but after a quick rinse and a wipe with a soapy sponge, the smell would go away and the bag would be ready to go for another day.
Another perk to the Blue Q bag was the size. It was bigger than an average lunchbox/bag, which worked great for my camel-like daughter who requires an 18-ounce Kleen Kanteen of water every day. It also allowed for bulky reusable containers that I could not use in my younger daughter's regular lunchbox. That alone often felt like a victory.
My youngest daughter had been toting the Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie. This was an impulse purchase (because c'mon, who can resist an owl with pink polka dots?!) that actually turned out to be an okay investment. It had soft, insulated sides and a little pocket inside that was perfect for a spoon, lovenote, and/or a tiny chocolate. The handle was handy for attaching it to her backpack, and it actually held up pretty well. My biggest complaint became that the darn thing just wouldn't dry very quickly or well. After two years, it had spots of mold that I just couldn't get rid of. I laundered it once a week and wiped it out frequently, but it had obviously reached its maximum lifetime.
The size also posed a problem. It held the smallest size Kleen Kanteen and a couple of small containers, but forget about a sandwich container. Everything had to be packed in baggies and it was a puzzle if I was sending a personal-sized yogurt and anything else in a ridged container. Heaven forbid I not be two cups of coffee into my morning routine before this happened.
A couple of years ago I started washing and reusing our plastic sandwich baggies, a habit which I cannot give up no matter how hard I try. Don't judge - you know what I'm talking about. Even the best enviro-mama has something she can't give up. But hey, at least I'm washing and reusing them, right?! (This brilliant contraption helps make it easy). I tried the sweet reusable baggies, but I quickly realized that I was going to need... oh, about a million of them to get through the week. And my quirkly little girlies were not eating what I had packed in the baggies because they couldn't see what was inside. (Oh 5-year-old brains!)
So I guess what I'm left wondering is this: what lunchbox(es) do you LOVE and would buy over and over again? Are the bento boxes the answer to all of my midday meal woes? Frankly, the thought of filling all of those little containers with something(!) intimidates the heck out of me! Have you encountered any that are a total waste of money? What about the baggies? Reusable can be so cute and seductive, but have you figured out a way to make them work for your family? C'mon, mamas, dish!