lunchbox

Our Favorite Lunchboxes

When I was a kid, my mom sent us off to school with lunch packed in brown bags. Between the weight of the apple and the constant shuffling of stuff against the bag in my backpack, sandwiches never stood a chance. It was a good day when the cookie wasn't crumbled. The earth shifted on the day that my mom decided to pack tortellini for me in a plastic container. 

PlanetBox Rover

PlanetBox Rover

Today's kids are so much luckier. There's no shortage of amazing lunchbox options out there and thankfully, they don't necessarily involve smushed sandwiches or bruised fruit.

We have six lunchboxes that we have been happily relying on for the last several years (PlanetBoxYumbox, Lunch Buddy OfficialOmiebox, Monbento and Lunchbots)  

Planetbox Launch

Planetbox Launch

Each option has pros and cons. I love that the PlanetBox is stainless steel with perfectly sized compartments and a small area for a treat (available in the Rover). We have the carrying bag that has a perfect space for a bus snack and a water bottle. The PlanetBox is expensive, but we've been using ours for over 5 years without any issues so I view it as an investment. There are also stainless steel containers that fit inside so you can pack liquids or things like yogurt and not worry about leakage. We have the Shuttle, the Rover, and the Launch which all fit a great amount of food for lunch. The Launch fits a ton of food - it's great for growth spurts! 

Yumbox

Yumbox

We have two versions of the Yumbox – one with three compartments and one with five. Both are easy to open, a great size and leakproof so I can pack things like hummus without concern that it'll be all over the apple slices. I wish it were easier to clean the skinny grooves on the underside of the tray, but these boxes have been in our arsenal for years and are still going strong. 

Lunch Buddy Official 3-in-1

Lunch Buddy Official 3-in-1

Thanks to our friends at Kivanta, we now have a great new Lunch Buddy Official lunchbox. It has been a wonderful new addition to our lunchbox collection!

This is a stainless steel 3-in-1 two tiered box (second tier not shown here). You don't need to use both levels every time, so it's got built in flexibility for lunch packers. It's easy to clean and I love the simple design, but if you're outside of the EU (like I am), this might be pricey to ship. 

Omiebox

Omiebox

The Omiebox has a neat design that makes it possible to pack both hot and cold foods for school. Score! Here's a tip to keep hot foods hot: fill the thermos part with boiling water and let it sit for one minute. Pour out the water and fill with hot food. That'll extend the amount of time that hot food stays hot. Similarly, pop the thermos into the freezer for a few minutes before filling it with cold food (like yogurt). This box is heavier than other lunchboxes and the top of the thermos is sometimes a challenge for my kids to open, but their teachers have been helpful in those situations. 

Monbento

Monbento

The Monbento is my oldest child's favorite box. She likes that it has two tiers, and says that it feels like a lunchbox designed for older kids. I like that it makes her happy! The box is plastic and comes in many colors. You can pack just one layer or two, and I like having that flexibility. This box also fits in a wide range of insulated lunch bags. I use silicone cupcake liners to separate items in this box. My favorite part about this Monbento is that it is super easy to clean. Really, you can't go wrong with that. p.s. here's the link to that cute panda salad dressing container.

Lunchbots

Lunchbots

The Lunchbots container is great because it's compact and fits into a variety of lunch bags. It's also super easy to clean and fits a surprisingly large amount of food. I wish that it were leakproof and I wish that the top had a sturdy clasp to stay put, but we have had no problem keeping it closed with a rubber band.

Lunch quantity sometimes is a difficult thing... there are days that my kids are super hungry and days that they seem to exist on fumes.  It's comforting to know that some of these boxes have room to accommodate an extra large lunch, for those days when the lunches that my kids pick in advance are on the large side. 

While there's never a shortage of information out there about what to pack, it's also fun to think about where to pack lunch. Check out more of our favorite lunch accessories here. For lunch packing ideas and inspiration, be sure to check out our Instagram where we post daily pics. 

 

* note: This page contains affiliate links. While I am not paid to provide these reviews, I will receive a tiny commission if you make purchases from here. These purchases will help to keep this blog going, so thank you in advance! 

Back to School Lunch Packing Tips

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September kicks my butt every year. And though every August I try to will it away and tell myself that this year will be different, it never seems to work out that way. 

The fact is, everything is a struggle in September. It stinks to get back into a routine, and it's hard work to figure out who has to be where and when on which day. On my crankiest days, I even have a problem adjusting to the weather change — and I love fall. 

Its underatandable, then, that just a month or so into a new school year, parents are already over packing school lunch.

Listen, I'm totally with you. I'm over here trying to get my work done, showing up for curriculum night, returning long overdue library books and remembering to buy sneakers in the right size for each kid (how on earth do feet grow so quickly in summer?!). I might have three brain cells left to dedicate to lunch packing. 

I definitely don't have all of the answers, but I have some tips up my sleeve to share with you, and I promise, they don't require more than three brain cells to process.  If you're looking for some lunchbox inspiration, head over to Instagram, where I share loads of lunches regularly. If you're looking for allergy friendly ideas, I've got you covered

Produce Prep

1. Cut your fruit and veggies in advance. Just do it. If setting aside the time is hard, I understand. It's probably not the best thing to do on, say, a Monday morning before school and work. How about at some point on the weekend though? Buy your produce during the week and set up shop with your cutting board and your knife for 20 minutes on the weekend. Your future self will be incredibly grateful. I love produce prep not only because it makes my lunchpacking and cooking easier, but also because it's quiet solo time for me. I take it where I can get it, so I'm calling it a win-win. 

Packed Lunch

2. Stop reinventing the wheel. You really don't need to come up with something new and interesting for lunch all the time. Your kids can do all of that heavy lifting for you. If it's a busy week ahead for me, I let my kids know what's available for them to choose based on what I know I'll have time to pack. Sometimes that's yogurt, fruit, veggies and frozen waffles. Sometimes it's more elaborate. My kids use the LaLa Lunchbox app, but however you hand over the reigns to your brood, make it a system that works for you. 

Using LaLa Lunchbox

3. Meal Plan. The LaLa Lunchbox meal planning app is the only one that involves kids in the process of choosing what's for lunch. It's a fun, simple and interactive platform that engages kids, empowering them to make better choices when it comes to the food they eat. For parents, it generates an easy-to-use grocery list to help them stay organized and on top of their lunch game. The best part is, it's free to download (only available right now on iOS). Give it a try and let me know what you think! 

School lunch can be challenging, but we're in this together. However you handle it at your house, I'm wishing you the best.  

Easy Pasta with Bolognese Sauce for Weeknights and School Lunch Leftovers

courtesy of The New York Times

courtesy of The New York Times

Marcella Hazan's recipe for Bolognese sauce was a game changer for me. It's rich, flavorful, and comforting, like an evening with an old friend, and satisfying in every way. But when my youngest child turned out to be allergic to dairy, I knew I had to make some modifications so that we could enjoy this dish as a family.

Over the years, I've made some version of Bolognese at least a hundred times and the truth is, it has changed far beyond Marcella's recipe. I'm not even sure I can still call it Bolognese! But I do. And realistically, for a working mom with three kids, the recipe has evolved to a point where it's easy and fast for me to make as well as delicious and safe for all of us to eat. 

Here's what I love best about Bolognese: my kids eat it hot or cold, and basically beg for it in their lunchboxes as leftovers. 

My kids love cold Bolognese with pasta in their lunchbox!

My kids love cold Bolognese with pasta in their lunchbox!

This recipe can have loads of variation (included below) which makes it incredibly approachable. I'm now able to get pasta with Bolognese on the table in 30 minutes or less, and while it's a far cry from Marcella's slow cooked masterpiece, it fits the bill in a pinch. 

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 large carrots, chopped (optional)
1 chopped onion (optional) 
1/2 cup chopped celery (optional)
1/2 red bell pepper chopped (optional) 
1.5-2 pounds ground meat (I have used beef, veal, pork and turkey. My preference is beef or pork)
salt and pepper to taste
28 ounce container tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
pinch of ground nutmeg
3-4 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped
1 pound of pasta
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional) 

Method
1. Put the oil in a pot on medium heat and add the garlic and onion (if using). After one minute, add the carrot celery and/or peppers (if using) and cook for about 2 minutes until the veggies are fragrant and evenly coated in oil. 

2. Add the ground meat and break up chunks with a wooden spoon, incorporating the veggies with the meat. Cook on low to medium heat until the meat is no longer raw and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Add the tomato and stir frequently until all ingredients are nicely combined. Add the pinch of nutmeg and stir again. 

4. Add half of the freshly chopped basil, stir and let the sauce simmer for another 15-20 minutes while you make 1 pound of pasta. 

5. Toss with cooked drained pasta and add remaining basil to garnish. 

Enjoy immediately and then enjoy leftovers the next day!