I never thought I’d say this but I am SO EXCITED to start packing school lunches this September. After spending most of the past year (and some of the one before) screaming into a pillow while my kids ‘learned’ online, I am actually looking forward to getting back into the school lunch prep routine.
Okay, truthfully I’m most excited to get them out of the house and if that means dealing with soggy sandwiches and brown apples I’m all for it.
But it’s been a while, so I need to stock up on supplies. If you do too, check out our round-up of essential items to make packing and prepping more of a breeze than ever before. All prices listed are current as of posting.
School Lunch Prep Essentials
Set of 5 $15.99 at amazon.ca
If your house is anything like mine, the cutting board is almost always either missing or covered in something sticky, which is not helpful when you have about 20 seconds to slice cucumbers, apples, and sandwiches. So do yourself a favour and grab a set of these BPA-free, non-slip, dishwasher safe mats to help speed up your school lunch prep time.
$26.78 at amazon.ca
And while you’re at it, Amazon basics makes a great 12-piece coloured knife set with matching protective covers. Stainless steel blades and non-stick coating make these a kitchen essential for busy mornings.
$19.50 at Indigo.ca
Wait, what? A waffle maker? For school lunch prep?! YES. Trust me, there’s not much this tiny little gem can’t do. Tons of yummy breakfast and lunch box foods can be made here, like waffles, chaffles, gingerbread, hashbrowns, brownies and more. This small but mighty appliance takes up very little counter space and is a great, easy-to-clean tool for yummy weekday and weekend mornings.
Pack of 4 currently $49.86 at wayfair.ca
Considering one trendy bento box can set you back at least $20-$30, this set of 4 for $50 is kind of a steal. These three-compartment containers keep the wet food wet and the dry food dry, because the grapes should NEVER touch the rice, amiright? They’re also BPA-free and microwave and dishwasher safe, making them great for food storage and easy reheating of meals on the go. Still not sold on the investment? Try this two-compartment BFA-free version from Starfrit for just $6.59.
30-pieces for $13.99 on amazon.ca
Not feeling the bento box? Try placing silicone muffin cups or moulds inside your existing containers to separate food items. Though not as fast and easy for prep and clean-up, this is a great way to get some of the bento box functionality without the cost. Molds are microwave, oven, freezer, and dishwasher safe.
Pack of 5 $10.78 at amazon.ca
For snacks it’s tough to beat the value and functionality of Rubbermaid TakeAlongs. These small but mighty containers are perfect for everything from pretzels and cut-up fruit to salad dressing and condiments or even a small stack of Oreos.
Set of 4 – $11.88 at amazon.ca
Some foods are meant to be cold. (I’m looking at you hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and baby carrots). To prevent your kid from making covert trips to the bathroom to dispose of warm, uneaten food, grab a set of slim ice packs that don’t take up a lot of space in his lunchbox. At about $3 apiece, they’re non-toxic and designed to be used over and over again.
8-pack for $18.69 on amazon.ca
Full disclosure: reusable ziplock-type bags are not my favourite, simply because they’re more of a hassle to clean. But for price and functionality (not to mention the whole saving the planet thing) they’re tough to beat. This set features a stand-up design making them a little easier to use and clean. They’re also BPA-free and feature a non-slip double ziplock to help ensure contents stay fresh and don’t leak.
6-pack for $18.88 at amazon.ca
These sustainable, natural food storage wraps are made from organic cotton and harvested beeswax and can be used instead of single-use plastic bags, or even foil, parchment, or wax paper to pack most lunch box items. Each wrap acts like food’s second skin and can be shaped to fit using your hand. These wraps are anti-bacterial and anti-odor but should not be used to store frozen foods or raw meat.
$30.09 at amazon.ca
Thermos-type containers are great for keeping hot food hot and cold food cold, but they can be a challenge for little hands to open by themselves. While a good thermos-type container will set you back at least $20, this one comes in a little higher, but we like it because it’s easier for little hands to open thanks to the handled lid. Plus, it’s ridiculously cute. But it may not hold enough food for bigger kids so consider what size you need before you buy. And while you can toss it in the dishwasher, hand-washing is recommended.
3 sets (6 pieces) $7.99 at well.ca
Back in my day, school lunches came with a good old silver fork or spoon but now there are better options, ones that are sized right for little hands and lunch boxes. Packing cutlery in your kid’s lunch box helps prevent sticky fingers (ew!) and reduce the spread of germs but there’s no guarantee they’ll use it and not lose it. So depending on the kid, you can make a small investment in a reusable, dishwasher safe set like this one, or snag a 24-pack of NatureZway Bamboo Disposable Cutlery for a single-use, compostable, plant-based option.
$10.98 at Staples.ca
In my next life I’m going to be a water bottle mogul. I mean, have you seen the prices of these things? I can’t bear to spend a lot of money on something I know my kids will leave on the playground or the soccer field (even if it’s cute), so I’m always on the lookout for less expensive options. At just over $10, this Nalgene bottle is BPA-free, leakproof and a decent size (12 oz), making it suitable for little and medium-sized kids, but probably not big kids. Do yourself a favour and buy three.