The market these days seems to be flooded with all kinds of products for children's lunches. BPA free, PVC free, phthalate free... The problem is, many companies have replaced BPA with BPS, which they are finding to be equally dangerous, and sometimes those aren't the only things that may be lurking in the product. For instance, I found neoprene insulated lunchbags advertised on a number of "green" sites, because they are BPA free, PVC free, bla, bla, bla. Then I looked into neoprene, which is a petroleum based synthetic rubber specifically designed to last forever. Oh yeah, and it was originally made by Dupont - that fact alone was almost enough for me to avoid it. Upon further investigation, I found some information on offgassing VOCs, as well as articles mentioning formaldehyde and heavy metals. YIKES!
I decided then that the approach I would take to this was to find lunch bags and containers that had zero to minimal synthetic materials, or were made of recycled synthetics, because if you prefer to have a wipeable inner surface having some synthetic material is unavoidable, but that doesn't mean the entire thing has to be constructed of indestructable synthetic rubber. However, I kept sandwich bags to those made without synthetic linings, because I'm just uneasy about polyurethane coatings and whatnot, regardless of claims. You will also notice that while I'm a huge fan of glass for food storage, I omitted it in this post. Certainly, small mason jars would be great in a lunch bag, and if glass lock containers work for you, then you can easily find them these days at your local TJMaxx or Marshalls for cheap. Since the focus of this post was children's lunches, even though many of you may be comfortable packing heavier glass in your children's lunches, I decided to hone in on more lightweight products. This brings me to my number one choice for food storage...
When it comes to packing lunch, Abeego can't be beat! You can read my complete review of Abeego products here. It's lightweight and keeps food fresh with none of those questionable materials that line many reusable sandwich bags - just hemp and cotton fabric infused with natural beeswax and jojoba oil, made in Canada. They are simple, available in a number of sizes, and best of all, if you're interested in trying some, Abeego has been kind enough to offer 2 sets of their flats for one lucky winner!
Each set contains 3 flats, 1 in each size - small, medium and large.
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY, please see the rafflecopter box at the bottom of this post. [Giveaway is closed]
Life Without Plastic
SANCTUS MUNDO AIRTIGHT STAINLESS STEEL STORAGE
These stainless steel containers are the only leak proof ones without plastic lids that I found, thanks to a silicone seal around the lid. The bottoms are dishwasher safe, and can be heated directly on the stove. The entire container, lid and all, is freezer safe, and these come in a wide variety of sizes, even very large household sizes. They are made responsibly in Korea, and Life Without Plastic also has a great selection of airtight glass containers with stainless lids as well. And if you're interested in ^^ Abeego, they sell that too! :)
PLASTIC FREE INSULATED LUNCH BAG
Life Without Plastic has this plastic free wool insulated lunch bag, available in green or orange trim. It is made of 100% certified organic, unbleached cotton canvas, and insulated with wool. The snap in organic cotton liner is removeable and washable. It is made in India, and the size is 9" x 10.5" x 5.5"
TRADITIONAL METAL LUNCHBOX
I looked long and hard to find a simple metal lunchbox that wasn't made in China and coated in questionable paints. These lunchboxes are handmade in Canada and come in three sizes, large (14.5" long x 6.5" deep x 9" high), medium (12" long x 4.75" deep x 7.5" high), small (9" long x 4.75" deep x 7.5" high). The small one is pictured here.
STAINLESS FOLDING SPORK W/ORGANIC COTTON POUCH
This ingenius concept has a folding handle, and fits neatly into the organic cotton pouch so you can take it anywhere. The spork is made in China and the pouch is made in India.
COTTON AND HEMP SANDWICH BAG
Made of a certified organic cotton and hemp blend, this bag is 8" x 8" and can be machine washed. It is made in Canada.
SANCTUS MUNDO RECTANGULAR SANDWICH BOX
This compact stainless steel container is sized perfectly for a sandwich. It is 6 3/4" x 4 5/8" x 1 1/4" and it is responsibly made in Korea.
The ECOlunchbag comes in 16 gorgeous designs of hand block prints made by artisans in India, and it's reversible and machine washable. It is adjustable for both children and adults with a strap that can button down or be left unbuttoned. It measures 12" tall and the bottom is a square that is 6" x 6" and it comes with 3 matching napkins/placemats that are 16" x 12" They also offer several other bags in different sizes and designs.
ECOLUNCHBOXES AND ECOLUNCHPODS
They have a number of different stainless steel containers in various shapes and sizes to accommodate any number of lunch items. Some have latches on the lids, but none of them are leak proof since there are no synthetics added to create a seal. They will, however, hold damp foods just fine. The oval is manufactured in Taiwan, and the others are made at a family-owned factory in India.
These are available in stainless as well as bamboo, and there is also a bamboo knife, fork and spoon set in a handy cork carrying pouch. The bamboo are all fair trade products from China, and the stainless spork is also made in China. They also have stainless steel straws with a matching cleaner on this page.
These are a big favorite among parents. The stainless lunchboxes come in three sizes, with varying depths and numbers of compartments. All of their products except their ice packs (which are made in the USA) are made in China. You can read more about their ethical manufacturing processes here.
Kids can decorate their lunchboxes with these magnets that come in a large number of designs. The lunchboxes are sold in customizable ways, usually including one set of magnets. The magnets are PVC free and made of non-toxic, synthetic rubber.
The bags for the child-sized "Rover" and "Shuttle" boxes are made of recycled polyester fiber. There are many colors to choose from for the Rover, and Shuttle bags have four colors with cute designs on them.
Planetbox also carries small stainless steel containers that can hold wet foods and are compatible with different lunchboxes for storing inside, or can be used anywhere stored alone. They also have stainless steel utensils with the planet logo imprinted on the base.
TIFFIN FOOD CARRIERS
To-Go Ware makes stainless steel "tiffins" - tiered food storage containers with latches. They say that while the food carriers aren't leak proof, they will hold liquids well provided it's not shaken hard or flipped upside down. They come in stacks of 2 and 3, and are manufactured in India but are not fair trade. According to their site, they "work with companies abroad that conduct regular, suprise audits to ensure that the manufacturers are doing well by the people and the planet."
RECYCLED COTTON CARRIER BAG
These handy bags come in the 2 tier or 3 tier size, and are made of reclaimed cotton collected in India. They believe in making it a priority to utilize existing materials over virgin ones. The bags are not insulated and are machine washable (though air drying is recommended).
RePEaT and CONSERVE BAMBOO UTENSIL SETS
The RePEaT sets are bamboo utensils that come in a carrying case made of recycled PET plastic (plastic bottles). According to their site, the "bamboo utensils are sourced and made in China by a small cottage industry factory... the sourcing and harvesting is sustainable and they employ fair labor practices." The CONSERVE sets are the same bamboo utensils in recycled plastic wraps that are made of plastic bags collected off the streets of New Delhi.
INSULATED LUNCH SAC
These machine washable insulated bags are made with 100% non-toxic recycled PET #1 plastic bottles, and are insulated with non-toxic #1 PE plastic. They are 12" tall x 7.5" wide x 5" deep, and have an adjustable strap as well as an inside pocket to store an ice pack, napkins, etc... They are made responsibly in Taiwan, and you can read more about their manufacturing processes here.
STAINLESS STEEL CONTAINERS
They have containers in just about every shape and size for a lunch bag - square, rectangular, round... Almost all of them are stainless steel with lids made of LDPE #4 plastic. Their mini containers are made entirely of stainless steel. They are made in China "in facitilies that are working toward green practices."
BAMBOO UTENSIL WITH MESH POUCH
This bamboo utensil has a fork with full size tongs, and spoon on another side. It is made in China with sustainably harvested bamboo, and the mesh carrying bag is made of polyester.
Insulated Lunch Bags:
Carried Away Bags (Etsy)
ORGANIC COTTON LUNCH BAG INSULATED WITH WOOL
These bags come in a number of designs, and are made with organic cotton fabric, including the lining. They are insulated with wool, and measure 12" tall (including handle) x 9.5" across x 2.5" deep at the bottom.
Island Picnic (Etsy)
ORGANIC COTTON INSULATED ECO LUNCH TOTE
Made of organic cotton, and insulated with organic cotton batting, Island Picnic has many different solid colors as well as interesting patterns of this reusable take on the brown bag. It's machine washable and is available with matching snack bags and napkins. It measures 8" x 10" x 3"
Binski's Studio (Etsy)
INSULATED LUNCH TOTE
Binski's Studio makes several different styles of insulated bags in various shapes and sizes, including ones for bento boxes. These bags are custom made with the fabric of your choice! These bags have cotton on the inside and outside, and are insulated with Insul-Bright polyester batting. For anyone interested in a wipeable inner surface, she is happy to make it with laminated fabric, and can provide a quote once the fabric is chosen.
LUNCHBOXES, SMALL COOLER BAGS, LARGE COOLER BAGS
These insulated bags come in three sizes - lunch box, small cooler and large cooler, with simple designs printed on them (they also make matching backpacks). The exterior is made of EVA coated linen, and the interiors have a removable (as of 2013), easy clean aluminum coated insulating insert that is fully submergible. Their products are made in China, in company owned facilities that they personally visit and carefully inspect. The facilities meet standards for fair compensation and age requirements.
100% MADE IN THE USA INSULATED LUNCH BAG
I'm not a fan that the shell of this bag is nylon and all the straps and buckles are plastic, but it's hand assembled in the USA with USA made parts. Lunchskins sandwich bags are made in the USA, but their totes are made in China and all of them are coated in polyurethane so I omitted them. If product origin is top priority, then besides the etsy bags - this is it. It's insulated with recycled plastic bottles and containers. There's a 6-pack style too.
These bags are intriguing and come in cute designs. They are water resistant and will keep things cold 4-5 hours. From the site: "Our Lunch Bags and Snack Sacks are made from a unique foam textile that is an environmentally friendly alterative to synthetic rubber. Completely biodegradable, the material is also 100% toxic free including free of PVC, BPA’s, lead, and phthalates. Only water based adhesives are used so it is solvent free and contains no residual VOC’s. Our Backpacks and Lunch Purses are made from Eco-sponge neoprene, a durable fabric that is limestone-based. It has been tested in an independent lab and exceeds CPSIA standards for safety and is free of lead, PVC, BPA’s and Phthalates...Designed in Seattle, WA our bags are made in Taiwan at a small, family-owned sewing facility that is dedicated to responsible labor practices. We visit regularly and are pleased to have found this dedicated specialty work force that stitches each bag individually. Subtle differences in each bag add to their unique charm."
Cotton Lunch Totes/Bags and Sandwich Bags:
ORGANIC CLOTH LUNCH TOTES, SANDWICH/SNACK BAGS, NAPKINS
All of Graze Organic products are made of 100% certified organic cotton, hand screened with water based inks. They are made in the USA in California. They have lunch totes, sandwich and snack bags, as well as napkins.
The High Fiber
COTTON SANDWICH/SNACK BAGS AND NAPKINS
There were so many adorable designs in this store I had a hard time choosing a photograph! These bags are made of cotton with different appliques - from simple patterns seen here to mushrooms, strawberries, veggies... They come lined with nylon but ARE available without the nylon and only cotton if requested. They have handy tabs for easy opening, and gussets at the base so they can hold more than a flat bag and won't squash your sandwich. There are also napkins and produce/bulk food bags.
ORGANIC UNBLEACHED MUSLIN BAGS
If you are looking for a simple, affordable bag, then Natural Linens has a nice selection of different sized bags in organic, unbleached muslin. They also have nut milk straining bags, cheese straining cloths, cloth coffee filters and tea bags, and unpaper towels.
Mimi the Sardine
LUNCH BUGS AND LUNCH CLUTCHES
The children's version of these lunch totes, the lunch bugs, are no longer being made, but they are worth noting because they are made in the USA with European fabrics. They are constructed of organic cotton and have a wipeable coating of a water based, non-toxic, acrylic finish. You can still find the kids designs lingering in a few places like The Mighty Nest and Jillians Drawers, but now they are focusing on adult and home products, so the only ones currently being manufactured are the striped lunch clutches, which would still be suitable for a child in my opinion. If you need a bib and can find those left anywhere - I'd snatch one up! They were a favorite in this house, and we're sad that they're no longer making them.
LIGHTWEIGHT RECYCLED MATERIAL LUNCHBAG
These affordable, basic bags are made entirely in the USA and constructed of "recovered scraps of preconsumer cotton and recycled polyester." The bags come in medium and large in several colors.
ORGANIC LUNCH BAG
Again, I had a hard time choosing a design to feature because Fluf has so many cute ones. Their bags are made of 100% certified organic cotton, however, they are lined with water resistant polyester (their snack bags are lined with this as well). They are screen printed with low-impact dyes that are tested to be free of AZO, formaldehyde and heavy metals. The organic cotton is sourced from China or Turkey, and are manufactured in China where employees are paid fair wages, have health insurance and more.
CERTIFIED ORGANIC LUNCH BAG
A simple, basic lunch sack made of organic cotton canvas with a velcro closure. It measures 7" wide x 10.5" tall x 4.5" deep. ECOBAGS are made with fair wage and fair labor practices, and you can read more about that here.
Stainless Steel Food Storage:
Greentainer products have an interesting tiered feature that nests inside of the outer container. They also sell small containers and stainless steel trays with compartments. They are made by a small, Toronto based business, and manufactured responsibly in India.
This thermos is made in China, but was so unique I couldn't help but share it. It is on the large side, holding 17oz and measuring 6.8" high x 4.8" in diameter. I love that the spoon is magnetized to the outside, as well as the silicone seal (no plastic touching your hot liquids) and cork lid. A truly unique design!
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