23 November 2012

School lunch overhaul

I've been making school lunches for over four years now and I've never been happy with the lunchboxes or drink bottles. Recently I've come up with a solution. I'd love to tell you I sewed our new lunchboxes myself, but it isn't true!

Anna picked the flowers on the way home from school.
I like an insulated lunchbox, because it gets so hot here in summer and I like my children to have a bit of protein with their lunch to carry them through the afternoon, which usually means some kind of meat or fish in their sandwich. I don't want it sitting in the heat for hours. So they have an insulated lunchbox with their various food items in separate containers in the lunchbox, plus an icepack to keep it all cool.

It looks like it's overflowing, but it's actually on its way to
being unpacked. In fact these lunchboxes are exactly the
right size for us.
(I'm lucky they almost never lose things, like the separate containers. Both of them seem to instinctively realise that it's up to them to look after their stuff because their Mama forgets to check for it.)

The trouble is this: sooner or later some food spills and gets into the seams or a split in the lunchbox lining, and despite my nightly wipings, it stinks.

So I found some lunchboxes that can be thrown in the washing machine  They're made to order in New Zealand by a lady who was sick of stinky lunchboxes! They are $15 each (or $25 with two containers inside), plus postage, from this website.

I've bought book bags from her too because I got sick of sending a $6 version bought through the school to the dump every year when it split and peeled. Much like the lunchboxes I started out with - $10 from the Warehouse, destined to fill up the dump. I'm pleased to bow out of the throwaway society whenever possible.

The new lunchboxes aren't cute and fashionable, but my children are satisfied with them, and the plain package means there's nothing to go out of style. These should last for many years.

I also bought two stainless steel drink bottles, because water sitting around in plastic, even if it's not polycarbonate, absorbs pthalates (hormone-disrupting chemicals) from the plastic, which are not my idea of a satisfactory ingredient for a school lunch. I chose Safe Bottles, although I'm not sure if they're the best or not. I've since seen another one that's only a year or so old and most of the paint has peeled off. Frankly I'm not thrilled with the obvious branding on them, either.

Other than that they seem fine, and although they're not suitable for freezing water in the night before for a deliciously cool lunchtime drink, the wide mouth means I can put icecubes in them. Mostly I can't be bothered, but I do it for the very hot February weeks.

Previously I'd made the mistake of buying aluminium drink bottles from the supermarket. Then when I scrubbed them with a bottle brush one day I noticed that the inside had corroded.... into the children's water, no doubt. Woops.

I wrote this just in case anyone else is having the same problems and needs a solution, and especially for anyone kitting their children out for school for the first time. The lunchbox lady does schoolbags too, which are also notorious for falling apart (not hers! I mean the shop ones), although we have avoided that problem with a Camelback backpack which is solid as anything four years later. My other advice on that front is to get one the right size - so often I see five year olds with schoolbags that are way too big, and look very uncomfortable. No good for walk-to-school people like us.

p.s. I meant to write this post a bit earlier but got sidetracked browsing felt.co.nz. I am a little bit in love with these stamps - I have a thing for feathers at the moment.

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