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    This column will cover the basics that are needed for preparing meals to be placed in lunch boxes and lunch sacks and brought to school, work or elsewhere. This is the first in a series of three columns dealing with lunch box and lunch sack ideas. The other two will discuss the food to be packed, while this column discusses the supplies needed.

    There are four major concerns when dealing with the act of packing lunches for children and adults:

    1. Cost efficiency.
    2. Environmental friendliness.
    3. The health of the family.
    4. The ability to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

    These are the issues that I will be discussing today. They are all equally important, and I have some ideas that may interest you.

    Cost Efficiency

    Plastic baggies, wrap and aluminum foil may seem like the cheapest way to go, but this is not really the case environomentally or health wise. These items can end up costing you a lot of money over time, especially if you have more than one child, and both mom and dad take meals to work with them. Purchasing new character lunch boxes each year also adds up over time, as does the purchase of plastic silverware and paper napkins. 

    The continued use of an insulated lunch sack is the best choice for packing food. This will allow for a certain amount of coolness to remain within the so that foods will not get overly warm on hot days. These ‘coolers’ come in different colors and usually have a strap to be carried over the shoulder. They also can be found with a pocket or two for storing non food items such as napkins and silverware. This does not always come with a thermos for drinks, but one can be purchased separately.

    Cloth napkins should be used, as well as reusable containers for all types of food. Reusable silverware is another necessary item. Children will be able to handle remembering to bring everything back home, and can even be trained to place their napkins in the laundry basket and to wash everything else out once they arrive home. Over the years, these items will save you much money. And, you will rarely have to replace items.

    As for the reusable containers: There are tiny round and square containers with lids that will hold such things as salad dressing and ketchup. There are sandwich sized containers with lids that will be useful, and small containers for other food items. Multi use containers are the best.

    My suggestion is to begin purchasing these alternatives at yard sales, thrift shops and clearance sales. Use word of mouth among family and friends that you are looking for certain items, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you receive. Many products can also be asked for as gifts for Christmas and birthdays. Always accept everything offered, even if you already have them. They will come in handy eventually. Purchase what you have to at full price.

    Environmetal Friendliness

    By not using the disposable products when packing lunches, and investing in items that can be used for years, you will be helping the environment in a very important way. This teaches children that our environment is important, and that its’ health is as important as their own.

    LunchSkins are one example of an environmentally friendly product. These are reusable sandwich bags that are made from thick cotton, that are BPA free and can be thrown in the dishwasher. There are also snack bags. Research other items as time allows.

    The Health of the Family

    BPA is a real concern in this day and time. It is believed that continued use of products with BPA in them are a cause of many of the major health issues in people. It is important to look for products that do not have this in them.

    There are plastic and other products on the shelves at stores such as Wal*Mart that have no BPA. There are water bottles that are also healthier for you to use. Do some more research to determine what products will be useful for your family.

    The Ability to Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

    Investing in two or three thermoses for each family member is a great way to offer a variety foods. There are thermoses, in different sizes, that will keep food either hot or cold, depending on your needs. One small thermos each will be used for drinks. Another for soup or pasta. These will not necessarily go into the lunch box or lunch sack, but will be handed over along with them.

    To Get Started Packing Lunches Now

    Though this article is not about the recipes to use when packing lunches, you can visit the Frugal Recipes to blog for a variety of recipes to use for this purpose. Look under the School/Work Lunches topic for these recipes.

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