Trials and tribulations of lunch: Part One

By Mir
September 5, 2006

I received two questions about kids and school lunches, this past week, so I’m going to try to answer them in a somewhat timely manner as it appears that school has actually, you know, started for most of us.

First we have this desperate plea from Pieces:

Dear Mir,

Did you know that you are even pretty over my bloglines account? Just thought you might want to know.

My question for you is a little late in the season but I’ve backed myself into a difficult position. My kids start school tomorrow. And while I have successfully purchased the seventy bazillion dollars worth of school supplies, I just realized I forgot to buy lunch boxes. Gasp! I promised the kiddos new ones–ones that were big enough to actually hold a lunch and wouldn’t smash down into an envelope-sized container. I know that I have missed the boat when it comes to shopping in the stores. All that is left is tiny-Batman-smooshy lunch totes. Unacceptable for my junior higher. So I plan on shopping online. I have no idea where to start.

Do you have any advice? Wisdom? Miracles? They are going with brown paper bags tomorrow. It will be a sad day in the Pieces’ household.

Brown paper bags? Oh, the horror!

Okay, not really. It could be worse. They could be using flourescent Elmo lunchbags in high school, or something.

My first reaction to this question is to advise you to rethink the online shopping. Yes, it’s late in the season. Yes, there’s not going to be the selection that was available last month. But shopping in-store for a lunch bag right now has two advantages:

1) Whatever you do find leftover from the back-to-school stuff is likely to be on clearance, and

2) Why pay shipping, and wait, on something you want/need right now?

For older kids, in particular, you’re probably looking for something fairly straightforward (as opposed to the latest and greatest characters)… and that may be easier to find than you may think. Sure, you see the sad, empty school supply shelves in every store. But check the camping aisle. Check the sporting goods aisle. You’ll probably find a plethora of perfectly suitable lunchbags sitting there, neglected and lonely.

If you must accomplish this mission online, I suggest my old standby: LL Bean. They have a small variety of sturdy lunchbags in every color of the rainbow which—like all of their merchandise—is backed by the unbeatable Bean guarantee. (And you can use coupon code 7352350 for free shipping.) It’s not your cheapest option, but you will be likely to find something to satisfy every kid and you can rest assured that you’re getting what you pay for. Plus, they ship quickly.

I hope that your kids survived the brown bags and that you are able to get them the lunchbags of their dreams, very soon.

Stay tuned for Part Two: To buy or not to buy, that is the question!


  1. My sister-in-law just picked up a great looking insulated lunch bag at Target the other day. She is a teacher so she needed something without, you know, Hello Kitty on it. There were hard-sided boxes as well, though I think those were fairly theme-y.

  2. A while back I saw some really nice looking lunch bags at Staples. This was when back-to-school shopping was in full swing, but since a lot of them were really marketed towards office workers, they might carry them all the time.

  3. Mir, you are lovely. Thanks for the advice–and so quick too! I will try shopping stores first–I never even thought about looking in the camping/sporting goods aisle.

    Almost as good as the lunch box guidance is the LL Bean free shipping code. I have an order of clothes just sitting there, waiting for free shipping. Thank you, thank you.

  4. We’ve been seeing a ton of lunch boxes everywhere we go – the pharmacy, the supermarket, everywhere. We’re all set here, but there are still a ton available here (New England), but school didn’t start until today.

    As for online shopping, I have a major lust for The Container Store. Actually, I prefer to shop there in person. *sigh* My husband’s lunch is packed with one of their salad containers, my kids take hot dogs in one of their thermal containers, we have carrots & salad dressing in another container, and we have a few of their cool thermal bags (my husband doesn’t want Hello Kitty or Barbie on his, either).

  5. This lunch box will trash ANYTHING you can find in a retail store. Hello Kitty? Roadkill. Ninja Turtles? Pancakes. Starbucks Decaf Nonfat Latte? Ooze on the sidewalk.

  6. Staples? Great idea. I bought my new one (the old one gave up the ghost after 5 years) at Office Max. 15% off because it fit in the discount bag from the newspaper ad!

  7. All hail the power of Eddie. 🙂

  8. Has anyone else noticed how small brown lunch sacks are these days? My 8th grader (13dd) takes her lunch in a gallon size zipper bag. No kidding. It’s far easier to fit into her backpack, doesn’t leak, keeps everything from falling out, and I guess the smoosh factor doesn’t bother her too much (and believe me, at 13, if there is ANYTHING that doesn’t bother her, it’s a good day). I also bought 2 of those lunch containers on clearance from Tupperware (got the link here, as a matter of fact). I know those won’t get crushed in a backpack! Beth

Bargain Hunt





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