Planetbox-lunch-ideas-for-kids-3I’ve been posting photos of the kid’s lunches almost daily since the beginning of the school year. I had posted a few pictures off and on a bit during the 2013-2014 school year, and they always garnered a lot of attention and questions. Not that they were anything extraordinary, in fact they were quite basic, but I think that’s what my readers and followers over on GMMDI appreciated about them. Like most things I strive to do, they were in fact pretty uncomplicated and provided a few new ideas to time-crunched moms, rather than evoking some uncomfortable lunch-packing envy. So I began posting very regularly during the 2014/2015 school year, and it’s fun to now see almost 90 fun and interesting, yet totally achievable, lunch box ideas we can refer to when in a pinch. By the way, if you’d like to see all of the lunch ideas from this school year, visit the #gmmdi tag on Instagram.

I covered the very grueling debate on choosinga new lunchbox for the new school year in this post last year, which details all the systems we use and what we love/don’t love about each of them. While we have 4 different lunch sets, me and the kids both love the Planetbox Rover the most, for the simple fact that it holds the most variety of food, the easiest. We really do use all of them though, but the Planetboxes garner the most attention and lots of questions, so I thought I’d do a little FAQ round up on the most commonly asked questions. In the comments, please let me know if I’ve missed any and I’ll be sure to update. Here goes.

How does the Planetbox keep food hot or cold?

I get asked this quite often, especially because I send a lot of warm foods in the kid’s lunches. To keep the food cold it’s quite easy; I just include a Planetbox ice pack in their lunch box and it does a decent job keeping the temperature low. I will say though, on super hot days, and because the container is made of metal, the food does heat up. The kids keep their lunchboxes outside in their backpacks, and eat lunch at 11:30 and 11:45 am, so the food doesn’t have a chance to get so hot it spoils. But, foods like string cheese and yogurt get a little too warm for their liking on days that are scorchers. I try to keep this in mind then and not send super perishable foods.

Keeping foods warm is another story though. These containers are not insulated, like thermoses, so they will lose heat and cold. When I want to send warm foods but not use a Thermos, I heat up the food nice and hot before hand, and then either wrap in foil (foods like tortillas or pizzas), or place in the individual lidded containers (like noodles). The food ends up becoming sort of room temperature most days. If I’ve included fruit in the lunch mix along with a hot food, the heat will transfer a bit and everything sort of just warms up or cools down, making all the foods room temperature. Taylor doesn’t usually care either way, as she’s not super picky about temperature, but it’s hit and miss with Syd. On his pickier of days, he’ll leave the food untouched claiming it was too cold, and on other days he could care less.

Bottom line, the Planetbox is not a Thermos so does not hold hot and cold foods super efficiently, but does a decent job of keeping foods cool and safe. No food poisoning yet 🙂 Planetbox-Lunch-Ideas-for-Kids

Does the Planetbox fit in any lunchbox container?

I certainly didn’t try a hundred different options, but I tried at least 3 different sizes, which are pretty “universal” and it didn’t fit in any of them. The Planetbox is a larger rectangle shape, so it was either too wide or too long for many lunchboxes, so I wound up just getting the standard Planetbox lunch container. Good news though, the Planetbox lunchbox holds all my other lunch containers.

Does it leak?

I don’t send super liquidy type foods with the kids, but I have sent applesauce and yogurt. I make sure to always send those in the round lidded containers that come with the Planetbox, and so far we haven’t had a problem with leakage. They are not leak proof though, so I certainly wouldn’t take my chances with soups, or putting things like applesauce in the divided sections.

Is it easy to clean?

It’s incredibly easy to clean, and we actually just stick it right in the dishwasher, with the magnets and all, and have had zero problems. No rusting, no peeling or any other issues.

Is it enough food to keep your kids full?

The Planetbox Rover holds 4.5 cups of food, the most food among all of the major lunch containers, and it holds the most variety too, with 5 separate compartments.  We’ve been in school for 7 months now, and it definitely holds enough to feed them on their hungriest days. If I pack a lunch they are absolutely digging, they eat 100% of the food. On other days where they don’t love the selection, or are in a rush, about 30-40% of it comes home, but I’d say 90% of the time, the food gets completely gobbled up. They certainly come home ready for a snack, but they never complain that they didn’t have enough to eat at school. For this I’m thankful.

How well does it hold up?

So far, 7 months in to the school year, it holds up extremely well. No dents dings or rust spots, and the magnets are still perfectly intact. Planetbox-Lunch-Ideas-for-Kids-2

Does the lunch container hold up well?

Yes, it is well made and insulated, and easy to clean. It is recommended to just spot clean, however Taylor’s was filthy 6 months in to the school year. She clips her lunch-bag onto the outside of her backpack because she has no room to hold it in her backpack (awe the life of a 4th grader), so hers had really taken a beating. I spot cleaned it with some stain remover, then put it in a pillowcase and washed it in cold water on the gentle cycle and it cleaned up beautifully and no worse for wear. Planetbox-lunch-bag

How do you keep your apples and pears from browning?

This really has nothing to do with the Planetbox, but I get asked this all the time. I actually do nothing other than let them get brown! I cut them fresh in the morning so they only have about 4 hours to color, and apparently they don’t brown enough to make them unappealing, as the kids always eat them. Suggestions for you concerned about this though, include squeezing some lemon water on top or soaking them in lemon or citrus water before hand.

Do the kids like it?

They honestly love it. They love helping decide what goes in to each compartment and they love the visual presentation it creates. Nice and neat and orderly, a big plus for Syd, who hates for his foods to touch. Also, having everything laid out so nicely makes it easier to get to and eat quickly, so they can hurry up and play!

Do the kids actually eat all the food you pack?

Like I said, they go through phases, but most of the time they do eat most if not all the food I pack. There’s occasional hits and misses, but I know them pretty well by now, and know what they’ll go for and what they’ll shy away from. Syd’s easy in a way because despite him being particular, he can also eat the same thing everyday, and wouldn’t really mind if I packed hi, pb& j each day. Taylor on the other hand, really loves it when I get creative. I strive for balance though so I don’t drive myself crazy!

Does the food stay as neat as when you pack it?

For the most part, yes, the food stays pretty well intact.

How do you come up with lunch ideas?

I follow a few great lunch idea accounts on Instagram, I’m not afraid to serve up leftovers, and I just try to think of foods I’d make us here at home on the weekends, and try to adapt them to make them lunchbox friendly. I’m never going to be the fancy bento lady though, making cute faces on their bread and cutting intricate designs in their fruit, so letting go of that notion helps a lot.

What are some of your favorite lunch box foods to include?

I try to always include a fruit and or veggie, some protein, something crunch and/or sweet as a treat, and something carb based to help fill them up. If I’m packing a meatless lunch, I always include a veggie and some sort of grain or legume to make a complete protein. I always try to have some Applegate lunch meats on hand or in the freezer, as those are easy, clean and healthy no-brainers to include. String cheese, yogurt and hard-boiled eggs are great sources of dairy protein as well. Even though GM bought Annie’s, I still like their healthier snack options the best, and so do the kids. I make it a point to browse the bulk bins at the grocery store too, as I always find fun new dried fruits and snack options to help make the lunches a little more creative and unique. Overall though, helping to make healthy eating fun and enjoyable is really the thing I love most about the Planetbox, and any other bento style lunch container like this.

Despite the Planetbox being a big initial investment, I can seriously see us using these containers for years and years to come because the kids can grow in to them and I can just tell they’ll last that long. When Taylor enters junior high, she can simply pull off the magnets and carry around a very cool and hip stainless steel lunch container, and as Syd grows up he could too go magnetless or buy another option. They also hold plenty of food so should last them until they get to high school and are corrupted by the lunch carts or the allure of going off campus for lunch. My only regret is not investing in them earlier, but I’ll make sure to start Hayden off right when he goes to Kindergarten.

Hey, let me know if you still have questions!