The Fresh Sandwich Problem

Reusable sandwich bags

With all of the focus on cloth diapers recently, I’ve been thinking about other reusable options. For a couple of weeks, I’m going to cover some of those easy, reusable products that anyone can introduce to their family.

Reusable Sandwich Bags and Wraps

Every eco parent who makes a sandwich every morning for their child has wondered how to keep that sandwich fresh without a zip-top plastic bag that gets thrown in the garbage at school. For some parents, a reusable bag is enough. I have picked these up many times and wanted to love them, but I just don’t. I don’t want to wrap my child’s food in plastic, even if it is reusable plastic. I realize that we don’t all share the same aversions to particular solutions to the fresh sandwich problem, so I’ve tried to cover every solution I can think of, asking the pros and cons of each.

I came up with characteristics of sandwich wraps and bags in these areas:

  • transport to school (waterproof, plastic next to food, can smash, can leak);
  • useful while eating (doubles as placement);
  • transportation back home (heavy, bulky/not flat);
  • care (single-use, wash & reuse, washing machine or dishwasher); and
  • material (plastic, polyester, cotton, glass, metal).

For potential solutions, I thought of:

  • the no-zip, single-use plastic bag and the zip-top plastic bag, both of which can be rinsed and reused a couple of times, but are still meant to be thrown away;
  • a lightweight paper bag, which might last for a couple of days if the sandwiches are dry;
  • waxed paper, though it is coated in petroleum-derived wax, or parchment or baking paper, which is available with or without a petroleum-derived coating;
  • a cotton bag with a drawstring or a cotton cloth (a napkin) just wrapped around the sandwich;
  • a waterproof sandwich wrap that can double as a placemat;
  • a waterproof sandwich bag with hook & loop or zipper;
  • a glass container with a lid; and
  • a metal container with a lid.
  waterproof plastic touches food smash leak placemat heavy bulky single-use wash machine wash material
no-zip plastic bag y y y y y plastic
zip-top plastic bag y y y y y plastic
paper bag y y y paper
waxed paper y y y y y paper + plastic
parchment paper y y y paper
cotton bag y y y y


cotton cloth y y y y y cotton
wrap y y y y y y cotton or poly + plastic
bag w/ hook & loop y y y y y cotton or poly + plastic
bag w/ zip y y y y y cotton or poly + plastic
glass y y y y y glass + plastic
metal y y y y metal

I don’t want this to be a list of products you should buy. I don’t think you should buy a lot of these. We at carry a lot of reusable food storage products, and we look for high quality in everything we stock. I hope that by comparing the characteristics of each solution, you will be able to figure out which fits best with your expectations.

Wean Glass Sandwich container

I love the resurgence of reusable sandwich wraps and other sandwich containers. There is such a variety of styles and prints made of fabric. It’s also really easy to make your own sandwich wraps.

DIY Caution!

If you make your own sandwich wrap, don’t use iron-on vinyl. That is not food safe. I don’t love the idea of using polyurethane laminate (PUL) next to food, but a lot of PUL has been tested for phthalates banned in the U.S. children’s product safety law, CPSIA, since this is a material used commonly in diaper covers. Still, it contains non-banned plastic softeners, and I can’t wrap my mind around the reason anyone would wrap plastic around food. If you are going to make your own bags or wraps, at least get “sandwiched PUL” (which doesn’t have anything to do with the sandwiches made out of bread until you make your wrap). In this type of PUL, the plastic coating is hidden between two layers of fabric, usually cotton or polyester. That way, you get your waterproof layer without it touching the food.

I hope this helps you think through what works for you in keeping sandwiches safe for a few hours from the time your child leaves home until lunchtime.

Lunch Bots Uno Sandwich container

Adding reusable products to your family’s regular routines is easy. I will share a few more ideas next week.

Stainless Steel Dishes for Children

Stainless Steel Dishes for Children

In our quest for the safest products for children, we’ve worked hard to avoid plastic, melamine, and other products that can leach dangerous chemicals or dangerous levels of naturally-occurring substances. One material that we really like for children’s mealtimes and lunch boxes is stainless steel.

High-grade stainless steel is considered food-grade or medical-grade. All of the stainless steel dishes and utensils at are made from high-grade stainless steel.

Stable Materials

One problem with plastics in direct contact with our food and our skin is its potential instability. Plastics can leach chemicals into food and into our bodies. Plastics are made with a huge variety of additives to mimic rubber, glass, and other stable materials. But, these additives are not all stable, especially when heated.

So, we look for stable materials for serving and storing food. Stainless steel is one of those stable materials.

Should I Be Cautious?

Stainless steel dishes and cookware can add iron and chromium to your food. Since our bodies need these, this isn’t a problem. Dishes don’t give off toxic amounts even if used every day for every meal.

They might also give off nickel, which isn’t toxic for most of us, but can be a problem for the approximately 10% of the population who are sensitive to nickel. If you or your child are sensitive to nickel, just don’t use stainless steel for cooking or eating.

How Long Will Stainless Steel Dishes Last?

Though stainless steel will last for a long time, it will show wear. You will probably see scratches from utensils, for example. These micro-scratches aren’t particularly unsightly. When you finally decide you are done with stainless steel dishes (maybe a generation from now!), they are 100% recyclable.

Cool Little Reusable Snack Containers

Itzy Ritzy snack bag in blue urban jungle

As I write, my son is preparing for his last big day out of the summer. He’s going hiking with friends. He’s filling his many-pocketed pants with all of the essentials: compass, magnifying glass, pen & paper, little bottle (“What for?” “For play!”), binoculars, and SNACKS! A lot of snacks. My son stuffs his pockets full of nuts and fruit and cracks and cheese and carrots and grapes when he goes out. His lunch is in his backpack, but that’s just not the same, he tells me.

Lunch is wrapped in a cloth napkin with sides in glass containers. Glass containers don’t work in the pockets, though. When a kid is taking a snack in a pocket, he needs a reusable snack container that won’t add weight or bulk on his adventures. Zippered cloth bags are a perfect solution for young adventures’ snacks.

Itzy Ritzy Reusable Snack Bags

Children with Itzy Ritzy Reusable Snack bags

Our Itzy Ritzy reusable snack bags have been flying out the door. I know this is partly because they are just so cute, but parents also appreciate that they will no longer have to buy plastic baggies.

Itzy Ritzy bags are sandwich sized (7″ x 7″), though, and sometimes that’s just more than necessary for a small snack. The KangaSac reusable snack bags are half the size of the Itzy Ritzy reusable bags.

Colorful prints make Itzy Ritzy bags stand out.

KangaSac Reusable Snack Bags

KangaSac Snack Bags

If a 7″ x 7″ bag is just too big for your child’s snacks, KangaSac has smaller, 7″ x 4″, zippered bags that can fit a lot of snacks. The bright colored fabrics of KangaSac reusable bags are smooth enough that they take permanent marker very well, which means your child can personalize them. For my expressive children, drawing all over their stuff holds great appeal.

Protection for Soft Snacks

One of my concerns with snack bags is that they go into my son’s pockets and get squished. For softer, more delicate foods that you want to protect from getting smashed, it helped to have a snack container with a little more structure.

There are a couple of options for snack containers that will keep soft foods safe.

Kinderville Little Bites Silicone Snack Jars

Kinderville Jars Mini

Kinderville Little Bites mini jars are a perfect size for snacks. They are made from 100% silicone, which makes them a little soft, but they offer more protection than zippered cloth bags. Small Little Bites jars hold just less than ½ cup.

To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Sidekick

ToGo Ware mini sidekick

For snacks that need the most protection, try the To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Mini Sidekick, which goes with the To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Food Carrier. The Sidekick holds about ½ cup.

My young adventurer has his pockets full of equipment and snacks, and I feel confident that while he is on his hike today he will be well fed and won’t be leaving any garbage behind.