School has (finally) started and many moms and dads are back to the daily grind of packing lunches for their little ones. I was looking to find some new, kid-friendly food containers to use this school year, and I found a few cool ideas that I'm happy to share with you. In general, I prefer to use reusable items rather than plastic wrap, tin foil, or plastic sandwich bags as much as possible to limit what goes into the trash each day. While I've heard some friends say they "really don't care" or they "don't have the time" to wash things, I would hope that some people will think about the environmental impact of tossing out so much unnecessary trash each day and possibly look into items such as these that are easy-to-clean and fun to use. And, these containers are all BPA free, so you don't have to worry about that nastiness getting into your child's noontime nosh.
We all grew up with actual Thermos (http://www.thermos.com/) brand products in our lunchboxes, and the company is still going strong for the next generation. Thermos recently introduced its new decorated line of Thermos Foogo products, which include drinkware and accessories along with convenient, top-of-the-line food jars. This BPA-free line is dishwasher safe and available in double wall vacuum-insulated stainless steel that keeps beverages cold for up to 7 hours and hot for up to 5 hours.
The Foogo products come in two different patterns: Tripoli - a retro blue and green design - and Poppy Patch - a pink and blue floral print. We tested out the 10 ounce food jar (about $18), and it did a nice job of keeping good ol' mac & cheese hot until lunchtime. These products are available at Target, shopthermos.com, and other retailers.
The coolest new item that I found is the Packin' Smart Lock & Lock Stacking Bento by Innobaby (http://www.innobaby.com). This is just one of the many food storage products that this Chicago suburb-based momtrepreneur company offers. The Stacking Bento has a number of different compartments for including many different items in your kiddo's lunch. Use the divided section to pack something like hummus and veggies, then put some fresh pita or pita chips in the second part of the bento. Stack 'em up and lock 'em, then you're good to go! At $14.99, this is a fun way to put some variety into lunchtime, and your kid will probably have the coolest lunch at the table. Oh, and it's dishwasher-safe!
Colorado-based, family-owned Eco-ditty (http://ecoditty.com/) creates 100% organic cotton reusable sandwich and snack bags called Snack-ditty and Wich-ditty. Starting at $9.99, these soft fabric pouches can be washed and reused over and over again and are great for packing lunch and snacks — everything from pretzels and crackers to apples slices and carrots. They even offer Color-Your-Own Snack-dittys and Wich-dittys which come with permanent fabric markers so kids can design their own reusable bag. What a treat!
The Mommy's Pick
I recently had the pleasure of working with Sony Pictures on a VIP event for its new animated movie, Hotel Transylvania. This film, starring the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Cee-Lo Green, David Spade, and others, is a terrific film for the whole family to enjoy). There's lots of fun, vibrant humor for the kids to enjoy (especially if they like a really big fart joke), as well as smart, subtle touches that grownups will appreciate (such as a literal "toad stool"). Hotel Transylvania opens in theaters today, and is likely to become a perennial favorite around the Halloween season.
Jennifer Niederhoffer is the founder of Impress Media, an independent lifestyle & entertainment public relations and editorial services firm. You can follow her on twitter @impressmedia or @themommysreview.