Pack preschoolers’ lunches in waxed paper bags

While we’re on the topic of school lunches…a little story for you.

My daughter goes to the most wonderful preschool in the world. It’s the same preschool my son went to, Waldorf-inspired, totally magical, very simple. The teachers there often send home little things the kids have baked or prepared in unbleached waxed paper bags, and I couldn’t get over how much nicer they look, feel and sound than plastic sandwich bags. (Strange that I had such an aesthetic response to SANDWICH BAGS, but there it is.) Better for the environment, too.

I bought a box at our local grocery store, but only after packing a few of my daughter’s lunches did it dawn on me how much easier it is for her to open these bags than the zipped-shut Ziplocs or reusable plastic containers I used to use. For preschoolers just getting a handle on manual dexterity (nice developmental pun there, hey!), any chance for them to do something independently is good — and opening one’s own lunch falls into that category.

If you can’t find bags, wrapping items in regular waxed paper works well, too.


  1. says

    Why on EARTH are you using bags at all? What’s wrong with a plastic or metal lunch box or a reusable cool-bag? *scratches head*

  2. Jill in Atlanta says

    Now that brings back memories. My friends’ lunches included white bread, pink meat and orange cheese in plastic baggies, sweet things and chips that came in wrappers and it was all put in a beautiful plastic lunchbox. My lunches came on whole grain breads, with fresh meats and cheese that had been sliced and put in waxed paper bags. I had a piece of fruit and a homemade cookie in my brown paper lunch bag. I knew it was so unfair and I felt so sorry for myself!

  3. Parent Hacks Editor says

    Oh, Jill. Are you telling me I have to go buy some “Fruit By the Foot” crap? Now that you mention it, I looked longingly at my friends’ mini candy bars as well. My mom used to cut off a hunk of purple cabbage and stick it in my lunch as my side vegie. I loved it, but my friends thought it was the most bizarre thing in the world. Many couldn’t even identify it — “what IS that?”

  4. Becca says

    You don’t need Fruit by the Foot, just some Fruitabu. It’s the organic version of the Fruit Rollup. :)

  5. Jean says

    Our daughter’s school instituted a “trashless lunch” policy and we haven’t generated any bag-lunch trash for the last two years. I have to admit, I hated it at first – spooning yogurt from the large tub into a teensy tupperware instead of buying 6-packs, and washing cloth napkins – but now it’s become second-nature and I love the school for helping our whole family develop this healthy habit. Sure, at first we fumbled a little trying to find just the right tupperware and insulated bag. But we made it work. The lunch-bag du jour is a zippered neoprene sack into which we pile a sippy-thermos full of milk, a piece of fruit wrapped in a cloth napkin, and a hot thermos full of spaghetti and meatballs or dad’s famous chili. DD gets a kick out of the foldable spoon hidden in the lid. I stopped packing cold lunches for her after I worked in her classroom one day and saw so many kids enjoying beef stew or macaroni and cheese from thermoses (thermi?)

  6. Tiffany says

    Anyone worried with lunchbox waste should really check out They have FANTASTIC lunchbox kits. They do cost a little more than the ones at your typical Big Box store, but they last much longer as well. My kids LOVE their’s. We’ve been using them for a couple years now.

  7. Jill in Atlanta says

    Ok, so I don’t want to start over with the (adorable) laptop lunchboxes. But… what do I do with the little half sandwich my son eats, and the already-sliced-for-him apple? I hate the plastic baggies but don’t have something better. (And yes, Asha, for lunch status, I suspect the colorful foods in crinkly packages are still “worth” more than the healthy stuff. Are they still allowed to swap these days?)

  8. Tiffany says

    Chris! I hadn’t seen those. I’ve seen the Take n Toss cups etc, but not the larger compartmented ones. I will definitely be buying some. I’m hoping Toys R Us will have some. Thanks for the tip!

  9. Fiona says

    We go through lots of cereal, and I use the bags from the inside of the cereal boxes for everything, after all what are they dirty from except Cheerios crumbs? Great substitute for waxed paper, trash bags, plastic bags, etc. I was just going to through them away anyhoo.

  10. Kati says

    So it sounds like waxed paper is better than plastic bags, but I’m with Anji – why use anything that you have to throw away?

    We found a basic tupperware set, red tops, one is sandwich sized and one is about 1 volumetric cup that holds a sliced apple nicely. Then, there are slightly smaller cups for nuts, veggie snacks, etc. I wash them each day, but we aren’t generating any waste, landfill friendly or otherwise.

  11. Marieke says

    My daughter has sandwiches all the time… I bought something called “Wrap-N-Mat”, which are re-usable sandwich wrappers. You can wash them in the laundry, but I usually only have to wipe them off (one side is fabric, and one is a plastic liner).
    I love the waxed paper bags, but with these you have 0 waste.