Packing school lunches: Making a difference one Snackaby bag at a time

Dear Readers,

So, by now you know that I don’t usually post about products, but every once in a while when something grabs me, I’m compelled to share it.

I found out about a reuseable snack bag from a mom of one of Max’s classmates at his former preschool. She and I had struck up a conversation at the end of the year pool party, and she told me about her company, Snackaby . I thought, that is totally cool. I told her I’d love to learn more about it and she sent me info.

Over the summer (while packing Max lunch and two snacks per day for camp), I noticed how many of those plastic sandwich and snack bags I was using. I don’t have a scientific count, but it was an awful lot! I realized almost everything else I used for his lunches was reusable. The lunch box, water bottle, snack containers, even utensils. But, that little plastic baggie was still very much in play. Sometimes you want or need less bulk, which a bag gives you, as opposed to containers, which are  bulkier and heavier.  This line of thinking is precisely what had led Jennifer  Larsen and a partner  to create Snackaby. I admired her entrepreneurial spirit; she had an IDEA and had actually followed through and CREATED something from it.

Time passed. My back to school frenzy manifested (among other things) as fretting over these concerns:

1. How would we wake up on time to catch the school bus?

2.  What  will I pack for lunch for Kindergarten?

We resolved the first concern by moving bedtime to earlier. That’s a nightly exercise in handling Max’s increasingly elaborate and sophisticated dilly-dallying techniques with our best counter-delay tactics that often fall short. So far, we’ve managed to catch the bus. As to the second, well, it’s a work-in-progress.

I’m a proud master at the fine art of bagel slicing and  spreading it with creme cheese so there’s just enough, but not too much. The world might stop spinning if creme cheese leaked through the hole in the middle,  rendering it, in Max’s words: “Icky!” I include fruit and /or a vegetable in every lunch (mini carrots, grapes, cucumber slices). Max has been choosing to bring water in his water bottle instead of  juice boxes or bags, “Because it’s healthy, Mommy.” He surprises me with these self-aware moments. While he hasn’t stopped drinking juice all together, he definitely drinks less, and less sugar is good for him.

I know some folks make elaborate lunches with fancy decorations and such. Let’s just say, that while I try to keep things fun for Max, there’s only so much time I can dedicate to packing his lunch and I’m not that crafty in the morning. I’m  also not a fan of buying disposable doodads and knickknacks just to make his lunch look more appealing. Regular toothpicks do the trick  for “cucumber wheels.” You want a face shape in a sandwich? Fine, that’ll be raisins. Yes, I occasionally break out the cookie cutters to make shaped sandwiches. I’ve got a Halloween set which includes a cat, pumpkin, ghost, and moon shapes. Goodness knows, I don’t bake cookies with them. I draw the line of creative and amazing looking lunches right there.

I need lunches to be easy, fast,  and as healthy as possible within the limits of what Max considers edible on any given day. Especially when there’s about five things he’ll eat and most of them involve cheese, cheesy snacks, or things that look, taste, or behave like cheese. Dairy is a food group. In our house, so is pizza.  I do my best.

Hey, I’m heartened by the fact that Max will periodically go to our arugula plant in the garden and pick off a leaf or two to eat raw. Apparently, Max likes zucchini, too, (cut in strips, light stir fry in soy sauce), but only during a full moon.  Food at other people’s homes is always “delicious.”  The snacks his teacher offers are infinitely better than mine. How pretzels, Graham Crackers, Saltines and such are SO MUCH tastier THERE than when packed HERE at HOME, by little old me? Hello, and welcome to the mind of an almost six-year old. One must accept these things as fact, don’t ask why, and please keep moving confidently in the direction of your dream. Mine being, that Max will eat enough lunch to keep him going until he gets home in the afternoon.

I asked Max what he’d like for the first day of school. Seems he wanted the exact same foods he was used to having. Fine with me. Getting used to Kindergarten was more than enough. Bring on the bagels and mini pita bread! Cheese sticks. Goldfish. Pretzels. Pears. Grapes. And glorious apples, which he now likes whole or sliced, so it feels like the apple has expanded into more options. But, anyway, there I was, still using LOTS of plastic sandwich bags. I know that our planet is in a bad way, and that anything we can each do to help by reusing, recycling, reducing—is good.

It was high time to give Snackaby a try. Max chose the super cool, colorful cat design.

Photo by Snackaby

Being a big fan of cats, color, and things that are easy to open and close (Velcro)  he loved it instantly. I explained to him that even though I might still need to use plastic bags sometimes, that we were going to attempt to use LESS of them. He got it right away. He’s also usually the one around here who reminds us to turn off the lights we’re not using,”Save energy, Mommy!”

These bags are pretty clever! I immediately wanted one for me. Perfect for carrying an assortment of things that otherwise are loose bits that are impossible to wrangle at the  bottom of my bag. Every once in a while, I dump it out and am amazed at my findings. Everything is coated with crumbs and other unidentifiable sticky goo. Also, there are usually several rocks. And twigs. Now that we’re getting into leaf season, we’ll have the crumbled leaves, too. I love that Max explores and collects these pieces of nature that we find on our urban / suburban streets. And the Snackaby bags keep food, snacks, and even Max’s toy cars, safely inside the bags with a neat, tight velcro and flap closure. Unlike the plastic bags, which often split open, resulting in that mystery mush pile in the depths of my bag. Oh, I love an environmentally sound solution that also makes less mess in my little world. The planet and my bag—both improved! YES!

I hardly ever wear makeup anymore, but if I did, this bag would be perfect for it.  I could see these being great to hold cell phones, eyeglasses, money, or keys for a day at the beach (to keep sand and water out). Even medicine or a small first aid kit. Yes, all kinds of uses for this nifty snack bag  that also happens to be super cute and takes up very little real estate in the vortex of what some might call a handbag but I just call too heavy. Could be the rocks.

Cleaning a Snackaby is super easy.  The inside comes out easily and is top shelf dishwasher-safe. Or you can wipe it out with a wet sponge or cloth, rinse, and let air dry. The bags are environmentally friendly and made from food safe materials inside; DEHP, Phthalate and BPA plasticizers – FREE! The exterior is a high quality laminated cotton. The reuseable factor alone makes them an obvious green choice.

Every little bit helps. Yes, sometimes I still need and use those clear plastic bags, but now that we’ve got the Snackabies, we’re already saving a lot of plastic bags. Plus, getting the word out to support a friend, fellow mom, local woman business owner, with a Made in the USA product — seems like  a really great deal to me.

You can check out Snackaby here.

Have a great week!

Elana

PS. Read about possible harmful back to school supplies in this post by the folks who brought us BagIt. It’s a great blog!

All words and images copyright Elana A. Halberstadt 2012 except where noted otherwise.