Giveaway: Backpacks, Lunchboxes, and Back-to-school Loot

This post was sponsored by Pottery Barn Kids.

Note: The giveaway is officially closed. A second giveaway will be announced on September 6, so stay tuned!

The reality of the kids returning to school is always bittersweet for me: I’ll miss having them around, but relish the quiet. I’ll long for the relaxed rhythm of summer, but enjoy the restore to order in my house. And then there are those lunches to pack, something that looms large when I think about the return to school

When it comes to banging out lunches day-in day-out, being organized is half the battle. While a well-stocked pantry is key, lunch packing supplies are nearly as important: clean and sturdy lunchboxes, an ordered cupboard or drawer of storage containers, and good thermoses that don’t leak. I tend to choose a few key sizes of containers, have several in the rotation, and keep the lids in place so I’m not trying to match tops and bottoms in the morning rush. In a pinch, I rely on waxed paper bags, which are compostable and somehow charming.

Lucky for two of you, I’m giving away some pretty cool back-to-school loot from Pottery Barn Kids. Each winner walks away with a backpack stocked with a lunchbox, a hot thermos, and a line-up of shiny new storage containers so pretty they’d make even the liverwurst sandwiches my mother fed me look appealing.

To enter, leave a comment on this post sharing a simple tip for packing lunches. Don’t be shy…chime in!
I’ll run a random drawing of all entries that are submitted by midnight PDT Sunday August 14. Also, remember that new subscribers each week for the remainder of August will be entered to win a Kleen Kanteen.

Mom’s Kitchen Handbook has teamed up with Pottery Barn Kids to develop recipes and tips for a healthy back-to-school season. As part of this exciting partnership, the company has provided Mom’s Kitchen Handbook in-kind product for reader giveaways and personal use. You can my find recipes and “how to” cooking videos by going to Pottery Barn Kids .


08.08.2011 at7:25 AM #


My simple tip for packing lunches is to organize and pack as much of it as possible the night before. For example, I put the baby carrots and hummus in their baggies and containers the night before. I cannot assemble the sandwich the night before as it will get soggy, but at least if the sides are ready to go, it’s one less thing to put together in the morning. Katie, thanks for all of your great ideas. Right now we are particularly addicted to your kettle corn recipe under your pottery barn snack ideas.

08.08.2011 at8:43 AM #

K Kane

My suggestion to save money is to buy things in larger quantities and then break them out into smaller quantities. Even if you make things yourself ahead of time, go ahead and separate it into kid size servings so it will be easily available to throw into their lunch!

08.08.2011 at9:02 AM #


I can’t say I have particularly creative lunch ideas, but our kids go to school each day with Foogo Thermos straw cups filled with milk. The milk stays cold for many hours, and of course we just wash and reuse them daily, so we avoid the waste generated by the ubiquitous juice boxes. Because we have four boys, we needed a way to keep each boy’s cup distinct (permanent marker came off in the dishwasher), so we put a different color silicone wrist band that our kids had gotten at road race events on each cup. We don’t have to take them off before putting them in the dishwasher, and I know which cup goes in each lunch bag. Other than that, I pack a lot of apple slices with almond butter for dipping.

08.08.2011 at9:41 AM #


I always pack ice water in a thermos the night before and also pack a sandwich with no condiments. I put pickles in a separate container to keep the sandwich from getting soggy. We just try to pack variety of things he will enjoy. He always has a sandwich, fruit and granola bar. Sometimes–we add another snack and he is very good at eating all the healthy foods first.

08.08.2011 at10:01 AM #


As a fellow parent that is committed to feeding my children fresh lush and delicious produce I recommend preparing lunches the night before. During dinner chop up a few extra veggies like carrots, mushrooms, cucumbers, etc. A mixture of veggies can be turned into yummy sandwiches and/or snacks.

08.08.2011 at11:49 AM #

Sally Kuzemchak

My biggest tip for packing lunches: Talk to your child about what they’re actually eating (and throwing away). You may find out that the cheese sticks you thought he loved are going in the trash–or that certain packages are too hard to open and going uneaten. Ask your child what he really wants in his lunch–it may surprise you. My son said he wanted soup in a thermos (b/c his best buddy packed that). That didn’t occur to me before, because it’s not something I thought he would want at school.

08.08.2011 at12:02 PM #


My idea to encourage my kids to eat thier lunches is by making the food fun. I have several sandwich cutters. Pottery Barn actually put out an adorable boy and girl set this year!
Check them out:

I also will make cute faces or animals with thier fruits and veggies!!

08.08.2011 at12:27 PM #


Pre-package baggies!! I buy a huge box of goldfish, pre-package bags for lunches, and throw them back in the box. It saves so much time in the mornings! 🙂

08.08.2011 at12:36 PM #

J McKay

Bento boxes are a fun way to deliver a packed lunch with variety. If sandwiches are on the lunchbox menu then i sometimes use a fun cookie cutter (a star or animal) and crusts aren’t discarded but used for breadcrumbs. Instead of butter i spread the bread with ripe avocado.

08.08.2011 at1:00 PM #


I have started to enlist my children in packing their own lunches. We brainstormed a bunch of healthy and fun lunches that they can choose from. I consult them when I am making the grocery list and they do the packing the night before. This way their lunches are just the way they want them and I have a little more time each morning.

Thanks for the pot sticker tip, it has become a favorite – I of course help with the cooking on this one!

08.08.2011 at1:27 PM #

Hayley T.

Love the widemouth thermos. In additionto the expected soup, we use if for mac and cheese, beef stew over mashed potatos, spaghetti and meatballs, etc.

08.08.2011 at1:28 PM #

Marilyn Kyle

When packing a sandwich with condiments, my husband places lettuce closest to the bread, keeping it from getting soggy!

08.08.2011 at5:56 PM #


I too make lunches the night before, however in the morning I let my two boys choose 2 snacks to be included. They like having a say on what they get in their lunches and I like giving them some independence.

08.08.2011 at6:13 PM #


My tip is using cookie cutters to make fun shapes for sandwiches. We try to go with the season. My daughter is a very picky eater and this seems to work. I always add fruit too.

08.08.2011 at6:17 PM #


My tips are nothing earth-shattering, but they help me find foods that my kids will eat. My kids are responsible for emptying out their lunch boxes each night. As they do so, I watch the compost bin and then we talk about what ended up there and why. We talk about lunch in categories of protein, whole grains, fruit and vegetables and I ask them to give suggestions from each category that they like. It seems to help reduce waste for a while — and then I’ll notice it’s time for some new ideas again!

08.08.2011 at8:10 PM #


I test out some new lunch recipes (like yours) the week or two before school starts or on the weekends if school has already begun. By making sure I send them lunches filled with foods they like, their containers always come back empty!

08.08.2011 at11:05 PM #


My guys are easy, but I always ask what they want. I know I wouldn’t want someone telling me what to eat all the time, so I make sure to give them options.

08.08.2011 at11:23 PM #

Nicole B

I found out that if I put GoGurts in the freezer, I can put them in the lunchbox in the morning and they are thawed and still cold at lunchtime.

I also like to remember to take the time to stick notes in my child’s lunch just to say hi and remind him I love him. He loves it when I do that.

08.09.2011 at12:51 AM #

Janee Lookerse

My mom didn’t pack lunches for me as a kid, I always did my own. But I think some good tips for lunch packing are variety and healthy treats 🙂

[email protected]

08.09.2011 at5:40 AM #


the kids have been eating bagels with cream cheese pretty often so i’ll pack an ice pack to keep things cool

08.09.2011 at7:30 AM #


I give my daughter three options for her lunch each day. This way she has input and feels good about her meal. I also pack everything at night and put her Gogurt in the freezer. In the morning I only have to grab her yogurt and ice pack and she’s ready to go.

08.09.2011 at11:02 AM #


My kids love frozen yogurt tubes. I put an ice pack in their lunch bag so the yogurt stays frozen, but softens up just enough to be easy to eat.

08.09.2011 at1:32 PM #


I pack lunch for a three year old twice a week for his preschool/moms day out. I use small containers for his food and he loves to open them instead of baggies. One for his sandwich, one for his fruit or veggie and the other for a cracker/chip of some sort. I also use whole grain sandwich rounds instead of bread, as they are perfect for a small child!

08.09.2011 at4:07 PM #


I see the heat is on for the lunchbox lottery, and I don’t want to miss out!!

First, I have one child, but at least two sets of reuse-able containers, milk cups, etc. so I don’t have to depend on washing everything out each night if I don’t happen to run the dishwasher. Supplementing this with wax paper baggies takes care of everything. When I send hummus, I just stick one end of the baby carrots into the hummus in a large enough container and pop on the lid. My daughter requires a high calorie, high fat diet, so I’ve moved on from YoBaby flavored yogurt to Fage plain yogurt and I mix in the honey myself, either in larger or lunch-sized quantities: tastier, more fat that she needs, and less sugar. I try to mix the veggies into the dinner meal whenever possible (peas in the mac and cheese or rice, salmon, and asparagus together) for a one container leftover.

These tips are a great help.

Thank you, Katie, for motivating us to share this.

08.09.2011 at4:07 PM #

Katie Morford

Awesome tips so far everyone! Thank youl and keep them coming!

08.11.2011 at4:28 AM #

Wendy L

A little “food for the soul” love note along with fresh veggies that are food for the body!

08.11.2011 at6:17 AM #

Stephanie Phelps

My suggestion was from the Disney site I got a while back and that is to get three plastic baskets and fill one with fruits, another with vegetables, and a third with snacks and desserts let the kids come in and pick one item from each basket and then add a sandwich!

08.11.2011 at8:41 AM #

Christie da Silva

I am not afraid to send leftovers – regularly. In fact, when I am getting the kids plates ready for dinner and cutting up the entree into kid size bites, I go ahead and cut up enough for lunch the next day and set it aside right then. Saves time in the morning and doesn’t feel like such a hassle.

08.11.2011 at9:48 AM #

Elise C

A lot of great comments here. If you use reusable containers, it’s important to establish a daily routine to get the lunch box emptied and washed out daily. I make sure the first thing my son does when he comes home from school, a playdate or an afterschool activity is to empty his lunch box and wash it out. Younger kids can bring the lunch box to the kitchen and or empty the containers into the garbage or compost.

08.11.2011 at11:01 AM #


We use reusable sandwich containers and try to reuse plastic snack bags for each day of the week. We also make lunches at night, as soon as my son goes to bed. My husband and I take turns so that we can mix it up a little bit.

08.11.2011 at11:48 AM #


I like to pack leftovers in small containers for the next days lunch.

08.12.2011 at2:49 PM #


I like to keep it fresh and simple, so I actually find it easier to buy local in small quantities just for the next day. Makes getting it together easy when you already picked it at the store!

08.12.2011 at9:36 PM #


I like to cook up quick lunches in the morning, 15-10 minutes max using left over chicken and/or rice.
With left over chicken, I’ll throw together a quick chicken stir fry (whole wheat noodles and low sodium soy sauce w/veggies).
With left over brown rice, I’ll throw together a quick veggie brown fried rice.
I usually stock up on an assortment of frozen veggies for these quick meals — broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, corn, etc.

08.13.2011 at5:54 AM #


when we buy our produce on the weekend, we come home and clean/chop/sort and put into the small bags for the week- carrots, broccoli, grapes, all do well in their own pouches, and it makes it easy to grab every morning! Plus as our daughter helps ‘make’ her lunch, she’s more into eating it all!

08.13.2011 at11:27 AM #


I pick out what’s for lunch the weekend before to shop
For it. Then I pre bag chips or snacks and put them in bins so I can just grab them that morning. Helps a lot with time so all I have to do is make a sandwich or whatever their main food is. Also since we do juice for lunch I also make that the night before and keep it in the fridge.

08.13.2011 at11:37 AM #

Julie link

These are the best!

08.13.2011 at4:42 PM #


I purchased a small cookbook with simple (and healthy) lunchbox ideas and recipes. I let my kids go through and pick a few things that they would like to include in their lunches for the following week. They tend to be more likely to eat what is going in their lunchbox because they feel some ownership in the decision process of the meal choices, and I also know it’s something that they are wanting to eat.

08.13.2011 at6:20 PM #


My lunch packing tip-Wrap cold things like juice cans, veggies, fruit etc in foil instead of just putting them in baggies to keep them cold!

08.13.2011 at9:46 PM #


For packing lunches, my biggest tip is WAKE UP EARLY! It really is a “common sense” thing. But a lot of people only give their children ready made lunches that are very unhealthy to most children! I especially like the Japanese-lunch packing for children called “bento boxes”!! They are very creative, home-made,healthy and appetizing!! But of course the style and idea is of high maintenance…leading to the fact that it needs a lot of time to prepare!

08.14.2011 at9:28 AM #


My friend suggested (and we are going to try this out) packing “yogurt parfaits” for a friday treat. A tupperware with a 3 layers (yogurt, granola, seasonal fruit). My daughter is already looking forward to next Friday!

08.14.2011 at5:27 PM #


We use bento boxes which are fun, healthy and easy to put together. I use one that has a freezer cube in the lid, so things stay nice and cool!

08.14.2011 at6:23 PM #


I love adventurous, nutritious food, and want my two daughters to not shy away from something unusual just because they haven’t tried it before. So I have instituted “Try-It-Once -Tuesdays.” Every other day of the week I pack their favorites of PB&J’s, turkey & cheese sandwiches (all on whole grain bread, of course!), but on “Try-It-Once-Tuesdays” I put an item they have never tried before, such as brown rice veggie sushi, smoked salmon sandwich, endive with hummus, etc. They get to try something new, yet know they have their regular favorites every other day of the week. They don’t always love it, and believe me, they always tell me if they don’t! But once in awhile, I get a positive response (yay!). And it becomes a regular in the weekly rotation.

08.14.2011 at7:51 PM #

Laura T

I pick their brains and find out what I can realistically get them to eat!

08.14.2011 at9:42 PM #

Megan Jarman

I think having a menu planned for the week, with your kiddo’s input, will make lunch time easier. Then you can have lunches planned and do not have to worry about it everynight or morning.

08.17.2011 at12:27 AM #

Casey Miller

Get an ice pack to keep food fresh and cold!

08.17.2011 at8:54 AM #

Carissa Wentworth

I love using bento boxes to pack lunches. They are so cute and have lots of dividers for different snacks and perfect proportions

08.17.2011 at10:04 AM #

Diana Rowland

I always try to pack a variety for our son. A sandwich, something to crunch, and a fruit. But cramming all of the reusable containers into a bag is very tricky! I would love to try the new PBK options as they are super cute and very convenient looking! can’t wait to try out some of the recipes too, what a great idea! Thanks so much for the giveaway opportunity, this fulltime working outside the home Mom needs all the help i can find!

08.17.2011 at10:04 AM #

Katie Morford

Thanks everyone for the tips. Unfortunately, the giveaway deadline was August 14. The good news is I’ll be announcing a second Pottery Barn Kids Giveaway on September 6th so please stay tuned. Also, all new subscribers to Mom’s Kitchen Handbook during the month of August are automatically entered to win a Pottery Barn Kids Klean Kanteen. You can find the link to sign up on my homepage. x, Katie

08.17.2011 at2:22 PM #

Susan A

I let my kids help pick out items at the grocery store for their lunches (with a little guidance from mom and dad). I’m lucky, they are veggie lovers.
Once at the packing stage, I give them “choices”. “Do you want the carrots or the broccoli?” I’m choosing that it’s going to be a vegetable but they feel like they have buy in, too. A very sweet moment came from offering choice to my son this past year. A little girl in his kindergarten class had lots of food allergies. When I asked him what type of sandwich he wanted, he said, “I love peanut butter and jelly but I really like sitting next to Bellamy at lunch, too… so I’ll take turkey or cheese.”
Along with the frozen gogurts, we freeze roaring waters (bags of water with a little juice in them). They defrost by lunch leaving a nice cool drink for my kids.

08.17.2011 at2:23 PM #

Sandy K

Bento boxes make for a healthy lunch with plenty of options. You can use the compartments for fruit, veggies, whole grains, etc. It makes for a fun lunch!

08.17.2011 at2:37 PM #

Amy Isass

I freeze a water bottle with water. so when my son has outdoor play his water is still cold.

08.17.2011 at3:06 PM #

Tabitha Bernardi

My first tip is to pack healthy foods in snack size bags as soon as I buy them. This is great for saving time when I’m packing lunches, and is a simple way to control portion sizes. Another thing I do for my son’s lunches, I make him tortilla roll ups (whole wheat tortilla, cream cheese, turkey, and spinach). He tends to get bored of sandwiches, so this is a great way to make sure he gets some protein and iron!

08.17.2011 at3:15 PM #


I have a few tips. One is to let your child help you, so he/she can feel like they have a say so. I also think that a sandwich doesn’t have to be made with bread. My nephew just likes plain deli meat, but crackers, lettuce, tortillas, etc can be used in place of bread. My last tip is to write special notes on napkins or a slip of paper. A special note always makes the day better.

08.17.2011 at4:26 PM #


I would suggest when packing a lunch, do it the night before and store in the fridge. If making a sandwich then I suggest using sandwich cases, not plastic bags. You know how kids can be with their lunches, VERY ROUGH! No one wants to eat a smashed sandwich at lunchtime! You can also buy “snack” items for lunches in bulk, it’s cheaper in the long run and you won’t have to run to the grocery store every week just to get lunch items. Another helpful hint would be get your kids involved in packing their own lunches. I learned this the hard way when they came home with half of the lunch saying that they didn’t want it. So now I have them help me make them and give the choice of “this or that”. Now they eat everything because they picked it out!

08.17.2011 at6:19 PM #

Sabrina Lewis

I use the Spencer Bento Box container from Pottery Barn Kids for my sons lunch. It so awesome and has 5 compartments including a larger size one for sons lunch and another one that has an extra cover over that compartment. This way I can eliminate the use of plastic bags but also keep his lunch items from getting crushed. He’s a pretty picky guy who has the appetite of a bird. But since I’ve starting using this Bento Box he’s eating more than ever!

08.17.2011 at8:24 PM #

Susan Augustoni

My favorite lunch packing tip is variety. For this, bento boxes are great. A little something tart (cutie), sour (olives), creamy (hummus or yogurt), crunchy (carrots), sweet – but balanced with fat to avoid sugar spike (date with pit replaced with almond or pecan). My kids eat it all and feel satisfied.

08.17.2011 at8:32 PM #


When packing a lunch the night before, I put a piece of cheese on each slice of bread then the meat. The cheese keeps the bread from getting soggy. I always put condiments in separate containers to keep the sandwich from getting soggy too. Add condiments when you are ready to eat and enjoy!

08.18.2011 at2:16 AM #


I pre-plan the lunch menus the week before to make sure I have everything on hand. I also ask my daughter to check the day’s lunch menu and help get her lunch packed. She likes seeing what she’ll be having and helping to get it ready.

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