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5 Things to Remember When You're Buying Back-To-School Lunch Gear

08/12/2014 10:51 am ET | Updated Oct 12, 2014

Some parents can't wait for it and some parents dread it. Either way, there's no escaping it. It's back-to-school time, and besides getting their kids into the right class, parents also have to deal with back-to-school shopping. But how do you figure out what to buy when you are hit with the endless waves of advertisements as well as pressure from your kids?

I can't tell you which binder is best, but since I talk about it on my blog, Lunchbox Dad, I do have a ton of experience with lunch gear. So here are five quick tips for buying the kind of lunchtime supplies that will make you and your kids happy.

1. Look for durability.
Many of the big department stores will try and sell you on the dime-a-dozen thermal lunchboxes with characters printed on the top. They are usually made of cheap materials that rip easily and are hard to wash. It is also tempting to just throw food inside without other bags or containers. This means the lunchboxes quickly get stained and moldy.

Instead, look for sturdy plastic or stainless steel lunchboxes. These will have a much higher chance of lasting the school year. They will cost a little more, but the features they provide are definitely worth it, and they might even last for a couple years.

2. Easy cleanup is a must.
You're a busy parent and you don't have time to hand wash and scrub a lunchbox or bottle every time it comes home. Always make sure what you buy is dishwasher safe. This is especially true if a lunchbox comes with multiple pieces. Double check to make sure every piece can be thrown onto the top rack. You might not think this is a big deal now, but you will thank me later.

3. Compare prices.
Just because the lunch gear is right in front of you at the store doesn't mean it is the best deal. You need to factor in not only the immediate cost, but also the cost to replace it if the box becomes too stained to use or breaks down (trust me, I've had it happen). Should you spend five dollars more for the better box? You need to think of it as an investment rather than something to just check off your list. If you go the dirt-cheap route, you could be rebuying the same cheap gear again and again throughout the year because it didn't last. When this happens, you will be spending much more.

4. Size matters.
If you have a first grader, he or she should probably use a smaller lunchbox. For older kids, a slightly larger lunch container is a must. Plus, for younger kids you want them to be able to carry their lunch gear in their backpack. It just makes the whole trip to school that much easier. Also, if you give a younger child a big container, it could get heavy in a hurry. Have them carry it around the store for a few minutes before you buy it. This is especially important if you choose stainless steel instead of plastic.

5. Think about the planet.
There are many lunchbox companies now that are making their products with the environment in mind. If it doesn't put too much strain on your budget, think about our planet when you make your purchase. Choosing gear from one of these companies could be a great chance to talk to your kids about how small choices can have a big impact.

Will these tips solve all of your back-to-school problems? Maybe not, but hopefully they will help you think through your lunch gear choices so you can save time and money, and your kids can have fun. What tips do you have for parents during this busy time? Let me know in the comments!

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This post originally appeared on LunchboxDad.com

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