So your kid is going on a school field trip or having field day and it is your mission to pack a completely disposable lunch. Piece of cake right? I have been a chaperone on a few field trips over the years, and I have seen some fabulous lunches and some utterly fail lunches. I am here to share some helpful advice while keeping it easy and food safe for everyone! I’ve had my own lunch fails too, but in the end the kids have a blast and it’s just one day so don’t stress!
Pack it securely
I’ll call this a lesson learned from our own field trip fail. Pack foods in a zip top bag, and then bag all that in a gallon size zip top bag.
Why so much plastic? What happened: My daughter tripped getting off the bus at school and the juice boxes I had packed pierced the brown bag AND the plastic shopping bag which sent her lunch flying across the sidewalk at school. Thankfully, not much of the food was damaged, because the other items were in zip bags, but the juice boxes were free to fly around! I noticed something was wrong when my daughter had her lunch in a different plastic grocery bag at field trip time, which leads me to tip two.
Clearly marked information (name, class, allergens/lack of allergens)
For our family, food allergies are super important. To avoid any confusion, or being sent to the peanut butter table, I label our lunches with “No peanuts, no tree nuts.” Sometimes the Sunbutter we use gets confused as peanut butter. For our food allergy child, I even go as far as to label each bagged item and she knows to only eat the items with her name on it. I tie and tape bags shut where possible, but still keep it easy to open when it’s time to eat. While there are generally few incidents of exploding lunches on school field trips, we understand it’s a possibility and I’d hate for my child to be stuck in a situation where she’s not sure if her lunch had been contaminated with allergens.
Also field trip day is not the day to try a new food. Go with safe foods, even if your kid has an entire lunch of Oreos! (This girl’s dream!)
Less is More, and that means no bananas.
Let’s be honest, your kid is going to eat half of what you send because FIELD TRIPS ARE SO EXCITING!!! My own kids, who love food, only eat some of what I pack them for a field trip. (I do insist they at least consume the sandwich and drink – two drinks on warm/outside activity days, and please do not bring home the leftovers!)
Bananas, let’s talk bananas. The truth is more bananas will get thrown out than will get eaten simply because it smells, and oh no…it’s BROWN. One banana, two banana, three banana split….into the trash. Want to send a fruit, maybe try one of those little cute oranges, fruit cup, or squeeze fruit packet.
Time is not on your side
It takes time to herd groups of kids to the field trip lunch areas. It takes time to find their brown bag lunch in the boxes or bins they were placed in the bus. It takes time to catch up with your friends you haven’t seen since you got off the bus! It takes time to open the sauce packet on the pizza Lunchable, but zero time to splash that sauce everywhere but the bread! How much time does a kid really have to eat before it’s time to wash up and continue the field trip? About fifteen-twenty minutes (even when teachers say thirty).
So send that kid with a juice box, napkins, sandwich, and some other bagged snack and let them have fun with less food waste! It’s just one day, the other days you can bento with reusable containers, and just normal looking food!
Food Safety – Skip the refrigerated foods if off-site
Here’s some great tips from FoodSafety.gov on packing school lunches. Figure if your kid leaves home between 8-9am, and the field trip lunch doesn’t happen until 12pm that’s FOUR hours of lost refrigeration time. Lots of the tips are applicable to the every day lunch too. Don’t send the cold sub or lunchmeat sandwich on a June field trip……
Remember the 2-Hour rule: you must keep hot foods HOT and cold foods COLD. Meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs (also known as perishables) only last 2 hours at the room temperature of 90 °F or below before they go bad. If the room temperature exceeds 90 °F, the perishables will only last 1 hour before they must march back into the refrigerator or freezer. (Food Safety 101: How to Dodge an Attack of Bacteria in Lunchboxes)
Ideas: (food allergy friendly)
- Napkins, paper towel
- Juice Boxes
- Bottled Water
- Squeeze Fruit (Aldi sells SimplyNature Fruit Squeezies in a variety of flavors: Apple-Peach, Apple-Banana, etc. Target has a wide variety too – Organic Mixed Fruit Pouches 12 ct – Simply Balanced
- Fruit Strips – Aldi SimplyNature Strawberry Fruit Strips
- Fruit cup + spoon
- Sunbutter and Jelly sandwich (made with sunflower seeds, and tastes almost like peanut butter)
- Teddy Grahams
- Baby carrots
- Roasted Chickpeas
- Sunflower seeds
- Pretzels, Party Mix, Cheeze Its, Crackers (Aldi does sell a variety of gluten free, as well as tree nut, peanut, and sesame free snacks if you look!)