Back to School 2020: Disposable Lunch Ideas

Disposable Lunch Ideas by The Allergy Chef

It’s 2020 and no matter where you live in the world, back to school is going to be DIFFERENT to say the least this year. Some are wondering if going to school is even a good idea in the first place. No matter what you hold to be true (mask, no mask, 6 feet, close contact) if you have kids you’ll need to adapt this year. Some schools are closing cafeterias and implementing a disposable lunch only policy. This can have an impact on budgets and the environment. However, if your child is in one of these schools, you won’t have a choice.

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Some people are opting to keep their kids home. It may make more  sense financially because previous school/care options are no longer affordable. Some people don’t like the possibility of a vaccine mandate, and staying home avoids this. Others are still concerned about the spread of the virus with the possibility of a flu season making it worse. I think no matter what your choice is, we can all agree on one thing: we love our kids dearly and want what’s best for them.

I felt it was important to state that because that message is getting lost whilst people argue over what’s the way forward. But I digress. We’re here for one reason: Lunch.

One HUGE concern I’ve seen is parents trying to figure out temperature regulation for lunches. Have we got you covered!! So, let’s jump in.

Brown Paper Bags

I’m sure many of you will be using them this year. Draw silly faces on them, and remind your child how much you love them. Truth is, a simple smiley faces can do so much to brighten their day, because they know it was from you. Make sure you purchase the correct size for your child. I’ve made the mistake in the past of buying bags that were WAY too big.

The Biggest Tip Of Them All: Frozen Water Bottles

This may indeed be the best kept secret of back to school 2020. Freeze a water bottle… like, solid. Be sure to take a little water out first to prevent the plastic from expanding. In the AM when sending your kiddo to school, use it like an ice pack. If you don’t want condensation everywhere, wrap the water bottle in foil.

This water bottle will pull double duty because by lunch time when the food is still cold, your child will have nice cool water to refresh them.

Compostable Baggies

If you’re mindful about the environmental impact of all of these disposable items, purchase compostable baggies. You can get them on Amazon. These should be avoided for people with a corn allergy and other less-common allergies. Contact the company before purchasing to find out what the baggie has been comprised of.


If you have little kids, do yourself a favor and go to the dollar store and purchase stickers of all kind. Each day, have your child decorate their disposable lunch bag with stickers. This creative expression will help them enjoy their lunch that much more.

Self Sealing Containers

You can purchase all types of plastic containers for lunches this year. One of our favorite is a self-sealing container. It prevents spills which is great, and they stack well in the fridge. They’re available in many different sizes. Before eating the food, your child will have to pull a plastic tab. Be sure to test this out if you have a 5 – 7 year old.

Specialty containers like these can be purchased from restaurant and food service supply stores and websites. On this particular product, skipping Amazon may save you some money.

Disposable Cutlery

You can purchase 3 main types of disposable cutlery: plastic, compostable, and bamboo. You’ll need to choose based on budget and environmental concern. All three types travel well. I like to wrap the cutlery in a napkin to protect it from dirt, and so the kids have a napkin available to clean up when they’re done eating.

Money Saving Tips

Buy in bulk. I can’t stress this enough. Restaurant supply stores/websites and stores like Costco will be your favorite place for purchasing lunch materials. They offer a wide range of disposable items that will last for months, possibly the whole school year.

Remember, time should be considered a type of “money” too. If you an prep a batch of something (like chili) that freezes well, go for it. You’ll be able to add it to lunches easily and save yourself the extra stress.

It’s not uncommon for me to batch cook 5 lunch-friendly meals and freeze them, then have a nice rotation to pull from every other week. Why every other? So the kids don’t get bored.

Additional Resources

RAISE has Budget Resources, Kid Resources, Freezer Friendly Meals, and More. You may also like information on:


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