Now that I’ve been using reusable sandwich and snack bags regularly for three years, it’s not even weird anymore.
Every so often, I see myself through someone else’s eyes as I unzip a cloth bag full of trail mix or muffins, and I wonder what they are thinking. Since I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone else with a reusable bag out and about, I’m guessing mine are the first they’ve ever seen, too.
Do they think I’m super crunchy? Super frugal? Super DIY? Do they figure I made them myself right after my underwater basket weaving class?
I don’t know, but what I DO know is that there’s no going back to plastic. The reusable bags are just too cute, too waste-reducing, too…reusable. I love that I never run out of bags, and I love that we don’t throw all that plastic away. I can pack a waste-free lunch almost 100% of the time (minus an apple core or something here and there).
Since my old 2010 reusable sandwich and snack bag review was so long ago and I’ve tried a few new brands since then, I figured it was time for an update.
Here are the brands of reusable sandwich and snacks bags that I’ve tried, many of which are found on Amazon (affiliate links below):
- Eco Ditty
- Itzy Ritzy
- Frugal Granola (now closed, but similar to other Etsy sellers I’m sure)
- Snack Taxi
- Kids Konserve
- Celadon Road
- added 2015:
- 2 Red Hens
The Best Reusable Bags…
…have certain qualities that makes them easy to use, easy to wash, long-lasting or stand out in some other way:
- Open fully to get crumbs and goo out of the corners
- Easy to rinse/wipe food off the material
- Dry quickly
- Still look good over time
- Retain some moisture inside (for juicy foods) and keep air outside (for dry goods and staleness prevention)
- Open quietly and easily for church
My top two bags by far
are were EcoLunchGear and Itzy Ritzy. They are the only two that I’ve purchased more of as my kids have grown. 2015 UPDATE: 2 Red Hens is absolutely added to the list (and Lunchskins has become a contender while EcoLunchGear is out of business.)
Here’s the low-down on each bag individually:
This picture shows the snack and sandwich sized bags.
I love these bags mostly because they really open up alllll the way so you can every rogue crumb (wish I could say the same for carseats).
I also love that they’re dry in a jiffy, are made in Michigan, and the nylon insides keep some moisture in. I don’t love the humongous Velcro panel, but it’s only an aesthetic issue, and I actually think newer versions might cover it completely.
EcoLunchGear also has the neat feature of that extra Velcro strip so that you can fold over the sticky part for washing so the bags don’t stick to everything in the laundry (kind of like cloth diapers). They are priced at $10.50 and $12.50 at this time. SAD UPDATE: EcoLunchGear as stopped producing bags – very sad to see this Michigan-mom-owned business change gears!
I still can’t pin down one of these bags when I want a photo, because they’re always in use somewhere (we have three of them). UPDATE: Santa brought more for Christmas! The top photo is now Itzy Ritzy. They’re awesome!
The star feature for Itzy Ritzy is the zippered closure, which is unique among all 7 styles I own.
The zipper means that there’s no loud rrrrrrrrip! sound when you open the bag, vital for quiet places like church or meetings. It’s very easy for even young children to open (sometimes strong Velcro can be a challenge for young toddlers).
The inside is a very smooth BPA-free, PVC-free, pthalate-free plastic lining that wipes clean so easily. Sometimes I’ll put off cleaning our reusable bags out because I think it will take too long, but any Itzy Ritzy bags usually get rinsed and flipped open to dry right away. There’s just something about the material that makes food just fall right off it.
The inside also reverses completely while allowing the cotton exterior to remain right side out, such that both parts can dry really easily at the same time. (Others like the Snack Taxi force you to fold the fabric part inside when flipping inside out to dry, so that stays wet and the whole deal takes twice as long to dry.)
Itzy Ritzy is big enough to hold four muffins or huge bunches of grapes, and it does very well with moist things like baby carrots and even strawberries. Current cost is $9.99 for the large size (what I use) and $12.99 for two of the mini size. Photos courtesy of ItzyRitzy.
2 Red Hens
2 Red Hens vaulted itself quickly and decisively into the top choices for KS! They literally check all the boxes of “must-have qualities,” and then some.
These 2 Red Hens bags are truly amazing – they use zippers, which means you can have them in church for little ones. (Imagine the problem Velcro bags cause in quiet places like that – rrrrrrrrrrip!!!!) They are very wipe-clean-able, which not all bags do nearly as well. They literally have zero corner issues because they unzip on THREE sides and open up all the way flat. That’s the best part – no crumbs or gooeyness in the corners that you can’t get out.
I was telling someone on my team about these great new bags, and she mentioned that her toddler would love that, but she’d unzip all 3 sides and end up with her snack all over the floor. But the moms who designed them are too smart for your toddlers, too – there’s a really tight snap stopping the zipper after it opens just one side. So no accidental toddler snack explosions.
They are very sturdy, made of non-toxic plastic, and look brand new after 3 months of use. They dry super fast because there’s nothing thick or fabric going on.
Plus? They’re so. so. cute. Best designs I’ve seen if you want to look posh at lunchtime!
They come in large and small sizes (sold as a 2-pack from what I can tell) and 5 patterns currently. The only note I’d give you is just to cut the massive tag (on the inside) out the moment yours arrive.
Lunchskins are a very basic shape, Velcro-closure reusable bag that comes in both snack and sandwich sizes. They work well and do the job, but strangely I can’t think of any star features or any major complaints to report. (shown above with other lunch gear from Mighty Nest)
- Lunchskins do turn inside out fine
- They are easy to wipe clean (BUT do stain on the inside and outside easily)
- They do dry quickly
- They can handle slightly wet/moist foods without passing the moisture through the fabric
- They are bpa-free, phthalate-free – food-safe polyurethane
My colleague Shaina of Food for my Family reviewed Lunchskins as her top choice after 9 years of lunch packing experience and 10 brands of bags. She runs them through the dishwasher, but I always find that to be more trouble than it’s worth, because the bags sometimes come out looking dirtier than they went in and you still have to air dry them.
I’d place them in 4th out of all the ones I’ve tried (and one is out of business now).
We’ve had a selection of neat-os bags for at least a year now, and they have some great features (and one huge problem).
- Neat-os bags come in large sizes too (pictured), which is so cool, because they’re the only reusable bag I know of that gets as big as a gallon zippered bag (and bigger!).
- I loved using the bags for cut raw vegetables in my salad drawer and other large items in the fridge.
- They’re made of non-leaching plastic and made in the US.
- Like other reusable bags, they are not air-tight – so no good for bread products or crunchy snacks overnight.
- They zip – my favorite!
- They turn inside out and are not difficult to clean and dry, and they don’t seem to stain easily, but there is a small risk of crumb-in-the-corner syndrome, because the corner is sharp, unlike Itzy Ritzy’s rounded corners.
- The large bags are touted for freezer cooking, but I wouldn’t dare. They don’t hold liquid at all. That doesn’t impact the sandwich size as much, but I would hate to freeze and thaw anything in them – juices everywhere.
- Neat-os have a see-through window stripe in the center so you know what’s in the bag. A very cool feature, BUT…
- The seam where the transparent plastic meets the rest of the bag doesn’t hold up. Both of my larger sizes got a lot of use, but before 6 months had passed both had holes in them. I can’t justify the price for that amount of time, such a disappointment.
Snack Taxi is probably my third favorite, if I had to put them in order. It’s held up very well over 3 years, and we rely on it a lot for larger, moist items. It was the go-to for carrots or grapes before we added Itzy Ritzy in fact.
Snack Taxi has a pretty sturdy polyurethane coated nylon interior and a large flap that folds over to close. We actually just survived an entire plum smashed flat in a backpack inside a Snack Taxi today, so it does hold in goo very well!
It turns completely inside out, although there are corners that crumbs could potentially get stuck in:
The drying is much slower than EcoLunchGear or Itzy Ritzy, and you have to remember to turn it right side out and let it have a second chance to dry. Snack Taxi runs about $8-15 currently and has two sizes.
Frugal Granola: Beeswax Coated Fabric
I hope there’s an Etsy seller making bags and wraps like these, because we really, really like them. Frugal Granola closed up shop soon after we got these samples, but the beeswax coating on the fabric sandwich wraps and tiny snack bags has really held up amazingly well, and this is by far the best plastic-free option, if that’s important to you.
The only downfall might be the crumb-catching corners on the bags, but they actually go inside out much more thoroughly than most because the stitching allows it to become a square when the inner seam is outside. It’s also a little more time-consuming to wash these out – instead of a quick rinse under water, I do tend to use a clean, wet dishcloth for two reasons: (a) they’re not all that fast drying when they get completely soaked and (b) it really requires a bit of abrasiveness from the cloth to get food off the beeswax coating.
If you’re a DIY kind of person, I’m guessing a Google search for beeswax coated reusable fabric bags would yield some great tutorials!
Eco Ditty does have some really cool color-your-own bags, but you have to be committed to “no plastic at all” to really appreciate 100% organic cotton bags with no beeswax coating. Bread products or tortilla chips go stale fast, even before lunchtime if you pack in the morning, and baby carrots soak through immediately.
They’re cute and good for some things like dried fruit or chocolate chips, but you have to be aware of the breathability of fabric. They also looked old after the first washing, but haven’t really changed in 3 years since then.
Overall I don’t think I’d purchase Eco Ditty for myself, but if avoiding plastic entirely was a goal, this remains a great option. They run about $9-12 currently. Photo from Amazon.
I just have a sandwich wrap from Kids Konserve, but it’s very different from any other bag or wrap I have. It’s made of a very thin, crisp plastic. You can get an idea of how it feels in these photos demonstrating me opening the wrap:
What I DO like about this material is how easy it is to wipe clean and how fast it dries. It also takes very little space to store, which is great.
It is hard to get it to lay flat, though, so the placemat ideal would take more time to pin down than most kids have at lunch; the mat just holds its folded shape too well. And it’s a bit smaller than some wraps; I’m comparing to the Wrap-n-mat (on Amazon) which I purchased for my mom four or five years ago. She’s still using it, it’s in good shape, and it gets the job done. It runs about $8 right now, but Kids Konserve is two for about $9, so if you don’t mind it being a bit smaller, it’s a great deal.
This sandwich wrap is pretty standard. I think I like it better than Kids Konserve just because it feels more durable and lays flat really well (plus my daughter went gaga over the spots). It’s shown above with two full-sized gluten-free pumpkin muffins and holds them just fine. Since we don’t do a lot of sandwiches around here, we’ve also put grapes and cherry tomatoes in it easily. The surface wipes clean very well, and the only problem might be the same with any wrap: it’s tricky for my 5yo to figure out how to wrap it up correctly.
Celadon Road‘s reusable bag product is one that may have looked cooler in the catalog than in reality.
I love that it’s clear – the only one I’ve seen where you have a chance of seeing the contents, something many might miss when switching from plastic sandwich bags. It’s also made by a very sustainable company, and I appreciate that, and the built-in “mat” that folds out is a nice feature.
However, it wins the prize for being the hardest to clean. The plastic (EVA, which is a PVC and BPA-free plastic) is very thick and only semi-pliable, which I appreciated at first because it feels sturdy and strong. However, it makes it difficult to flip the bags inside out to wash, and getting into the corners is almost impossible.
The bag stained very quickly from some pumpkin muffins, demonstrating a drawback of the clear view since now it always looks kind of icky. Other bags stained too, but at least they’re hidden inside. (Itzy Ritzy does not stain easily at all, by the way.)
I was already leaning toward saying that I do not recommend this product, when in the course of taking these photos, I flipped my large 3-week-old sandwich bag inside out to demonstrate and this happened:
It’s only a matter of time before that tears all the way down the seam and renders the bag scrap plastic. I emphatically cannot recommend this one.
Although a Squooshi isn’t a reusable bag, it is a reusable food pouch and deserves a mention here.
You can put things in a Squooshi (on Amazon) that you could never put in a bag, like oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies and applesauce. The new sip’n lid means no spills (phew!) and they’re so. darn. cute.
Check out my full review to see what you think. We tend to put leftover smoothie in them and freeze it for lunch, and my kids love them. They are harder to clean than a glass bowl with a lid, which is what I’d send frozen smoothie in otherwise, but it’s a tradeoff for style and fun.
If you get them, my recommendation is to only get the larger size and just know that they’re a treat, and use a bottle brush to wash them (rinse right away!).
If you’re curious for even more details, most of these bags are reviewed in greater depth, including things like size and materials, in my old review post.
I’ll be adding some massive reviews of over half a dozen bento-style lunch boxes, both plastic and stainless steel,
tomorrow, so be sure to sign up for a free email subscription or grab my reader feed so you don’t miss it. You can also follow me on Twitter, get KS for Kindle, or see my Facebook Fan Page. EDIT: Not tomorrow anymore…we had a little insect problem this morning that took up all my writing time. Watch Sunday night for the lunch box review now!
Do you attempt to pack a waste-free or no-waste lunch?
More Healthy / Green Lunch Packing Ideas:
- The Healthy Lunch Box :: an eBook
- Packing a Healthy Lunch to Go :: ideas for lunches of all kinds, no junk
- The Best Lunch Packing Gear :: reviews of a ton of bento boxes
- Kids Unpack the Lunch :: learning responsibility
- Berry Good Wraps :: unique lunch idea
- 10 Bread-Free Packable Alternatives to Sandwiches
- Gluten-free Lunch Ideas :: food allergies at school
- Can’t do no waste? Packing a Reduced Waste Lunch
- Handling school lunch begging and community snacks :: wisdom from the KS community
- Fixing School Lunch in Two Easy Steps :: more veggies anyone?
- 10 Tips to Pack Brilliant School Lunches and Avoid Wasting Food
Are expensive gadgets and specialty foods really worth the cost? Read these super-thorough reviews to see if the item you have your eye on passed the KS tests and truly lives up to the hype.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. I received most of the products in this post as review copies, but many were 3 years ago. I have purchased Itzy Ritzy and EcoLunchgear on my own as well. My opinions – obviously – are 100% my own, and no money changed hands for this post. See my full disclosure statement here.