Hi, I’m Katie, and I’m a reusable snack bag junkie.
Now that I’ve been using reusable sandwich and snack bags regularly for over a decade, it’s not even weird anymore…to me.
Every so often, I see myself through someone else’s eyes as I unzip a cloth bag full of trail mix or perhaps allergy-free pumpkin muffins, and I wonder what they are thinking. Reusable bags, in general, are much more mainstream than when I started using them (love that!!), so it may not be the first time someone has seen a reusable sandwich bag, but they’re still a pretty rare beast out in the wild.
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).
It cracks me up when I’m pulling a reusable produce bag out of my purse at the Farmer’s Market (or a regular produce bag that I choose to reuse), because 75% of the time, the vendor tries to offer me a bag, like I’m making a concession to try to use my own. Reducing waste is still a bit avant garde!
When I first ventured into the world of reusable snack bags, I was deadly curious, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I think I’ve told you before that I’m the type of person who always asks for two flavors of ice cream on one cone, so figuring out what kind of reusable bag would work best for our family was a hazardous question for my sanity.
Testing multiple different brands and styles is so very right up my alley. Don’t you agree?
You know at one point I had them all lined up on my couch, taking notes on the differences in construction and materials used.
And of course I used half a bag of leftover white bread from my husband’s camping trip to test a fake “sandwich” in each one on the table overnight, along with the poor control subject sitting out in the open air. (Can you think of a better use for white bread?)
My husband was kind enough to help me determine the relative staleness of pretzels stored overnight in the snack bags vs. a fresh pretzel and one that languished on the tabletop, unprotected.
I’ve washed them by hand, in the dishwasher, and with the laundry, and if there were other options for getting them clean, I’d have tried those, too.
We packed lunches in them, too, and my kids gave their opinions.
The results were as varied as the bags.
And now I’m going to peer pressure you a bit (a lot) into using reusable bags for your own family. Our whole family has tested out enough different ones that I’m confident I can honestly recommend the BEST style and brand of reusable snack and sandwich bag for your family, kids or adults.
Here are the brands of reusable sandwich and snacks bags that I’ve reviewed:
(many of which are found on Amazon, affiliate links below)
- Itzy Ritzy
- 2 Red Hens
- Snack Taxi
- Full Circle (large size gallon bags)
- Kids Konserve
- Frugal Granola (now closed, but similar to other Etsy sellers I’m sure)
- Lunchskins (also has large gallon size)
- neat-os (lunch bag size currently unavailable)
- Eco Ditty
- Squooshi (wisely discontinued)
- Celadon Road
Are those “in no particular order?” No, they are not. 😉 It’s quite particular…
The Best Reusable Bags for Lunch and Snacks…
…have certain qualities that make them easy to use, easy to wash, long-lasting or stand out in some other way.
- No hidden traps: Opens fully to get crumbs and goo out of the corners
- Ease of Cleaning: Easy to rinse/wipe food off the material
- Quick Drying
- Longevity: Still looks good over time
- The Seal: Retains some moisture inside (for juicy foods) and keep air outside (for dry goods and staleness prevention)
- Shhhh! Opens quietly and easily for church
My top 3 bags by far are 2 Red Hens, Itzy Ritzy, and EcoBagIt.
They are the ones we default to most often (and we use bags a LOT with three kids in school full time), and also the only brands that I’ve purchased more of as my kids have grown. There used to be a close runner-up on the list, but sadly I had to take Lunchskins off my Recommended List completely (see below for more).
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Here’s the low-down on each bag individually, in order of how well we like them:
EcoBagIt by Green City Living: Most Durable Reusable Snack Bag Ever!
These reusable snack and sandwich bags from Green City Living were a newer addition to our household, they quickly became the ones we reach for most often!
The surface is unlike any other material we have experimenting with yet, and it is so shiny and tough, I feel like it will literally last forever. (Update: We’ve had some of these since 2016 and they still look exactly like the day they arrived!)
The designs are so bright and cheerful, and it’s actually fun that the inside is different than the outside.
Wiping these out is a breeze, and even when my kids forget something inside for too long and it gets a little gooey, there has never been any discoloration or a degradation of the surface. Wiping a rag across this stuff almost feels like it’s cleaning itself!
The bags are made of cotton covered with polyurethane, which I had to research a little bit. It sounds like food grade polyurethane doesn’t have any known problems, and since most reusable bags are made with some sort of plastic or synthetic material, I don’t think this is any worse than any others. (Note that you can get or make organic cotton covered in beeswax, which would be the most natural and non-reactive possible, but more difficult on upkeep.)
You’ll notice that these bags do have velcro, which is on my list as not as desirable, but for kids at school, velcro is no big deal. And this velcro is TIGHT! So as long as you don’t need bags for a quiet place, this brand is a huge contender. AND in 2019 I got the most fun email – the creator of the brand listened to my feedback and actually created a new line with zippers!!
The zippered bags have super wide bases and can actually stand up to be filled, plus they’re double walled for extra air protection from things getting stale and easy to turn inside-out to clean and dry. Totally new favorites!
The only other potential downfall is that the snack bag is quite tiny, the smallest I’ve ever seen. It’s great for a snack serving of trail mix or something very nutrient-dense, but it wouldn’t really fit a serving of chips, crackers, or anything that takes up a decent amount of space. The sandwich size bags are plenty roomy and very convenient for snacks.
Itzy Ritzy: One of the Best Reusable Sandwich Bags out There
The star feature for Itzy Ritzy is the zippered closure, which (was) unique among all the styles I own (until many others got wise and followed suit!).
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. Bottom photo courtesy of ItzyRitzy.
I can’t believe I don’t have more photos of this brand, but I think I know why: they’re always in use. We have three of them, one for each kid, and they’re constantly in a backpack, lunchbox, or (ahem) desk. They’re a clear favorite in our house!
2 Red Hens: A Favorite Reusable Snack Bag for Kids and Toddlers
shown with some lovely homemade blueberry fruit rolls
We didn’t get to try 2 Red Hens until we already had years of experience with other reusable lunch bags, but it 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 (although there are some extra flaps around the seams that take a few additional seconds to wipe sometimes, on very messy foods).
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 still looked brand new after 3 years 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.
EcoLunchGear: Great Local, Organic Choice for No Waste Lunches
Ecolunchgear is another product that has demonstrated its worth with the test of time. Not only do the bags continue to look awesome ever after 5-6 years of use, but we grab them. Out of all the bags we have, these are certainly stand-bys.
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 car seats).
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).
These were off the market for a while, and then I was thrilled when they came back, but (sigh) it looks like they don’t exist anymore, again. If you can find a similar shape out there on Etsy or a local shop, grab some!
Snack Taxi: A Reusable Bag that Holds in Gooey Kid Messes
Snack Taxi is very close to the top recommended section. It’s held up very well over 8 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, and I still tend to grab these for the roominess.
Snack Taxi has a pretty sturdy polyurethane coated nylon interior and a large flap that folds over to close. We have actually survived an entire plum smashed flat in a backpack inside a Snack Taxi, 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.
As of February 2018, SnackTAXI has closed its doors, so sad, but I still think it’s valuable to leave the review because it can help you look for other, similarly made quality products and get an idea of the pitfalls of inner corners.
Full Circle Gallon-Sized Reusable Storage Bags
I saw this cool brand of reusable bags as I was making a Grove order, where I usually get things like recycled toilet paper, natural razors, and some other personal care and cleaning products around the house. I thought I would add it to my order and test it out.
There are some incredibly nice features of this large reusable storage bag:
- Flat bottom so the bag can stand up, very rare to see
- Extremely thick and durable material
- Very easy to wipe clean
- Actually waterproof, one of the first or only reusable bags that can boast holding liquids in without any leakage
As you can see in the picture, we tend to use this for raw veggies again, rotating it with the Lunchskins brand. It would work great for any sort of cut up veggies or salad greens, and you might even be able to store freezer meals in this.
I would still be a little hesitant to put raw meat in it, just because of the difficulty of washing and sterilizing every seam, but with some squirts of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar, it might be okay even for raw meat.
The only drawback is that the zipper, while sturdy, is quite difficult to get zipped in the first place. Once zipped, it will stay there, but it takes some finesse.
Find Full Circle on Amazon, where you’ll see many sizes. I can only guess that the benefits and deficits of the style will remain the same, although the sandwich size doesn’t stand up. New customers at Grove always get a free package of goodies, worth checking there too!
Kids Konserve Reusable Sandwich Wraps
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 idea 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 years ago. She’s still using it, it’s in good shape, and it gets the job done. Kids Konserve generally runs less money than the Wrap-N-Mat, so if you don’t mind it being a bit smaller, it’s a great deal.
Frugal Granola: Truly Plastic-Free Beeswax Coated Fabric Snack Bags
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!
Lunchskins: Great Reusable Bag, Until…
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.
- 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
(shown above with other lunch gear from Mighty Nest)
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 used to place them in 4th out of all the ones I’ve tried…but then this happened after only two years of use:
It might be easier to see in this photo:
The plastic coating on the inside is starting to flake off quite seriously, and we had to take them out of commission because I didn’t want little pieces of polyurethane getting in my kids’ food and mouths.
So disappointing! It is happening to both of the bags we have, and this was only after two years of ownership. We don’t really wash them much at all in the laundry, I would guess only 2-4 times total. They were great bags and easy to use and ones we grabbed often, but I really can’t recommend them if they won’t last longer than a few years. 🙁 My daughter uses these in her play kitchen now.
UPDATE: Lunchskins has updated their styles as of 2017 and 2018, and of course I love that they have a new zippered kind (above). The zipper moves great and I don’t see it being a longevity problem. Because of the flaking I experienced with the older versions, I can’t quite promote them to “recommended” yet but they’re making strides.
This huge gallon size storage bag is also a new addition, and we just love it for our daily raw vegetables. I like to prep cut veggies ahead of time for dinner, and then whenever there are leftovers those always go back in the same bag.
The only issue has been that little spots of black show up inside the bag. They do not come off with any amount of scrubbing, so I can only guess that it’s a bit of mold or mildew that has become part of the fabric. Yes, sometimes we use and reuse and reuse the bag too many times without washing well in between, and sometimes things get forgotten in the produce drawer.
Dangerous? Benign? I can’t be sure, but it’s not my favorite feature!
The large bags have a lot of potential for storage though, and the zipper is the best part by far, putting this bag high up above other gallon-sized that we have tried. If you want to store bread or crunchy things, however, too much air will get through the bag.
It also won’t hold liquids, so I would never recommend using these for something like freezer cooking or raw meat. All of those juices will leak right through the bottom corners.
But for cut up vegetables, salad greens, or fruits that need refrigeration, this is a very viable option to reduce waste.
neat-os: Uh oh…
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!).
- You can see through the bag without opening it, which is one advantage over just about every reusable snack bag we tested here.
- 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. Same goes for freezing meat – I’d never do it.
- 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.
- Note: The smaller sandwich-size bag has held up fine over 3-4 years now without a tear.
Here’s just a bit more about the product from the neat-os FAQs, for your information:
“neat-os are made of FDA certified food-safe materials. All materials have been certified as bisphenol-A (BPA)-free, phthalate-free, PVC-free, and lead free. The fabric is a cotton canvas that was designed for chefs and is coated in food safe plastic, that can withstand high temperatures and is non-abrasive, making it easy to clean lots of different ways.”
They are washable by hand or dishwasher or washing machine…
Eco Ditty: A Truly Plastic-Free Reusable Sandwich Bag – but Never for Sandwiches!
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. So that means you should never pack a sandwich in this sandwich bag…ironic, right?
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 gotten worse after that).
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. Photo from Amazon.
Bonus points for including washing instructions on the tag.
Celadon Road Wrap: Just Fine
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 Reusable Bag: Clear but Clearly No Good
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.
Squooshi: Reusable Food Pouch
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 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!).
Squooshi Failed at Bags…
Super cute, but…
…in the time that we have tested these bags, the company has wisely removed them from production.
The zipper is so flimsy that even my children said, “Wow, Mom, this doesn’t seem like it will last.”
And they were right.
After about three uses, a note came home from daycare that the zipper had come off in my three year old’s hand.
If you happen to find another brand with this sort of slider zip closure, I would run far away!
How to Care for/Wash Your Reusable Snack and Sandwich Bags
Perhaps the easiest complaint anyone can make about reusable bags is the hassle of cleaning them. Yes, anytime you reduce your waste, unless you can stop using something altogether, you’ll end up with more dishes or more laundry. It’s part of being green.
One does need to balance the drive for less trash with the question: at what point are you going to use more water/energy to keep the items clean than you will save in landfill space? With plastic bags, particularly keeping in mind the energy and raw materials used and pollution created to manufacture new plastic, I’m guessing you come out well ahead with reusables.
If you machine wash the reusable bags, make sure they’re not only open, but inside out, and the crumbs have been brushed away. I tried just tapping the crumbs out of an upside down bag, then washing it with the Velcro closed, since Velcro tends to grab other fabrics in the wash and can cause problems. No good.
Don’t use the dishwasher. Both times I tried this the bags came out grubbier than they went in, because food particles from other dishes would stick to them and not get washed off. Don’t blame my dishwasher, either; it does a fabulous job, and I have sung its praises before.
If you don’t have a load of laundry that needs to be done, I would recommend just washing the bags with your dinner dishes in the sink and hanging them to dry. After all, how many of us wash Ziploc bags to reuse them, anyway? These guys are a lot easier to get totally dry, and they’re made for reuse.
Either hang to dry from a clip or prop open by setting them upside down over kitchen utensils in the dish dry rack. They also dry acceptably laying flat on a laundry rack, but I found that turning them inside out, then right side out again after 12 hours or so speeds the process along.
For more reusable lunch container reviews, be sure to check out my bento box review as well!!
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
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post. I received most of the products in this post as review copies, but many were 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.
If you appreciated the balance and depth of the review you just read, you will love my resources page, with REAL products that have passed my rigorous testing enough to be “regulars” in the Kimball household, plus some other comprehensive reviews. Updated at least once a year to boot the losers and add new gems!