When Shopping Siren was but a shopping girl, she loved the back-to-school season.
Should she get the Trapper Keeper with a tiger on it or the one with a hot-air balloon? The blue pencil box or the red one? Fat markers or thin?
It was a shopping girl’s dream.
But as important as those school-supply decisions were, they were nothing compared to The Lunchbox.
While a poorly chosen pencil box could be covered in stickers and shoved to the back of your desk, your lunchbox was always out front, representin’.
Muppet Babies, Knight Rider or Superman? You’d better pick wisely.
(For the record, I had “Garfield.” Its thermos leaked, which meant I ate milk-soggy baloney sandwiches for most of second grade, but the food fight scene on its yellow plastic cover was so entertaining that I didn’t care.)
Sadly, I fear lunchboxes today are more functional than fun. Sure, there’s a cartoon character here and there, but the lunch box companies seem more interested in keeping food cold or drinks unspilled. That’s nice and all, but it’s no food-fighting Garfield.
Looking for a lunchbox and lunchbox accessories that are both too-cool-for-school and useful?
I’ve got you — and your baloney sandwich — covered.
* Soft-sided lunchboxes, Kmart, $6.29
An array of pop culture themes, including Hello Kitty, “Shark Week,” Hot Wheels, “Frozen,” “Transformers” and Mario Kart. All boxes are insulated to keep hot food hot and cold food cold — just don’t try tossing in both a Popsicle and a cup of soup. The hot/cold paradox loop will surely cause a massive implosion, tearing time and space and leading to a reverse Big Bang. I think I learned that in physics class. Or maybe “Doctor Who.” One of those.
* Arctic Zone lunchbox with attached water bottle, Kmart, $9.09
Insulated, soft-sided lunch box (in your choice of a black-and-gray skater theme or pink peace symbols and hearts) comes with a BPA-free water bottle attached in its own insulated wrap. No leaking thermos here! Or if it does leak, at least it’ll be on the kid sharing the bus seat and not your sandwich.
* Avengers light-up lunchbox, Kmart, $6.99
As a third-grader, I would have traded all my Oreos and Hostess cupcakes for a year to own this insulated, soft-sided lunchbox that lights up when you move. Lights. Up. That is way more entertaining than Garfield’s food fight. Sorry, Garfield.
* Lunch bag with ice-pack pocket, Kmart, $6.29
Insulated lunch bags in pink, camo or skateboard theme, each with a zippered pocket on the bottom to hold an ice pack. Or, in the winter, use it as a secret compartment to hide gum. Because gum in class is still a cool rebellion thing, right? Right?
* Funtainer thermos, 12 oz., Marden’s, $7.99
Kid-sized thermos with a pop-up lid that provides a built-in straw. Neat! And it won’t leak. Probably. Themes are limited — just sports, cars or Spider-Man — but if your kid is into any of those things, you’re golden. (And if your kid isn’t, remind him or her that Spider-Man can climb walls, fight bad guys and stay up past 9 p.m. on a school night. He’s pretty awesome.)
* Fluff lunch bag, T.J. Maxx, $12.99
Oversized lunch bag made from organic cotton, with a snap closure. The Fluff Company offers a ton of styles online, though the Auburn T.J. Maxx had only the comic-book-theme bag — red and blue circles with a yellow “POW!” in the center. Machine washable, so your little one can spill, drip, drop — and, indeed, pow — to her heart’s content.
* Yellow insulated lunch bag, Dollar Tree, $1
It’s a bit flimsy, pretty much exactly what you’d expect to get for a dollar. But it’s insulated and comes in neutral yellow, which makes it perfect for Field Trip Day. Your kid won’t be embarrassed to be seen with this bag, but neither will he mourn its loss when he leaves it at the museum/forgets it in the park/drops it in the pond and watches the ducks paddle off with it as one of their own. You might want to buy a few.
Best find: “Toy Story” lunchbox, Marden’s, $2.99
Insulated, soft-sided lunch box with a 3-D cover that shows the “Toy Story” gang running toward you, along with the slogan, “No toy gets left behind.” Fun! Functional! Cheap! It’s the lunchbox trifecta.
Think twice: The Home Store brown paper bags, Dollar Tree, $1
Forty plain, uninsulated, easy-to-rip paper lunch bags. Exactly what I had in high school when I was trying to be, you know, mature. Maturity is highly overrated.
Shopping Siren’s true identity is protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who’ll take their lunch without a box, thank you; they aren’t cats) and the Customer Service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach her at email@example.com.