Check out the rest of this series: Dangers of BPA, 3 Reasons I am Reducing the Plastic we Throw Away 3 Tips for Investing in Plastic Free Items
You know, I didn’t think I even used that many sandwich or snack bags. My husband generally brings soup and salad or leftovers with him in containers, and I don’t have any children I need to pack lunches for. However, when I really started paying attention, I realized that we were still using sandwich bags fairly often. Towards the end of my pregnancy, sometimes I wouldn’t make a large enough dinner for Joel to take leftovers, so he started bringing a lot more sandwiches with him (and using plastic bags). I started packing a lot more snacks for myself and Elena when we were out and about-often in plastic bags. All of those baggies add up- yet I am sure it’s not even close to the amount that families with many school aged children go through!
Sandwiches have become a mainstay in many of our lives. Not only should we work on making sure those sandwiches are nutritious, but I feel that it’s also important to pay attention to what we wrap those sandwiches in. In my quest to reduce our plastic consumption, I’ve come across some different options for replacing sandwich and snack bags. Yeah! Some companies very kindly sent me a few items to try out and review and I am excited to share them with you as I really like them.
Cloth Sandwich and Snack Bags
Cloth sandwich and snack bags are one easy option. Two companies kindly sent me some samples of their products for me to try out and I really liked both of them.
First, let’s look at Eco Lunch Gear’s sandwich bag.
This cloth based sandwich bag has a few neat features. The outer cloth is made with organic cotton. It has a liner made with nylon which has a polyurethane coating which does not come in contact with the food as it faces the cotton layer. This helps the product be resistant to water, stain, mildew and rot.
I loved the fabric on the sample they sent me too! But even cooler is that fact that this “bag” unfolds completely so you can very easily get all of the crumbs out. Because of this design, it’s also easy to adjust the size of the bag.
Another high quality brand who sent me samples was EcoDitty.
This company uses organic cotton as well and I love that the inside layer-which touches the food- is also organic cotton (undyed). In this case, I think that our sandwiches were better dressed than ourselves!
Because I often use homemade bread for sandwiches, which can make a bigger sized sandwich, it was important to me to have a spacious sandwich bag. Both the Eco Ditty and the Eco Lunch Gear gave me plenty of room for a large sandwich. I think that you can tell in the picture below that there is plenty of space around the bread.
They also sent me a great little snack bag which a great way to replace plastic snack bags too! It would hold chips, carrot and celery sticks, a cookie or two, and any other snack you could think of, well.
But my big question was how easy it was going to be to wash these bags since you may want to use them 5 days a week. Here is what the two brands had to say about washing their products. EcoDitty says that you can throw their sandwich and snack bags in the wash, wash by hand, or even put through the dishwasher! Eco Lunch Gear had this to say about washing their products.
“As with any fabric, hand washing and air drying will make them last longer. We use our wraps and bags every day and hand wash them at night with the water bottles and other dishes – hang them over a glass or bowl and they will be dry within a few hours. You can wash and dry these in the machines – we recommend washing on cool water, but they will hold up with warm water also. Dry on delicate cycle. They are designed with the machines in mind, so when you go to wash them just turn the tabs down so the Velcro doesn’t get caught on other items in the laundry. See here for more information.”
Sounds easy enough!
We did a test run of these products a few times and I found that both of the company’s products stood up to the rigors of chips and PB&J, and a turkey sandwich with ease.
But cloth bags aren’t your only option, you could also opt for stainless steel options for both sandwiches and for snacks. Enter some products from Life without Plastic. I immediately feel in love with this company when I stumbled across it when researching this topic. Even the name is wonderful! They carry a wide range of products helping you live without plastic (seriously, you should check out their site). Pretty cool stuff. They sent me a few stainless steel options for replacing sandwich and snack bags.
First, let’s take a look at the two stainless steel boxes that one could use for sandwiches. On the left is a stainless sandwich box and on the right is a stainless steel bento box.
First, a few things I like generally about stainless steel products. They are simple to wash out and dry-an advantage if in the morning you realize you never unpacked the lunch pail and everything is dirty. Stainless steel products are also very beautiful as well as durable. On the positive side for the cloth sandwich bags, they take up less room (like when I was sneaking a sandwich in my purse into the movie theater).
Both of these stainless steel options have advantages. The sandwich box is very thin and compact which is excellent when placing inside lunch pails. It’s also easy to open (which is good for children). However, because it’s so thin, my fat turkey sandwich didn’t fit inside it very well. If you pack a stuffed sandwich, this may not be the right size for you. Because this option doesn’t stay closed quite as well, you may want to put a rubber band around it to hold it together.
On the other hand, the bento box (shown on the left) was quite spacious and my sandwich fit in with ease. It also holds together because of the side snaps very well. It’s going to take up more room in a lunch pail however.It was my favorite because it also multi-purposed. You can use it to store leftovers or to carry other lunch items, and you can even write the contents and date on the outside with a marker (it wipes away). You can also place it in a toaster oven to reheat food!
Finally, Life without Plastic also sent me this perfect sized food storage container. It works wonderfully for snacks. It’s the smallest of their air and water tight food storage containers and I love it! I foresee getting a lot of use out of it when packing snacks for my little girlies. You could also use it for hummus and other dips when packing lunches. Definitely a great option for replacing snack bags.
What about you? Have you tried any similar products? Leave your review below! Or do you have other ideas of how to replace plastic sandwich and snack bags? I would love to hear them!
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I have been using SnackTaxi snack and sandwich bags for a few years. Love them. My 1st grader has lost a couple of them, which at $8 a piece doesn’t make me happy, but he was younger then and he is getting better about it this year.
I also have some wrap n mats that I like too, although they don’t get used as much now as we don’t do many sandwiches.
Does anyone have any experience or thoughts on making these baggies? I have really been wanting to switch to fabric sandwich ‘baggies’ but the money is a big factor and it seems like I should be able to make my own! But I am wondering about a liner that isn’t plastic but something water resistant and not toxic! would love to hear people’s thoughts/experiences!
I am not very good at sewing and don’t own a sewing machine, but it seems like it would be a simple project. You may have noticed that the ecoditty brand doesn’t have any type of water resistant inner layer. I think it should work just fine as long as you wash it once it’s soiled and before it molds or something. 🙂
Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS
I think I’m going to work on this. I love to sew! 🙂 If anyone has tips or suggestions for lining fabric, I’d be curious to hear, too. But in the meantime, I’m going to do some digging myself on sewing websites/resources.
I just use unbleached muslin as the liner and it washes up really well. I don’t use any water resistant liner in between. I am able to use them a couple times as long as there isn’t anything messy in them. At the end of the week, I throw them in with my kitchen towel load – wash and dry.
Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS
Thanks! I’ve been looking at tutorials on the web and it looks like some people are using vinyl/polyurethane for the lining, which doesn’t seem like a good idea as we’re trying to get away from plastics. Some people don’t use anything extra, like you. Some put a nylon or similar fabric in between the inner/outer layer. And then there’s how one of the companies above turns the polyurethane lining to the inside so the polyu doesn’t touch the food. I think #2 and #3 sound good, and #4 is a possibility, too.
Seems like wash/dry care would be easy without having to worry about melting a synthetic water resistant liner.
And I am also wondering about treating the inner layer with something natural (like an oilcloth idea) to make it moisture resistant.
Thanks for the research Wardeh! I agree that I would rather stay away from the vinyl. And it doesn’t seem like you really need it anyways. I had no problem with using the Eco Ditty ones (though the sandwiches were only in it for a little time period, I am not sure what they would do if they were left in them for 8 hours.) 🙂
Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship
Michele at Frugal Granola sells bags lined with a somewhat resistant yet non-plastic lining. I tested the same two brands as Kimi plus Michele’s and Snack Taxi (and after 8 ours, a sandwich is pretty crusty in a cloth-only version). My review is here (but my photos aren’t nearly as nice as Kimi’s): http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/09/13/back-to-school-bonanza-a-greener-option-for-your-sandwiches-review/
For the sewing, the Eco Ditty is the exact same pattern as Snack Taxi, which is very large for a big sandwich and would be easy to copy. I should send you one as a pattern sometime…(remind me). I did love the way the Eco Lunch Gear opened all the way up because the placemat function is pretty cool for kids eating their lunch.
Great review, Kimi!
Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS
Thanks, Katie! I’ll go check out your reviews. I am intrigued by the non-plastic resistant fabric Michele uses. I’d love to borrow one for a pattern, but I’ll probably go ahead and work something up tomorrow because I’m an eager beaver to try it. 🙂
I would avoid a natural oilcloth. This is highly flammable! Even if just left in a hot car.
Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS
I have been eyeing those cloth sandwich bags for some time. And the stainless boxes are beautiful!
One non-plastic, but disposable, option is natural wax paper bags. They can be reused for awhile and then they go to the compost. We use them for sandwiches or snack mixes. Moist foods do tend to dry out, which makes me wonder about the cloth alternatives you’ve mentioned. Did you notice foods drying out?
For non-disposable plastic alternatives, we use mostly glass containers (some of which have #7 plastic lids, which Pyrex assures is BPA free). I use glass containers that fit our coolers and that’s what I use for my husband’s lunches or when the kids and I are out. The various sizes fit whatever I’m packing — eggs, snack mixes, sandwiches, biscuits, you name it.
I also have a few insulated stainless steel food jars in various sizes for when I’m packing something warm for him or the rest of us. That’s off-topic though and I’m sure you’re going to cover that soon!
what greats you have given me. as a chemist, i see the dangers of carcinogenic compounds daily and get numb to it. you are pretty clever with the pics too. i can just see my son’s pb&j in the bag or the bento box
Swatches of quilting fabric work well for both sandwich wraps and snacks if you have a tie… They aren’t really resistant to very moist sandwiches, of course, but they work for our purposes, accommodate any size sandwich (boxes sometimes let a sandwich unravel if the box is too big and the sandwich too small or made with dry ingredients), are super-cheap, and can be thrown in with the laundry. They can also be used as a mat once unwrapped (like your first sandwich wrap example above), but you could easily sew a pocket from these or serge the edges (even putting two fabrics back-to-back!) if you wished. I also do use BPA-free plastic containers in the tiny snack size for wet items like fruit/veggies/cheese. It would be great to get away from plastic altogether, but this works for now. I almost never use plastic bags any more. Freezer storage is my BIG plastic problem…
freezing is my big problem eliminating plastic too! alot of my vintage cookbooks describe wrapping items in “freezer paper”…does anyone know what this is? does it work well?
Hey em, freezer paper is still available at pretty much any grocery store. It’s in the aisle with the wax paper and such. It does have some sort of plastic coating on it though…so I don’t know that it would help you get away from plastic. I cut designs out of it and then iron it onto shirts to use as a stencil…so with the way it melts and fuses to clothe I can’t think that it would be anything too great to put around your food, but I don’t actually KNOW.
Darn! I don’t know if changing plastic for plastic coated paper is really the right direction…fooey. BUT, at least I got a great crafting tip about stenciling on shirts! 🙂
I love those cloth bags…especially the one that opens flat (why didn’t i think of that?)!
I’ve been using stainless steel tiffins (similar to the sandwich box above) for lunch transport and leftovers. I find them at the local Indian grocery store where they come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, come in sets, and are very reasonable on the budget. There’s a set that stack and clamp together which is fun and good for when you don’t want pie in your coleslaw.
I’ve also tried the waxed paper bags…they are better for a drier sandwich or a snack food like nuts or dried fruit. A juicy sandwich weakened the paper.
I’ve also used small glass spice jars for dips and sauces.
I’ve used the squat pint and half pint canning jars for most things over the years. But last year the school aides broke almost all the jars I had. And, of course, this year I couldn’t find them anywhere to replace them. So the stainless steel containers are going to get researched in a minute.
We don’t do sandwiches, but for those who are looking to make there own sandwich wrappers, you might look for cloth napkins. Premade heavy duty ones would be really easy to convert. And I think I may make some of the snack size ones.
And natural waxed paper is wonderful for things that won’t do well in cloth, like homemade nut butter crackers. I have a box of them saved for items just like that.
Thanks for the info GG.
I have dabbled around with making these for lunches as well as some for my homemade bread storage. I read somewhere that if you use beeswax it will create a more “wipe off” surface. In order to do this you would grate the beeswax, sprinkle over the fabric to be used on, cover with parchment paper, and iron until the beeswax melts. Between family, working full time , and a baby on the way I haven’t tried this yet. I am saving it for my “after the baby comes and I’m not working” time. Who knows if I will get to it then… I do have my bags cut out and my block of wax just waiting for the day 🙂 If anyone tries it, let me know how it goes!
Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS
Ooh, good idea! Earlier today I researched whether it was possible to lanolinize cotton (as one does wool) but cotton doesn’t seem to lanolize as well as wool. I love the idea of beeswax! Thanks.
Good ideas. Yummy looking photos!
thanks so much for all these links to the products! right now, we are just reusing the plastic bags we’ve had forever–i just wash them out and hang them to dry. once they’re gone, i’ll be switching over, but they last a long time! should i be worrying about any leaching into our food? i store my food mostly in glass and metal, but still carry sandwiches and snacks in portable reused plastic bags…
I switched to cloth bags… and it was a disaster. Everything dried out for me. If I used a waterproof liner they were ok. I just honestly use so few plastic bags I will just buy them. LOL!
Shirley @ gfe
I love the cloth bags! I think they would be easy to make and you could choose material per the individual using it (e.g., favorite character, hobbies), seasonal material, etc. It could be fun and make the user feel special. 🙂
Thanks, Kimi, and everyone else for your ideas!
Dana @ Budget Dietitian
We use glass containers. I like to be able to really wash them out like the stainless steel ones. I am curious about the cloth containers though. My oldest will be in 1st grade next year (tear!) and that might be the time.
I have a couple other brands of cloth sandwich/snack bags, but these look cooler and have some different features ours do not. We will have to give them a try. We use a lot of the glass snapware containers. I got a big set at costco and they’re awesome for tons of lunch and snack items as well as storing leftovers (another area we’d gotten into using too many plastic baggies with). I’d also like to get my daughter a planetbox lunch box – it’s stainless steel and all one piece for multiple lunch items. It’s pricey though, so we will save for it or maybe do it as a Christmas gift.
I have used waxed paper for my husband’s sandwiches for 30 years. The kids and I occasionally take a sandwich out. There never seems to be a problem with drying out. My concern with the fabric would be the drying out problem.
Have you ever done a post on healthy lunch box sandwiches and such? What brand(s) of
meat(s) and chese(s) do you buy to make your sandwiches? Thanks!
I’ve been purchasing raw milk cheese from Trader Joe’s for sandwiches (if that’s a local option for you) as well as their turkey bacon (no nitrates, not preserved, uncured), which works great for sandwiches, and my boys love, love it!! Also is great cut up in soups!
Are there options to replace gallon-size ziploc bags? I have my organic produce delivered weekly, and currenly use the gallon zips to store the individual veggies in my fridge. I hate the expense, although I reuse each bag as many times as I can.
I love the cloth bags and the bento box. Thinking back, I probably use more plastic than I realize for when I’m on the go. I’ll have to check out the sites.
Thank you for bringing these to my awareness! People need to know about this stuff!
you can get stainless stell “lunch boxes” that even come with a tiny spoon at Indian/middle easten markets. They have been used in india for ages.. most have a stackable tray inside- designed to hold the wet dal in the bottom and rice on top. but of course you could use it for whatever:)- my mom brought these for us when she went to inda over a decade ago and I have spotted them in the markets often since then. They are usually less costly.
For waterproofing, what are the pros and cons of using these sheets of silicon made for lining
cookie pans, oven floors, etc. They could be cut into “crosses” proportioned like in the Red Cross
symbol to wrap around individual sandwiches. Perhaps even with locking tabs. Dropped into a
cloth bag for a more secure wrap. Dishwasher safe? Possibly cut up for lining the cloth bags?
If the manufacturers start making them, could I get a cut (finders fee) of any net profit after amortization?
I have not had good luck with cloth sandwich wrappers. I bought a couple and they both ended up in the trash accidentally. They also didn’t seem to conform to my homemade bread so well.
We use stainless thermos bottles and reusable lunch bags and I also have a silcon “tube” that we put dressings in. I am curious about the stainless steel sandwich and bento boxes. They look nice and have a kid friendly aspect to them that my glass pyrex pieces do not have (what I usually put my own lunch in)
Skimmed through the post– can’t wait to read more. I have one that eats school lunch and four behind her. I love the alternative since plastic bags are – unfortunately- a staple at this point. Can’t wait to learn more for myself, thanks.
I AM TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO REPLACE PLASTIC BAGS FOR USE OTHER THAN SANDWICHES. I THINK WAX PAPER IS THE ANSWER FOR SMALL SIZES. WHAT DOES ONE DO FOR GARBAGE CANS AND LARGE TRASH BAGS? AND I DON’T LIKE THE IDEA OF SHOPPING WITHOUT BAGS TO HOLD PRODUCE. THE CHECKER WOULD HAVE TO HANDLE THE PRODUCE AND PLACE ON THE SCALE AND THAT IS PROBABLY VERY VERY DIRTY. WANT TO DO WHAT I CAN TO HELP OUR ENVIRONMENT. PEPPER
Does anyone use parchment paper for freezing things (i.e. how does it work)? And does it have a plastic coating (where would you purchase it or another paper that is natural)?