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Beating the back-to-school lunchtime blues

Gadgets help parents put together fun school lunches quickly and easily.

Now that kids around the country are heading back to school, parents have plenty of things on their minds. Thankfully, there are loads of clever products that can make it easier to get healthy, fun lunches out the door--and actually consumed. We put together a list of a few that might make lunches easier to plan for.

A poll of the parents in our newsroom is pretty much unanimous. The apple slicer was sent straight from heaven. It turns apples from loathesome fruit to scrumptious little snackers in one swift motion. This one from Leifheit goes for $14.95 on, but other brands and styles can run a little less.

Apple slicer

There are lots of different julienne peelers and knives available, which can be used to make carrot sticks or cucumbers a little more appealing to kids with veggie aversions. This one from OXO works much like a regular vegetable peeler, but any kitchen store should have a variety of tools that do a similar job quickly and easily.

Julienne peeler

Everybody knows thousands of domestic battles have been fought over attempts at getting kids to eat bread crusts. Heck, my school days are long gone and I still hate the things. For those parents who've chosen to fight other battles, there are a number of crust cutters out there, some of which make cute little shapes, though those tend to waste a lot of non-crust sandwich trimmings. This one comes in a standard sandwich size and shape. But one of my co-workers has had good luck with this contraption, which cuts crusts and crimps the edges together to make a little handheld sandwich pie. That's especially convenient for keeping a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from leaking a gooey mess all over the place, he reports.

Cut and seal
Pampered Chef

Obentec produces a line of modular lunchbox systems called Laptop Lunches that are basically lunchboxes with Tupperware-like containers set inside. The set comes in an insulated carrying case that looks a little like a laptop bag. Inside that is a water bottle and a lunchbox that's about 9x7x2 inches. The boxes come with utensils, two large containers (one of which has a lid and can hold wet foods), two smaller containers, and one itty bitty container with a lid that can hold salad dressing, condiments or dip. That system goes for $34.99, but the lunchbox and its contents can also be purchased separately for less money.

The containers are lead-free (which gives them a leg up on most insulated lunch bags), dishwasher-safe and recyclable. And orders come with a book of healthy lunch tips.

Laptop Lunches

Several portable containers have a large compartment for individual-size salads, along with a smaller compartment in the lid that can hold dressing, so salads don't get soggy while your tots sit in math class. But this one from the Container Store, called the Salad Blaster, makes the process of dressing salad (not to mention eating vegetables) a little more exciting. Pressing down on the top of the container "blasts" the dressing onto the salad, good for youngsters who think exploding food is more fun, which I guess is pretty much all of them.

Salad blaster
The Container Store

These versatile containers can be used for packing along milk and cereal or yogurt and granola. Dry food can go in the top compartment, while cold things go in the bottom, chilled by that magic freezer stuff that sits sandwiched between the inner and outer layers of the cup.

Brylane Home

If you're lucky enough to have a kid who doesn't get squeamish at the thought of eating bananas, you can protect the fruit and the homework in the schoolbag next to it with this banana saver, a container specially designed for keeping bananas from getting smashed before their time.

Banana saver
Organized Living

And for dessert, you can use these containers to send a frosted cupcake to school without them getting totally destroyed. They can also be used for protecting muffins.


This blog was brought to you in part by CNET's Michelle Meyers, who loaned her research help and invaluable maternal expertise to the project.