If you remember what it was like eating hot lunch at school, you probably grew up traumatized by horrendous square pizzas and chicken chow mein. That’s why it’s a good idea to prepare a lunch for your kids by giving it to them in a brown lunch bag. So, what are the measurements of those lunch bags?
The standard lunch bag will measure around 10 inches tall, 5 inches wide, and 3 inches deep when opened and filled.
If you’d like to reduce how many brown paper bags you use, you can also consider storing your children’s lunches in lunchboxes. Today, I’ll talk about different lunch bag sizes, how much food you can put in a lunch bag without it tearing apart, and how they differ from lunchboxes.
Lunch Bag Sizes
The exact measurements of a lunch bag may vary from supplier to supplier, though the differences won’t be too significant. For instance, those made by DURO measure 10 × 4-7/8 × 3, while Great Value’s lunch bags are 10-5/8 × 5-1/8 × 3-1/8.
Brown lunch bags are designed with tall walls when filled so that you can fold or roll the top down. That way, the contents won’t go spilling out when you place the bag inside your backpack.
Can You Reuse Lunch Bags?
If you look at the products above, you might have noticed that DURO offers 500-bag packs, while Great Value’s lunch bags come in packs of 100. While that might sound like a lot, you have to remember that you eat lunch every day, which means you will go through at least one lunch bag per 24 hours.
Luckily, you can reuse your old lunch bags. Even if there’s a tear on the side, you can un-crumple the bag and reuse it for your lunch the following day. At most, you can get about three days of use per lunch bag before it becomes too flimsy to retain its shape, especially after rolling the top.
Are Brown Lunch Bags Eco-Friendly?
The type of paper that goes into making brown lunch bags is called kraft paper. It’s a type of thin cardboard that is comprised of chemical and paper pulp, which gives it structure and durability.
That said, making paper bags isn’t 100% eco-friendly. Manufacturing a single paper bag requires four times as much energy as making a plastic bag. And let’s not forget about the chemical pulp that goes into kraft—there’s no telling what it can do to the environment.
How Much Food Can You Put in a Lunch Bag?
At most, you should fill a lunch bag to roughly 60% of its maximum volume. So, using the figures from above, a lunch bag can hold between 146.25 and 170.166 cubic inches of food. So, 60% of these figures should be between 87.75 and 102.09 cubic inches.
Of course, nobody measures lunch portions in cubic inches. Instead, you can place the food inside an airtight container with separate portions for meats, vegetables, and fruit wedges or slices. The container should take up less space than the total volume of the lunch bag so that you can fold the top down.
In addition, you should also refrain from overstuffing the bag with large, pointed objects. The paper bag is generally 6 to 8 points thick (1 point represents 1/1,000th of an inch), so they tear rather easily. You should cut off the stem from your child’s apple before tossing it in their lunch bag.
However, if you’d like to portion your children’s lunches more accurately, you should use an insulated lunchbox instead of traditional lunch bags.
What is a Lunchbox?
A lunchbox is a handheld, insulated box that stores food for short periods—i.e., between the time your child leaves home and when it’s time to have lunch.
The main difference between lunchboxes and lunch bags is their insulated walls. The interior walls of a lunchbox are designed to keep hot foods warm and cold foods slightly cold during storage. Lunch bags, which are basically smaller versions of grocery store paper bags, do not have such a feature.
In addition, a lunchbox can come with built-in compartments for separating food items from each other. That way, your child’s fruit slices won’t get mixed up with their proteins and veggies, which would otherwise lead to one huge, inedible mess.
One neat feature you can find in specific lunchbox models, such as the CTSZOOM Steamer Box, is a built-in cooker. It comes with stainless-steel bowls and walls, along with an internal heating element. That way, you can take raw meat and vegetables to work and prepare them moments before you’re ready to eat. However, this might not be an appropriate lunchbox for schoolchildren who do not have access to wall outlets during lunchtime.
How Long Does Food Last in a Lunchbox?
Lunchboxes aren’t made to keep food fresh for very long. Despite their insulated interiors, cold food will begin to warm up, and hot food will cool down over time. At most, insulated lunch boxes will keep food fresh for 2.5 hours. This means that there’s a pretty good chance that your pre-prepared lunch will spoil before you even get to dig in it.
The good news is that you can toss one or two ice packs inside your lunch box. They will keep the temperature down and reduce the rate at which bacteria grows. The downside is that your hot meal won’t remain hot for too long.
Tips for Storing Food in Lunch Bags or Lunchboxes
Freeze your food. You’d be surprised how many kinds of foods you can freeze without ruining their flavor or texture. Plus, as you are in class or at work, your food will slowly thaw and return to its edible state at 12 PM.
Get bento compartments. Keeping meats away from vegetables and both away from fruits and snacks is a great way to prevent cross-contamination. As you move around all day, your food will inevitably get jumbled together. That is, unless you use a bento compartment like the Mataidee Bento Box.
Use ice or gel packs. Reducing the temperature inside the lunch bag or lunchbox is the best way to stop bacteria from growing at an accelerated rate. The more ice packs you use, the longer your food will stay fresh. Most lunch bags can accommodate at least two packs.