Last updated on August 20th, 2022 at 09:53 am
School is already here for some of you, we started yesterday, and others don’t start until after labor day. But it’s Back to School Season, and parents are busy getting the kids organized to start the school year. Here are my best tips for making safe back-to-school shopping purchases for your school supplies and some ideas for saving a little cash.
Finding safe lunch gear can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to “non-toxic” speak or are just now learning why it’s important. Keeping food safe and reducing waste are on the top of all our lists. “So, what do I look for?” You must shop based on your needs when deciding on a lunch system. Some kids just need a smaller container or two to pack snacks, others need something roomier to fit a healthy lunch and a snack, and some might need something more expensive for after-school programs. Figure out how much food you need your child to take, and then consult my SafeMama Lunch Gear Cheat Sheet for healthy lunch products. You want to look for something that doesn’t contain:
- BPA aka Bisphenol-a: a hormone-disrupting chemical in plastics),
- PVC / Vinyl: very toxic material that should never be near food, you risk chlorine, lead, and other horrible dioxins getting in your food and drinks,
- Phthalates: a chemical used in glues, adhesives, and plastics to make them flexible – it is also a hormone disruptor, and
- Lead. Some companies proudly display LEAD-FREE on their websites and products, while others “Meet the requirements” and are hush-hush about advertising that fact.
If this is all too complicated (belief, I know it can be tricky to wrap your brain around it) then I would urge you to look for lunch gear that is not made with plastic at all. There are great canvas lunch bags, stainless steel lunch boxes/bento boxes, and glass food storage that are typically free of toxins in plastic and mass-produced products. Some of my favorite lunch storage items in our home are made of stainless steel and glass or silicone.
PlanetBox, LunchBots, and Wean Green are trusted brands to check out. There are tons so check out the SafeMama Lunch Gear Cheat Sheet for safer ideas.
Money-Saving Ideas: Many people email me, saying, “But some of these brands are so expensive!” I know. But you’re investing in ONE good system of products you can use every year, which are safe to reuse for years to come. I don’t have to buy one thing this year because I scooped up deals on stainless lunch gear and used coupons where I could.
School supplies can get tricky, and I’ve not mastered it yet. But you can keep a few things in mind to make finding safer school supplies easier.
Avoid PVC (vinyl) and Phthalates In School Supplies.
This can be hard to do but not impossible. Look for supplies made of natural materials, but when you can’t, support companies dedicated to at least keeping PVC out of children’s products. Avoiding PVC will also help you avoid lead. I look for trusted brands that use the safest materials possible.
Find Out If Kids Share School Supplies
Last year I searched for the best supplies on the school’s requested list. I went from store to store and shopped online. I was pleased with the safe pile I came away with. Only to find out later that they dump all the supplies into class bins and don’t get the supplies you chose.
Money-Saving Tip: Before you go nuts at the store buying everything off your teacher supply list, take a minute to do some home inventory. I am willing to bet we all have piles of crayons, kid scissors, paper, and glue sticks. Collect what you have already before you shop. You’ll cut down on waste and save yourself a few bucks in the meantime.
Safer School Supply Companies
If you want to provide the best alternatives, here are some ideas to trade up the basic supplies schools ask for.
- Markers & Glue: Onyx and Green
- Crayons: Stockmar Beeswax Crayons
- Clorox/Lysol Wipes: Method AntiBac Wipes or Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Wipes
- Hand Sanitizer: Choose a safer brand without Phthalates with the Hand Sanitizer Cheat Sheet. I like to donate bottles of CleanWell sanitizer and hand soap at the start of the year.
- Nap Mats: Wildkin Nap Mats – No flame retardants or vinyl.
- Backpacks: Safer Back Packs Cheat Sheet
It’s true many schools are making attempts to make school food healthier. There are many movements underway that could help change things. Like the Let’s Move! Campaign launched by Michelle Obama. But as most of you know, if you don’t live in a progressive school, school lunches are still consisting of corn dogs (I once saw a child walking to class with her state-provided “breakfast” of a corn dog and chocolate milk), pink slime meat, and mostly less than healthy options. If you have the means to pack a lunch of course, do so. Here are some great ideas and resources for finding healthy snacks and lunches for kids as well as some ideas on helping your school find ways to make better food choices for kids.
- SafeMama List of ideas to handle Pre-School (and Elementary School) Snacks at school – Actions to take when approaching your school or teacher about snacks, list of appropriate foods.
- Healthy After School Snacks
100 Days of Real Food has some good info too:
- List of “rules” for the 100-day Challenge they do but it’s handy to read over when choosing food for yourself and your kids.
- 10 Ways to Switch Up Your Kids Lunch