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This $2 Tool Makes Packing Lunches a Million Times Easier

updated Aug 19, 2019
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My cabinets are very familiar with “lunch box gear.” Cubes and bentos, plastic and stainless steel, gimmicky freezer packs and reusable cutlery — I’ve seen it (and tried it!) all over the years. But after a decade of portioning and packing and washing so many tiny containers, I’ve figured out what works for us and what doesn’t.

I am extremely pro-Thermos. I love the idea that my kids can sit down to hot food, take a break, and recharge in the middle of the chaos that is the lunchroom. (Especially for my perpetually famished preteen who treats PB&J as an appetizer.) 

Thermos lunches also make my mornings easier. Standing in front of the fridge brainstorming lunch ideas while waiting for the caffeine to kick in is not my idea of a good time. But reheating leftovers? A total snap. (Plus this frees me up to help look for shoes instead of digging through the cabinet, hunting for a specific tiny container lid.) Give some servings a quick spin in the microwave, pack them up with a piece of fruit, and send everyone on their merry way.

So easy, right? But here’s the truth. While bigger items like grilled cheese can be plopped right in by hand, anything else beyond puréed soup doesn’t exactly “pour” easily into the Thermos’s three-inch opening. And spooning it in feels inefficient when I’m already harried. (I always end up feeling like a bad infomercial actor, spilling and making a mess of things and just generally irritated I can’t cleanly perform a simple task.) There’s got to be a better way!

I turned back to my cabinet of well-intentioned tools to solve this problem. Enter: the canning funnel.

I have never, ever used it for canning. (I had such grand plans once!) I have, however, used it about three times a week over the last several years to fill Thermoses. See, its extra-wide mouth allows you to guide that leftover chunky lentil soup (or fried rice, pesto tortellini, etc.) neatly into its final container. 

Plastic versions are cheap, and range from $2 to $5, depending on brand. I picked mine up on a whim for a couple of bucks at my well-stocked grocery store, but Amazon (of course) has you covered. If you strive to be plastic-free, stainless steel versions run a few dollars more.

Do you have any tools that help you when it comes to packing lunches?