Kitchn Love Letters

These $15 Bags Are Key for Sand-Free Lunches at the Beach

updated Jun 26, 2021
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Credit: Katie Leaird

I tend to pack giant picnics for the beach: a platter of sandwiches, a large container of watermelon wedges, and a gallon-sized bag of chips. Everyone shares and tries to do their best to keep the sand at bay and out of the communal provisions. But, one absent-minded sandy hand inevitably reaches into the cooler and … poof! The whole meal turns gritty and truly unappealing. And now that a bunch of kids have entered my world, the number of sunscreen- and sand-plastered hands has multiplied. One step onto the beach and I can almost feel the contents of the cooler quake with trepidation.

But, after a 180-degree change in my picnic packing strategy, I can now reliably enjoy a sand-free beach meal. The key is to use one-piece, single-compartment containers. Anything with a detachable lid can and WILL fall into the sand. And, anything with multiple compartments, like a bento box, is just asking for sand contamination. So, the best solution is lots of small zip-top bags. I know, it sounds pretty inefficient. But, with multiple small packages of each item, you hedge your bets. If (when) a toddler sticks their sticky hand into a bag of grapes, yeah, those grapes become gross and coated in sand and I want nothing to do with them. But, with my system, there’s always another little bag of perfect, pristine grapes waiting in the wings. 

Credit: Katie Leaird

At first, I went overboard with the single-use plastic bags. I had them in every size for custom picnic packing. But now that I’m trying not to trample Mother Earth with each outing, I’ve invested in reusable zipper-top bags. Balancing budget, design, easy cleaning, and durability, I believe these Gridlabs Reusable Storage Bags do the job best. They come in a set of 10 bags with a mix of three sensible sizes (my favorite is the stand-up gusseted snack size). They are leak-proof, freezer-safe, and don’t annoy me with flashy colors or oversized logos (it’s surprisingly hard to find a neutral reusable bag!). And, at $15 for the set, the price is right.

The plastic is thick enough to be durable and to protect your food from being crushed en route, while still being flexible and easy to flip inside out for thorough cleaning. The rounded corner design means there are no hard-to-wash areas. And so far mine haven’t retained any odors or stains; I use them on a daily basis for anything and everything and there are no lingering hints of past uses.

I’ve even ditched ice packs now that I’ve found these bags. Instead, I fill one or two of the bags with water the night before an adventure, zip it closed, and lay it flat in the freezer overnight. That’s my ice pack! After lunch has been served and the ice pack has completed its chilling duty, it doubles as an ice-cold water refill. And, unlike their lightweight disposable cousins, these bags are too heavy for the seagulls to snatch and fly away with, so there’s less drama all-around.

Do you have favorite reusable bags? Let us know in the comments!