Before I start this review, I want to clear the air. There are so many people saying: "why bother with a cooler bag? My lunch used to sit in boiling hot sun on 40 degree days and noone ever put an ice pack in mine...and I'm fine". But like with so many things in life, there has been progress. We have learnt that food should be kept at a certain temperature to prevent bacteria and prevent us getting sick. If you need more convincing, pop over to Cook and Kid and read this post about being smart with food. So cooler bags, they are pretty important. That's why I've decided to review some.
But I need to make a disclaimer right here and right now. A cooler bag is only as effective as it's ice pack. And sometimes the best ice pack for a cooler bag is not the ice pack that is sold with that brand. So my pick for the best cooler bag and ice pack combos? Click on each name for a more comprehensive individual review.
- So young lunch bag with a decor ice wall- bought separately (or two) or even a fridge to go panel.
- A fridge to go medium with the fridge to go panel.
- Apple and mint, with decor icewalls (bought separately)
Designs and prettiness aside, you are looking for good insulation and a size and shape that fits your lunchbox. It's important that you make sure that you buy one with room for everything you will pack and also that it is easy for your child/ren to open and close by themselves, because you want them to be able to eat their first break, close it back up and keep cold until 2nd and 3rd break.
Cold food rules:
- make sure that food placed in the lunchbox is cold already (pop the lunchbox in the fridge the night before if needs be)
- make sure the ice pack has been frozen for at least 12 hours (if like me you are forgetful or you have kids that don't take them out, get a spare!)
- make sure the bag gets done back up when stuff is taken out
Many of the cooler bags on the market come without ice pack panels, so you're free to buy your own, but if like me you are lazy and want a ready to go combo, then a medium fridge to go is your best option. The cooling panel is amazing and keeps the food cold for 8 hours. The decor ice walls are another good option and because they are slim you can slide two into a so young bag with a yumbox in it.
I've seen many people talking about the cheap cooler bags they have gotten at kmart etc. If you're happy with them, that's fine, this review doesn't mean ditch that and go and buy a new one, instead it should give you some idea as to why these ones cost more.
The fridge to go panel has still been partially frozen at 3pm in my daughters bag. That means the food is still cold and therefore still safe to eat.
If you are going to buy a cheaper cooler bag, do some testing of your own to see if food is still going to be the right temp at lunch time. I was quite shocked to find that a few of the lunchbags I has weren't very well insulated. That is why the list from my review has shrunk from original planning. I won't give you options that I wouldn't actually use.
With these bags all around the same price tag I want to do you some maths.
$35.95 divided by 40 gives you the per week cost for a decent cooler bag $0.90
and that divided by 5 gives you the daily cost of a decent cooler bag over one year. $0.18
I'm just going to leave that there. If the same cooler bag gets two years of use, you're paying $0.09 per day.
And if it gets three years of use... $0.06 per day.