As my kids have gotten older, they prefer the “lunch bag” over the “lunch box” because it’s so much easier to shove into a backpack (especially when they may or may not have a locker), and they can actually cram a lot more food into a bag and even pack odd shaped containers like these brilliant mason jar lunches.
The key is finding a lunch bag that is “cool” so they actually pull it out and eat the food that is in there. We’ve rounded up our favorites here, but as with anything involving tweens and teens, I always suggest letting them weigh in on the final purchase so it doesn’t end up in the back of a closet somewhere. Now, getting them to clean their lunch bags? That’s a whole other battle.
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Top image: “Brown” Bag Canvas Lunch Bag from Italic Home on Etsy
– This post has been updated for 2022 –
Drawstring lunch bags for teens
My daughter is a huge fan of these drawstring lunch bags from AtelierMaMo on Etsy. They are good quality and made at her shop in California, so shipping is pretty quick. They actually look like little purses, and once you empty them out they can fold flat or roll up and tuck into a backpack.
They’re the perfect size for a small thermos or what I call “grazing lunch items” (like granola bars, cheese, crackers, a PB&J sandwich). One important thing to consider is that they are not insulated so… not ideal for tuna. But also who is bringing tuna to school? (No offense to you tuna lovers out there).
The drawstring lunch bag above is the perfect size for this adorable All in One Lunch Bento Box. Let’s be honest, you are never too old or too cool for a bento box. Everything is just stacked so neatly all in one place.
An insulated lunch bag for teens
If your big kids need to keep food cold during the day but don’t want a big, bulky insulated lunch box, this ROXY Lunch Hour Insulated Lunch Bag from Tilly’s is a great lunch bag for teens. It is insulated to keep food like yogurt, cheese, deli meat, or tuna a bit more chill during the day, but still small enough that once emptied, it will fold flat and fit in a backpack next to books. It’s also a pretty neutral color palette that will blend with whatever ensemble they choose for the day.
A larger lunch bag for teens with bigger appetites
Many teens head straight from school to sports practice or other after-school activities, so a small lunchbox just doesn’t hold enough food for both lunch and after school fuel. This insulated Lunch Tote by Herschel Supply Company, also found online only at Tilly’s, checks all the boxes. It measures 15″(H) x 14.25″(W) x 4.5″(D) so it can hold quite a bit, but still folds flat at the end of the school day. If your kid needs a bit bigger bag, they do make one size larger that is on sale right now too!
Also, if your teen is just carrying a laptop or Chromebook from class to class, they can stick a pencil inside this bag and hold their laptop in their other arm (hopefully in a protective laptop sleeve).
A “brown paper bag” lunch bag for teens
Nothing says you are too cool for school more than a brown paper bag lunch (and maybe a pair of classic Ray Bans). As our kids are becoming more and more environmentally conscious, this “Brown” Bag Canvas Lunch Bag from Italic Home on Etsy not only looks cool, but says “I care about our environment” too.
Pro tip: if your teen is really prone to losing things like mine is, you can just opt for the recycled biodegradable brown paper bag.
A simple, reusable sandwich bag for teens
If you’ve got a super minimal teen, then a couple of these cool ASOBU reusable sandwich bags for sandwiches and snacks could work.
However, if your big kid is really not very good at bringing reusable bags back home you can totally grab a box of these compostable sandwich bags or eco-friendly bowls with lids. It’s way more important that they eat than skip lunch because they don’t want to keep track of their lunch bag.