“I’ll never let my kids eat in the car.” Yeah, right.
We’ve all either heard it or said it. But it’s probably one of the first things to go once you reach elementary age, if not before. Yes, a crumb-free vehicle sounds amazing, but it’s insanely unrealistic.
Whether it’s a rushed breakfast on the way to school, a snack between ballet practice and baseball, or a road trip, your kids will have food in your car at some point.
So what are the best food containers to minimize the mess and stress of food in the car?
1. Best food containers for toddlers
These spill-proof snack catchers were my favorite when I had toddlers. The soft flaps keep snacks in but allow toddlers to happily feed themselves. Most importantly, the mess is minimal when these are inevitably thrown to the floor.
2. Best food containers if you like things quick and easy
Plastic bento-style containers allow you to pack a variety of foods without using multiple containers. These are easy to wash and they nest nicely in the cabinet when not in use.
3. Best food containers if being plastic-free is important to you
We love our PlanetBox containers, even if they’re a bit pricey. A bit awkward for actually eating in the car, they are perfect for picnic lunches on road trip days or school lunches. The decorative magnets add a fun touch for kids, too! The attached lid is one of my favorite parts because we don’t have to worry about it getting lost between the seats or left at school.
4. Best food containers if you like flexibility and variety
If you’re looking for something that can be configured to a sandwich, salad, or even pita and hummus, try the Rubbermaid Brilliance sandwich and snack lunch kit. Mix and match dividers and containers to house whatever snack or meal you need to pack in the car. The leak-proof lids are great because sometimes they’re tossed around before the contents are eaten. And as much as I love my Pyrex, this is a much lighter alternative that’s perfect for on-the-go. These are our absolute favorite for tossing in our hiking bags to have lunch on the trail.
5. Best food containers if you think you’ll never give up your snack bags
Of course, the simplest container for food in the car will forever be the snack bag. But we’re more eco-conscious now and not a fan of single-use items, so reusable snack bags are a life saver. Itzy Ritzy and 2 Red Hens make snack bags with zipper closures that are easy to clean and easy for younger kids to manage. We love that the ones from 2 Red Hens unzip on three sides to lay flat. This makes a great placemat and makes them easy to clean.
6. Best food containers if you trust your kids with hot foods in the car
Now that my kids are getting a little older, we’re trusting them with hot food in the car. A current favorite on rushed mornings is oatmeal in our 12oz Yeti Ramblers. As my 8-year-old pointed out, it’s just like getting oatmeal at Starbucks, but cheaper and without the waste. (Put quick cooking oats in the rambler, pour boiling water over it, and wait about 3 minutes for it to “cook”. Then add brown sugar, fresh berries, or whatever you want.)
Bonus: Contain the containers
No matter the type of container you choose, the key to keeping the chaos at bay is having a system for your containers and waste. We put all of the food in our insulated picnic basket and the kids know to return their containers to the basket when they’re done. It’s easy to grab the basket when we arrive home and not worry about gathering the items from all over the car. (Bonus Tip: if you have wrappers and waste from packaged snacks, add a plastic grocery sack to the basket to collect the trash.)