It was revolting and yucky and smelly. And then a reader saved the day.


I am, of course, talking about Parker’s lunch box.

As I explained earlier this summer, the lunch box Parker used last year seemed to be at the end of its lifespan. It was disgusting and smelly and completely uninhabitable and the zipper pulls were coming apart.

This irritated me. I’d spent a long time — way too much time, in fact — last summer hunting for the perfect lunch box.

It needed to be big enough to handle the sometimes impressive volumes of food Parker requires. It needed two compartments (the better to pack hot and cold items in the same lunch). It needed to be insulated. It needed to be easy to open.

And since we are dealing with a 9-year-old boy — the most destructive force in the universe — it needed to be built like a tank and able to withstand the daily abuse he dishes out.

I ended up with this one. It looks large, but it’s actually perfect. At that price, I’d hoped to get a few years out of it.

And then that poor lunch box spent a year in my son’s hands. By this summer it wasn’t happy. Nor was I at the prospect of having to buy another.

Then astute reader Becky suggested what probably was obvious to everyone but me — throw it in the wash. Seriously, I had no idea you could do that with a lunch box. And frankly, I had zero expectation that it would emerge in one piece.

My washing machine tends to eat clothing, never mind things that aren’t supposed to go in it.

But with crossed fingers and a splash of bleach (seriously… the smell and stains were awful), I gave it a try.

It worked!!! Parker’s lunch box came out as clean and fresh as the day I’d bought it. Makes me want to wash it weekly!

Thus encouraged, I used pliers to restore the zipper pulls to their former glory. And with that, I declared it fit for battle for another year.

Many thanks to Becky!

Meanwhile, I wanted to share a few awesome reviews and stories that have come in the past few days.

There is this review today from — calling it a “highly visual, super-handy guide to building ingenious portable meals.”

There is this great review from blogger Just Plain Sassy, saying: “This book was amazing!! I am using it as reference! It gave me so many great ideas for food my kids will eat, because kids demand better food than that same old PB&J, chips & a drink box!!”

There was this great story in the Concord Monitor yesterday, saying the book is jammed “with tips and innovations laid out in user-friendly word-bubbles atop the dazzling photographs by AP food photographer Matthew Mead, and a few workhorse recipes thrown in for the planners among us.”

And finally, this story in yesterday’s The Daily Meal, a collection of 10 lunch packing tips I culled from the book.

« Back

22 Responses to “It was revolting and yucky and smelly. And then a reader saved the day.”

  1. Ms says:

    Those days when I can’t machine wash it, I scrub the inside smelly part with Oxi Clean. It works better than other cleaners I’ve tried to get rid of the odor.

  2. Sara says:

    Washing is a great idea. It’s hard to find cleaners that don’t leave a an after smell unless you air dry the bag real well.

  3. Margee says:

    No lunch for Parker today?

  4. Lynn says:

    Huzzah! Great that you were able to restore the lunchbox to its former glory to face another year in the trenches. If only that lunchbox could talk – oh the stories it could share of lunch time tales.

  5. LaurieGo says:

    I ordered your new book on March 19 — I think it was the first day that Amazon accepted orders. The latest update from them is that I will finally get Beating the Lunch Box Blues in another two weeks. Seems like forever.

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      This is very odd. I’ve asked the published to check on it. I ordered one just to test the system. It tells me it will arrive on Tuesday, the official release date. I’ll let you know what I learn from the publisher. And do tell me if you get any updates. Thanks for letting me know.

  6. Erin says:

    It’s shocking what comes out of the washer intact: shoes, reusable bags, stuffed animals, I’ve tried it all. What doesn’t come out intact can also be surprising (i.e., anything washed with the tiniest bit of velcro, seat/chair cushions).

    • Sara says:

      You know shoes are interesting. I used to just recycle my old ones and I tried washing & air drying them–brilliant! Saves $ for sure.

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Oh, good reminder. His assortment of stuffed kitties (Fat Kitty, Kisses and Fluffy) are due for a bath.

  7. Kathy C says:

    Washing them gives them a whole new life (both the lunch bags AND the kids…) AND it sounds like everyone slept well last night ;o) Have a great weekend- time to “grill baby grill” around here- way too hot to turn on ANYTHING but the a/c!

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Indeed! I need to start treating the washing machine the way I do the dishwasher. I won’t bring anything into the house that can’t go in the dishwasher. I’d shove the kid and the cats in it if I could.

  8. Daniela says:

    I wash ours (the Planetbox bags) every 2 weeks or so..just fill up the sink with the hottest water possible, lots of blue Dawn and submerge the bags for several hours till the water is cool..usually overnight because I am lazy. next day scrub a little and air dry. Perfect, no new bags for us this year, they are still perfect.

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Good idea. I will try that. I imagine too many rides through the washing machine will end up eating them!

  9. Margot C says:

    Ha! This is so adorable. Only a guy would not wash a lunchbox for a year. It’s endearing … gross but endearing.

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Ha! Well, I did spray the inside with all natural disinfectant cleaner almost every day! Not that it seemed to make much of a difference… But the washing machine was the winner!