When you pack your own lunch you're avoiding the excess calories, fat and cost that typically come with eating out. If you're doing it for a child, you're sparing them the horror of cafeteria food (trust me, it hasn't gotten any better since my grade school days, possibly even worse). Unfortunately, brown-bagging it isn't as simple as it used to be, thanks to our ever-growing understanding of foodborne illness.
Even if a packed lunch is only out of the fridge for a few hours that's plenty of time for bacteria to grow and multiply. Common midday staples like deli meat, yogurt and eggs are especially high in risk. Two reusable freezer packs are recommended when such items are present, although you can also substitute one with a frozen juice box. The beverage will thaw gradually by lunchtime, providing both cold, germ-resistant capabilities and a refreshing thirst-quencher when the time comes. Betcha never knew that apple juice had such impressive abilities!
Experts also recommend springing for an insulated lunchbox, rather than the old-fashioned paper bag. Condensation from cold packs can and will soak through and tear the bags right up, plus they won't provide a chilly enough atmosphere to prevent food spoilage [source: U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service].