Ditch the plastic baggies and sew some reusable sandwich wraps for traveling with sandwiches and other snacks. These are perfect for kid’s lunches.
Over the course of the last school year, I keep changing how, exactly, I send my son to school with his two snacks. His school provides a hot lunch, but parents are expected to send a morning and afternoon snack for their children’s breaks. I’ve been trying to send him to school with things that are easy for him to eat by himself, and save the more difficult snacks for when he gets home.
At the same time, I try to minimize waste. That isn’t exactly easy if you are trying to send a small child with something quick and easy. Most of those types of snacks come with a lot of packaging of their own. Plus, they tend to be overpriced.
First, I made him two simple cloth bags.
I decided to make two so that one would always be available if I had to wash the other one. At the time, my son was obsessed with Cars, so, of course, I painted Lightning McQueen on his bags. The bags didn’t really help me reduce waste, but they did help me keep all of his snack foods conveniently together.
I started sending him to school with cheese, and sometimes ham, along with some crackers or rice cakes. To keep it all together, I had been throwing it into a small tupperware-like container with his name written in permanent marker on it. I noticed, though, that when he didn’t finish some of it, it arrives home with most of the crackers soggy. I was afraid that by his afternoon snack, he was eating soggy crackers. I could wrap them separately inside of the container, but I decided to look for a more reusable solution.
By accident, I found somebody who makes little wraps for their sandwiches. They used PUL fabric, but some people were worried about them being food safe. I wanted to modify the idea to better suit my needs. So, I started to look at other peoples’ blogs about similar type sandwich wraps, but couldn’t find any that I absolutely loved and felt safe about using. Some didn’t use any plastic at all, and they claimed that their sandwiches didn’t dry out. With the high humidity here, though, I was worried about the other problem, things getting soggy.
I actually went out to buy some fabric. I was hoping to find something cute like something with Mickey Mouse or another Disney fabric. Unfortunately, though, it’s difficult to find cute fabrics around here.
I also searched for a washable lining, at the local fabric store. I explained what I wanted to make, and the woman there seemed a bit surprised, but she showed me some washable plastic that she thought I should use. Despite her claims about safety, I was a bit skeptical. I bought a meter of it (a great waste of 6 euros), planning on using it between two layers of cloth. In the end, though, I just didn’t feel right about using it at all. If people are concerned about the safety of plastic shower curtains because of the fumes that they give off, then I’m guessing that covering the plastic with the cloth isn’t enough to prevent exposure to whatever it is that I should be worried about. Plus, this plastic did have a certain smell to it that just didn’t make me feel comfortable.
That’s when a little light bulb lit up in my head!!
I remembered seeing people on the internet fuse plastic shopping and garbage bags to make plastic fabric for sewing into bags and things. I wasn’t sure that shopping bags would be food safe, but I thought “Why not try fusing together some food safe plastic like freezer bags and saran wrap!?!?” I did various trials, and was able to fuse both of them. Saran wrap, though, was just too difficult to work with and needed too many layers to make a thick enough sheet of plastic. I tried sewing a thinner layer and the plastic broke off at the seam!
Freezer bags ended up being my favorite option. I cut off the zip from the Ziplock type bags and fused them together with the insides out. When cutting them open, and fusing together that way, I made sure that all of the writing was between the sheets of plastic before fusing them, just in case.
I did try to recycle some plastic packaging, like the bag from a loaf of bread, but was unable to do so. I think there was so much paint on it that the plastic didn’t touch the other sheet of plastic well enough to be able to properly fuse.
Fusing together plastic does require a bit of practice.
What I did was to put several layers of plastic between two parchment paper sheets. You have to make sure that the iron isn’t too hot or you will shrink the plastic instead of fusing it. It’s a good idea to keep your iron moving over the paper and plastic sandwich, too, so as not to shrink the plastic more in one area, leaving you with an uneven sheet of plastic. Keep checking on the plastic to see if it is fusing together, and keep ironing until it is fused.
Once you have some plastic “fabric” to work with, decide on your design.
There were a few different sandwich wrap ideas that I liked. I liked the round ones, which reminded me of the round changing pad that I made for my son (a future post idea?). I didn’t want to waste so much fabric, though. I felt the same way about some of the odd-shaped wraps. In the end, I decided to make a square wrap, but then cut of the corners to make it a bit neater when wrapping.
Sewing plastic to the fabric also took some getting used to.
I found out the hard way that it was much easier to sew them together with the plastic layer on the bottom. This kept it from puckering up and kept the pieces more evenly together than sewing with the plastic on top.
Sew plastic side down for smooth sewing
I chose my serger for the easiest way of getting my fabric together with the plastic, without worrying about finishing seams.
After some trial and error, I had finished up my first wrap.
I made another with a cute car tablecloth that I had bought, thinking tablecloths must be food safe, right??
I just couldn’t be sure, so I decided to line the tablecloth with some cotton fabric, and leave the cloth side touching the food. I left that one square because the design fit better with the print of the fabric.
The only thing left to do was to add closures to the wraps.
For the sandwich wraps, I just used a bit of elastic on one of the corners. I played with the elastic until I found the perfect length for wrapping it around the closed up sandwich wrap with two pieces of bread in it. I didn’t want it too loose, but I definitely didn’t want it tight enough to smoosh my sandwich. I left it a bit loose so that I could add things to the sandwich without worrying about it getting too thick for my wrap.
Why are these homemade sandwich wraps so great?
- They are reusable and keep you from generating a lot of plastic waste for lunches.
- They are cute.
- They double as a plate/placemat when open.
So, just how do you use these homemade sandwich wraps?
They are very easy to use.
Just put the wrap in front of you with the corner with the elastic towards one side. Put your sandwich in the middle of the wrap and bring up the bottom corner over the bread.
Next, bring down the top corner, followed by the side corner without elastic.
Finally fold over the final corner, slipping the elastic over the sandwich to keep the wrap closed.
I’ve illustrated the process with pictures. Just ignore the fact that I’ve shown the process alternating between two different wraps.
Next time I’ll show you how I solved the problem of snack carriers.
Making a homemade sandwich wrap didn’t really solve my problem of how to keep my snack items together without getting soggy. I somehow got sidetracked into making sandwich wraps, which really wasn’t what I wanted to make in the first place. Making them, though, helped with the idea process, and they should also come in handy someday anyway.
Do you use sandwich wraps?
If you make some, I’d love to see them!
This post is also available in Español.