Why buy a lunch box?
Though lunch boxes are often associated with elementary school students and cafeterias, people of all ages may benefit from owning one. Middle school and high school students can bring in their own lunches to eat, as can adult workers in many offices and career paths. A lunch box gives you a way to safely pack, store, and transport your food, silverware, and Tupperware to and from school or work.
Rather than constantly buying new plastic or paper bags all the time for this task, a reusable lunch box will both save you money in the long run and is a more eco-friendly option since you’ll be generating much less waste by not throwing out a bag every day (since paper or plastic bags can only be used once). Not to mention that lunch boxes are also more convenient to carry since they have shoulder straps and/or handles that most paper bags lack and are much sturdier than those of plastic bags.
And lunch boxes often provide superior insulation, can be airtight, and come in a wide range of different shapes, sizes, and design options so you have a much greater variety of options to choose from—they can be personalized to your specific needs in a way that bags simply can’t match.
- Capacity: First and foremost, you want your box to carry an ample amount of food because it’s better to be over-prepared than to hear your stomach grumbling just an hour after lunch. Also consider an option that not only accommodates your hunger but finds a way to provide easy travel use.
- Preservation: As mentioned earlier, your ideal lunch box should also know how to take care of your food during the transportation process. Options that utilize reinforced housing materials like stainless steel, canvas, or heavy-duty plastic can take a beating without compromising your midday enjoyment. Additionally, strong, airtight materials know how to lock in the warm or cold temperature of your meal, and that’s a vital facet of the overall experience.
- Convenience: It should be of great concern just how easy it is to use your new lunch box. Consider your preferences: do you like large boxes that feature unchanging compartments, or are you more interested in a flexible box or bag that adjusts to however much space you need? Understanding these factors will help you determine your ideal lunch experience.
What’s the best material for reusable lunch boxes?
Plastic fabric lunch boxes—usually vinyl, polyester, or nylon—are the most common options and are widely considered the best material. Despite being lightweight and soft-sided, they’re quite strong, rip-resistant fabrics that are easy to wipe clean and don’t stain easily. But what really sets these types of lunch boxes apart is that they often have an internal layer of foam that provides greater insulating properties (though they’ll often still benefit from ice packs). However, they may crack or peel over time. And they’re not particularly recyclable.
Metal is another option for lunch boxes, one that probably brings to mind a classic working man’s plain metal lunch tin. If you want a more modern metal lunch box, look for a stainless steel model if possible. They’re incredibly durable and long-lasting, won’t rip, tear, or rust, and can be recycled once their service life comes to an end. That said, metal lunch boxes don’t have natural insulating properties, so they’re not the best option if you have to take your lunch to a work site or on a picnic and don’t have access to a cooler or fridge. They’re also heavier than other materials.
You can also look for a silicone lunch box, as long it’s food-grade silicone. These lunch boxes are lightweight, temperature-resistant in both hot and cold environments, and won’t crack, harden, or peel, unlike plastic. Silicone is also recyclable and doesn’t take on the odor of the food inside it. But, like metal lunch boxes, silicone models don’t come with any built-in insulating properties.
Tiblue Insulated Lunch Bag with Adjustable Shoulder Strap
This attractive lunch box knows how to make a statement while keeping your food warm or cool for hours.
Pros: The main draw of this particular lunch box is the fact that it’s insulated. Whether the food and drinks inside are hot or cold, it’ll keep them warm or chilled for several hours, much longer than the average lunch box. It also has a nice large capacity, capable of holding multiple meals, snacks, and drinks at once; it’s able to hold up to 12 standard 12-ounce soda cans at once, for example. And that’s before you take the interior mesh pocket, front zipper-closure pocket, two side mesh drink compartments, and back pouch into consideration, providing even more storage space for food and drinks or handy lunchtime items like plastic bags and silverware. And that’s just the medium size– there’s even a larger size available, too. Equally handy is the adjustable shoulder strap that you can lengthen or shorten to your comfort. The fabric of the lunch box is waterproof and resistant to dirt and abrasions, and it’s a durable, long-lasting product overall. It’s a nice-looking lunch box too, available in 18 different colors and patterns. And as a bonus, it’s easy to wipe clean in case of an accidental spill inside.
Cons: While the large capacity is great for holding plenty of food, it also means that this lunch box is a bit on the bulky and cumbersome side and will take up more than its share of space in your home or office fridge. You may also experience some issues with the zippers or clip and latch getting stuck, jammed, or breaking, the only area where this lunch box isn’t as durable.
Bottom Line: A spacious and modern lunch box, this fabric model gets your midday meal where you need to be while being colorful and aesthetic enough to almost pass as a regular purse. This lunch tote features a variety of desirable features that take it from just looking good to keeping your food, snacks, and drinks hot or cold as well.
FineDine Lunch Bag with Glass Containers
This lunch box comes with several glass containers and a freezer packet to cover all your lunchtime needs.
Pros: You get more for your money with this lunch box, as it comes with three food containers and an ice pack. The containers are made from glass rather than plastic, so they’re sturdier and more durable, you can heat up your food while it’s still in the containers, and you don’t have to worry about the plastic smell leaching into your food. They’re also leakproof, and the containers and lids are both dishwasher safe for easier cleaning. Whether you want to use them to pack extra snacks or keep different components of your lunch separate to prevent sogginess, these containers have you covered. The ice pack can be placed in the freezer the night before to keep the food inside your lunch box chilled for longer, especially coupled with the insulation of the lunch box itself. It’s nice and spacious, with several separate compartments so you can keep different foods and beverages organized however you want. It’s also well-built and able to hold up to daily use, with seven attractive color options from which to choose.
Cons: Though you do get good value for your money, this lunch box is more expensive than many other models due to the extra pieces that come included with it. The included freezer pack may develop a bulge when frozen, so you may need to chill it in the fridge instead, which won’t be as effective or cold.
Bottom Line: This lunch box is an ideal choice if you like to bring salads or extra snacks to work or school, or simply want to get more bang for your buck. The included containers allow you to pack food you want to keep separate, such as dressings or toppings, so the rest of your meal doesn’t get soggy before you eat it.
Bentgo Compartment Bento-Style Kids' Lunch Box
This cute lunch box has separate, divided compartments to keep different foods separate and dry until it's time to combine them.
Pros: Bento boxes are all the rage right now for adults, but there’s no reason kids can’t take advantage of their convenience as well. In fact, this model was designed specifically with children in mind. Featuring an adorable dinosaur design on the lid and 23 other alternate patterns if your kid isn’t a dinosaur lover, there are four different compartments inside the box to keep different foods separate so wet ingredients don’t soak dry ones. The latches are designed to be kid-friendly to open, and the rubber-coated edges help prevent leaking and protect your child’s lunch if they drop this box by mistake. It’s safe to stick in the microwave, freezer, and top rack of the dishwasher.
Cons: This lunch box doesn’t have any sort of built-in carrying handle or strap, and it’s not insulated; you’ll want to stick it in the freezer overnight for it to be more effective at keeping food cool. This model is also more expensive than the average traditional lunch box.
Bottom Line: With its storage-friendly design and easy way to compartmentalize your meals, this kid-friendly bento box offers a cute, convenient, and fun avenue for your child’s food transportation and lunchtime needs.
Bentgo Classic-- All-in-One Stackable Bento Lunch Box
If you're after a set of Bento boxes for your own use, you can't go wrong with this colorful, ultra-modern set.
Pros: Bento boxes are great for adults’ lunches as well as children’s, so if you want a set for yourself consider grabbing this aesthetically pleasing, modern pair that comes in eight different attractive colors. Stackable on top of each other for more convenient carrying and storage, one is compartment-less for bigger foods like chicken breasts while the other is divided for smaller foods, snacks, or to keep sauces and dressings separate from the rest of the meal until it’s time to put them on your food. These Bento boxes are great not just for organizing and separating your food, but their size helps with portion control as well. They’re safe for both the dishwasher and microwave, so they’re equally easy to keep clean and reheat your food in. And they happen to come with a set of matching reusable silverware.
Cons: If you store thick sauces or hot foods in these Bento boxes, there’s a chance that they’ll leak or leave permanent stains behind. The compact size may be too small for anyone who isn’t trying to work on portion control or tends to eat bigger meals. You might also have to use a band or strap to keep the lids on at times.
Bottom Line: Bento boxes are great for packing organized and balanced meals, controlling portion sizes, and keeping various food items separated. These Bento boxes will do all that, and they are stackable and come with their own matching silverware for extra convenience.
MIER Double Deck Lunch Box
This large, double-layered lunch box will provide you with plenty of room for all your food and drinks.
Pros: Capacity isn’t an issue with this lunch box, as it’s large enough to hold a six-pack of 12-ounce cans at once or bigger, bulkier Tupperware. You shouldn’t have any issues fitting your food and drinks into this lunch box. And even with its larger size, there are still two separate compartments; the bottom one is effectively leakproof, making it ideal for drinks, dressings, dipping sauces, and any other food or drink that is a spill risk, while the top “dry” compartment is great for pre-wrapped snacks, bagged chips, and other similar items. This double-decker design and large size, coupled with the tote bag-like shape, adjustable shoulder strap, top grab handle, and three exterior pockets (one that zippers shut) make it ideal for almost any scenario where you’d need to bring food along, be it a road trip or your daily trip to the office. Both compartments are also insulated for fresher food, and there’s a medium-sized version available if you don’t need something quite so large.
Cons: Though this lunch box has insulation, it’s not as well-insulated as some other models. It’ll keep your food cool for longer than a non-insulated lunch box, but not for hours at a time. The zipper quality has a tendency to deteriorate over time, and the fabric may also start to rip after extended use.
Bottom Line: Some lunches and drinks require more storage space than others, so if you tend to pack bottled beverages, big meals, or lots of snacks and sides to go with your lunch, this double-decker lunch box is a great option for you. There’s plenty of room for foods and drinks of all sorts while still offering compartments to keep items separate if need be.
If you bring your lunch to work or school at all, even if it’s not an everyday occurrence, it’s well worth your while to have your own lunch box. You won’t have to worry about mixing up your lunch with your coworkers’ if you have your own lunch box. It’ll save you lots of money in the long run, will be more environmentally friendly, and will be more colorful and distinctive than plastic or paper bags.