Seeking the BEST Bento Box for Lunch {REVIEW}

If I’ve packed over 1,000 lunches in bento boxes, do I get to be an expert yet? (We love packing dinner leftovers for lunch the next day!)

That’s five years straight for one child plus three more years for another one, plus many odd days for summer camp, road trips traveling with the whole family, and excursions like zoo trips and baseball games…and then the kids started packing lunches themselves after I trained them to cook. Score for everyone!

It still feels like a lot of lunch experience, and I have some pretty strong opinions about the bento style lunch boxes, both stainless steel and plastic, that I’ve been able to run through the gauntlet the past decade.

I hope you enjoyed last week’s reusable sandwich and snack bag reviews, and today we’ll finish up equipping you for a no-waste lunch.

Bento Style Lunch Box Review

Bento Lunch Box Container Reviews – Seeking Only the Best!

When I first posted my initial bento style lunch box review in 2010, I got crabby about the fact that one of them wasn’t quite tall enough to fit a large, stacked sandwich made with my thick and inflexible homemade sourdough bread – so I think it’s pretty ironic that I never have bread in the house anymore and don’t really “do” sandwiches. The box is now perfect for us.

This comprehensive review takes pieces from my write-ups three and six years ago, with notes and new items added now. Updated 2022 after we ditched all our plastic boxes and haven’t regretted it one moment!

I’m listing these more or less in order of preference, favorite to least favorite. I’ve had enough years packing that I KNOW what I like – the best bento lunchboxes share some qualities:

  • Simplicity: Only a few pieces, not a zillion little boxes to juggle
  • Easy to wash: All the parts should be dishwasher safe IMO.
  • Easy to open and close: That’s key for kids enjoying their lunch, and for avoiding nasty leakage on the way home.
  • Squares: I just love ’em. I’m constantly saying that it’s easier to pack in a few squareshttp://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2016/08/09/easy-tips-packing-real-food-lunches/ than one big box or many baggies.
  • The right size: This changes by the child and age, but sometimes there are boxes that simply never are a good fit for the amount my kids have time to eat.
  • Lightweight: You just can’t send glass containers to school, even if the school allows it. They’re just too heavy!

Number One Best Bento Lunch Box: Lunchbots

Bento Lunch Box Reviews

Found at: Amazon 
Price: 2022 price estimate ~$20-26, larger versions are ~$36-$42
Material: 18/8 stainless steel
Number of compartments: 1-5; we have used the trio (pictured above, linked to Amazon) and quad, 20 fl. oz. or 600 mL, for many years, and we added the LARGE trio when my oldest got to fourth grade and was just hungrier!

Roast Chicken and Rice Pudding lunch fb

How it works:

Stainless steel is fastened together (soldered?) to make dividers in these rounded rectangular boxes.

The lid fits on tightly, but not watertight, and I’m sure if you dropped the whole thing it would go flying off (we luckily haven’t had that problem yet). I find it hard to decide sometimes between the two larger sections in the trio and having one more section numerically with the quad.

Car lunch for an adult

Advantages:

  • No plastic at all
  • Longevity – ours are still in perfect shape, as nice as when we started using them six years ago (or three years ago, depending on which one you’re looking at). Updated to add that we’ve now had some for a decade and they’re still perfect!
  • Dishwasher safe – why I would choose the stainless lid without paint, every time (the paint coming off is the only sign of wear, and now that’s it’s completely gone I’m actually happier)
  • I enjoy the structure of having a certain number of boxes to fill and actually really like when they’re all the same (no decisions on which is the better place for which food)
  • Very easy to open and close fully
  • Fits well in many shapes and sizes of lunch box
  • Deep enough to fit a whole muffin
cold leftovers example



Disadvantages:

  • Liquids or liquid-y things like mustard, juicy tomatoes, etc. run under the divider walls, which are not soldered to the floor of the box.
  • They don’t “nest” in the cupboard (although with lids on they stack nicely)
  • Not much flexibility in size of compartment if you just have one box (but this does not bother me, hardly ever! I like four squares…)

Of course, once we got the “large” version, shown below next to the normal trio, we had lots more options:

two sizes of bento lunch boxes from Lunchbots

Star Feature: Uncomplicated eco-friendly option, just the right size for my K-3rd graders with a yogurt on the side, and then kids can graduate to the larger one, which is ample and has room to grow for our 11-year-old. He rarely packs it completely full. Updated to add that as a high schooler, Paul still uses the large size, we bought another, and now he DOES pack them full! 🙂 

pumpkin pancakes with yogurt cheese

Major Drawback? Not being water tight would bug some people, and the inner corners can be tough to clean with some foods, but the dishwasher does a pretty good job.

Bento Style Lunch Box: ECOlunchboxes 3-in-1

EC Olunchbox 3 in

Found at: ECOlunchboxes, Amazon
Price: 2022 price estimate ~$35-41
Material: food-grade stainless steel 205
Number of compartments: 3 (1/2 cup in the smaller container, and the whole thing is 4 x 5.5 x 2.5″)

How it works:

There’s one large rectangular compartment on the bottom and a matching size on top, then an optional small rectangular box with a lid that can fit in the top compartment (but not the bottom). The top is the lid for the bottom, and its lid is secured in place by two large clips on either side that hold the whole thing together.

Funny story: my new kindergartner got this box for the first time at lunch and came home with it all in shambles, not put back together. He said that he would try really hard to find the lid he lost the next day and was sure the lunch ladies probably had it; they were looking for him.

I shrieked, “Oh no, you lost a lid already!?!” This was only about the 5th day of school.

Trying to stay calm, I thought I’d better assemble the box to see what was missing…and that’s when I realized he just didn’t get the part about how the top box is the bottom box’s lid. He only thought he lost a lid, but really it was right there. Whoops!

EC Olunchbox 3 in 1 w cheesy beef and mac and tomatoes

Advantages:

  • Eco-friendly material, no plastic at all
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Longevity – after 6 long years of lots of use, everything still is going great. We had a scare after a few years: one of the clips fell right off. I just about freaked out, but it slid right back in and seems to be in fine shape now, years later – woo hoo!
  • Super easy to open, except the little box is sometimes tough for small fingers. Kids also know with 100% certainty when it’s closed properly, so no leaks in the lunch box between lunchtime and home.
  • Flexibility – you can use just the large top portion, just the small box, both of those together, just the top and bottom, or all three. That’s cool and very handy sometimes. I’ve sent quite a few little snacks in the small container alone.
ecolunchgear lunch example egg salad



Disadvantages:

  • The bottom of the top compartment has been the lid for the base during the travel to school…so it can be messy to set aside on the table.
  • It drives me nuts sometimes when I realize I put something in the bottom that would go well with the little box and then it won’t fit. If I could redesign it, I’d give the base another half inch to allow the extra box container to fit in either top or bottom.
  • Doesn’t quite fit humongous sandwiches on homemade bread – but that doesn’t really matter to me anymore around here!
  • Not leakproof, although darn close. I trust the small box with applesauce or dip.
  • Lots of pieces to keep together and store; don’t “nest.”
  • Can be tricky for the littlest of students to figure out how to close – too many parts to juggle.

Star Feature: Flexibility of sizes, no plastic, and knowing for sure that it’s closed all the way

Major Drawback? Can be a little tall for flat lunch boxes (but still fits fine), the gooey bottom thing. Somewhat pricey.

Note: You can also buy other styles (not stacking) and even the little rectangular inserts a la carte. It would be very handy to have more of those around, come to think of it…

The Healthy Lunch BoxLooking for ideas to fill your bento boxes and wish you knew what was in all those yummy pictures? I gathered up 45 recipes that are NOT sandwiches and are perfect for any age! Whether you are gluten-free or simply looking to get out of the PB&J rut, you’ll find something for the kids, spouse, or even yourself. Having grab-and-go lunches is perfect for summer outings, too!

Get the whole premium package with bonus printables and Kindle/Nook files right HERE.

Bento Style Lunch Box: Planetbox Shuttle

Planetbox Shuttle

Found at: Amazon, Planetbox.com
Price: 2022 price estimate ~$40-45 (~$45-85 with the bag)
Material: stainless steel
Number of compartments: two plus a round “dip” container with a lid

Planetbox simple lunch

How it works:

The bottom is all one piece of stainless steel with a hinged lid that adds a bit of headroom to each compartment (which are not watertight from each other or the exterior). The dip container fits in either space and has a lid with a silicone seal. A large clip keeps the whole thing closed, and it comes with an insulated bag and magnets for the top.

School Lunch Planetbox Squooshi

Advantages:

  • Safe materials, no plastic
  • Easy to open and close (except the dip container can be tricky)
  • Dip container can be super handy!
  • Dishwasher safe, but a bit tricky to fit sometimes because the lid is attached (not dip container lid)
  • Only one piece!

Disadvantages:

Planetbox Shuttle in case
  • Size – the Shuttle is Planetbox’s “snack” size, and it really doesn’t measure up for lunches, although I’ve been able to use it for my kindergartner with a yogurt on the side. I wouldn’t recommend this size though, and the larger size is holy-cow-expensive. Note: After three more years, I do find that I use this one more than others, simply because it’s easy. Not so many parts! But we don’t bother with the bag or magnets, ever. The size is nice for a larger main course serving, some raw veggies on the side and dip, and a yogurt in a separate container.
  • Price $$$
  • The carry case is cute and insulated, BUT there’s not really room in it for anything else, and who needs an insulated snack bag only? If you do, Planetbox is perfect, but I need room for an ice pack, a drink, and more food!
  • The magnets are distracting – they go under the clip a bit, which isn’t attractive, they’re not exactly fun to play with, and you have to take them off to wash and then keep track of them to store. I’d like to see a Planetbox with no magnets and no case and see if it competes better with the Lunchbot, which I would choose hands down over this version anytime. I’d also love to try the larger Planetbox to see if I like it better – it does have a leakproof container that fits right in, so it may be the perfect all-in-one solution, but man, is it pricey!
    Planetbox simple lunch
  • I hope the longevity of the hinge would be acceptable, but I can’t be sure…
  • We realized that water can get under the silicone seal of the dip container while washing, and although at least you can take it out to dry, it’s one more little piece to bother with while hand-washing things.

Star Feature: Safe material, easy to open and close

Major Drawback? Too small, too expensive – the next size up can be purchased for ~$55-$70 (2022 price estimate) (or on Amazon, prices vary)…but that’s still pricey in my book.

We got rid of ALL our plastic containers in 2018 and haven’t looked back! I love having only stainless steel and not tons of little containers everywhere…

We use the boxes above and these stainless steel watertight containers every. single. day. to pack lunches for all 4 kids.

Bento Lunch Box: Ziploc Divided Containers

lunch example in Ziploc divided container

Found at: Amazon, Target, other retailers
Ziploc seems to have discontinued this line, but they’re very similar to these EasyLunchboxes (2 for $15-20) However, they are NOT leakproof! Yuck!
Material: BPA-free polypropylene plastic

Number of compartments: 3 (small 4 fl. oz/100mL, medium 6 fl. oz/175 mL, and large 22 fl. oz./650 mL)

How it works: Classic Ziploc container lid, but all three compartments are individually leak-proof – unique among the containers I tested!

I picked these up at Target last month because folks reminded me that not everyone can afford the up front investment of stainless steel, and I wanted to see how they compared.

lunch example in Ziploc divided container

Advantages:

  • 3 leak-proof compartments
  • Very roomy
  • Easy enough for even kindergarten fingers to open
  • Dishwasher safe (top rack)
  • Only two pieces – simple to put together and anyone can put them away without being confused
  • Stack nicely in the cupboard “nested”
  • UPDATE: Reader notes that they’re inexpensive enough to replace if kids (or, ahem, husband) forget to bring them home. Good point!
Grain free Real Food Lunchable

Holding the egg salad are a small Kids Konserve stainless steel container on top and the ECOlunchbox insert on bottom.

Disadvantages:

  • Plastic
  • I question the longevity – in my experience with Ziploc containers, within a year to a few years, the lid will start to crack. Dropping can be a disaster. UPDATE: My 5-year-old daughter, who is an incredibly careful little girl, came home with a big chunk missing from the main compartment one day. That was 2/3 of the way through the first school year, and I’d estimate that I use these only once every 2 weeks. Not a good track record!!
  • Cleaning – they might be dishwasher safe, but they take up a lot of space and always come out wet, so you have to hand dry or find a place to air dry anyway. We generally default to hand-washing plastics to prolong their life.
  • A bit large for all 4 lunch boxes we happen to own (but this is obviously debatable depending on your lunch box style) – readers say they fit in most standard kids’ lunch boxes perfectly.
Bento Lunch Boxes for review - stainless steel and plastic

You can see relative size of the Ziploc container here: it’s about as big as the Planetbox Shuttle plus its open lid (right column center) – meaning total space for food is about twice as much.

The way we pack lunches, with a yogurt always included, makes these a two-edged sword: on the one hand, it’s so cool to be able to put the yogurt right in the box. On the other hand, it’s harder to make yogurts for a few days “assembly line style” because these are so huge, and also there’s only two compartments left after the yogurt takes one, which kind of cramps my style. Silicone dividers (found on Amazon) for the big section are handy if you’re able to stack things and still keep them separated.

That said, this format is WAS still my favorite after the two stainless ones I enjoy most.

Tacos for lunch fb

Star Feature: The leakproof compartments can’t be understated. Price is great.

Major Drawback? Longevity and size. And of course, the fact that you CANNOT get these at all anymore!

Other “Bento Boxes”

After a few years of packing lunches and sharing occasional photos and ideas, people began to ask me this summer if I would do an official comprehensive bento box review. I contacted a few companies that came up when I searched for other “bento boxes,” and I got some new lunch kits and bento boxes to test out.

A friend was visiting soon after I received all the goodies, and I spread them out and showed them off. After every one, she came to the conclusion: I don’t see how they’re any better than the hinged lunch boxes with the thermos inside that we used to use in elementary school!

And she was right. With all of these, you still have to find a place for your drink outside the box. You still need an additional carrying case for most of them, one that will fit an ice pack and a drink. If you had little containers to populate the old-school lunch boxes, lunch would actually be more contained in one box and still just as “reusable.”

Sometime, new and improved/eco-friendly isn’t always actually better. I’m not crazy about any of these styles – even though they’re just fine as lunch boxes go – but I really have to list them randomly because I’m not sure any are above the others. UPDATE: Readers disagreed with me about one in particular; see the comments for more discussion!

Let’s take a look:

Bento Style Lunch Box: Leaflet Tight Box

Leaflet Tight bento box

Found at: Amazon
Price: 2022 price estimate ~$10-$15
Material: poplypropylene BPA-free plastic, ABS plastic (lid)
Number of compartments: 3, removable (500 mL total)

How it works:

The box has 3 small dishes that can only go in one way but are removable. The lid has two flaps that click down on the sides, and the box itself is watertight – I just tested it to make sure – but each individual cup would not be.

Homemade Meat and Cheese Lunchable

Advantages:

  • Easy to open and close
  • Watertight – if you wanted a small rectangle box for something fluid (but not with the inserts)
  • Fairly easy to clean – dishwasher safe top rack, although we don’t wash the lid



Disadvantages:

  • So small! Notice that this has less capacity than just the one large compartment of the Ziploc container. It’s just perfect for my 2-year-old, but comes close to inadequate even for my kindergartner with a yogurt on the side.
  • Plastic is always a concern over stainless steel. The lid is made of ABS, which is an acronym for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a copolymer thermoplastic manufactured from the polymerization of Styrene and Acrylonitrile in the presence of Polybutadiene. Hmmmm. The Wiki article on it never mentions food uses. Not crazy about that.
  • Lots of pieces to wash and keep track of; won’t nest but will stack for storage.
  • The boxes only fit in exactly one way because of the rounded edges, so it’s just not as quick to put together for storage as it could be.
  • I worry about the longevity of the moving parts on the lid. When I chatted with Shaina of Food for my Family after reading her lunch reviews with interest, she mentioned that her kids had easily broken a few lids of that style. Although ours has lasted well for over 6 years, and it does get occasional use when we travel as a family. It really couldn’t be a more perfect size for toddlers and young preschoolers. It was used a few times a week when my youngest had a year stint in daycare.
  • Comes with a fabric bag that is next to useless for actual lunch packing – we need an insulated lunch box and room for a drink, at least, if not supplemental containers.

Star Feature: The locking lid is nice. This is actually the ONLY plastic box we kept (in 2020) because of our littlest guy, but we’ll get rid of it once he’s in first grade and his appetite increases.

Major Drawback? Did I mention this is too small for anyone over 3 or 4 years old? If I wanted a box that had 3 compartments, I’d go with Lunchbots stainless steel in a second.

Looking for something to label all your containers and bottles so that if they get left behind they find their way back to you? Look no further than Mabel’s Labels. While I did receive a sample to test, I’m now a believer! After three years of near-daily use in lunches and through the dishwasher, the labels look the same as the day I put them on. I think I’ll need more as each kid enters school!

Blue Water Bento by Ecolunchboxes

blue-water-bento-splash-box-from-ecolunchboxes

We’ve had this one from the same company as the 3-in-1 for a few years and I just don’t use it very often at all. It really underscores to me that I don’t know what to do with large containers with no sections.

I think it would be great for those talllll sandwiches that I initially picked on Ecolunchboxes for, but not a whole lot else.

Bento Style Lunch Box: Laptop Lunches (Name has changed to Bentology)

laptop lunch box

Found at: Amazon
Price: 2022 price estimate ~$20-30
Material: BPA-free food grade plastic
Number of compartments: 5 (volumes: 1.25 cup, 1.67 cup, .75 cup and .67 cup, tiny dip container, 1/8 cup)

How it works:

One large rectangular lunch box holds four small compartments of various sizes, two of which have lids and two don’t, plus a smaller dip container with a lid. There’s a slot along the edge for utensils but nowhere for a drink. The lid is hinged and latches by sliding one piece of plastic under another strip of plastic until it hooks together.

laptop lunch box

Advantages:

  • Leakproof compartments (the 2 with lids)
  • Can move containers in different layouts
  • Dishwasher safe, top rack only
  • Lots of space for food
  • Easy to stack if you have multiples
  • Microwave safe if you need that for work – but mic’ing plastic still is not okay in my book! I always sent 2-cup Pyrex glass containers with my husband.

Note: I am only surmising based on computer redirects that Laptop Lunches has become Bentology. The products look exactly the same and have the precise dimensions of each cup.

Disadvantages:

  • Plastic
  • You have to stay on top of which lids go with which containers so you don’t pour yogurt into one that doesn’t have a lid.
  • Very difficult for young children to open the outside container: We had a training session where my 8yo taught my 5yo how to open the box. After many tries she finally got it, but she still couldn’t open the box once she got to school with it. The inside containers can be tricky too.
  • I worry that the plastic hinge on the exterior box won’t last very long, but I don’t have anything to back that up. It just looks sensitive and thin. I stand corrected! Multiple readers in the comments let me know that their Laptop Lunches have lasted a very long time – that’s great!
  • Coming out of the dishwasher, everything is wet and needs to be laid out to air dry anyway – all potentially EIGHT pieces of interior containers and lids, plus you already have to wash the outer box separately since it would take up far too much space in the dishwasher.
  • Lots of pieces to keep track of and no nesting possible. Corrected by readers again – you can nest if you have more than one. Great!
  • Large box but still no room for a drink or ice pack, so you still need an insulated lunch box, and a big one at that. Laptop Lunches does sell a few styles of lunch boxes that will fit a drink and ice pack with the box.
  • After having this one around for over three years, I can say that we almost never use it.
egg salad veggie nuggets grapes and yogurt Laptop lunchbox

Star Feature: The volume/space for food is nice and big, and the four compartments are good sizes and easy to use – although not appropriate for sandwich packing.

Major Drawback? If you’re going to store and wash all those plastic pieces anyway, you might as well have a lunch box that can hold your beverage, so I’d just use a bunch of plastic Ziploc or Glad containers and a big lunch box instead. UPDATE: Readers totally disagreed with me on this because Laptop Lunches does sell great lunchboxes that hold the drink, and folks really like them especially for adults and older kids. That makes a lot of sense since my kids were still younger when I posted the initial review, so perhaps that’s why I liked the other options better. If you’re cool with plastic, you might really like Laptop Lunches.

Bento Box: Rubbermaid LunchBlox® Sandwich Kit and Fasten+Go™

Rubbermaid Lunchblox Blue Ice keeps it cold 4 hours

Found at: Target, Meijer, Amazon, (LunchBlox, Fasten+Go)
Price: 2022 price estimate ~$8-21
Material: BPA-free food grade plastic
Number of compartments: 4 each (volumes: 2.6 cups, 1.2 cups, (2) 1/2 cup)

How it works:

Both of these products are formatted very similarly, although the LunchBlox is intended for kids and has an ice pack that clicks in between the layers, and the Fasten+Go is designed for adults who can carry it outside of a lunch box and place it in a refrigerator upon arriving to work.

They are the same size and shape, with the LunchBlox being transparent and the Fasten+Go opaque:

Pack easy lunches with Rubbermaid Lunch Containers

All the piece click gently together – you can see the dents on the lids, and the bases of the other containers just snap right in. It is easy for kids to get them together and apart, although opening the lids themselves is only for kids with stronger fingers and dexterity. (My kindergartner was hit and miss on them.)

The Fasten+Go really has some lovely aesthetics going on, and both of them are nice with lots of compartments. Because the largest compartment is sandwich-sized, it’s going to be perfect for many families but is too large for what we usually do, at least with those other sides included. And the smallest side dish that you see yogurt pictured in above is a bit smaller serving that we often serve yogurt, while the medium-sized container is way too big.

Whether you love this one or not will depend on what you like to pack – and your tolerance for many little pieces floating around!

Rubbermaid Fasten+go

Advantages:

  • BPA free
  • Dishwasher safe (with a caveat)
  • Lots of containers and flexibility (we’ve actually been using the littlest containers a lot for snacks like dried fruit and nuts)
  • The design is attractive and the built-in ice pack is cool (pun intended)
  • Leak-proof! Huge!
  • Nice budget option

Disadvantages:

  • Soooo many pieces…
  • Plastics always stay wet in our dishwasher, so they have to be shaken out and allowed to dry separately
  • I can’t decide if the snapping together is a truly helpful feature or just something cute that takes more time to do in the morning and after lunch…
  • Any plastic gives me pause
  • Longevity question: will they last as long as stainless steel? The plastic does seem quite heavy duty, so I have hopes…

Star Feature: Cute, cute, cute! And leak proof.

Major Drawback: Did I mention all the pieces? I cringe when my kids ask for them (and the kids love them, but they don’t do dishes yet)

Bento Style Lunch Box: Monbento

Monbento lunch box

Found at: Amazon, Monbento.com
Price: 2022 price estimate ~$21-40
Material: BPA-free plastic
Number of compartments: 2, one with a divider (34 fl. oz. total/1 L)

How it works:

Two long rectangular compartments, each with its own lid, stack on top of each other with one final lid on top and an elastic band around the whole thing. There’s a small divider that you can put anywhere you like in either of the compartments to create a second space to separate the food.

Monbento lunch box

Advantages:

  • Big enough to suffice
  • Cool set up with the stacking
  • Microwave-safe with vents, if you need that for work (but mic’ing plastic is NOT on my list of okay activities!)
Monbento Lunch

Disadvantages:

  • Plastic
  • Difficult to open lids, even for me as an adult
  • Lots of parts to keep track of; not all that easy to stack with the top lid being rounded (unless you store that one separately)
  • Can be rather tall for some lunch boxes
  • Mine has French words on the top – for kids for whom appearances are important, this one is pretty dated. BUT most of the styles are the same price and are solid colors, very attractive.
  • Pricey



Star Feature: Roomy, unique stacking

Major Drawback? Plastic and hard to open; mostly I just don’t see a reason to go with this one over some of the others.

Options for Yogurt on the Side

As I’ve mentioned above, we have a homemade yogurt in the lunch box just about every day. Other than Laptop Lunches and the Ziploc containers, all the boxes need a  little help sending something fluid like yogurt. Here are some we’ve used:

cold leftovers example smaller
Bento Lunch Box Reviews

Life Without Plastic small stainless steel containers, shown above: Our ultimate favorite. They never leak, anyone can open them, and they’re just the right size. The bowl is dishwasher safe and the lid isn’t hard to wash.

I used the same one almost every day for my son for 3 years, and then I added six more (some in a larger size) because my husband was sick of the one-cup glass containers leaking in his lunch. Now that we have 3 kids packing lunches and six total 8cm size, we are constantly low when I wish I could pack two days of yogurt! Time to get some more, me thinks. These things are worth it, dude, they really LAST.

glass containers for lunch

Pyrex or Anchor Hocking Glass One-Cup Containers (top left and right): These work okay, but every so often they leak and they’re certainly heavier than stainless steel. The lids will only last a few years before getting cracks in them, even without much dishwasher cleaning. They’re also quite difficult for a child to open the lid and often would urp yogurt out during the opening process. My son requested “no more!”

The newer Anchor lids (green, below) which I ordered from Mighty Nest are better, a bit easier to open and close. I would look for a stack of 4 of them at a local store, since the prices for a singleton online seem exorbitant! BUT, that said, I don’t think glass is appropriate for school, really, so this is just for adults.

Real Food School lunch example

Ziploc one-cup Plastic containers: Pretty much the same performance as glass containers but lighter and the lids break faster. Plastic is always a slight concern, even though it’s BPA-free. You just never know what will be the next issue discovered in plastics. These twist-on lids seem like they would cause fewer problems, if plastic is the best option for you.

School Lunch Ziploc with Squooshi 1

Squooshis: I reviewed Squooshis HERE, and they’re really fun for my kids to have in their lunches. We freeze yogurt/fruit smoothies in them. (Also pictured above in the Laptop Lunches and Planetbox sections) Amazon carries a number of reusable food pouches nowadays.

lunch example in Ziploc divided container

Silicone popsicle molds: Frozen yogurt smoothies are great in these, easy to eat, the kids can get them open (and closed, thankfully!), and they fit – just barely – inside a Ziploc divided container. My review is here. (Another brand many use: Norpro, found on Amazon)

Bento Accessories

Lunch Box Bento accessories

I never thought I would enjoy having cutesy accessories for lunch packing, which already seems to take too long and be such a chore. My husband’s first comment was, “Looks like more dishes to wash to me!”

Sandwiches without bread for lunch

To some extent, he’s right. On the other hand, I’ve found I really appreciate having the little silicone cups, although the medium sized ones I reviewed are not a great size. The tiny ones are nice for dips but can still get a mess on the lids. I’d rather have something slightly larger to really separate foods. Having a package on hand will add a lot of versatility to whatever box you choose.

Meat and Cheese Crepes with Cutouts

I enjoy the tiny cookie cutters and simply rinse and air dry, so they’re not much more work, although I do have to think about using them. I have these and these.

Homemade Meat and Cheese Lunchable

The food picks and toppers are fun and cute, and my 5yo daughter loves using them like a fork. (Here they are on Amazon.)We also coordinated the colors with the “color days” in kindergarten as they practiced their colors, a nice connection to the school curriculum.

Rainy Day sausage pears vegs and guac fb 2

I’m sad to admit that I haven’t used the CuteZCute Food Deco Cutter (found on Amazon) even though it is incredibly cute and looks fun. I forgot about it the few times I packed pancakes, rarely have cheese big enough, and really don’t do sandwiches. However, the reviews on Amazon are pretty positive, so if being cute is your thing – this is a fun indulgence to have on hand. (I did use the bear shape to separate foods in a bento box, so it’s still getting some use!)

Sandwiches without bread for lunch

What About Hot Food?

We do have a couple thermoses around and send a lot of soup in the winter. My son used this one all last year and my husband uses this one, which is bigger. The Kids Konserve brand is great for little hands because it’s so narrow:

easy healthy foods for lunch on the go

I discuss a lot more about properly prepping the thermos and how to heat the food so it really stays warm in The Healthy Lunch Box along with tips on keeping food cold all day.

The Healthy Lunch Box - packed with lunch ideas to go!
 

Packing healthy lunches when you’re short on time and out of bread is mind-boggling. Is there such a thing as a lunch without a sandwich? Is it possible for it to be healthy too?

The Healthy Lunch Box: Sandwich-free Secrets to Packing a Real Food Lunch is loaded with strategies to streamline your packing process, stock your pantry with emergency backups for your backups, and send healthy, delicious food in the lunch box, no matter how old your eater is. Read more and start packing healthier, processed-free lunches today.

The Winners: What Bento Boxes Would I Actually Buy?

If I was starting from scratch, I’d get a Lunchbots brand or two for sure and a few Life Without Plastic containers for yogurt. .

For fun, I would consider some food picks, one set of stainless steel food cutters, and silicone muffin cups, probably as stocking stuffers because I always need more little stocking stuffer ideas that aren’t completely junky.

You can survive with one box and one airtight yogurt container, but having two per child is a lot easier so you don’t have to rush to get the dishes done every day AND so you can bulk pack or pack the next day’s lunch while the child is still at school.

What are your favorite lunch container options? Would you/do you use the cutesy accessories?

More Healthy / Green Lunch Packing Ideas:

Are expensive gadgets and specialty foods really worth the cost? Read these super-thorough reviews to see if the item you have your eye on passed the KS tests and truly lives up to the hype.

Disclosure: I received some of these boxes free for review for the purposes of this post, although no money changed hands. Some were three years ago, and the Lunchbot trio and Ziploc boxes I purchased. A few links in this post are affiliate links, from which I will earn commission if you make a purchase, but it doesn’t cost you any more: ECOlunchboxes, Lunchbot, Monbento, Mabel’s Labels and Amazon. See my full disclosure statement here.

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I’m well known for honest, thorough product reviews…

reviewed and recommended
 

…and you can always tell a real family has run these products through the gauntlet.

When I review a type of item, I try to review a LOT of different brands! From over a dozen reusable sandwich bags to over 120 natural mineral sunscreens, I’m your girl for straight-up info about natural, real foodie items you’re considering buying.

Click here to see more product reviews and you’ll also love my resources page, with REAL products that have passed my rigorous testing enough to be “regulars” in the Kimball household, plus some other comprehensive reviews. Updated at least once a year to boot the losers and add new gems!

70 thoughts on “Seeking the BEST Bento Box for Lunch {REVIEW}”

  1. Hello, would you recommend any of these lunch boxes for adults? I’m trying to find a supper box, which I would put warm food in to send out to the field for my husband. I have thermos which are good for soups etc. but have not been able to find a container with different compartments that keeps the meal warm. Any suggestions?
    Thanks

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Hi Rachel, Bento Box does make an insulated lunch box. https://amzn.to/35eZRBW I’ve just used thermos style insulated containers for my husband’s warm food. We’ve been able to use them for stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily think to put in a cup like roasted vegetables and chicken. It doesn’t stay as hot as something like soup, but it works well enough. Hope that helps!

  2. After buying just typical lunch bags with nothing else in them for $10 each at Target, only to have them rip & tear within the first month, I bit the bullet & invested in some Planetbox lunch boxes. We got three Planetbox “Rover” designs through Pottery Barn kids about 4 years ago for our three children. The magnet designs were far cuter than the ones on the Planetbox website, and they were all on sale for $42 each. PBKids doesn’t carry them anymore, but I have to say, these are hands down my favorite Bento style lunch boxes EVER. I had previously tried the Lunchbots, but there were too many pieces, in my opinion, and I had to keep opening each one to see which ones belonged to each kid. Or I had to label them each time. The lids stuck sometimes, too. With the Planetbox ones, each kid has their own design, so I can pack them the night before & know (the next morning) whose lunch box is whose without opening it up. I take the magnets off & throw the boxes into the dishwasher, then put the magnets back on as soon as I pull them out of the dishwasher. The bags have two pockets on the outside—a velcro pocket is perfect for holding napkins, and an elastic round bottom pocket is perfect for holding water bottles or round fruit that won’t fit in the box. Inside are two loops that I use to hold utensils, and a mesh pocket that holds a flat ice pack that I bought separately.

    The box itself comes with two round containers—the small one has been used for applesauce, salad dressing, and dips, while the larger one has been used for salads & soups. When you close the lid & lock it, it produces an airtight seal on these two containers, and I have never had a leak. We’ve had our boxes for four years, and the only wear & tear I’ve seen is where the latch closes over the magnets. The picture has started coming up some, but just barely.

    I wish PBKids still carried them, because I get asked all the time where others could get one, too. They had the best deal & the cutest designs, by far. I would love to get one for myself, but right now I can’t bring myself to pay the high price on their website. With my children, though, and the amount we use these boxes, they have more than paid for themselves. They are worth every penny that we paid for them! The downside is that while other children are getting a new lunch box each school year, my children are still using the same ones we bought four years ago!! 😀

  3. Just another mom

    We made the huge purchase of planet boxes when they were on sale (this happens a few times a year typically before school starts). I think we bought 2 medium sized ones and got a small one free. Our kids love them. They’re heavy though. Which is hard for little ones but I expect them to last a lifetime. I set all 4 side by side and slam out lunches. … healthy ones very quickly. It’s an investment for sure but if you can get family to purchase as a gift its worth it.

  4. I like the Goodbyn Bynto and Hero. The Hero is shaped like the discontinued 🙁 Ziploc one, but the big square is bigger. It’s quite big. The Byntos are a good size in general, but don’t fit a full sandwich. Better for 1/2 or a wrap. And sadly, they are not leak proof. But pretty close. Watermelon or canned fruits are questionable in there (not sure when it leaks before lunch and when it leaks on the way home because it wasn’t shut completely). Other downside is that they are plastic.

  5. My favorite place to shop is Grocery Outlet. That makes me an opportunistic shopper. I stock up on good deals when they come in. They have a lot of healthy and organic brands sell them their overstock. So I can get good stuff and save money too!

    Anyway.. That was to say that, one time they had these insulated lunch bags. I bought one for me for work, but I should have bought two, so my daughter could have one for work too. When I went back, they had a different style, but I got it for her anyway. I used the ziplock plastic leftover containers for most of my lunch items, which fit in my insulated bag. There’s a pocket for my flatware and drink mix, like EmergenC or other small items.

    The bento boxes seem like a good idea, but also a lot of work and expense. Like your friend said, just a step up from the Barbie lunch boxes of yesteryear. Don’t get me wrong! I think they are cool! For a while, my school lunch box was a Tupperware drink container with a tall Tupperware cup that fit in the end with frozen milk in it. By the time my lunch at school came around, my milk was almost thawed, except for that one time we had snow in San Diego. Way back in the 60’s we also has sampler sized salt shakers for my hard boiled eggs. I’m probably the only one here that remembers Space Food Sticks! I eat much healthier things now.

    Thank you for taking me down Memory Lane!

  6. I’ve found the best way to pack yogurt is to use 1/2 pint size glass canning jars (jelly jars). We have tons on hand so I can easily portion several days worth at a time for the whole family. Kids have never had a hard time opening AND they don’t leak. The tall ones fit nicely in lunchbox and dishwasher.

  7. We’ve had the Lunchblox in the sandwich kit and the entrée kit for almost 2 years, and yes, the longevity is great. They look exactly like they did when I bought them. I’ve washed them on the top rack of my dishwasher every time, with no problems. No discoloration, and no holding onto odors like a lot of plastics out there do. I actually bought them for my husband originally, so I’m not sure where you’re getting the “for kids” idea from. They come in various colors so it’s easy to pick.

  8. I love my Laptop lunchbox. I also have a Planetbox Launch. The glass satellite dish from the Planetbox fits perfectly in the Laptop lunchbox. I often use that combination to microwave my entrée without using plastic. 2 side containers can still fit next to it. The Planetbox Launch does fit inside a large Thirtyone lunch bag or the Packit Deluxe bag. I haven’t found a bag that will carry the Planetbox Launch flat which is why I don’t carry it more often. I did see that Planetbox started making a backpack this year that will carry it flat but I don’t wear a backpack to work.

  9. Stacy McClamma

    Thanks so much for this review. It is extremely helpful. Could you tell me the size of the stainless steel airtight containers that you use? Is it 8 cm? Also, what size Pyrex glass containers are best in lunches? There are WAY too many options out there. Thanks a bunch!

    1. Hi Stacy,
      Pardon the delay – yes, the 8cm containers. I think I fixed the link to those now too. I don’t love sending glass at lunch because it’s so heavy, personally. For adults, we find a 2-cup glass container is a great amount for leftovers. 🙂 Katie

  10. Janet Callahan

    We have Ziplock boxes that are in their 3rd year of every lunch day use – and we’ve only lost one to cracks.

    Laptop lunchbox is one of my favorites as an adult, but my 8 year old with fine motor deficits can’t open it for anything.

    I also love Planetbox, but the lack of sealing is a problem for my kids – my younger one loves applesauce, and my older one likes watermelon and other juicy fruits. It’s a shame, because he *can* open them.

    Bentgo and yumbox are the go-tos here for my younger one. The lids let them generally seal between containers (even for applesauce).

    We have a slew of Japanese-style bento containers, and they work well for certain types of foods – things that smush together well into any shape (like rice!), things that are small (like carrot sticks), and so on. But…for the kids, they’re a struggle with all the various parts. We have a couple that are oval shaped, where one layer nests into the other when empty. That works well for the kids, because you can’t plan anything messy with it.

  11. Any ideas for sending a burrito for lunch? Currently I make one in the morning and wrap it in foil, then keep it in a hot oven until just before my DH goes to work. He puts it in a plastic container, like a cheap ziploc, to take to work so it wont get smashed. By the time he eats it is still warm since when he leaves it is way to hot to eat from being in the oven, so keeping it hot would be a nice treat but he has no problem eating it warm.

    I really want to do away with the foil part, any ideas? He usually bikes to works so weight is a concern, my first thought was a rectangular glass pyrex inside a padded/insulated lunch box. Then I started looking into insulated bento boxes but am only finding round containers or jars. We do have a insulated food jar but is too short, I guess I could make 2-3 short burritos and stand them up together. Also if I could find a way to keep it hot then I can skip the part of getting it hot in the oven, most mornings it is the only reasn I turn on the oven and in the summer it seems very inefficient!

  12. I’m curious if anyone has tried fitting a yumbox or bentgo in a standard pottery barn lunch box? My MIL gave us one for DD and I’d like to put a yumbox and one of the round containers that katie mentions above, in it. I hate to have to ship everything back if it doesn’t fit!

  13. I absolutely LOVE our PlanetBox Rover. It is perfect for my son in Kindergarten. Super easy to open. And comes with the extra containers which I fill with extra just in case snacks in the front pouches of the bag. My son also likes to change up his magnets every once and awhile. We have a couple of Yumboxes as a backup set.

  14. Another question: I’m ready to start fresh with a new lunchbox system for the fall. Your conclusion – that bentobox is top of your list – seems good to me, but where do you put the ice pack? TIA!

    1. Hi Elana,
      I haven’t tried the Pottery Barn version. As for ice packs, I pack all of these bento type boxes IN another lunch box so the kids have handles to carry their stuff – we generally pack a bento with 3-4 different items in it + a yogurt in a stainless steel leakproof container + a water bottle, all in our Pack-It lunchboxes. The Pack-it IS an ice pack; we love them. On Amazon here with my affiliate link: http://amzn.to/1CMjlLP
      Hope that helps! 🙂 Katie

  15. Has anyone tried the Pottery Barn options? Someone briefly mentioned the bento boxes but didn’t give much info as to why they only got an “ok. These look good because they have a built in ice pack and I’m not sure where the ode pack goes in some of the other options mentioned here. http://www.potterybarnkids.com/m/products/spencer-dual-compartment-food-storage-bts2013/?cm_src=AutoRel

  16. I think your review of the Planet Box is lacking. I own 3 PlanetBoxes. You reviewed the snack box so of course it isn’t big enough for lunch. Before buying the Planet Box, I found myself replacing bento items too frequently for any of it to be considered a bargain. I decided to buy quality and save money with the longevity and usability of the product. So the carrying case for the lunch version has two pouches on the outside which are large enough for several things. I often put my child’s snack in one of the large round dippers and slide it into the pouch with he velcro. It’s big enough to fit a medium apple sliced up, or 2-3 cuties that have been peeled and segmented, or a handful of crackers. It’s a good size. If I put yogurt in it, I can place a couple of those tiny ice blanket squares in with it to stay cold. The other pouch I sometimes put a small thermos in if my kid wanted me to pack him something hot for lunch. The thermos we use is large enough to fit an entire thing of ramen noodles. He has asked for everything from soup, to macaroni and cheese and though a thermos does not come with the Planet Box, I like that I can fit one in there if he wants something hot for lunch. Either that or you can put a water bottle in it, but you would only want to use a shorter water bottle since putting one of those big sports bottles in there can make it kind of weird to carry. The inside has a pouch for an ice pack and a little place for napkins and silverware. The little dippers and big dippers do have a silicone ring and of course you want to take it out before washing. I love that I can do this because I like to know all the gunk is completely cleaned out of any cracks and crevices. You can’t do this with things that don’t come apart completely. I haven’t had any trouble keeping them. I put everything int he dishwasher including those silicone pieces which I put in the silverware compartment. As far as the magnets…you don’t even have them placed on the box correctly. I can see they aren’t lined up correctly and look weird. But no worry…if you don’t like them, don’t use them. We have had our Planet Boxes for two years. My older son is so rough on it, but it still looks like new. When we open our lunches on outings with others, people always comment on how good our lunches look, but I am not doing anything fancy…just putting it in a Planet Box. Plus, there website has a wonderful lunch planning feature for people who are just clueless about how to pack anything. So, yeah…I don’t think your review really encompasses everything that a Planet Box lunch box is. My kids have the kid lunchbox (which is actually big enough for an adult, but has more sections) and I have the adult version which has fewer but larger sections. Mine not only came with a dipper, but with a microwavable little dish that can come out of the box (glass with a silicone lid). My son has taken this to school before too where he is allowed to use a microwave (although we try to limit microwave use for other reasons) and I have put beans and grated cheese with taco sauce in the glass dish and he he microwaves it at school to melt everything and I pack whole grain tortilla chips in one of the other sections, plus guacamole and chopped tomatoes, etc in the dippers and he has had hot gooey nachos for lunch at school. I have been through so many lunch boxes in my time and Planet Box is the first box I have had that made me look no further. We love ours. Totally worth every penny because you will never need to buy another box.

    1. That’s a wonderful review, Holly, thank you for adding to the post! I always wondered why they sent me the snack version… We have really liked it over the years in spite of the size and use it often. I’ll be updating this post next month for back-to-school and will be sure to make note of your thoughts in that section. Thanks again! 🙂 Katie

    2. Just another mom

      Agreed. We love ours too. And you can put everything in the dishwasher. Can’t beat that! Even our 3 year old managed just fine with it last year. The little rover we use for our youngest age 1 which was perfect. Cheeseand meat cubes. Scrambled eggs. You name it. It wasn’t enough for the 3 year old all day prek. But the youngest no problem.

  17. I am not so sure that stainless is that healthy...

    If you have ever made anything with tomatoes in it, you know “that taste”; it is metal leeching into your food. I am a runner-cook-nutritionist and find the caveman diet to be both ridiculous (lacking scientific evidence and its cult like finding is quite entertaining though) and impractical for me. I will eat things like pasta with sauce, tomatoes with basil and mozzarella, and salsa and chips. And of course, in the summer I will eat gazpacho and winter, chili (with lots and lots of beans!). So I just don’t know that metal is better than BPA free plastic…it’s a shame no one has gone to glass yet. That is really the best of all.

    1. Some metals leave a taste…I just posted a review about Planet Box and I have eaten sliced tomatoes out of it many times…no weird taste at all.

    2. You’d need a separate insulated lunch bag, but I love these:
      http://www.amazon.com/Pyrex-Glass-Container-6-Piece-Containers/dp/B008MW2BKU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1439174481&sr=8-3&keywords=pyrex+with+silicone+lids

      1. (They have glass and silicone lids! Microwave, oven, toaster oven safe! That all makes me so excited!)

  18. I purchased the lunchbots quad and was super disappointed. a)too small for my 6 and a half year old, and b)the lid would pop open EVERY time. I don’t know if it was just mine, but she would have no lunch at school, because everything was disgusting. Did you ever have that happen with your lunchbots? And do you use the lunchbags that let your lunchbots lay flat, or do they lay upright? My daughter’s lunchbag is upright only, so i’m unsure if that could have been the reason. Although, no excuse!

    1. Aline,
      Oh no, that’s so disappointing!! 🙁 Our lunchboxes really do let the box lay flat, so I’m guessing that’s at least 50% of the discrepancy. The lid never seemed *that* loose, but perhaps slight manufacturing differences make them behave differently. We always have a yogurt next to the Lunchbot, but with the amount of time they have to eat, my kids both “fit” into it just great until this year, my 9yo upgraded to a larger size. But I’m sorry they were a poor fit for you in two ways! I wonder if the company would do anything for you? They are a small US company… Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  19. Very extensive summary. Thank you! I’d like to add a comment, however. You mention solder several times in the review. One of the basic components of solder is lead. It is toxic and should never be used in any item coming in contact with food. I am certain that none of the products listed here contain solder. Do not attempt to seal box compartments yourself with solder or any other material not approved for food contact.

  20. I have the lunchbots. I like the one and two compartment size, but gave up using the three compartment size because the lids are so impossible to get off, even adults can’t get it off.

    I think your review of the planet box is a little unfair because the shuttle isn’t meant to be their lunchbox size, the larger size is. I have been using the larger size for both my kids for the past three years (about to start our 4th year with them) and I can’t say enough good things about them. The quality is great. My kids love picking out the magnets they want, the bag that comes with it is PERFECT for carrying the lunch box, plus a water bottle, and a snack for snack time. I love the varied compartment sizes. And I just throw the silicone seals in the dishwasher with the rest of the lunchbox.

  21. I’ve been using the PlanetBox for a couple of years now (the bigger one), but I find that every fall I’m resentful of being forced to buy only the PlanetBox carrying bag because the darn metal box is too big to fit into any of the lunchbags sold by regular retailers.

  22. Thank you for this review! Now what I want to know are your recipes! Mini pancake sandwiches!!? So cute! Everything looks so delicious and nutritious : )

    1. Leora,
      Well thank you! 🙂 I make pancake sandwiches with any leftover pancakes we have on hand and PB and honey. Easy peasy! One of our favorite recipes (mine because it has tons of veggies and the kids because they’re nice and moist) is this one: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/recipes/orange-vegetable-pancakes/

      I also have a whole book of lunch recipes, right here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2013/08/20/the-healthy-lunch-box-ebook/

      Hope that helps a little! 🙂 Katie

  23. I appreciated this article so much, as I’ve just spent all evening looking up lunch boxes. I do have a random question….are any of those large enough to hold an entire unpeeled banana? It looked like a few compartments might, if it wasn’t for the curve of the banana! It’s not something I can leave out of my little guy’s lunch 🙂

    1. Carrie,
      Good question! I’m pretty sure that stacked green one could in a full compartment, and for a smaller banana, the Ziploc main compartment would do, too, but then you’re out of space for a lot of other things. The Laptop lunch box would if you left out 2 of the containers…personally, since a banana comes in its own “package,” I just tuck it in the lunchbox outside of the bento. 😉 Katie

    2. Katharine in Brussels

      Hi Carrie and Katie,
      It can be nice to put a banana inside a box to avoid bruising in transit. You could try cutting the banana in half and putting it into the box, w/ or w/o lemon or lime juice or a splash of sugar and salt mixture to prevent browning. Here in Belgium banana containers are sold everywhere since schools ask parents to put the snack in a seperate bin, and this way the container has the child’s name instead of writing it on the peel.
      Thanks to Katie for this informative comparison.

  24. In Australia you can get Decor Tellfresh Quarters from Woolworths/Coles and its a great product, perfect for dividing food types.

  25. I found there http://www.amazon.com/Smart-Planet-3-Compartment-Silicone-Collapsible/dp/B0051XRYF0/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1380327237&sr=8-3&keywords=silicone+lunch+box+set at Ross or TJ Maxx a few months ago (for $10 instead of $20+), and have been LOVING them. My needs are slightly different, we homeschool so I don’t send lunches to school, but on music lesson day we need to eat lunch as we drive, so I had been using, and loving, the ziplock containers for that (one piece to hand to each kid out of the cooler, and one piece for them to hold on their lap and eat from). This is the same idea but bigger, I think it will last longer (as you suspected, over time the ziplock containers were showing wear and I figured it was a matter of time until one cracked), and collapse when we’re done).

  26. We mostly use the Ziploc divided containers and this year I also got a couple of the Goodbyn Bynto containers. You can see a photo here http://instagram.com/p/eZlFq8IjgU/. I wasn’t sure I would like them, but I’m actually liking them better than the Ziploc. We also have two of the pottery barn spencer bento boxes. They are just OK. I use them on Fridays when I pack lunchable style “momables” lunches. You can see a photo of those here http://instagram.com/p/XKIg_5IjlJ/

    1. Hi Indianna Anna, I am currently looking at buying the Spencer Bento lunch boxes (as I think they might hold enough for morning tea and lunch) for my children at school but wondered why you said they were only “ok”. I really wanted a stainless steel one, but the sizes don’t seem to suit the insulated carrier we currently have (which lasts around 12hours). The spencer bento seemed like the next best option for us but now I am hesitant from your comment. Can you elaborate?

  27. We bought the medium sized Planetbox kit. It came with a carrier, two extra cups with lids, magnets and the lunch box itself. It is a tad but expensive but it’s more food than my first grader will normally eat, so he eats whatever’s left for an after school snack. There’s also a place in the carrier for a drink (I use Klean Kanteen insulated wide mouth) and a snack or napkin. I think it will last a good, long time. I wash it in the dishwasher but don’t use the extra cup that came with it. Oh, and I bought the plain white magnets and let my son decorate them with his fave Batman stickers.

  28. I have been making bento for years and I must say that I much prefer the boxes WITHOUT the dividers. I am able to utilize the space so much better. When I do need a divider, I use lettuce leaves. I do still use silicone cups for fruit (“dessert” in my bento), though.

  29. We purchased the laptop lunch kit when my now 8th grader was 4 years old! We bought the bag with a drink holder on the side (& space for an ice pack inside) & an extra set of inside containers. There was never an issue with opening the box. The set was passed down & my youngest is using it for the 3rd year. We did buy a new bag for her as she wanted a more girly outer. No comlaints whatsoever here!

  30. We also have the LaptopLunch box (but only for outings as my boys are just 3 and almost-5). I love it, though the plastic is not my favorite. It’s big enough to pack lunch for both my kiddos and we have also the lunch bag with water bottle and pockets for ice packs and cloth napkins.

    You CAN put a sandwich in the larger box that doesn’t have a lid – cut it in half and stack it or cut it into quarters and put them in vertically (does that make sense?) You may have to cut the crusts off depending on how wide your bread is, and no, it wouldn’t work with thick-sliced homemade bread.

    I love the little picks – I think my oldest would absolutely love them!

    My husband uses the Ziploc containers for his lunch, and I love that they are cheap enough to easily replace if (when) he forgets to bring them home. I just picked up a set of two of the large silicone muffin cups in the Target Dollar Spot yesterday!

  31. OMG. I love you. Thank you so much for this posting/review. I was hesitant to jump into stainless bento boxes because of price, but the glass we have is so heavy and sometimes tricky to open for my kids (and I am just waiting for their school to tell me they can’t bring glass, or some such thing).

  32. Thanks for your review! You proved several of my theories about some of the boxes I checked out. We settled on the Ziploc containers. No, I’m not thrilled they’re plastic but the fact that each compartment is leak-proof and my kindergartner can open it with ease totally gives it the win. Also, most bento boxes I’ve seen don’t have a very straight forward way of keeping things chilled, which bothers me. Plus, I swear Ziploc made that specific size based on the standard size of your typical kids lunch box, fits snug as a bug in a rug. The large compartment fits a juice box and half sandwich perfectly.

  33. Cinnamon Vogue

    Great review. I wish there was a thermos Bento box in one rectangular container in the adult and child sizes to take hot food and not have to reheat it.

    Kids are messy with multiple thermos Bento’s that are stackable, so a single square or rectangular Bento thermos is the best. Bento’s I think were designed for cold food.

    Of course I prefer the stainless steel Bento boxes but it is useless for hot food, which is what I like to eat.

    Ultimately for most people a reheat able plastic square Bento boxes (even though plastic is bad) is the most practical since most parents/adults do not have the patience to make hot food in the morning for their children’s or their own lunch boxes.

    1. I wondered if anyone made a square insulated lunchbox, and found some round ones that stack and lock together: http://casabento.com/shop/en/2152-zojirushi-bento-box-beige.html and http://casabento.com/shop/en/369-bento-box-zojirushi-classic.html

      They look cute! 🙂 Katie

  34. We use the ziplock with easy lunch box. This has worked great for us for 5 years. I have had to replace both the Tupperware and the lunch bag but I like the size of them. My kids eat A LOT! We also use a thermos for hot foods.

  35. So, great article…but in the end…what is the winner? I want something not too expensive and not plastic…which container wins?

  36. ZWe lovelove our laptop lunch set – and have for five years! No hinge breakage. Your friend is not wrong, that the outer “sleeve” is the same ashaving a lunchbox, but the sleeves are way more professional for a working parent. Anyway, they actually do nest by size – we have all of ours in three stacks. Biggest (it only comes with bento buddies and is twice as big as th ebig one you have, for salads) big, small, and dip containers are in tthe topmost big. My 2 yo is….stubborn….and can open them but most of the kids at Sunday school can’t .

    I do wish they weren’t plastic, but everything else is absolutely perfect. We love the total flexibility of the container sizes.

    1. We have had our Laptop Lunchboxes for 5 years as well. I had to replace one lid ($1) that the dog took off, but it has held up super well for us. It was a required school supply item at our preschool for kids who stayed all day. The 3 year olds needed help opening at the beginning of the year, but they caught on fairly quickly.

      I find that they nest very well, except I put the lids separately. The outer container gets a rinse if it needs one, but I only send the containers through the dishwasher on Friday because we use them every day.

    2. Liz,
      Ah, I can see how having multiple sets would give a lot of flexibility – and what, really, no He-Man and Thundercats at work??? 😉 Good point about that, and I’ll update the post with your notes so I’m fair to Laptop Lunches!

      Also – I think I have a 2yo who would get along great with yours. 😉 Katie

  37. Very interesting! My kids pack their own lunches, and prefer the easy lunchboxes over their planet boxes (the only one who prefers the planet box is my oldest, because the planet box (full size) has more room.

  38. We’ve been using the planetbox lunch boxes for a year now. They were really expensive, and have lasted great without any issues. I do wish that I had more flxibility now, though. The bags are gross, and we need new ones, but I kind of want to have a few options for packing lunches, and those only fit their lunch boxes. I do like having lots of small compartments–forces me to put lots of options in each lunch, not that they eat them anyway….
    One question: What bags do you use? Would the lunchbot fit in standard bags? I guess I have years and years of school lunches in my future, so it wouldn’t hurt to invest. I hate having to turn the lunch boxes around so quickly!
    Also, I’ve started to use a cuisinart mixing bowl with a lid for my lunch more often than not–big salad.

    1. Christina,
      The Lunchbot fits in every bag we have – all of which were just grabbed at garage sales. I’m a $1-2 price range kind of girl! I should take a pic of the ones we use and post on Facebook this week – they’re nothing special, but you could see sizes. 🙂 Katie

  39. Jen @ Eating My Vegetables

    Not that you want to try another place, but I’ve been looking at these: http://store.kidskonserve.com/ they look fairly decent on price, claim to have leak proof lids (and replacement lids) and I like the sizes. Of course, I’m not looking for packing lunch for school, just all of our typical running around.

  40. Wonderful review, Katie! My only question … what do you use for transporting hot foods, like soup? Curious what thermos items have passed muster in your home.

    Have you played around with Lunchbots’ leak proof containers much?

    1. Jen @ Eating My Vegetables

      The discussion of thermos items has come up many times with friends, and pretty much all of them are tricky – you really have to pre-heat or pre-cool the container, and then tighten it to just the right tightness, otherwise they are too hard to open. I just have a standard thermos brand one, but I’ve heard the same story about all of them.

    2. Bethany,
      I’ll turn it over to Laura at MOMables for that one: http://www.momables.com/how-long-is-it-safe-to-keep-food-hot-in-a-thermos/ She did the real testing! 😉 I just have two different ones, the one at Life Without Plastic for the husband (lifewithoutplastic.com/) and this one for the kids: http://mightynest.com/shop/reusable-gear/food-containers/insulated-food-containers/stainless-steel-thermos plus a similar shape/size that I grabbed at a garage sale. I like that the kids’ one is narrow; I don’t think they could open the larger one b/c their hands wouldn’t span far enough. Jen is right about the tightness, though – it’s worth it to practice with the child to see if they can open it independently. I’m curious to see how it goes with the new kindergartner since we haven’t tried hot soup yet…

      And no, I haven’t tried Lunchbots’ new ones, but I’m curious! They look like they’re constructed like the Leaflet Tight one above.

      🙂 Katie

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