Since 2009 at Kitchen Stewardship®, I’ve reviewed hundreds of different products, sometimes as free samples, sometimes on my own dime, always thoroughly.
It’s almost comical then, looking back, at which products were used to test and then ignored or never replenished, and which ones have become staples in the Kimball house.
When it comes to our lunch containers, we have some definite favorites! In fact, the watertight stainless steel containers from Life Without Plastic are such a staple that I can’t imagine NOT having them around, so it’s ironic that there’s never been an “official” written review sharing how much we love them.
Here at the Kimball household, we use the 8-cm version literally every day for lunches. We pack yogurt and fruit for the kids in that size, which is a bit less than one cup volume, and we also have bigger versions that hold leftovers from dinners.
Can’t see the video? Watch our Life Without Plastic review here on YouTube!
Advantages of Life Without Plastic Eco-Friendly Stainless Steel Lunch Containers
The first advantage to the Life Without Plastic watertight containers is that they are really easy to open. Even tiny fingers on a preschooler have never had a problem lifting the hinges which makes for easy lunchtimes for little kids.
If you have kids, you know that many containers are tricky for little ones, and lunch teachers all over the nation are very used to opening things for children. For the kids, that means some of their precious lunchtime is wasted waiting with their hand in the air to get help. I’m always a proponent of independence-boosting products!
PLUS the containers are easy to close, and kids can tell with 100% accuracy if they are closed or not. Compared to many other containers that will leak if one corner isn’t perfectly sealed, that’s huge for the lunchbox-interior clean-up time saved day after day.
Longevity is a massive advantage when you’re investing in stainless steel containers. Our smaller containers have lasted from kindergarten to 11th grade for my oldest, with daily use, and they’re still going strong, so that’s pretty impressive!
When you first see the price of stainless steel food containers it’s a bit of a sticker shock! But hang with me here: these are going to last so much longer than plastic which means in the long run they may actually be less expensive, and they’re better for the Earth.
Eco-Friendly Lunch Container Options
We know that plastic, a much less expensive option, brings with it all sorts of health hazards from BPA and whatever the next chemical is to be discovered. Plastic is lightweight like stainless steel, but we generally find that it doesn’t take more than a year or two for plastic containers to crack and become unusable.
In comparison, another eco-friendly and non-leaching food storage container option would be glass dishes. These are often less expensive than stainless, but they’re much heavier to cart around and less resilient to cracks and breaking. My kids’ backpacks are already heavy enough when they pack lunch every day, so I’m not about to put glass containers in there.
Finally, Life Without Plastic stainless lunch containers are also dishwasher safe. The bottom is fully top-rack dishwasher safe, and the top is mostly dishwasher safe. It has a little silicone ring in it that you can take out before putting the lid in the dishwasher.
If you’re wondering about storage space, the dishes DO stack just fine in the same size. The hinges obviously take up a little bit of space in the cupboard, but it’s nothing that has bothered us.
We choose the basket system for lunch containers because we’re more of a “toss it in” family than a “stack things nicely every time” family. So all our lids and small size bowls and other containers are tossed together, and it works for us. When they’re all in the cupboard (a rarity during the school year) we find that we do need to stack to conserve space.
Surprising bonus: Stainless steel CAN be reheated in the oven (although not the lids)! So if you have some leftovers stored in these containers, you can just pop a few in your toaster oven for an easy no-dishes lunch.
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.
One (or Two) Disadvantages of Life Without Plastic Watertight Food Storage
Although the containers do have great longevity, on some of our bowls, the metal hinges got a little bit loose and have leaked a few times. Yogurt all over the inside of a lunchbox is the WORST. It gets so stinky!
It got to the point where Paul (from the video) wouldn’t even take this style of container for yogurt anymore because he didn’t trust them.
I finally bugged my husband (the engineer) enough, and he figured out a solution. Since the container is metal, we were able to bend the hinge back just enough, which tightened the seal and fixed the issue. You can’t really mend cracks in plastic, but obviously, you can bend metal the little bit it takes. (Watch the video for a demonstration of the direction you need to torque the hinges.)
In a way, that turns out to be an advantage rather than a disadvantage!
We also had a little trouble with the silicone rings getting mold underneath and discoloring, but it hasn’t happened on our newer versions. So I take complete responsibility!
For years, although we hand-washed the lids per product specifications, I never bothered to take the silicone ring out and wash it separate from the metal lid. Huge mistake! Too much can get trapped under there, especially because we use the 8-cm size almost exclusively for wet yogurt.
Word to the wise: Use a paring knife to gently pull the silicone ring out at least every 3-4 times you wash it, OR as Paul showed in the video, wash the ring by hand and toss the lid in the dishwasher. Here at Kitchen Stewardship®, we learn by failure and teach you!
Do We Use the Big Ones?
If you start shopping at Life Without Plastic, you’ll notice that beyond what we call our “yogurt containers,” there are many other sizes, getting all the way up to multi-quart leftover storage containers. The larger the container, the higher the price tag (brace yourself).
For us, we really appreciate the small 8-cm size and have about 8-10 of them, and the next few sizes up can be handy for packing lunches as well. We have a handful of 10-cm sizes, and the largest we have is the 12-cm.
These sound like tiny insignificant differences, but for every 2 centimeters of diameter, the capacity increases quite a bit:
- 8-cm holds 6.2 fluid ounces (one cup is 8 ounces for reference)
- 10-cm holds 12.7 fl. oz. or about 1.6 cups
- 12-cm holds 22.8 fl. oz. or nearly 3 cups when full to the brim
The 10-cm container is great for my first grader’s taco salad or pasta salad lunch or a side dish of something like potato salad or a whole apple in slices.
The 12-cm size really is much bigger and just right for an adult’s salad or large main course.
Because of the cost and the lack of transparency, I don’t love stainless steel containers for normal (non-lunch-packing) leftover storage. I don’t mind the weight of glass in my refrigerator, and I prefer to be able to see my food through the sides (plus as I mentioned, the larger dishes become a serious financial investment!).
Stainless steel feels more expensive at first, but it’s 100% worth the investment because:
- they last a really, really long time
- weaknesses that show up over time from wear are easily repaired rather than having to trash the container
- stainless doesn’t leach chemicals into your food and your kids’ bodies
- metal containers are lightweight to carry, easy to store, and easy to wash
- little kids can successfully open AND close the lids, increasing independence and decreasing messy lunchboxes
If our family ever actually loses one of these or they finally die in some way, we will definitely be replacing them with the same exact thing.
We’ve also purchased quite a few over the years to give as gifts (the gift that keeps on giving) for colleagues and family members, so we recommend Life Without Plastic’s watertight containers very highly!