Lunch Boxes have come a long way since this was a school lunch staple
The appeal of the lunch box is two-fold. On one hand, lunch boxes are convenient money savers. Why buy a greasy slice of pizza when you could save cash and calories by packing your own sandwich and salad? At the same time, the lunch box’s reusable nature makes it a greener alternative to a paper bag lunch. However, the school lunch box receives a lot of abuse throughout the course of a school year- as juice spills, yogurt splatters and chocolate melts, lunch boxes accumulate lots of stains and scars. And once lunch ends, kids shove lunch boxes to the bottom of their backpacks, so the ideal lunch box should withstand some wear-and-tear. And even though lunch boxes are a step in the right direction as far as green living is concerned, school lunches still create a lot of waste like paper wrappers, plastic baggies and drink bottles.
But don’t lose hope, lunch-packers. The modern lunch box has come a long way from its tin forbears. Today’s lunch boxes come in aluminum, silicon and neoprene models that make them more durable, flexible and easier to clean. These five lunch boxes are my favorites because they’re green, they’re practical, and they’re totally cute.
1. Smart Planet Collapsable Lunch Box
My favorite lunch box is the Smart Planet Collapsible Lunch Box ($14.99). The beauty of this one is that this colorful silicon box collapses to a third of its size, which makes stuffing it into a backpack even easier once lunch is over. At the same time, it’s roomy enough to comfortably fit a wrap or sandwich as well as some fruit or chips. The other big bonus here is that it’s bpa-free and dishwasher safe which means that you can avoid the mess of a typical lunch box. Also, the separate compartments eliminate the need for plastic baggies while preventing foods from cross-contaminating.
2. Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless Steel Lunch Jar
Second place goes to Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless Steel Lunch Jar ($44.70). I like this lunch jar because it’s cylindrical design and stackable bowls are a different take on the typical lunch box design. Built like a thermos with the heat-sealing insulation to boot, the jar contains four bowls– a large main course bowl, a soup bowl with a lid, and two side bowls. The whole jar and all of the bowls are dishwasher safe, so cleanup is pretty easy. The biggest perk of this is that each bowl is microwaveable, so different courses can be served at different temperatures, making the Zojirushi Lunch Jar the perfect way to serve leftovers for lunch. That said, this is thermos is very much intended for Japanese style lunches (soup, rice, entree, pickled veggies) and won’t work for someone who prefers sandwiches or wraps.
Lunchopolis ($24.14) probably takes the prize for greenest lunch. Lunchopolis’s whole motto is “litter-free lunches” and this lunch pack with an included water bottle, five tupperware containers, and a neoprene lunch sack certainly delivers. The bottle and the containers are each microwave-safe, dishwasher safe and BPA-free, so they can be used again and again for both hot and cold foods without worry. Unlike some of the other lunch boxes featured on this list, the neoprene lunch sack is flexible, which makes this a real double win, since it’s easier to pack and harder to break.
4. Planet Box
Planet Box ($59.95 for middle size) is great because it introduces variety to the lunch box scene. Rather than producing a one-size-fits all lunch box, Planet Box makes three different models, cleverly named Launch, Rover and Shuttle. Each model is a different size to suit different appetites, and carries between three and six and a half cups of food. And although Planet Box is the priciest lunch box listed here, you get a lot of bonus pieces like a microwave safe “satellite” dish, a dipping plate and accessories. What’s extra cute about Planet Box is that lunch boxes come with magnets and carrying bags for accessorizing and for differentiating siblings’ lunch boxes. And although the carrying cases aren’t machine washable, the lunch box itself is dishwasher safe, so it’s easy to clean.
5. Dabbawalla Lunch Bags
Finally, Dabbawalla lunch bags ($30.00) marry science and style seamlessly. This British company makes lunch bags out of TPE, a biodegradable, recyclable bpa-free and machine-washable substance that also happens to be perfect for insulating food. Not only are these bags environmentally friendly and safe for storing food but they also come in impossibly cute animal shapes like owls, monkeys, and frogs. The only possible downside with these bags is that they’re a little big for small children to carry comfortably, even though they hold plenty of food for a well-balanced lunch.
Lunch-Packers rejoice! Whether it’s a technicolor lunch bag, a personalized lunch box or a state-of-the-art thermos, how you eat lunch can be just as important as what you eat. Do you have any favorite lunch boxes or tricks to make school lunch easier? Let us know!