If you carry your lunch on a regular basis to work or school, you may have realized that brown paper bags are not very cost effective – and over time, the continuous waste is not good for the environment.
A lunch box is a viable alternative to disposable bags. The best lunch boxes are durable containers that can withstand repeated use for many months. When selecting a lunch box, keep in mind that some are sturdier than others, and some are easier to clean than others.
A good lunch box should be large enough to accommodate your typical lunch, whatever that might entail. For some, that could be a simple sandwich or leftover dinner. For others, it could include a main course, a side dish, and several snacks. Think about how much food you need to pack, and focus on products that would be able to accommodate that amount of food.
Also, keep in mind the amount of storage space your lunch box will require. If you need to keep the lunch box refrigerated, either at home or at work, you’ll want one that isn’t too large for a refrigerator shelf.
A lot of lunch box options consist of a single compartment you which food is stored, but there are some compartmentalized options as well. For example, a lunch box may contain a “main” food area as well as a pocket for utensils and a mesh drink holder on the side. Some lunch boxes even have separate storage areas for cold and warm items.
Lunch boxes need to be cleaned regularly to prevent mold and bacteria buildup. Look for one with an easy-wipe interior and an exterior that won’t show stains. Keep in mind, too, that a lunch box with multiple compartments may be more difficult to clean than a lunch box with a single compartment. After all, there is more surface area to be cleaned in a compartmentalized lunch box.
Chances are you’ll want your new lunch box to last for a while. You don’t want it wearing out – or even breaking – after a few uses. But be wary, because there are flimsy lunch boxes out there that may break down after a few heavy uses. To get the most for your money, look for something strong and durable.
Pay particular attention to the interior lining of the lunch box; you don’t want one that will crack or tear, as this would create more opportunities for bacteria to grow unprotected.
Some lunch boxes come with extras – perhaps an ice pack to help chill food or a few storage containers. Of course, you could also purchase these items separately; they’re not make-or-break features for most people. However, if you’re struggling to make your decision between two lunch boxes, the extra features included in each may help you decide.
The good thing about included extras is that you can be sure they will fit inside your lunch box. This may not be true for dishes and containers you already own. On the other hand, the extras included with some lunch boxes are not necessarily of the highest quality.
Most lunch boxes cost between $5-$35. Price depends, in large part, on the size of the lunch box, the quality of its construction, and any extra features that come with it. For example, you can expect to pay more for a large lunch box with an insulated interior and an ice pack than you would for a simple child’s lunchbox with one compartment.
If you want quality, we recommend spending at least $15. Lunch boxes of this caliber tend to offer plenty of space and hold up well over time. It’s especially important to choose something durable if you’ll be using it day in and day out for a long time.
Even if your lunch box is insulated and has an ice pack, it’s a good idea to store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat. This holds especially true if it will be two hours or more before you’re ready to sit down and eat.
Place heavier items at the bottom of your lunch box so they don’t crush the more delicate items.
Wipe your lunch box out with soap and warm water daily to prevent bacteria from building up inside of it.
Consider replacing your lunch box yearly to avoid mold and bacteria buildup, especially if the interior lining begins to crack.
A. Most lunch boxes are not designed to go in the dishwasher, and putting them in there may damage the box. Consult manufacturer guidelines for your particular lunch box.
A. Bento lunch boxes are compartmentalized tray lunch boxes that allow you to place different food items in the same box without needing separate baggies or other containers for each. They’re a popular choice for those who are trying to be mindful of portion control. These lunch boxes are often made of plastic and come with removable trays that may be able to be washed in the dishwasher.
What you should know: This large, insulated lunch box is suitable for children and adults alike, and it’s a great choice for individuals who like to mix up their meals and snacks.
What you'll love: It comes with plenty of extras, like a six portion-control containers, ice pack, pill storage container and shaker cup. It’s made of heavy-duty fabric that won’t tear easily, and it’s large enough to carry all of your food and snacks for the whole day.
What you should consider: Some users say the included ice pack doesn’t do a great job of keeping the food cold on its own. You may wish to add a second ice pack.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you should know looking for a large lunch box that can accommodate all types of foods, give this model a closer look.
What you'll love: This double-decker cooler contains two separate sections so you can keep your warm and cold items separate. It also has a small front pocket where you can store utensils and napkins.
What you should consider: This lunch box is large, which is great if you have a lot of food, but not so great if there’s only a little bit of space in the refrigerator.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Our take: This versatile lunch box set is a good choice for everything from small snacks to a full-blown picnic.
What we like: You actually get two sleek, waterproof lunch boxes with this purchase, so you can choose the smaller size for everyday lunches and the larger size for picnics and other outings. It comes with a separate cloth bag you can use for additional food storage or for holding personal items.
What we dislike: The handles are a little flimsy, so it’s a good idea to carry them from the bottom if they’re loaded down with heavy items.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Kailey Fralick writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.