[pinit] I don't mean to brag, but I've tried plenty of lunch boxes and reusable lunch containers over the years. Before I share ideas about edibles to actually put in the containers, I thought we should do Lunch Box Reviews. I've found the lack of good, solid comparative information out there to be really disappointing. So I'm doing it myself. The Bottom Line: the LunchBots DUO above is my current pick. Easy to maintain (no darned seams = easy to clean!), super durable, safe to use, easy to open and get right down to business (my kids have, like, no time to eat in school), and just the right size for a sandwich on one side and a fruit or veg on the other with a divider to keep the fruit/veg from mushing up the sandwich. Edited to add: The lunch sacks I use are Built NY standard-size neoprene zip-top sacks. They're insulating, not bulky but very, very roomy, machine-washable, and a LunchBots container fits easily flat on the bottom. Love them.
Now, on to the insanity.
Over the years, I've tried bento boxes sent directly from Japan (amazingly fast, too!), Ziploc plastic containers, Tupperware, LunchSkins, Americanized bento-style boxes, you name it. I've logged many hours browsing online (inconclusive!), spent way too much cash in The Container Store (mostly a bust), and tried banging my head against the wall (surprisingly helpful). Many of these containers and boxes seemed to be the answer, at least for a few minutes. The best of them worked great —right up until that dreadful moment when I had to clean them. I had come to dread everything having to do with school/work lunch, while feeling singlehandedly responsible for both saving the environment (nothing disposable!) and keeping my children from obviously certain and tragically untimely death (no BPA!). The cloth-style containers (like LunchSkins) harbor crumbs everywhere, and the multi-compartment plastic containers (like Laptop Lunches) are just too hard to clean for me. If you have any of the containers I have rejected, keep on keepin' on! This is simply my unvarnished, unsponsored opinion based upon my personal experience.
Generally, I really like the Lunch Bots products (I have bought them online from amazon.com and directly from lunchbots.com—I have no real preference). I really prefer the DUO (top photo) to the UNO (just above) for the simple fact that it's nice to be able to quarantine something like chips or vegetables or fruit from the Main Event (a.k.a. the sandwich). But still, I'd take the Lunch Bots UNO over anything else I have tried. Have I mentioned how easy their products are to clean? The main thing is: The Containers Don't Have Seams!! I need to be able to wash these babies by hand, since even with all the cooking and baking I do, I don't run the dishwasher every day and I'm not planning to buy 10 lunch containers to last me a whole week of lunches. The fact that you can put the plastic containers in the dishwasher is almost useless to me. Which brings me to …
Rubbermaid's LunchBlox containers. They're BPA free, reasonably priced, roomy, and easy to find at Target and other similar big box stores (and even some larger grocery stores). But they have come to represent everything that had me dreading everything to do with school lunch for my kids (and work lunch for my husband) in the first place.
There are too many seams. That means there are tons of places for crumbs to hide, and drying them is like drying a food processor (and you know how I love that)—every single day. Plus, all the containers snap together to create nifty little blocks (or “blox”), but they have to line up just right or you just think they'll hold—but they won't. If I didn't already have a very favorable opinion of Rubbermaid as a company (they have fab-u-lous customer service, and stand behind all of their products), I would think they were trying to drive us mad.
Again, these are my personal opinions. I purchased all of these products (and many, many more) with my own money, and wasted a ton of it in the name of the thoroughly unscientific research of which I have grown quite fond. Feel free to share your lunch box reviews in the comments, but let's keep it light, okay? It's just lunch!
P.S. The gluten free Ciabatta Bread in the second and third pictures above is the second recipe in Chapter 6 of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread. Nice, right? The wrap in the top photo is the Soft Gluten Free Wraps from the other day.