We’re in our last month of summer vacation, and it’s time to think about the latest and greatest lunchboxes on the market. We have used the same lunchboxes and containers for the last several years, but finally, with all of the reports about BPA-free products now containing chemicals that are even worse than BPA, I want to avoid plastic altogether. It’s not that BPA-free is bad, it’s that in order to make products BPA-safe, companies are now using other toxic materials that are just as bad or even worse than BPA since they are still low on the radar and not yet being tested. Refer to these articles for more information:
A new study has revealed that the chemicals replacing BPA in most of our plastics are just as bad or worse for us than BPA itself – and all of them are especially dangerous for children. Stop letting companies replace one toxic chemical with another.
These specific lines in the last article resonated the most with me:
Don’t be lulled into complacency over BPA-free water bottles and sippy cups. Plastic is not good for you or the environment. Don’t buy plastic bottled water. Don’t feed your children out of plastic containers.
It doesn’t get clearer than that. The last month has put me on a mission to find containers that meet mine and my children’s needs:
- no plastic containers or lids – As a result of this, I’ve had to become okay with containers that aren’t 100% leak-proof, which leads to more spills, but at least the toxic plastic leaching into their food is no longer an issue.
- stainless steel/lightweight – This is so much more lightweight than glass, although I prefer glass any day. The problem is the weight and the fact that it does break every now and then with a heavy throw of the backpack to the ground.
- easy to open and close for big and little fingers
- individual containers of differing sizes – This is the one requirement of my children. They do not have time to sit down, open a lunch box, eat from it, then property close it and put it away and still have time to play during recess or lunch. Instead, they want quick, easily accessible, separate containers that they can quickly pull out, snack from, and throw back in their bags. Sadly, this also leads to lost containers, so I write their names on the bottoms and lids from the start and make each child responsible for knowing exactly where their containers are at the end of the day.
- one large compartment that has the option of staying big or breaking down into two smaller compartments, depending on the food, i.e. lots of pasta, a couple of enchiladas, or a just a half sandwich
- not cheap – I identify cheap products found at the dollar store with having no rules or regulations, so even if it’s stainless steel, I still want it to be top quality and from a reputable company, not a no-name cheap brand.
- 4 stars or more on Amazon – Let’s be real, I don’t want to get stuck with a product that other people don’t love, too
My search led me to a variety of products that I like, but not all of them met my requirements:
Kids Konserve mini containers, large containers, and nesting containers – leakproof, but they have the plastic lids I’m trying to avoid 😦
LunchBots Uno, Duo, or Trio – there is no secure way to lock the lid and make sure it stays in place through the day, and there isn’t much flexibility with the divisions of the containers
ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One – compartments aren’t small enough for snacking foods that kids can quickly grab and eat during recess or lunch. Instead, they need to take apart a stacking, interlocking system. Probably great for the office, but not great for busy kids
ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One – I adore these, but the lids are plastic, and that defeats the purpose of a glass container when plastic is part of it. I’d rather use small canning jars with metal lids and rings if I’m going to use glass.
Lifefactory Glass Food Storage in 8 oz, 16 oz – LOVE! But, these are way too heavy and way too big for any of my kids to take to school for lunch. I do love the rubber coating that protects the glass from breaking. The lids interlock with plastic that lays on the outside of the glass, but it is a very small buttonhole closure that would also be difficult for kids to latch back together. It does concern me that the latch might break easily. These are perfect for me at work!
Stainless Steel Containers from Daiso, the Japanese Dollar Store – this fits the cheap bill. And I have no idea what the standards are in Japan for making products, so I find it hard to believe that a cheap product that my kids will be eating food out of is actually top quality.
Tiffin Boxes 3 Tier Food Containers – These are sold at Indian grocery stores and on Amazon. My mother in law uses these often to transport foods, and I find them a little clunky and inconvenient. All three stack together, so there is only one lid, and the bottom of the container that stacks above it acts as the lid for the bottom two containers. I can only imagine the mess my kids would come home with.
Planetbox – I love almost everything about the Planetbox, but the lid does not seal completely, and the lunchbox it comes in puts the Planetbox on its side when you carry it, so everything falls to the bottom. We tried this for a month, but it did not fit our requirements because it was big and clunky to wash and it does not have separate compartments. This is probably a great system for kids who are in Kindergarten or younger who sit down and eat their entire lunch with friends before moving on.
Laptop Lunches Bento Box – I am throwing this in here because this is what I’ve used for the past five years for my kids. When all the reviews about BPA came out, I was so proud we were still using BPA-free plastic. But now I do not even want to touch plastic, so I finally threw them all out. I did have a love affair with Laptop Lunches, though. I loved that the Upright Carrying Case allowed the bento box to sit on the bottom, and the handles were at the top for carrying, plus I could put an extra thermos or drink or extra snacks for a long day in the top zippered compartment. I loved the little tiny dipping containers and that all the containers were interchangeable and could be used with lids. My kids eventually did not like that they had to open the lunchbox to eat, so we did outgrow it at the same time I decided to go plastic-free. But I really did love this system, and it was so durable and long lasting.
Sooo, after all of that, which product did we decide on? This is what we use:
PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag – Keeps food cold all day long during this summer heat, then we pop it in the freezer at night to get it ready for the next day. No messing around with frozen or defrosting ice packs
To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Snack Containers – They seal well enough (not for liquids), and the proportions are perfect. The big kids get two of the Large Sidekick and my little guy gets two of the Small Sidekick. They are easy to open, yet still lock securely with a seal lined in the perimeter of the lid.
ECO Lunchbox Oval Stainless Steel Food Container – This is the versatility I needed. I can put a couple of enchiladas in here, a few tacos, a couple of sandwiches for a long day, a big salad, or pasta with veggies. Or, I can add the smaller stainless steel container inside of it to separate the foods if I have smaller proportions such as a half sandwich and veggies. I do not like that the smaller container has a plastic lid, but I usually leave the lid off, and the top seals decently enough with the large container’s lid. This container is large enough to hold a sizable amount of food, but small enough to sit upright in the PackIt Lunch Bag, so food doesn’t slosh around. It also has a locking lid that all of my kids can easily use, so it securely fits into place on top of the large container.
Whew, that was a lot of research and a lot of information! Which lunch boxes and containers are your favorites, and why? Please share in the comments below, or email me photos of your favorites.
Happy, healthy, and SAFE eating!