School has been in session for about 3 weeks now here in Western Washington. Oliver, my youngest started Montessori school. Archie and Sean started 1st grade. Neither school has a lunchroom set up, and we are required to pack lunch every day. Yep every day. Our challenge this year was to get a lunch box that would fit reasonably in the mini-fridge for the Montessori school. I also liked the idea of a bento style box to move away from all the little plastic baggies that seemed to be a waste.
I would use 5 plastic baggies per lunch last year, between sandwich, veggie, fruit, cheese, snack etc. To save on money, I would buy bulk and parse out to lunch sized portions. Now, with 3 lunches to pack, I could see myself wasting the money saved buying in bulk on little plastic baggies. My hidden granola hippie child was screaming in pain.
So, I started researching and asking around about the best, most cost effective bento boxes. I saw some really great ones for $30+ each. I needed at least 6 considering I don’t run the dishwasher everyday. Waaay out of my price budget. And, I saw some really fragile, but inexpensive ones. Then, I went shopping at Wal-Mart for school supplies and found these. These boxes are perfect. So perfect, I only found 1. So, I ordered the rest for $9/ set on Amazon. (Score!) I even bought enough so I could take some to work!
What I like about these boxes is that there is room on the bottom for a sandwich, a yogurt and a veggie. Up above in the little boxes I put an extra snack like trail mix or fish crackers and some sort of fruit. In my lunches, the bottom is full of lettuce, and a small amount of dressing. Up top, I have chopped veggies, like peppers, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and then a later afternoon snack like almonds or cut fruit. There is plenty of room for the anything you want, and it helps me keep my portions on track. Because you can configure the box(s) with the ice pack or not, you can make sure it fits for whatever you are packing that day. The boxes are sturdy and include the icepack to keep things cool.
The only thing about these boxes is to make sure you keep them on the top shelf of the dishwasher. The heat, if on the bottom, will warp the container. I had one of my boxes wedged in the top rack, but the heat bent the side a bit. The lid still closes, so its okay. Also, I haven’t tried to keep any big liquid type items in the little boxes, but my sense is they are not leak-proof. So I would put any soups or loose yogurt in separate containers and nestle them in the large section of the box.
All in all, we really enjoy using our new lunch boxes. They are versatile, sturdy, dish washer washable and have room for everything that we pack. Best of all, they are decently priced!