Lunch boxes are far from a new concept. I used to have a My Little Pony metal box back in grade school, then brown bagged them later in middle and high school. Now having my own family, we’ve rarely been in the position where we’ve had to worry much about pre-packed lunches. The kids would get hot lunches at school, I work from home and the husband’s work schedule used to allow him to pop home and grab lunch. That changed in March when he got a new job.
After seeing day after day of fast food purchases during his lunch breaks I knew we had to do something… we’re used to eating homemade food, and packing our own was bound to be cheaper. A former co-worker of mine is big into bento boxes, so I figured I’d check those out (after swearing to hubby that I would not make cutesy faces on things). We came up with a few solutions and various accessories, which fit various levels of needs!
The Lunch Boxes
- Bentgo Stackable Bento Box: (top-left) This double-decker box is held together by the strap going around it. Compared to the black Skater box, it has considerably more storage space for food. I’ve used it for a one-day road trip to carry various snacks (fruit, crackers, etc), but for lunches it’s the least-used of the three types we have. It’s great for bulkier things like sandwiches or some leftovers, but overall there’s too much space to fill, which can equal cramming too many unnecessary calories into your lunch. If you do road trips though, I definitely recommend getting this! One other plus of this box is that it comes with a three-piece bento-sized reusable plastic utensil set, which can be stored between the two tiers.
- Skater Modern+ Bento Box: (top-right) This box I use often for hubby’s lunches. It has two inside compartments that can be removed individually (remove the bigger one to fit a sandwich, or maybe the smaller for a filet) and comes with chopsticks, which have their own enclosure on the top center of the lid. It closes very tightly, though I wouldn’t recommend putting loose liquids in it (that’s what accessories are for, right?!). We’re very, very happy with this box.
- Easy Lunchboxes: (bottom-left) Despite how much I like the Skater box, if I had bought these first, I likely would not have purchased the other two at all. Not only are Easy Lunchboxes very affordable (you get four for around $14), dishwasher safe and stackable (when storing them empty, take the lids off–it’ll use up less room!), they also have the perfect amount of space for nearly every lunch we’ve put in them so far. The only thing that might make these better would be if they had come with a set of bento-sized utensils. In the bottom-right picture above you can see two of them in use, stacked, on a refrigerator shelf, and the top-most picture shows how a couple of lunches fit in the boxes!
- Freshware 12-Pack Mini Square Silicone Reusable Baking Cup (red & black, pictured above, bottom left): 12 mini baking cups will last you a long time (full-sized ones will likely be too big – make sure they’re minis). These are great for holding a multitude of smaller food items that don’t need to have a lid. I’ve used them for strawberries, orange slices, crackers, pretzels, berries, grapes and much more. If you’re looking for more variety in color, there’s a round Kitchen Supply Mini Muffin 12-Pack as well.
- Easy Lunchboxes Leak-Resistant “Mini Dippers” (containers w/ lids, pictured above, top left and center): You get 8 of these containers which are good for holding thicker liquids (puddings, yogurt), fruits, veggies, condiments or whatever else you feel like putting in them. They hold a total of 2.5 fl ozs. As you can see above, I also use a few of them for storing a couple other accessories such as…
- Colorful Pop Dot Food Picks (pictured above, bottom center): I had no idea how difficult it’d be to find plain, reusable food picks until I looked for them. After quite a bit of searching I finally came across a 48 pack of Pop Dot Food Picks. I’ve mostly used them for ham or cheese rolls thus far, but they do the job and do it well for a reasonable quantity and price. There are many types, like these typical animal bento picks.
- Tiny Sauce Container Bottles (pictured above, right-hand side): These 12cc capacity bottles are great for holding thin dressings, such as raspberry vinaigrette or Italian, as well as soy sauce and more. They easily nestle into your box and will become a quick lunchbox staple. If you’re not into the square/pig shapes, there’s also a bottle/fish pack.
- Bentgo Sauce Containers (pictured below, top-left side): I have a love-hate relationship with these leak-resistant containers. They’re a wonderful size, but sometimes the lids just will not stay closed well, so I ensure that they’re standing upright in the box when filled. I use them for thicker liquids like syrup, ketchup or some dressings, but if I had to do it again I’d probably not buy these and just stick with the Easy Lunchbox Mini Dippers and the Sauce Containers. They hold 1.35 ozs of liquid.
- Monbento Stainless Steel Bento Silverware (pictured below): This silverware pack is pricey but is worth it if you find yourself needing utensils often. They are made well and come with their own container. If you’re only interested in a fork and spoon there’s a Laptop Lunches pack, but considering the price difference between the two is only ~$4, I’d still recommend the Monbento set so you get a knife plus the container, as well as a variety of colors to choose from.
- Bentgo Cup (not pictured): This container is leak-proof and holds 12 ozs of liquids. Use it for soups, juices and more. The only downside is that its size will not fit into any bento box, so that’s where the final item comes in handy…
- Bentgo Insulated Lunch Bag (not pictured): This lunch bag will fit your bento box (it’s designed for the big two-tiered Bentgo one), a soup cup or beverage, and an ice pack. It’s quite roomy so if you have more than just a box to take with you, I definitely recommend picking up one.
We all like different foods, so maybe our style isn’t yours, but here’s some of the lunches we’ve done during April and May.
- A: Mini Banana Pancakes w/ syrup, raisins, crackers, piroulines, grapes, strawberries and raspberries
- B: Chicken w/ sauce dip on a bed of spinach, local cherry-flavored beef jerky, local dried cherry berry mix, baby carrots w/ lite ranch dressing, crackers and a chocolate mint
- C: Chicken w/ sauce dip on a bed of spinach, pretzels, block cheese, green beans and raisins
- D: Pork on a bed of spinach, crackers, cherry tomatoes, strawberries and some leftover mostacholli
- A & B: Cheese “rolls” (they didn’t roll well!) on a bed of spinach with a tomato, leftover broccoli chicken divan, pretzels, dried cherry berry mix, dressing
- C: Chicken with carrots on a bed of spinach, strawberries, apple chips, a couple of fig newtons, a few tortilla chips and Schwan’s Five Grain Rice Pilaf (which is awesome)
- D: Hard Boiled Egg, Pancake Bites, spinach and baby carrots w/ dressing, pepperjack block cheese, apple chips, blueberries and a fig newton
- E: (left) Five Grain Rice Pilaf w/ chopped radishes, sauteed yellow peppers and green onions, cherry berry mix, turkey rolls on a bed of spinach w/ dressing, orange slices
- E: (right) Ham and Cheese Rolls, sauteed pepper and onion mix, hot sauce, crackers, radishes and spinach w/ dressing, cherry berry mix
- F: (left) Sandwich, apple chips, crackers, sauteed peppers and onions, grapes, nut mix, baby carrots, block cheese and chocolate mint
- F: (right) Sandwich, grapes, hard boiled egg, fig newton
- G: Leftover cheeseburger macaroni, green beans and grapes
- H: Alaskan Salmon on a bed of penne pasta, green beans, piroulines, radish slices and a butter mint
- I: Leftover veggie lasagna, raisins and pepperjack block cheese
- J: Philly Beef Steak w/ penne pasta, a bit of leftover Garlic Chicken Flatbread Pizza, and both mozzarella and colby jack block cheese
- This was one of my 9yo daughter’s lunches on a field trip day… she choose a buttered Hawaiian roll, apple chips, cucumbers, pickles and some fruit. We added the cliff bar in because we were worried she didn’t have enough calories in it!
- Salmon and penne, radish slices, grapes, apple chips, crackers and a butter mint
- Pork with Mediterranean blend veggies and parsnips, apple chips, crackers
- Chicken quesadillas on a bed of spring lettuce blend w/ dressing, a mix of green onion, tomatoes and radishes, and a small mix of raisins, apple-cinnamon flavored rice cakes and reeses pieces
- Pizza quesadillas, leftover chef salad, and green onions
- Teriyaki-flavored chicken and rice (not sure why it was placed like that, maybe to show the rice in the pic?), grapes and crackers
- Ham Rolls (with a how-to in the bottom center pic), lime tortilla chips, lite french onion dip, cherry tomatoes and watermelon
- Turkey, Bacon and Green Onion sandwich with lite mayo, green onion and cherry tomato mix, and watermelon
If you’re looking to get into lunch/bento boxes I hope this has been some help! After we get another collection of pictures I’ll share those as well. 🙂