This school year will be the first that I officially join the glamorous club of lunchbox-packing moms. And I’m not gonna lie: while I’ve prepared a thousand toddler hot lunches and packed a thousand toddler snackboxes — which is something I actually really enjoy…like, enough that I regularly document it on Instagram — as soon and we entered into official lunchbox territory, I got a wee bit intimidated. Because, in addition to wanting to send my kiddo to school with a truly enviable packed lunch, I also want to send her to school with gear that doesn’t leak applesauce left and right and spooge ranch dressing into compartments where it doesn’t belong. (No one likes a ranchy PB&J, let alone kiddos for whom the world’s greatest crime is the Mingling of Food Groups.)
So here I am, on the hunt for a lunchbox that’ll instantly put me into the cool mom’s club while simultaneously inviting my kiddo to sit still long enough to put down a midday meal that counts. For the styles of lunches we will most likely be packing (a variety of leftovers, maybe an occasional sandwich, fresh fruit + veggies and, as much as I hate to admit it, pantry snacks), we’ve narrowed down our hunt to a bento-style lunchbox with leakproof properties — and, guys, we’re looking at six solid contenders. (For posterity’s sake, I also consulted the TME team, who offered their feedback on the models they’ve used and loved where applicable.)
Oh, and just in case you’re in Camp Procrastination right along with me, all but one of the products below are available with Prime Shipping. #addtocart, baby.
Back-To-School Kids’ Lunch Ideas: Bento Boxes
1 // Yumbox ($29-$32)
The Yumbox seems to be a big winner amongst TME mommas, and I know why. While we haven’t had to pack formal lunches up until now, we’ve used the Yumbox MiniSnack nearly daily for almost three years. (It stars in loads of my snackbox stories on IG — we are clearly pretty smitten.) I love that the construction is two simple pieces — an insert and a cover — that are relatively easy to wash. They are, in fact, dishwasher safe, but hand washing is recommended to prolong the life of the seals. (We throw ours in the dishwasher about once a week.) Liquidy stuff stays where it should, and the lunch-sized boxes come with several differently-configured inserts, so if you pack a sandwich daily, there’s an insert for that, or if you’re more into a snack lunch with multiple compartments, there’s an option for that, too. S has one each of both this style and this style for her boys, and she says they worked great until 5th grade when the box couldn’t quite keep up with Raines’ appetite. (Note: there is now a larger “Tapas” version that’s aimed more at teens and adults.) Laura also uses the Yumbox for Sienna and just added a sandwich insert for more variety.
2 // OmieBox ($39.50)
Another box that we’re super familiar with and that received accolades from the TME team is the Omiebox. Full disclosure, the brand sent me one of these to check out a while back, and we’ve gotten some serious mileage out of it. This is the lunchbox we pack most frequently for long days at the playground or trips to the zoo simply because the capacity is so generous. Its signature attribute is the thermos component, which can be used to keep hot food hot or cool food cool — or removed entirely to open up a larger compartment that accommodates a sandwich. The seals between the compartments are pretty legit (though we’ve never fully tested it with yogurt or dressing) — and it breaks down pretty comprehensively for super-thorough cleaning. (I don’t know if I would fully remove and clean the gasket daily, but it’s good to know you can.) The only downside of this lunchbox, perhaps, in my opinion, is that it’s heavy — BUT it’s also robust as hell. They also just released a nifty little silicone utensil holder that allows you to keep your utensils outside of the box, freeing up more room for food inside.
Lex also gives the following full review:
“We love the OmieLife lunchbox. I discovered it when Goose was heading to kindergarten. I love that it’s family-owned, and doesn’t encourage disposable packaging. AND, when I ruined it — I can’t even tell you how, b/c it was such an imperfect combination of errors, you wouldn’t be able to replicate them — Goose wanted the exact same lunchbox as a replacement (we did get a different color). I pack her entree in the large part (either leftovers in the thermos — including soup, which doesn’t spill —, or Sunbutter crackers and protein balls or a granola bar), and then fill the rest with a mix of 4 different fruits & veggies (I use silicone cupcake holders to keep them organized). There’s enough space in between the silicone holders for a little Babybel cheese, a Hershey’s Kiss or some other bonus, plus her utensils. We’ll be using it for the third year now (second grade), and I can’t imagine having to find something else once she outgrows it (reviews say it’s great for littles, and the amount of food is still satisfying for her).” PS — yes, you should wash those gaskets regularly, if not daily….I learned the hard way #blackmoldanyone
3 // Bentgo Kids ($28-$39)
I am totally digging the colors on this Bentgo Kids box — it’s bright and fun, and much like the other boxes mentioned, it also seals between compartments, so in theory it passes the raunchy ranch test. (Julieta actually mentioned that she has this box for her boys, and she loves the sealed compartment, so I will take that as her endorsement of its functionality!) Linzi used this box when her kiddos were in preschool (the site says that it’s aimed for kids ages 3-7, but the company also makes a larger option that kiddos could grow into if you end up loving the format of the kid version and want to stay with the brand) — and, perhaps best of all, Linzi also noted how much she loved that it’s a single piece that goes into the dishwasher. Reviewers also love the 2-year warranty, which customer service seems to honor without much question in (rare) instances of damage, etc.
4 // Bentology (starts at $12.99)
The Bentology system is the lunchbox that Linzi ‘upgraded’ to when the portions on the Bentgo Kids box became too small. (Says Linzi: “It holds more food and I like having the flexibility of different containers that fit in the box, but still the bento idea where they can see all the different foods at once.”) I’m honestly intrigued by the fact that it’s decidedly less expensive than most of the deluxe, bento-themed lunchbox options out there — but at the same time, you can see why, even at a glance. The construction isn’t quite as highly engineered as some of the other options, and I wonder a little if all the parts and pieces won’t contribute to more cupboard clutter, but I do like the idea that you’re not locked into a specific configuration of compartments. Seems like a solid value option.
5 // East World Bento Box (starts at $15.99)
We don’t have a team member to attest to the quality of the East World Bento Box, but the reviews are pretty outstanding. I’m intrigued by the clear lid (I think Lana would love seeing exactly what she’s getting — and it also gives a glimpse into whether or not there are items inside that could spill, in case she’d be more encouraged to open it carefully/on a flat surface? maybe that’s wishful thinking…). Rumor has it the seals are solid. And the price seems really right. In fact, for less than the price of many of the other options, you can buy the whole system that includes not only the lunchbox but also an insulated lunch bag, an ice pack and utensils.
6 // PlanetBox Rover ($55.95)
OK guys, this is the only one that’s not currently available on Amazon, but S swears by it. After her kiddos outgrew their Yumboxes, she moved up to the PlanetBox Rover and says, “It’s freaking amazing. SO much easier to clean, and holds a ton of stuff. Not leakproof, unless you use the little containers inside…so we ordered extra of those.” Personally, the not-leakproof thing kinda gets me, only because for the price, I don’t want to have to pay for extra little containers. But if you’re not planning to pack up drippy/saucy/juicy lunch items with some frequency, it seems like a solid contender. Well-constructed, stainless steel (yay, no plastic!) and the decorative magnets are super-cool.
Shop All The Kid-Friendly Bento Boxes In This Post
I think in the end I’m most tempted to go with the larger size Yumbox, just because I’m so familiar with the design and the washing/handling instructions thanks to our experience with the MiniSnack. And, since we already own the Omie, I’m sure that will make an appearance, too, especially when a hot lunch (soup, pasta) is on request. Still curious about that East World option, though, so if anyone out there has used one and has feedback to share, I’m all ears!
And, of course, if there are other kid-friendly, bento-style options you use and love, drop ’em in the comments. 🙂
Wish me luck with this whole lunch-packing thing, mamas!
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