A couple of years ago, I decided to make our lunches a little less wasteful and more environmentally friendly. We had lunch boxes, but we usually bagged everything into plastic baggies that were thrown away. They also brought individual juice boxes.
I wish I could say that this was all because I am so environmentally conscious, but I think I was motivated as much by saving money. Nice Ziploc baggies and individual 100% juice boxes are pricey.
Of course, I was also inspired by lunches like this (courtesy of Bentolunch.net):
Part of me hoped that "if I bought the container, the cool lunches would come." Sadly, it doesn't work like that :). However, I figured that at least I can be more thrifty and environmentally conscious, right?
I set my parameters--my ideal lunch box system would be: inexpensive, versatile, sturdy and flexible.
Since I have four kids who needed lunchboxes and and I wasn't sure what I would end up liking, I bought the following systems:
1. For Sophie, I bought the Fit and Fresh lunch box (similar to the one below). The one I bought came with an insulated bag (we kind of bought it for the bag, since it had peace signs--Sophie's favorite--all over it). It cost approximately $8 at Marshalls.
2. I bought The Easy Lunchbox containers and two Easy Lunchbox black insulated bags for Brendan and Damon. They were approximately $13 for four containers and lids, and about $8 more for each insulated bag.
3. I splurged and bought the Go Green Lunch Box for Lukas. It was the most pricey of all the lunch boxes at $33 plus shipping, but it did include a nice stainless water bottle, and some other cool features, like leak-proof, silicone sealed compartments and a whiteboard message board inside the bag.
Shockingly, all of the lunch boxes survived the whole year. Either my kids are becoming more responsible, or they actually took all my steely-eyed warnings to not lose their lunch boxes seriously for a change :).
The most important question is, which lunch system did I like best?
I think the short answer is: the Easy Lunchboxes. They were cheap, surprisingly durable and their shape allowed me to pack either a sandwich or a main course/leftover meal with equal ease. The other compartments were reserved for veggies/fruit and a treat. I also bought Rubbermaid's reusable juice boxes from The Container Store so the kids could have drinks from home.
However, there are some things to add.
I loved the Go Green lunch box's design that allowed for a leak-proof seal. Unfortunately, it was hard for Lukas to seal it properly on his own. There are four flaps around the sides that have to be closed, and then a center knob that has to be turned for the thing to be leak-proof. Lukas almost never managed to close all four flaps on his own, so this negated the whole leak-proof advantage. The message board was really cool, though. Also, there is more space than any school-age kid really needs in the Go Green lunch box. I think this would be great for an adult's lunch box, though--since they would be eating more and be capable of closing the lunch box properly.
Sophie liked her "Fit and Fresh" container. We augmented it with a sandwich container from the Dollar Spot at Target, or a Lock & Lock or other plastic food storage container for a salad or main dish. It worked well, but it was kind of fiddly to have to look for so many pieces every day.
Anyway, I hope my trial and error can help someone else who is trying to find the "perfect" lunchbox system. Happy lunching!