A new lunchbox is one of the more fun back-to-school purchases you can make, and a cool one can be a bright spot in your child's day.
These days, there are loads of choices, some simple, some with lots of bells and whistles.
"There are so many more options for insulation than there were even a few years ago, which means parents have a lot more possibilities for what they can pack," says Cori Snyder Schuman, founder of the Family Food Fest event. "Since my daughter doesn't eat sandwiches, and prefers hot food, this has made my life much easier."
Lisa Freedman, lifestyle director at thekitchn.com, says lunchboxes "have so many smart features these days — like walls packed with gel that stays cool for hours, special compartments that are truly leakproof, expandable sections and more."
From bags to boxes, from high tech to organic fabric, you and your child will have fun exploring the options.
Just some of the latest from lunchbox designers:
1. Vaya Life Tyffyn Lunchbox
These are sleek little numbers with many different looks; an ombre pink finish, a flower-studded Bloom version, or whimsical unicorns prancing all around, to name a few. Each vacuum-insulated lunchbox has metal inner walls and two containers that keep warm food warm and cold food cold. (You do have to pick a lane — both containers need to be working on warm or cold together.) There is an insert to separate foods within the containers. The whole thing snaps closed with metal latches to prevent leakage, and will keep your food at the desired and safe temperature for several hours. The inner containers are dishwasher safe. And each one comes with a colorful insulated bag mat which acts as a wipe-able placemat. A cute way to send your kid to school with a hot lunch.
2. Takenaka Bento Boxes
This Japanese line of boxes has sleek, clean lines and a bright array of colors from which to choose. They come in a variety of shapes, including round and rectangular. Some have dividers to keep foods separate, some have clip locks, and some have a thick elastic band to keep the container closed. The bottoms are microwavable and they are all dishwasher-safe. A modern and simple choice for younger and older kids.
This chunky square container in bright primary colors is an insulated, leak-proof bento box designed especially for younger kids. It has two temperature zones to keep foods hot or cold. The hot-food insert has a clever, screwable lid with a handle designed for little hands, though if you want to remove the insert you can. The OmieBox itself is not heatable or freezable.
4. Planet Box
Planet Box comes in three sizes: small (Shuttle), medium (Rover) and large (Launch). Each industrial-looking metal box has several compartments inside and one or two "Dippers" — inserts designed to contain wet foods without leakage (a dip for carrots for instance, or some orange slices). Decorative magnets are available so your kid can customize the lunchbox. Once you've chosen your box, you then select a carrying bag from an array of color and pattern choices. Lots of mix and match combos. Cold foods only.
Built makes many lunch-toting options. There are cute lunch backpacks for little kids; bento boxes with three compartments, silverware and small containers for dressings; a prime lunch bag with stacked zippered insulated compartments; machine-washable flower lunch totes; an insulated lunch bag with freezable gel inserts that converts in size; and insulated thermoses. Patterns, florals, solids, glass, BPA-free plastic — there are tons of choices.
6. Bento Heaven
These compact, rectangular boxes are leak-proof, microwave-, freezer- and dishwasher-safe, and come with their own cutlery in a little top compartment — knife, spoon and fork, plus chopsticks. The design is simple, appealing to older children, with bamboo accents and a choice of white or black. Plus, the website offers sweet, printable little "cheer up notes" to pack along with the food to perk up your teen's lunch.
These 100% organic cotton canvas bags are adorable and modern-feeling at the same time. Machine-washable, with a tested food-safe lining, they come in a variety of sizes and styles. Offerings include the zip lunch bag with an interior pocket for an ice pack or water bottle; a little snack pack/sandwich bag; or a tote that simply states "Lunch," or "Girl Power," or a picture of a cool shark.