For as long as I’ve been working in an office, I’ve been packing my own lunch—and for as long as I’ve been packing my own lunch, I’ve been experimenting with containers that sometimes fail to pass the muster for various reasons. Sometimes they aren’t spacious enough for whatever I’m bringing that day; sometimes they don’t seal well; sometimes they are just too ridiculous looking for me to feel like a professional. But all that’s behind me now that I’ve discovered the holy grail of adult lunch containers: the Bento lunchbox.
Just to recap: Bento boxes are a concept of Japanese import. The basic idea is that they’re single-portion containers that segment whatever you’re bringing into their own cute little zones. And while, sure, you could go the unsustainable route and buy a bunch of single-use plastic ones, buying one that’s going to last you awhile is a better decision for your wallet and the Earth.
At this point, I’ve tried a number of these designs, and there are two that have stood out above the rest. The first one is the ECOLunchbox. It’s made from easy-to-clean (though not advisable to microwave) stainless steel, and comes with three containers that stack together to separate your food. The bonus is that they’re terrific for portion control, too, which means that if you bring leftover Mac & Cheese in one of the containers, fill another with raw broccoli, and the last with a scoop of hummus, then you’re going to wind up with a fairly balanced meal without having to give it too much thought. (In fact, that’s how I tend to think of the formula for lunch packing with the ECOLunchbox—carbs, proteins, plus fruits and veggies.) It’s only $32 on Amazon and incredibly compact for carrying along on whatever type of commute you have at 4 inches wide, 5.5 inches long and 2.75 inches high.
While I love the stainless steel version, I’m straight up obsessed with the original BentoHeaven lunch box. It’s ideal for days when you want to bring a little more food along, due to the slightly larger food compartment sizes. It’s leak proof, which anyone who has ever had salad dressing spill in their bag knows is a godsend. It has a built-in place to put silverware, which means that you don’t have to rely on the throwaway plastic stuff in your office kitchen. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s adorable—it looks like a giant sushi roll—and comes in a black or white, both paired with a bamboo design. For some reason, including the $24 price tag, it just makes me feel like a lunch-packing badass.
Of course, there are days when I don’t need the Bento—and for those, I’m particularly fond of these Rubbermaid food storage containers, the middle size of which is perfect for a loaded up salad. (This is also the most cost-effective option at $16 for a 10-piece set.) But they’re all an improvement on the brown paper bag and Ziplocs I used to rely on.
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