Pretty much the only thing that gives me more anxiety than trying to figure out dinner at 5pm on a weeknight is contemplating what lunch I'm going to send my kids to school with the next day. With the prospect of over 300 lunches that need to be made just this school year alone, I'm glad that I at least don't have to worry about how their lunch will make it to their lunch tables. Enter, the ubiquitous bento box. Here are some of my favorites:
1. It took me a looooooong time to commit to the PlanetBox Rover Lunchbox since it really is very pricey but now it is my favorite of all the ones we've used. Almost everything about this container is awesome: stainless steel construction IN the United States; separate compartments for perfectly portioned meals; fun magnets to customize; dipper containers that are EASY for little fingers to open, yet keep sauces and yogurts from leaking; easy lunch box to dishwasher transfer; the carrying case holds a water bottle up to 3" wide (for all you Camelback users). In fact, the ONLY thing I don't like about this container is that once you add in all the food and the drink, it's quite heavy.
2. The Leaflet Tight 650ml Bento Box is my go-to Bento Box for my youngest. It is easy enough for an 18 month old to open; comes with separate compartments; fits 6 silicone baking cups in it perfectly if you want smaller portions, and it is quite sturdy. We've had two for the last two years and they're just as good as new. Bonus: it sits flat perfectly into this Originals Good Lunch Sack so your toddler can carry their lunch without making a mess. If only it weren't plastic, it could be the perfect box.
3. When my kids were young toddlers, we used the Dr. Sears Nibble Tray. The compartments are perfect for small servings of a variety of options which is great for kids who are just getting into feeding themselves. Bonus: the detachable sauce container is freezable for keeping things cold.
4. The Easy Lunchboxes 3-compartment bento box is inexpensive and sturdy. The three containers are perfect for a sandwich and two sides or you can use silicone baking cups to separate the sections even further. Though the box itself is not leak proof, I've heard you can use Gladwrap Press and Seal for juicy fruits to keep them from leaking onto your crackers.
5. Lastly, though I've never used one, Laptop Lunchboxes have a huge following. The various container sizes allow for endless configurations and are easy for little fingers to manage. The only con aside from all of the plastic is having to corral all of those container pieces in your dishwasher every night.
As you can see, I've invested in wide variety of bento boxes as my children have aged through various developmental stages and I can honestly say that while initially intimidating (panda shaped rice, anyone?) bento box lunch packing can actually inspire you to pack (and your kids to eat) a wider variety of nutritious foods. At the cafeteria table of life, the carefully (or even semi-carelessly) packed bento box beats out the Lunchable kit, every time.