If you’ve been reading this blog for anything length of time, you may have picked up on the fact that I’m a bit of a lunchbox freak.
No really — it’s true!
I’ve met very few lunchboxes that I haven’t wanted to fill up with tofu, strawberries and a whole wheat roll, so when the folks at OOTS! contacted me to see if I wanted to try out their Deluxe Lunchbox system, you can be sure I jumped at the chance.
The OOTS! Lunchbox is a hard-sided box with a removable, semi-transparent lid on the top. The version we got was bright green with a purple strap. The lid of the Lunchbox is shaped to keep a water bottle in place under an elastic strap. The deluxe version comes with five inner containers — one big and four small. It’s made of BPA-free and phthalate-free polypropylene plastic and safety tested for lead. I washed the inner containers in the dishwasher several times and they didn’t warp. The company says that the inner containers are microwave safe too, but I haven’t tried that so I’ll just take their word for it.
The first thing you need to know is that if you filled up all five of the boxes this set comes with, you will be sending WAY too much food to school for your average kid, especially if you’re only sending him off with lunch. I found that using three of the the boxes — the big box for lunch and the two little ones for snacks — was just right.
I left out the remaining two boxes and that worked pretty well because it gave me a little extra space at the top of the box to pack a drink. It also gave me room for a couple of ice packs — one on top of everything and another sandwiched in the middle of the stack of boxes.
You can still fit an ice pack in the box if you use all the containers, but you would need to use one of the thin, gel kinds because there is only about a half inch of clearance between the inner containers and the top of the lid when it’s fully packed.
Another thing to know is that if you are planning to pack your lunch bento-style, this system will present you with a few challenges. The inner containers are almost twice as deep as the bento boxes I normally use which made packing the food tightly enough to keep it from moving around and mixing together difficult. My beloved silicon baking cups only reached about half-way up the sides of the box, so they didn’t work too well as food separators. The handles that are built into the box lids make it easy to lift the inner boxes out of the lunchbox, but they stick down more than half an inch into the containers so I found myself removing food a few times in order to get the lids on tight.
That being said, having so many separate boxes — all with lids — makes it pretty easy to pack a lunch for kids who don’t like their cheese and crackers to touch their blueberries. If I weren’t a crazy bento-addict I think this would be a non-issue.
Another thing that I loved about this lunchbox is that it holds our wide-mouthed Thermos perfectly. You can see by this photo that the Thermos is exactly the same height and diameter as two of the little inner containers stacked on top of each other. I suspect this is a happy coincidence, but they couldn’t have made this a better fit if they tried. This makes the OOTS! Lunchbox even more flexible and useful than it already is.
If you’d like to see more examples of lunches packed using the Oots Lunch Box visit the Oots page on the Bento Box Gallery. (You’ll also find 800 other photos of packed lunches there.)
Some of the things I particularly liked about this product:
- It’s good-looking — This lunchbox looks cool! It’s sleek and stylish enough for an adult to use, but the bright colors of this lunchbox are cheerful and kid-friendly too. Wyatt thought it was awesome and his five-year-old friends did too. True story: one of Wyatt’s buddies saw him using it at lunch time and asked his mom to ask me to show it to her so she could buy one for him.
- It holds a lot of food — You can really pack a lot into this box. I could easily fit lunch for myself and both of my kids into this box so it would be useful for outings to the park or zoo or what have you. An adult could load it up with lunch and snacks for a full day
- It’s flexible — You can pack as many or as few of the inner boxes into it as you like and configure them in a few different ways. And don’t forget that you can slip a thermos into it and still have room for the big container and two little ones.
- It’s easy to clean — I popped the inner containers in the dishwasher and gave the big container a rinse at night and I was all done with clean-up. No hand-washing required!
Some of the things I didn’t particularly like:
- The lids aren’t water-tight — While the lids fit snugly, they are not water-tight. I would not be willing to pack applesauce or yogurt in them — especially for a backpack-swinging kid.
- It’s big — The OOTS! Lunchbox takes up most of the space in my five-year-old’s backpack and because it’s hard-sided you can’t squish it if you need to squeeze a few more things in the bag.
- An ice-pack isn’t included — I’ve noticed that ice-packs are often an after-thought with these big lunchbox sets and this one is no exception. When the box is fully loaded, you can make an ice-pack fit but it needs to be a small one and there isn’t a lot of wiggle room. I would also worry that the cold from a pack — even if you stick it between the inner boxes — wouldn’t keep food items that were farther away from it cool enough to stay safe in a backpack until lunch time. An adult taking this lunchbox to work would probably have access to a refrigerator, but kids rarely have that luxury at school. It would be fantastic if OOTS! would add a custom ice pack to this set to help insure food safety.
- It’s not cheap — The price of the OOTS! Lunchbox Deluxe is $46. It’s beautiful, well-designed, and sturdy and I don’t think that’s a crazy price to pay for a product of this quality. If you add up how much money you save bringing your lunch to work or school instead of buying it, you could quickly justify the cost of this lunchbox…for an adult. But for a kid…I don’t know. I would find it really hard to drop that kind of cash on a lunchbox for a boy who has lost three jackets in as many months. That being said, Wyatt has never lost even a decorative pick from one of his lunches, so maybe I would buy him something like this. I guess it would depend on the kid.
I’ve packed several days worth of lunches in the OOTS! Lunchbox Deluxe and both Wyatt and I have enjoyed the experience of using this cool system. It was easy for me as the lunch-packer and fun for my five-year-old as the lunch-eater. I predict that this lunchbox will be used regularly for quite a long while.
Disclosure: OOTS! sent me an OOTS! Lunchbox Deluxe to test out for this review and I liked it enough to tell you about it.