NOTE: This post has been completely reviewed and updated — from top to bottom — as of August 2015.
As a lunch box aficionado and…ahem…collector, I am regularly asked to recommend a lunch box to friends, family and readers. While I would love to have a quick, easy answer to give people, I actually have a very hard time answering this question because there are so many variables that determine which box is the best option for any given kid (or adult). How old is the child? What’s her appetite like? Are you only packing lunch or do you need to include food for snack breaks too? Are you OK with plastic or do you prefer to avoid it? What’s the budget? Do you hate managing lots of pieces? I could go on and on…
I decided what was needed was a handy dandy chart that showed all these different variables side by side, so parents could make their own informed decision easily. I knew I couldn’t include all of the dozens of lunch and bento boxes in my collection, so I needed to narrow it down a bit. Here are the criteria I settled on for the boxes I included in my chart:
- Each one is easy to purchase online or from retail stores. I love my imported bento boxes, but I know not everyone has access to those.
- Each one is divided into 3 or more sections. Many children are not interested in different foods touching and many parents are not interested in dealing with silicone cups and decorative baran.
- My kids and I like them. There is not a single stinker in this bunch. I’ve only included boxes that I reach for repeatedly and that my kids like. These boxes have all been used dozens — if not hundreds — of times and are all still in great shape.
(This post contains affiliate links.)
Ready? Here we go!
|Bentology (formerly Laptop Lunches)
|PlanetBox Rover Complete
|Price||$13.95 for a set of 4 boxes||$19.99||$21.99||$49.99||$29.99||$28.00|
|Color||3 color options available — Classic, Brights, and Urban||6 color combinations||Stainless; colored, snap-on lids also available in 9 colors for an additional $1.||Stainless; decorative magnets in choice of 29 designs included||6 color options; dozens of decorative faceplates available||6 colors|
|Dimensions||9.4 x 6.1 x 2 inches||9 x 7 x 2.25 inches||6 x 5 x 1.75 inches||10 × 7 × 1.5 inches||9.8 x 6.9 x 3.5 inches||8.5 x 6.5 x 1.8 inches|
|Weight (empty)||4.5 ounces||14 ounces||9.6 ounces||20 ounces||20.8 ounces||17.5 ounces|
|Volume||3 3/4 cups||4 1/3 cups||3 cups||4 1/2 cups||4 cups||3 1/2 cups|
|Materials||BPA, phthalate, and lead-free plastic||BPA, phthalate, and lead-free plastic||Food grade stainless steel||Food grade stainless steel||BPA, phthalate-free plastic||BPA, phthalate-free plastic|
|Number of Compartments||3 — 1 large, 2 small||5 — 2 large, 2 medium, 1 small||3 — 1 long, 2 squarish||7 — 1 large, 3 medium, 1 tiny in tray; 1 large, 1 small lidded containers||3 — 1 large, 2 small||6 — 5 medium, 1 small|
|Configurable||No||Yes — inner containers can be rearranged or removed.||No||Sort of — lidded containers can be added or removed||Yes — inner containers can be rearranged or removed||No|
|Leakproof||No — lids are designed to be easy for young children to remove||Partially — three lidded containers are leakproof, the rest is not||No – lid is tight-fitting but not water tight||Partially — lidded containers are leakproof, tray is not||Yes — lidded inner containers are leakproof||Yes|
|Cleaning||Dishwasher safe||Dishwasher safe, top rack only||Dishwasher safe||Dishwasher safe||Dishwasher safe, top rack only||Inner tray is dishwasher safe, top rack only; hand-washing the outer box is recommended to protect the seal|
|Number of Pieces||2||8||2||5||12||2|
|Easy to Open||Yes||Can be tricky for preschoolers, older kids have no trouble||Can be tricky for preschoolers to open||Tray is easy to open, lidded containers can be tricky||Outer box is easy to open, but if child opens the wrong side it can get messy||Yes|
|Cuteness||Low cuteness factor — 4 different lid colors per set add appeal for kids||Low cuteness factor — multiple color options allow for playful or sophisticated choices||Low cuteness factor — colored lids add appeal for kids, stainless looks cool for older kids/adults||High cuteness factor — magnet sets are fun and at least one design should appeal to your child||Very high cuteness factor — the intechangable face plates are adorable||Medium — the outside of the box is plain, but the inside features cute food pictures|
|Bag||Available separately for $7.95, machine washable, 7 color choices. See more about this bag here.||Available separately in 6 bag/sleeve styles and multiple colors/patterns. Prices range from $12.99 – $19.99. See more about one of these bags here.||Felt bag available separately for $21.99; easily fits inside standard lunch bags. See how this lunchbox fits in various bags here.||Available as part of a kit in choice of 5 colors ($12.00) or 3 patterns ($14.00). Purchase separately for $26.95-28.95. See more about this bag here.||Bag that fits inner containers only available separately for $21.95. (No bag needed for this configuration.)||Yumbox does not sell bags, so one must be purchased from an alternate source. It fits easily in most thermal lunch bags. See how this lunchbox fits in various bags here.|
|Accessories||Set of 8 Mini Dippers (small lidded containers that fit inside the box) available separately||Set of 4 Bento Buddies (extra inner boxes) available separately, including an extra large box that can be swapped for the 2 large boxes||Small leak-proof condiment cups, utensils, extra lids available separately||Extra magnets, inner containers, silicone pods, utensils, and an excellent (though pricey) water bottle available separately.||Extra face plates, medium sized inner containers and a strap on drink holder are available separately||Spare trays can be purchased separately.|
|Other Lunch Boxes from This Company||None||None||Same-sized box with 1, 2, 3, and 4 compartments. Larger “bento” boxes in multiple configurations.||Snack-sized Shuttle, larger Launch.||None||Yumbox Panino with 1 large, 2 medium and 1 small compartment|
|See this box packed with food||EasyLunchboxes gallery||Bentology/ Laptop Lunches gallery||LunchBots gallery||PlanetBox gallery||Yubo gallery||Yumbox gallery|
|Notes||This no-frills box is a sturdy and economical choice. Great for adults and kids of all ages!||The Bentology box is a work horse (we love ours), but if you’re prone to losing things the multiple pieces can be a pain to keep track of.||Though this box looks small, it easily holds enough food for elementary school kids when packed tightly.||It’s the priciest option in this round-up, but our PlanetBox Rover is our family’s all-around favorite lunch box and looks new after 3 years of use.||The super cute Yubo is a good choice for preschoolers and young elementary aged kids, but keep in mind that it is a large box.||Yumbox is compact, fun and easily managed by preschool and elementary school students.|
|Full Review||Read my full EasyLunchboxes review||Read my full Bentology/ Laptop Lunches review||Read my full LunchBots Trio review||Read my full PlanetBox Rover review||Read my full Yubo review||Read my full Yumbox review|
|Purchase link*||Purchase EasyLunchboxes||Purchase Bentology||Purchase LunchBots||Purchase PlanetBox||Purchase Yubo||Purchase Yumbox|
* Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.
A few more notes:
Data in this chart: This chart was originally compiled in 2013. I have completely reviewed and updated it from top to bottom as of August 2015. I try to stay on top of the info in it but occasionally manufacturers make changes I’m not aware of. Please be sure to double-check information before purchasing!
Durability: All of these boxes are durable. The have been all been used continuously for 2+ years. The stainless steel boxes look practically new after years of use. I had a hinge break when I dropped the first generation Yumbox a couple years ago, but it has since been redesigned and I have not had any problems since then.
Ice packs: With the exception of the Yubo, none of these boxes or their bags comes with an ice pack. I highly recommend that you invest in several ice packs to place inside your lunch bag, along with the lunch box to keep the food at a safe temperature until you or your child sits down to eat.
Did I miss something? Do you have a question about these boxes that I didn’t answer? Please leave it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to find the answer.
Have you got your lunch boxes all lined up for the new school year? Which boxes will you be using?
Do you need a bag to put your lunch box in? Get the details about seven popular lunch bags — and which lunch boxes fit in them — here: