I’ll be the first to admit I was a lot “crunchier” when my older kids were small. Through the years, I’ve lightened up a lot, although I still tend toward zinc sunscreens and avoid food dyes as much as possible. Do I have a bag of ALDI-brand Cheetos in my pantry right now? Yep. Did I try to make grain-free animal crackers with maple sugar last night? Also yes.
The one pretty crunchy thing I’ve never regretted is buying PlanetBox lunchboxes for my kids, when my older two were just five and three. My oldest child was starting kindergarten, and I was swayed by beautiful pictures from Weelicious to purchase the stainless steel Bento boxes. At $50 apiece, they are certainly an investment for most of us. I’m happy to say, though, that my baby girl is now going into 7th grade and that PlanetBox is still in basically the same condition it was in 2014.
We’ve experimented throughout the years with several other Bento-type containers. I absolutely think they are the best for kids and the environment, and a huge help to your teachers. Do you know how much time teachers of small kids spend during their tiny lunchtime opening packages and peeling back fruit cup lids? A LOT. Sending your kids’ lunches Bento-style will allow your teachers another few minutes of semi-freedom.
My Favorite Bento for Each Age
I haven’t tried every Bento box on the market, but I have tried a few! Here are our favorites for each age:
- For preschoolers, I like BentGo Kids boxes. They come in fun, bright colors; they’re easy to unlatch; and they seal around the sections, making it easy to pack things like applesauce and yogurt. The smaller size is perfect for preschool and young elementary age. My only complaint is that my boys broke the latches off several times — but this is more of a reflection of them and not BentGo. They do have a warranty and BentGo replaced mine.
- For elementary school, I reach for our PlanetBoxes the most often. We have the Rover style, which has four sections with a small center well. They aren’t very deep which can be a little limiting, but we work with it!
- For older elementary to middle school and on, my favorite is the $10 Sistema Bento Lunch To-Go. It has one large section and two smaller sections. The large one and one smaller one come with a tray that can divide it into two sections, and it also comes with a round sealed container for runny things like applesauce, yogurt, or sauces. This box is giant and can fit a ton of choices, even enough for a lunch and a snack if needed. The deep sections can accommodate whole fruits and an adequate amount of bulkier foods like popcorn.
I pack a lot fewer “cute” lunches than I used to, with my school-aged kids now going into third, fifth, and seventh grades. But if you want some more tools to help create lunches, here are some I use and like:
- Cookie cutters and sandwich cutters. The FunBites cutters are really cute and incredibly well built, but better for food that isn’t going to move around.
- Candy eyes for making kids giggle. Around Halloween I like to add eyes to everything.
- Edible Color Markers for drawing on sandwiches or other food items safely.
- Silicone muffin cups are great for dividing bigger sections in a Bento box. I use these when I pack “Lunchables” with cut-up meats, cheeses, and crackers.
- For packing separate snacks, I really like the ChicoBag Snack Time bags. They can close to be two different sizes, about sandwich bag or snack bag size, and wash easily.