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Why wait for dinner to dig into yesterday’s yummy leftovers? Save time and indulge even sooner by packing them for lunch. With a trusty lunch box on hand, you’ll always be able to take along your favorite food to work, school, or even on a picnic.
With a single compartment and netting to pack your food and other items in, the Hydro Flask Insulated Lunch Box is our top pick; it has maximum insulation, an easy-clean interior, and four fun colors to choose from. For a cheaper option, grab the Rubbermaid LunchBlox Lunch Bag, as it's got a roomy interior and sports a removable shoulder strap and cushioned handle.
Bringing a meal from home has other benefits besides an automatic five-star review from you, too: It can save you money. Plus, a reusable lunch box or bag means less waste than using a single-use brown or plastic bag for toting your food.
And don’t think for a second that lunch boxes are just for kids (although we did find the perfect pick for little ones, too). As our list below of the best lunch boxes proves, there are plenty of grown-up and stylish lunch boxes out there just waiting to hold your favorite meals.
When choosing a lunch box, consider its insulation properties and ensure that it's made with water-resistant and leak-proof materials.
See some of the best lunch boxes below.
Best Overall: Hydro Flask Large Insulated Lunch Box
Maximum, long-lasting insulation
Four fun color options
Doesn't include a longer strap for carrying
What do buyers say? 88% of 200+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
If you already trust Hydroflask's reusable water bottles to keep your drinks cold, you'll be glad to learn that the brand's lunch boxes boast that same powerful insulation. In fact, Hydroflask’s Large Insulated Lunch Box features two layers of insulation to keep your food perfectly chilled for hours. Plus, this durable design holds up to countless outings like the brand's trademark bottle. Available in four exterior colors (our favorite is the bright sunflower hue), the lunch boxes also feature fully-lined interiors that can be wiped down and cleaned easily, as well as a zippered pocket for utensils and an ice pack.
Materials: Rigid nylon | Compartments: Single, with netted compartment in lid | Size: 9.25 x 9.25 x 4 inches (small), 12 x 10.5 x 4 inches (large)
Best Oversized: Mier Adult Lunch Box
Lots of pockets/compartments
Shoulder carrying strap
Can only be spot-cleaned
Won’t hold an upright bottle
If you've ever opened a brown bag lunch to find your food sadly squished or crushed, you know how unappetizing it can be. Fortunately, you won’t have to fear that particular mealtime surprise with this stellar selection. The MIER Adult lunch box features two large main compartments that provide plenty of space, as well as the ability to separate your cold drinks and hot food.
Our tester notes that it can fit a full day's worth of food—not just lunch—with space left over. The BPA-free liner allows you to store all your grub safely. It also includes exterior compartments with unique functions (there’s even a cardholder), and the exterior’s tear-resistant oxford fabric comes in a variety of patterns.
Materials: Polyester exterior | Compartments: Two (upper and lower) | Size: 10.25 x 8 x 11 inches | Additional Info: Both upper and lower compartments are insulated
"If you pack cold food in this lunch box and include an ice pack, the food will still be very cold by the time you get to lunch." — Ashley Ziegler, Product Tester
Best Budget: Rubbermaid LunchBlox Small Lunch Bag
Containers not included
You’ll already be saving a ton of cash taking your lunch every day as opposed to buying it. But if you really want to double down on your savings, opt for a budget-friendly lunch box that still boasts all those must-have perks without a trumped-up price tag. Sound like a tall lunch order? Rubbermaid doesn't seem to think so: Its LunchBlox Lunch Box showcases plenty of practical features like an insulated, roomy interior with BPA-free lining, separate compartments for utensils and a water bottle, and both a removable shoulder strap and cushioned handle for easy carrying. And all of that comes at a very affordable price.
Materials: Fabric exterior | Compartments: Single | Size: 5.5 x 8.75 x 9 inches | Additional Info: Sized to accommodate Rubbermaid LunchBlox containers, all sold separately
Best for Adults: Modern Picnic Luncher Tote
Separate compartments for utensils and more
May be too small for larger meals
To anyone who believes lunch boxes to be childish, Modern Picnic is here to change your mind. Woman-founded and led, the brand crafts fashion-forward lunch boxes that look like the designer handbags you’d find in an expensive boutique. Available in a whole host of hues, the exterior of its classic The Luncher bag is made of faux crocodile leather for a modern spin on the mealtime essential.
But these bags aren’t only stylish: They’re also completely functional, thanks to the expertly insulated interior that’ll keep whatever foods you pack nice and cold. Inside, you’ll also find pockets for utensils, and the bag snaps shut via a magnetic closure.
Materials: Vegan leather | Compartments: Single, with loops to hold utensils | Size: appx. 8.5 x 10 x 6.5 inches
Best for Kids: TWELVElittle Adventure Lunch Bag
May not fit into every kid-sized backpack
When it comes to a lunch box for your little one, durability is key. In the event of spills (because trust us, there are bound to be some), you’ll want something that can be cleaned easily, and this lunch box from TWELVElittle fits the bill. It’s made of high-quality, water-resistant fabrics that can be wiped down when soiled, and its long, detachable strap can be worn as a crossbody for easy carrying. The roomy interior is fully insulated, and it features an incredibly cute starry print pattern.
Materials: Water-resistant coated polyester | Compartments: Single, with two interior netted pockets and exterior zip pocket | Size: 8.25 x.10.25 x 4 inches
Best Electric: CTSZOOM Self-Cooking Electric Lunch Box
Reliable heating function
Layered food compartments for more space
Stylish white and brown design
Needs a separate adapter for a car
Perfect for those who don’t have access to a microwave to warm their food, an electric lunch box is an excellent multitasking option. In addition to transporting meals, it can also warm and even cook food. Electric lunch boxes boast heating components that eliminate the need for a microwave or oven to enjoy hot food. Our favorite option features two-layered, high-temperature-resistant food containers, so you’ll have plenty of space. It can be plugged into a nearby outlet so you can enjoy a warm meal right at your desk. Plus, with a clean white and brown design and nifty handle, it’s also stylish.
Materials: Stainless steel | Compartments: Three; one double, one single | Size: 10.25 x 5 x 6 inches
Best Metal: Onyx Two-Layer Sandwich Box
Food-safe and durable stainless steel
Comes in a set of two
Metal may rust if not properly dried
We love the minimalist, vintage feel of these metal lunch boxes. With stainless steel construction, they're durable enough to survive endless runs through the dishwasher or being shoved to the back of the fridge. The biggest perk? They boast two compartments: The top is the perfect size for a sandwich, while the bottom can store a snack, salad, quinoa, pasta, and more.
Two simple metal clasps secure the boxes to keep your food safe inside. The set comes with one medium and one large box, so you can choose the right size for every meal or use them to pack up a picnic for the family.
Materials: Stainless steel | Compartments: Two | Size: 6.25 x 4.5 x 2.5 inches (medium), 7 x 5 x 2.5 inches (large)
Our top pick is the Hydro Flask Insulated Lunch Box, with a single compartment and netting to pack your food, maximum insulation, an easy-clean interior, and four colors to choose from. For a budget-friendly pick that doesn't skimp on quality, we recommend the Rubbermaid LunchBlox Lunch Bag, with a roomy interior, removable shoulder strap, and cushioned handle.
What to Look for in a Lunch Box
Water-Resistant and Leakproof Fabrics
In case your water bottle or food container springs a leak, you’ll be thankful for a lunch box that features water-resistant or leakproof fabric. This way, the mess will be contained inside and won’t spill over to the interior of your car or inside your office desk drawer. Most of these fabrics can also be wiped clean, so your lunch box will be as good as new to carry your lunch the following day.
To keep food from spoiling and drinks refreshingly cold, be sure that your lunch box boasts insulating capabilities. Many lunch box manufacturers proudly tout this feature: Insulation helps keep items at the temperature you want them, and some insulating lunch boxes can keep food cold for hours.
Food-safe linings help ensure your food stays fresh without being contaminated by lunch box materials. Look for the term “BPA-free" in the product’s description, which means that the lining doesn’t contain the chemical bisphenol-A that’s used to craft many common materials and could possibly seep into food and beverages.
How can you keep food hot or cold in a lunch box?
Unless you’re investing in a high-tech lunchbox that has built-in chilling or heating features, the first thing to do to help keep food hot or cold is purely logical: Separate hot from cold. Even if that means keeping two separate lunchboxes, it will make it much easier to maintain the desired temperatures. You can also invest in individually insulated containers.
Even with insulated containers, though, there’s more you can do to boost their efficiency. Fill them with hot (or icy) water first, and then let them sit for a bit before emptying the water and filling them with food. That simple step means that the stored food itself doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting of first heating and cooling its own container. (This works for everyday coffee mugs and insulated beverage containers, too.)
Keep reusable freezer packs handy to surround the cold foods in the lunchbox. For hot foods, add a microwaveable hot pack, picking a size that best suits the lunchbox, or go entirely low-tech by insulating each food container with two layers of paper towels (handy later for napkins) and a tight wrap of aluminum foil.
What is a bento box?
Strictly, “bento” describes a type of Japanese lacquered box, but in the world of lunchboxes, “bento” generally means that the lunchbox will have sections, and often a self-contained carrier with onboard utensils and a lid designed to be carried.
How do you wash a lunch box and how often?
How best to keep a lunchbox and its gear clean will depend entirely on the kind you have. First, read and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Also, it's best to err on the side of caution and hand wash lunch boxes and gear whenever possible.
Even dishwasher-safe items can warp under heat, and if something warps, its lid won’t fit properly. Worse, the insulating fluids in some containers can leak out if the seals expand, and then you’ll have a real mess on your hands. If the lunchbox has a fabric exterior or thin lining over its inside insulation, all of that should just be wiped and spot-cleaned as necessary unless the manufacturer suggests machine washing.
Clean a lunchbox and its gear after every use, and store open to the air until absolutely dry inside. A shut-up food container or lunchbox with moisture inside will certainly lead to the growth of mold.
How does an electric lunch box work?
An electric lunchbox is basically an insulated container that has interior coils that heat up to warm the food inside. Versions can be found with plugs for home current (110- or 120-volt) or car/camper (12- or 24-volt), and some will have the option of either plug. Read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to heat the food, whether to remove or leave on any exterior carriers or covers, and enjoy a warm lunch.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Lifestyle writer Jamie Cuccinelli has several years of experience in the wedding, lifestyle, and home décor industries, first as an editor of Brides.com and then as a writer for websites like MyDomaine and The Spruce, where she’s seasoned in outfitting a stunning wedding registry, kitchen cutlery drawer, linen closet, and carefully curated home. Years of living in New York City on a shoestring budget has also made her a pro at packing homemade lunches—and that time that her brown paper bag sprung a leak inside her tote made her vow never to trust anything but the most leakproof lunch boxes again.
Catherine Russell, who updated this roundup, is a writer and editor specializing in food, culture, and home and garden. Grandma’s kitchen was a favorite place for Catherine growing up, and that’s where she first learned to bake, roast, broil, and cook most anything from scratch. Her work has appeared in national publications, such as Bon Appetit, and in film and video.