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Packing a lunch doesn’t have to be a drag, especially when you’ve got the right gear to ensure your meals and snacks stay food-safe, fresh, and secure. If you’re sending a kid off to school with lunch, this goes double.
Of course, packing your own food with care is important, too. Homemade lunches are not only healthier than takeout fare, but they can save you money, too. That said, even the most thoughtful meal planning, cooking, and packing can result in a disappointing lunch if it’s the wrong temperature, soggy, stale, or spilled. That’s where having the right vessel comes in.
Ahead, the best lunch containers, from spill-proof to kid-friendly and plastic-free.
Best Lunchbox: MIER Adult Lunch Box
This well-designed, dual-compartment tote has everything you need for taking your meal on the go—especially if you don't have access to a refrigerator (it's insulated). Two discrete areas let you store hot and cold foods separately. The upper compartment is perfect for snacks, cookies, drinks, or fruit. The bottom is large, leak-proof, and just the right size for containers housing sandwiches and other entrees.
The easy-access zipper compartment works well for stashing utensils and napkins, while a pair of side pockets provide extra storage for miscellaneous necessities. This crossbody shoulder bag—available in both medium and large sizes—is comfortable to carry. Better yet, the inside is lined with insulating eco-friendly PEVA, which is easy to wipe clean should you have any spills.
Best Bento Box: Grub2Go The Original Japanese Bento Box
A bento box makes it easy to carry everything you need for lunch in a multi-compartment carrier, and this model is particularly well-made. One of the coolest aspects of the bento box style is that it encourages a healthy variety of foods by design. In Japan, they’ve been popular for at least a thousand years.
This one combines traditional Japanese features with modern touches, like a silicone-lined lid that completely prevents leaks and preserves freshness. Two layers of trays give you plenty of space to package up a full day’s worth of meals and snacks.
This container is eco-friendly, made from BPA-free materials, and the food compartments (not the exterior) are microwave- and dishwasher-safe, making this a convenient choice for anyone who doesn't like washing dishes. It even comes with utensils and a reusable utensil holder, so you can ditch disposable plastic forks and spoons.
Best Thermos: Thermos 10-Ounce Funtainer Food Jar
An insulated thermos is the best way to tote hot soup, stew, or chili to work, school, and beyond. This size holds about 1.5 cups of food for the perfect lunch portion. Not to mention, the wide mouth makes it easy to fill and eat out of.
Designed with vacuum-insulation technology, this container is especially good at maintaining food temperature. It’s made from durable stainless steel and will last for many years. To maximize the time hot food will remain hot, Morford suggests pouring boiling water into the Thermos to preheat it before adding your steaming hot lunch.
This Thermos is available in a range of colors and styles. Kids can choose from designs that show their favorite characters, including Trolls or the sisters from Frozen.
Best for Kids: Wildkin Insulated Lunch Box
Kids love the bright, fun patterns printed on these lunch boxes, and parents love them for the durable, high-quality design. (The brand has won the prestigious Mom’s Choice Award.) This size fits your kid’s lunch containers, plus an ice pack and 16-ounce water bottle.
The design features include an easy-access front pocket—ideal for grab-and-go recess snacks—and an interior mesh pouch to stash utensils and a napkin. It’s made from materials that are 100 percent BPA- and phthalate-free, and the food-safe PEVA liner is quick and easy to clean.
The interior is spacious and compatible with many other Wildkin lunch containers. It’s insulated to help keep temperatures food-safe, but Morford says you’ll still want to include an ice pack or fill up a bottle and freeze it overnight. It will act as an ice pack as it thaws, and it will be drinkable come lunchtime.
Best for Salads: OXO Good Grips Leakproof Salad Container
If you like to pack a salad for lunch, you know finding the perfect container can be a challenge. This one does it all. First of all, it includes a lidded 2-ounce container for your dressing. (Salads dressed in advance get soggy.) Then, there are two compartments, so you can separate those delicate salad greens from other ingredients that might wilt them. To top it all off, the lid features a silicone gasket and locking tabs to ensure there’s never a leak. It's made from Tritan, a material that stays transparent through repeated washings.
With more than 5 cups of capacity, you’ll have plenty of space for big, hearty salads. On days you might not want a salad, you can use it to carry fruit slices and yogurt, among other combinations. When you’re done, just toss it in the dishwasher for easy cleanup.
Best Glass: Pyrex Glass Food Storage Containers
For those who don’t like using plastic, this set of three glass containers with lids will meet all of your lunchtime container needs. The large 7-cup size will stash big salads and everything that goes with them. The 4-cup size accommodates a chicken breast or salmon filet with a pile of roasted veggies, and the 2-cup size has you covered with soup or stew.
Although glass is breakable compared to plastic, Pyrex’s durable high-tempered glass isn’t exactly fragile. It’s also nonporous, so it won’t pick up flavors, colors, or smells. The containers and lids are microwave- and dishwasher-safe, and the lids are BPA-free.
Containers you aren’t using to transport food have many other uses around the kitchen. Many are freezer-safe and excellent for storing homemade meals for later. They make great prep bowls if you enjoy making food for the week and can double as mixing bowls in a pinch.
Best for Snacks: Lunchbots Round Leak Proof Stainless Snack Container Jar
When it comes to packing snacks, these jars from LunchBots are the perfect size. Another alternative to plastic containers, these are made from stainless steel. At 4 ounces, they’re ideal for snacks like yogurt, applesauce, and hummus. You could even stash potato or pasta salad in them, or a handful of nuts, potato chips, pretzels, cheese cubes, edamame, or olives. The options are only limited by what you have at home.
The lids are BPA-free, and the silicone seals help the lids close tightly, but they are easy to grip and open. While they are definitely perfect for kid-friendly snacks, adults who bring their lunches with them will find many uses as well. They are dishwasher-safe.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Joy Manning is a food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in many publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post. She’s the author of "Almost Meatless" and "Stuff Every Cook Should Know."