What Are Bento Boxes Used For
In Japan, parents often make bentos for their children during their early school years. It can be a laborious and daunting task, so prep work is often done the night before. Presentation has always been a big part of Japanese meals, however once schools began requiring bento to be brought from home, it became a competition to see who had the most creative and intricate bento. A childs lunch often says something about their social standing and home life.
© Satoru Abe, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
Most importantly, however, bentos are used to provide the most nutrition in the smallest and easily consumable way possible, and often are significantly cheaper than eating out. Fast-food style bentos are less glamorous in appearance, but with a price tag often under ¥500, a bento box cant be beaten, especially on a budget.
Photographer SatoruAbe documents the richness and variety of bento lunches in his photoseries Nippon Cha Cha Cha. The photo above shows the tightly packed and regimented meal of a sailor in the Maritime Defense Force.
Ybobk Home Bento Lunch Box Stainless Steel Insulated Thermal Stackable Thermos Lunch Box With Microwave Safe Food Containers And Bag For Adults
|Smile Pink, with microwaveable container|
|5.63 x 5.63 x 6.14 inches|
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- ãSafe & HealthyãThe interior is made from high quality food-grade stainless steel, BPA-free, never rust, does not retain flavors or scents The exterior and dividers are made from food-grade safe plastic, non-toxic and odorless so you could use it with confidence
- ãUnique & MultifunctionalãThe plastic layer in the main container is microwaveable, you could use it to reheat the food or just to hold the food it could be removed so the main container can be used alone to hold a larger content, depend on your preference and the food you are going to take
- ãLeak & Spill ProofãThe lid of lunch box has a heavy-duty silicone seals to prevent leak and spill, you could put the hot soup in the first layer it is very tight to lock in freshness, leaks and odors, but the plastic valve could be lifted up to release the pressure and make it easy to open
- ãStackable & Flexibleã2 layers but 3 compartments, you could stack them up or down, and combine them flexibly into single or double layers as needed
- ãInsulated Bag IncludedãMade of denim fabric exterior and aluminum foil interior, it can not only enhance the insulation, but also make it easier to be carried around
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The One Unit Type Of Thermal Lunch Container
The second type of thermal lunch container is a lot simpler. They are basically good old thermos bottles that are squat and wide mouthed, shaped for eating out of rather than sipping from. A good example is this Stainless Steel Food Container by Thermos. It comes in 10 ounce and 16 ounce sizes the one pictured here is the 10 ounce, which is about 300 ml . It’s really simple, consisting of the body and a screw-on top with gasket.
This is my current favorite thermal lunch jar, a Thermos Stainless King which holds 16 ounces . It has an inner screwtop lid with gasket and an outer lid that doubles as a cup.
There’s also a well designed folding spoon that clips into the top of the inner lid.
If all you want to do is to bring one hot item, say soup or stew, these one-piece lunch jars are ideal. If you already own some bento boxes, you can use a lunch jar to supplement them on cold days. Or you could just carry one on itself filled with soup, with a piece of bread in a plastic bag. They are also cheaper than the multi-part thermal lunch sets , ranging in price from around $15 to $25, depending on the size, features and so on.
Tips for getting the most out of a one-piece lunch jar
These lunch jars also benefit from a pre-heating before you fill them up. Just fill with boiling hot water, leave for a few minutes, empty an fill up with the piping hot food of your choice. The lunch jars can also be used to keep the contents cold.
Bentgo Kid Children’s Lunch Box
Give your child some lunchtime flair while also teaching them how to save the planet! With five compartments perfectly portioned for a child’s appetite and coming with drop-proof rubber edges, this bento box is simply the best of the best. One review says: “We have the kids Bentgo lunch boxes for a long time now and we absolutely ADORE these lunch boxes! Seriously, I will never use another brand of lunch boxes again! Never. Ever.”
Buy it: $25
What Is In A Traditional Bento Box
Originally, bento would have been fairly simple, just containing rice for a traveler. Over the centuries, bento developed to reflect trends in Japanese cooking. A bento will typically contain rice or noodles alongside a protein, like fish or pork, as well as vegetables. Other common items include tamagoyaki , potato or pasta salad, and fruit salad.
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Snaplock By Progressive Bento
“I have five of these containers and I use them for lunches for my 13 and 11-year-old sons every single day,” a satisfied customer writes. “I admit to being charmed by the fact that baby carrots fit so perfectly, but honestly they’re great in every way. They never leak, hold a ton of food, and though you can’t use liquids , you can pack nearly anything inside. Total winner.”
Buy it: $7
Looking At Thermal Bento Sets And Lunch Jars
I tend to be a traditionalist in the sense that I don’t mind having room temperature food in my bentos. Most bentos are eaten that way. But when it’s really cold outside, there’s nothing more comforting than some hot food, or even a hot beverage. If you have access to a microwave, all you have to do is find a microwave-safe bento box. But if you don’t, or you object to microwaves in general, a thermal lunch jar may be the thing for you.
There are two basic types of thermal lunch jars. Let’s take a look at them.
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Grub2go Premium Bento Lunch Box
This large bento box holds up to 68 ounces of food in two stackable layers. Both containers come with adjustable dividers for customized lunches. It also includes a sauce container, utensil set, and carrying bag. Reviewers commented that the bento box holds plenty of food and seals tightly to prevent leaks.
Buy It! Grub2Go Premium Bento Lunch Box, $32.88
Are Bento Boxes Insulated
Certain bento boxes, such as the OmieBox Bento Box, offer insulation that will keep your food warm until lunchtime, but the majority do not. Bento boxes are most commonly used to transport cold dishes such as sandwiches, and if you’re packing a dish that must be warmed up, it’s generally a good idea to pack it separatelyotherwise, you’ll have to take it out of the bento box to microwave it.
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Easylunchboxes Bento Lunch Boxes
This plastic set of four bento boxes is perfect for busy families. They feature three compartments to hold main and side portions and they’re dishwasher-, freezer-, and microwave-safe. And since they’re small and stackable, you can easily store them in tight kitchen cabinets. Amazon customers love these top-rated containers because they fit nicely in kids’ lunch boxes and they’re sturdy enough to wash and reheat repeatedly without wearing down.
Buy It! EasyLunchBoxes Bento Lunch Boxes, $13.25 with coupon
What Size Of Bento Box Do I Need
Bento boxes can run small. Pay attention to compartment number and size, as well as materials. Typical advice is to choose something with 700 milliliters or around 3 cups minimum for adult lunches. Youll be able to pack enough calories to last you through lunch. Simple bento boxes are perfect for snacks or regular lunches, but you can always upgrade to an electric option or a large-capacity choice for more options. If you only need snacks, you can stick with something smaller.
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Bklyn Bento Stainless Steel Food Container Best For Portion Control
If your daily diet demands strict portion control, the Bklyn Bento box may be the one for you. Its a set of four separate bento boxes with different sizes, suitable for different meals. You wont have to think about organizing your meal anymore itll be a breeze with this set.
The Bklyn Bento set is made entirely out of stainless steel without BPA, BPS, or any toxic elements. You can rest assured its safe for your food. On top of that, all the containers come with leakproof lids that are easy to open. You wont have to break a nail or two trying to get to your lunch. The silicone molds are designed so that kids and adults can open them smoothly.
The silicone Bklyn uses for the lids is of the highest quality available. It doesnt contain any fillers, and its highly durable.
The four containers can hold your lunch and one more meal. You can include sweets and snacks all you like, thanks to the separate boxes design.
Theres one obvious downside to this set, and we believe you already caught it. The boxes are separate, so theyre not exactly what youd call compact. Youll have to free space in your bag for four boxes, which is quite a lot. However, the convenience makes up for it. At least you wont be opening your box to find everything molding together.
Best For Building Meals: Bentgo Salad Container
If you love a salad or pasta dish, this option gives you the chance to keep your greens or noodles fresh and mix all the toppings together just before serving. A large compartment on the bottom houses your main ingredient, while four top compartments give you space for protein, fruits, other toppings, and dressing. The lid snaps securely on and holds a fork for ease. Wash it on the top rack, and youre good to go.
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Best Overall: Bentoheaven Deluxe Bento Lunch Box
This bento box looks high-end and sophisticated, but the price wont break your budget. The modern, minimalist look is both stylish and functional, and the leakproof, airtight design will keep your food fresh and your workspace mess-free. This bento box will always look good on your desk, so youll never feel like youre brown-bagging sad leftovers.
The box is freezer-, microwave-, and dishwasher-safe, so you can prepare foods in advance, tuck them in the freezer, and heat in the microwave before serving. The silicone sealed lids and ventilation caps reduce heating time.
This bento box features two 20-ounce food containers with vented lids, chopsticks, and cutlery. It comes in either black or white and even includes lunchbox notes, so you can leave a message for your loved ones or use them as a reminder for yourself.
Materials: 100% recyclable BPA-free plastic, silicone | Compartments: 2-3 with a sauce container | Size: 40 ounces
Best Lunch Bag Style: Komax Lunchmate Bento Kit
If you dont have access to a fridge or microwave, this insulated bag helps keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Two containers hold about 18 ounces each, and one offers two compartments. The flatware container includes stainless cutlery and chopsticks, and everything is dishwasher-, freezer-, and microwave-safe. The bag is waterproof and provides a smooth zipper.
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What Goes In A Bento Box
Traditional bento boxes contain rice, protein, and fruits or veggies. The great thing about bento boxes is that you can build any kind of meal you need thanks to the compartments. The best option is to use it to fulfill your daily food groups, even packing it the night before, because compartments will prevent things from getting soggy.
The Best Affordable Plastic Container: Rubbermaid Brilliance 5
This classic Rubbermaid container has a few upgrades that make it ideal for a salad-for-lunch situation. First, the lightweight container contains three sectioned-off compartments. It also has a removable tray that holds a small dressing container, which is a crucial feature for soggy salad prevention that surprisingly few lunch containers include. I filled the compartments with a handful of greens, a hard-boiled egg, a pile of diced veggies, and dressing. Each component survived my morning commute secure and leak-free.
The container also has built-in microwave vents. Just lift the latches on the side and you can reheat your lunch without any risk of splatter. It’s stackable and unobtrusive and it’s the best budget option of the group. An extra bonus: The Rubbermaid container is safe for the dishwasher, microwave, and freezer.
Koccido Bento Box Lunch Box Kitjapanese Lunch Box 3
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- SAFE 3-IN-1 COMPARTMENT LUNCH BOX: The bento box is made of high-quality BPA-free, food-grade PP plastic material, which is safe and does not have any health risks. The stackable lunch box has enough space to accommodate food for adults and children, and can separate vegetables and fruits to maintain the flavor of the food
- LEAK-PROOF PERFORMANCE: The lunch container can be closed tightly, our air-tight and leak-proof lid will not leak water, so you can safely carry food
- CAN BE HEATED IN A MICROWAVE OVEN: The bento box is sturdy and durable, and can heat food in a microwave oven. It is very suitable for children and adults to bring food to school, office, short trip, picnic or anywhere
- WHAT YOU WILL GET: Our lunch box kit includes everything you need, a bento box a insulated lunch bag a soup cup a sauce storage container two snack bags a fork and a spoon. Provide convenience for your picnic. Get our bento box kit, you will love it
- FASHIONABLE AND PRACTICAL DESIGN: The color of this lunch box is simple, practical , with a good sense of design, very unique and stylish
Best For Kids: Bentgo Children’s Lunch Box
Rubber sides are extra durable
Easy to clean
Slightly heavier than other models
Exterior scratches pretty easily
Kids will love this colorful bento box. It has five compartments that are portioned for a childs appetite and is designed for kids aged three to seven, but it would also make a great snack container for adults.
This bento box has rubber-coated edges and internal hinges that help make it drop-proof and sturdy enough for the most active kids. The box is leakproof and has two kid-friendly latches that make it easy for small hands to open and close. Our tester packed lunch for their son in the Bentgo box for a week and was thrilled to find that nothing leaked at any point.
The removable compartment tray is microwave- and dishwasher-safe, while the outer shell should be hand washed to preserve the seal. This includes a booklet with 30 kid-friendly recipes and meal ideas. It’s available in green, purple, or blue, and there are also options with bright colors and multiple fun prints to suit any taste.
Materials: BPA-free plastic | Compartments: 5 | Size: 20 ounces
“Although this bento-style lunch box is pricier than some of its competitors , its well designed, solidly built, and comes in a whole slew of vibrant colors and prints.” – Linnea Covington, Product Tester
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Other Lunch Containers We Tested
After scouring the internet for recommendations, I settled on 15 lunch containers. I considered models made of a variety of materials, from ceramic to stainless steel.
I tried a selection of containers from the brand Mepal, which makes sleek, Scandinavian kitchenware. The Salad Lunch Box was spacious, with a large main compartment to fit a salad and built-in storage in the lid for utensils and additional ingredients. Plus, it had a handy strap to keep things sealed in. Yet, I found it a bit too large, and couldn’t see myself using it regularly for that reason. Similarly, the Take A Break Midi Lunchbox was chic and solidly constructed, but it was unnecessarily spacious. It’s thicker than the Infinite Jest! The Lunch Pot, on the other hand, was a nice size. Its two compartments were excellent for putting yogurt in the bottom and granola in the top or a soup and crackers combo. However, ineffective temperature retention and a steep price point kept it from a top ranking.
I also tested the BentoHeaven Bento Boxes and found them appealing for their cute design, durability, and microwave-, dishwasher-, and freezer-safe capabilities. The lunchbox was excellent for compartmentalizationif you don’t like your foods to touch, rejoice. It was lightweight and accompanied by reusable utensils. The only thing that swayed me from picking these as a winner was the fact that they felt too delicatethey don’t seem like they’d survive too many drops or rough commutes.