If you asked your kid to chose their own lunch box, they'd probably go for the one with their favorite Disney character. But Hero today, gone tomorrow, we always say. Besides, there are actually several important factors to consider.
You want it to be relatively lightweight (these are independent children and they're going to want to carry their own stuff); you need it to be easy for little hands to open; you want it to be inexpensive because, let's be honest, they are probably going to lose a lunch box or three; and you want it to be easy to clean. And yeah, it helps if it's something that gets kids excited to eat their lunch.
With all that in mind, we present our favorite lunch box for elementary school kids.
Our Associate Food Editor, Meghan Splawn, has tested out tons of options (sometimes for work and sometimes just for fun) on her kids and there's one thing she comes back to again and again: those divided plastic containers by Ziploc.
Buy: Ziploc Divided Rectangle Container, $3.50 for two at Target
"Bento-style containers are great for packing kid-appropriate portions and giving them enough variety so that they don't get bored at lunchtime," she says. "I prefer bento-style containers that have one large- to medium-sized compartment that can easily hold at least half a sandwich — because sandwiches are still a classic lunch box option in our house."
She fills up the other two compartments with fruits, vegetables, cheese cubes, or other healthy snacks and puts the lid on it. Just like that, lunch is packed and she didn't have to mess around with lots of little baggies or separate containers.
Of course, that plastic container has to go in something. And ideally, that container would help keep the lunch cool. Meghan usually picks up a couple of those soft zipper cases that you can find at Target for $10 or less this time of year.
However, Meghan recently discovered Zippee Lunch Totes from Ore' Originals (thanks to Katie Sullivan Morford, who recommends the brand's Classic Lunch Sacks from Ore' Originals in her book Best Lunch Box Ever). The totes insulate just as well as the sacks — and they can accommodate the flat shape of the bento container. At $28 each, they're not especially cheap, but at least they come with an ID tag for when your kid inevitably leaves hers behind.
Buy: Zippee Lunch Totes, $28 at Ore' Originals
What are you getting for your kid this back-to-school season?