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Best Reusable Containers for School Lunches

08.12.13 Best Reusable Containers for School Lunches

reusable lunch gear

Summer's winding down and it's time to pack school lunches. For some, this may bring about a slight panic: what to pack? I have to say, that having the right tools in my "lunch-packing drawer" has made all the difference. I've long since removed any plastic tupperware (always stained, never had the matching lids and likely leaching chemicals into the healthy foods I had packed).

Plastic tupperware doesn't have a great lifespan or lifecycle (unlike stainless steel and glass) as it becomes cloudy, scratched and degrades, making it more likely to leach chemicals into food. The plastic itself is also difficult and costly to recycle. Most plastics contain additives to help make the material either softer or harder or resistant to UV light. The additives we already know about are BPA and phthalates. These plastic chemicals can migrate or leach into the food and water that are housed in plastic containers. This can be harmful to our health, even in low doses. So, to play it safe, we suggest packing food in either stainless steel or glass.

Most importantly, if you do store food in plastic, NEVER microwave the food while it's in the plastic.  "Microwave-safe" only means that the container won't be destroyed, wheras there's no protection for the food inside.

We also recommend avoiding plastic as much as possible.  That isn't always possible (plastic is often in lids or tops).  When that is the case, ensure it's one of the safer plastics.

Important features we look for in lunch gear:

  • Safe - Contains no concerning chemicals, such as BPA, PVC, phthalates and lead, which can leach into foods.
  • Functional - Easy to open, convenient to use (leakproof, insulated, dishwasher safe, etc).
  • Waste-Free - Reduces the growing piles of disposable, single use products each year.
  • Durable - Built to last, ultimately saving us money over time.
  • Fun! - Looks great, inspiring kids to eat a bit more, also making the lunch-packing process a little more bearable.

Reusable stainless container options include bento boxes, insulated options (to keep food hot or cold) and/or leakproof options made of 304 grade stainless steel, tempered glass and silicone. MightyNest only selects containers that are free of BPA, PVC, Phthalate and Lead free so your food can stay fresh without the possibility of chemicals leaching into the food. Using reusable containers allows you to buy food in bulk thereby saving money and also ensuring the food will be well maintained, not smushed in plastic.

Stainless steel is an ideal material to store food because it's easy to clean and it's durable, inert and sanitary. Stainless steel is also made from basic elements found on earth and NOT with chemicals created in a lab. All of the containers we select at MightyNest are made of high quality 18/8 grade stainless steel which means they will not corrode or rust. Another perk: stainless steel doesn't retain odor and cannot stain (unlike plastic). The "grade" of stainless steel refers to its quality, durability and temperature resistance. The numbers represent the ratio of chromium and nickel (respectively).

Bento Boxes/Divided Containers: the Japanese bento lunch container has inspired plenty of parents while packing school lunches for their kids. The different configurations make for some creative pairing of food and an all-in-one container to pack fruits, veggies and maybe a salty snack or sweet? For sectioned containers, we stock Lunchbots containers in non-sectioned (uno), 2-sectioned (duo), 3-sectioned (trio) and 4-sectioned (quad) stainless steel containers. For younger kids, we recommend the pico, a smaller version of the duo.


Other options are the smaller sized ThinkBaby bento boxes and Innobaby's Keepin Fresh bento boxes. Both are perfect for younger kids and feature air-tight lids that easily snap on and off. Both have an interior of stainless steel and an outer shell made of polypropylene - snap these apart and they're very easy to clean. This size bento is perfect to pack fruit, cut veggies or a small portion of pasta.

Thermal Containers: Made from high quality 304 grade stainless steel, insulated food containers will keep foods warm or cool for hours, ensuring against spoiled food. With varying shapes and sizes based on individual preferences, foods can be packed to stay both hot (up to 6 hours) and cool (up to 4 hours). Having the right insulated food jar allows for the warmth of home brought to school with soups and pasta while fruits and yogurt can stay fresh and cool for lunch. 


Leakproof Containers: The last thing you'll want is a lunchbox filled with a spilled applesauce or yogurt. Even some fruits can create a liquidy mess when they're packed in a lunchbox. That's where truly leakproof containers come in handy. Either made of stainless steel or glass, these containers are trusted leakproof containers.

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