I’ve been asked quite a few times which bento lunch box I recommend to others, so I thought I would write a little bit about the different bento boxes that I have as well as a few others. This review contains my opinions about several bento lunch boxes that we personally own, or that I do not own but have done extensive research on. They include the Planetbox, Yubo, Kid Konserve, Lunchopolis, Laptop lunchbox system, Go Green Lunch Box and the Easy Lunch Box system.
I put together a convenient chart comparing these different systems, but note that this chart and review is only my opinion based on my own personal use with the system and/or doing extensive research on the different systems. Below the chart, I break down in detail the different Pros and Cons of each lunch box system. Hope this helps you determine which one is right for you and/or your kids!
1 Microwaving plastics is never recommended; however, these particular lunch boxes have containers that are microwavable.
2 Only in the little / big dipper.
UPDATE: Planetbox does have an ice pack for their lunch box systems; however, it is not included in their lunch box systems. Instead, it is available for purchase for an additional $7.95 on their accessory website.
Planetbox: This is our first official bento box, and for good reason – It is one of my favorites!
- Easy for kids to open – a three year old would be able to easily open this box! Even the little dipper and big dipper are fairly easy for the young ones to open (although, the big dipper took some “practice” for my daughter who was 4 years old at the time – but she quickly learned how to open it).
- Food stays cold! This is a metal lunch box. It has a little dipper and a big dipper that are also metal. Whatever food you put in here will stay cold until lunch time, especially with the ice pack in the lunch box. This is a huge plus compared to other bento boxes, as keeping food cool is very important.
- Easy to clean. It is one simple box. Even the little and big dipper are easy to clean. Planetbox claims that this lunch box is dishwasher safe, but never once did I put this lunchbox in the dishwasher.. especially since it only takes a couple minutes to clean.
- The food stays where you want it to stay – okay, so, in the bento world, this would be as simple as a bento lunch box as you can get it. There are several compartments, and whatever food you put in those compartments, stay in those compartments. There is no mixing of food. You can put sausage / meat in one compartment and fruit in another compartment without any concern of the food touching each other – Nice!
- Excellent customer service! When we first bought the lunch carrier for Keri’s planet box, the pouch for the drink carrier ripped about 3 days after using it. I was so disappointed! Fast forward to 3 weeks after school started.. I finally contact Planetbox via email, told them about the situation and sent them a picture of the planetbox.. and they promptly sent me another lunch box carrier – for free! They apologized about it and we had a new lunch box carrier within a week. Now, that is customer service!
- The lunch carrier – This is probably my worst “complaint” about the Planetbox is the lunch carrier. We bought the pink one because my daughter LOVES pink! However, it gets dirty.. and dirty bad. Kids love to put their lunch boxes on the ground while waiting to be picked up / taken to school, and on occasion if you had a fruit not in a dipper (such as raspberries, for instance) inside the planet box, the juices would leak out on the lunch carrier. This would make the lunch carrier so dirty, and I constantly had to clean it. It became a pain to keep this lunch carrier clean.
- No ice pack included – no biggie.. you can pick up one of those blue ice packs at Target or such, but when paying this much for a lunch box, it would have been nice if they would include an ice pack that fits in their lunch carrier. UPDATE: Planet box does have an ice pack for their lunch boxes! When I first typed up this post (early Fall, 2012) and when I ordered my daughter her planetbox 2 years ago (summer of 2011), Planetbox did not have any ice packs at all. Now, the ice pack is not included with their lunch box systems, but they do have one you can purchase for an additional $7.95 on their accessory page. Whether this updated information is a pro / con.. up to you to decide!
- The price – this turns a lot of people off. For the planet box, big/little dipper, and lunch carrier, I paid about $90 for all of it. For a lunch box.. that is quite pricey! Now, the lunch box lasts forever – a year after we bought it, that lunch box and dippers are still “like new” – however, that lunch carrier is something that should be replaced on a yearly basis, it gets quite grungy quickly.
- No drink bottle! Why?! Have yet to understand why most bento boxes do not carry their own drink bottle to fit in their lunch boxes. This is yet another item you have to buy at a local store in addition to the lunch box.
- The version one of the Planetbox (called the “Rover”), which was the only one available at the time we bought Keri’s, isnt very big for kiddos who have a big appetite. Now, this has been fixed by their new version, called the “Launch” – but a caveat to this is definitely the cost.. the Launch is more expensive, of course. Keri never had an issue with the amount of food put in her Planetbox, however, I could definitely see those kids who have a big appetite having an issue with how much food (or lack of) in the Rover system.
- “Wet” fruits will leak in the lunch box if not in the dippers. Yes.. sad, but true. Fruits, such as raspberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, etc. will leak their juices within other compartments of the lunch – so, be careful when you pack these fruits without a dipper. Granted, I packed them all the time without a dipper, just “dried” them as much as I could. Also, watch out for raspberries – the juices will leak out and stain the lunch box if you have a lighter color lunch carrier (yes, that lunch carrier that is extremely hard to keep clean!!)
Overall Impression: Awesome. This is definitely an amazing lunch box system to have and I thoroughly enjoyed making bento lunches for Keri using this lunch box!
The Yubo Bento Lunch Box: This is Keri’s new bento lunch box.. the Yubo! Keri really, really wanted a new lunch box this year (dont all kids?!) – but, mommy wanted a bento lunch box (of course…!) – so, after an extensive search to find the perfect new lunch box.. we went with Yubo.
- A “true” bento box! Finally, I get to use all the muffin containers, picks, skewers, and bento supplies to create an actual bento box. The compartments in the Planetbox are nice, but there was only so much creativity you have with those compartments.. with the Yubo, I am able to make a “story” happen with the lunch, and I love it! The basic set comes with one square and two little circle containers. I bought 4 rectangle containers in addition to this (they come in packages of 2, and I wanted 3 for some lunches.. to do 3 rectangles in the box, hence the 4). You can do so many different combinations: square and 2 circles; square and 1 rectangle; 3 rectangles; or 2 rectangles and 2 circles. Love the possibilities of creativity you have with this lunch box!
- The face plates! How neat is this?! With the Planetbox, you are given magnets to decorate the box; however, you dont get to “show-off” your lunch box b/c the magnets are concealed in the lunch carrier (make sense?) – with the Yubo, you have face plates. There are dozens to choose from, you can get them personalized (prices range from $7 – $10, and they regularly have specials on these things), AND, they have seasonal ones. You better believe that I have Halloween and Christmas face plates 🙂 This is a HUGE thing for me – and Keri – being able to change out and personalize the face plates, we love this feature!
- Its a box.. and it’s washable! Yep, the faceplate too. This lunch box stays clean and it is so easy to keep this lunch box looking like new (unlike the planet box carrier) – love this!
- Again, containers so easy to clean. I never put these containers in the dishwasher either simply because they are so easy to keep clean and wash out upon Keri arriving home from school.
- The clear containers do not stain!!! (NOTE: see the “Con” about the lids) – I was extremely worried the moment I put red sauce into these clear containers, that it would tint the clear containers a red color.. but nope. That, is awesome 🙂
- The containers are 100% leak proof – LOVE! Do I need to say anymore? I am able to send apple sauce and yogurt with Keri without worry of it leaking.
- The cost is reasonable. You can get the basic lunch box for about $35ish. If you want the extra containers, drink holder, and personalized place plate like me.. it will be $70. Still cheaper than planet box!
- The ice pack – its horrible! This is my absolute major complaint about this bento lunch box.. the ice pack does not keep things very cool. But, remember, this is a regular box.. not insulating. No metal containers, and no metal lunch box – all you have is the ice to keep food cold, and the ice pack they send does not do a very good job in keeping the food cold. I’m very happy that Yubo sends an ice pack that fits in their box, but it does a horrible job. I usually put a blue ice pack in there instead of the included by Yubo.. tends to keep food colder this way.
- No drink bottle.. again, why?! 🙂 They have an awesome drink carrier that attaches to the lunch box, but no drink bottle to go in it – so, you have to buy one from a local store.
- The containers – This is not a problem for Keri.. but, she is 6. I can definitely see this being an issue for younger kiddos who are 3-4 years old though. Each container has its own lid. You have to be able to open these containers! I do not see little ones having the capability of opening these containers by themselves, much less putting them back on before packing up the lunch box after they are done eating (and I admit, Keri doesnt always put the lids back on the containers either).
- Once again, if your kiddo has a big appetite – I cant recommend this lunch box! These containers are perfect for my little eater, as there is often food brought home. However, if your kiddo does eat a lot, a simple remedy is to just use the actual lunch box without the containers inside.. seem to fit more in there this way – but, that takes away from the bento style of having a bento lunch box!
- The white lid stains! Boo. However, only the inside stains (obviously, where the red sauce touches it) – and thankfully, the clear container does not stain.. that is the important part. You cant ever see the inside of the lid b/c well, its covering the food! So, not a biggie – just note that the white lids do stain when in contact with red sauce.
Overall Impression: We love this lunch box so much! It has exceeded our expectations of a lunchbox, and other than a few insulation / cold issues, this is an excellent bento lunch box!
Kids Konserve Bento: My newest acquisition in the bento world! However, I bought this for myself.. not my daughter.. 🙂
- This is a very simple looking lunch box system! It is not a box, but a bag – no designs, magnets, face plates, just a bag. For older kiddos getting out of this sort of stuff (or adults), this is perfect. It is very “adult” like – which is why I bought it for me!
- It finally comes with a drink bottle.. YES! And, its metal. The system comes with the two large containers, sandwich wrapper, napkin / placemat thing (either or, I think), the drink bottle and the bag. The two small metal containers are extra containers I bought (plan on using them from time to time in Keri’s yubo lunch box.. as the smaller containers do fit in the square container of the Yubo!) All the containers are metal.. which contain the cold / heat.. awesome 🙂
- Easy to open containers.. that are leak proof! Keri even opened these containers without hesitation – so easy to open. And, they are leak proof, which of course is a huge added bonus.
- The lunch bag is not insulated. This isnt a big issue for me, but for a kids lunch.. this may be an issue. This lunch bag is cloth – no insulation, so even sticking an ice pack in there will do absolutely no good after an hour (trust me, I tried).
- I’m going to list the cost under the “cons” simply b/c I do think it is a little pricey.. for what you get. Everything you see in that picture was $60. Without the little containers, the system is $45. Will let you ultimately decide if the cost is too pricey or just right for this system!
- Risk of getting the sandwich smashed. As neat as the wrapper is – there is a risk that the sandwich will not be.. well, a sandwich by the time a kiddo eats it! For adults, I dont see this being an issue, but you know how kids are – they swing their lunch boxes up and down, and especially with this one, since it is a bag.. with string.. I can totally see this lunchbox doing a 180 on the way up to the school building.. cant you?! Even with the sandwich on top of the containers, this lunchbox has to be handled with care if that sandwich is in there.
- Cleaning – I have not had Keri use this lunch box, and I do not foresee her using it.. (ITS MINE!!) – however, I foresee the exact same problem with this lunch bag as with the planet box lunch carrier – it will get dirty and will need constant cleaning if a kiddo uses it for their lunch. Beware about this one 🙂
- Condensation – as mentioned, this lunch bag is cloth. Well, condensation from the metal water bottle (which, had ice in) will definitely make this lunch bag completely wet. This is a huge drawback that I did not think about before purchasing this lunch box system!
- Practicality – lets face it, this bento lunch system is more for snacks than a child’s lunch. No insulation, easily gets dirty, easily gets wet from cold stuff (i.e. condensation), and you simply cant put enough food in here to fill up a kiddo – unless your kiddo eats hardly anything! I’m very glad I purchased the two additional little metal containers.. but still, this system is more for snacks rather than for lunches – just simply not practical to keep your kiddo’s lunch cold for 4 hours before they get to it and be enough to fill them up.
Overall Impression: I love this bag bento, but it is for me – not for my daughter. It just isnt practical for her to take to school for lunch! I will continue to use it for my lunch and will definitely use it for snacks for her for when we go to places.
Lunchopolis Bento Box: I do not personally own this lunchbox, however, they sell these products at a local organic store nearby, and so I’ve seen them and would like to offer my review on them the best I can!
- Insulated lunch box! Finally! In the inner liner of this lunchbox is insulated – just like what you would see in a cooler, the thin foil like insulation. Perfect!
- Affordable – very. Prices range from $20 – $35 depending on the location. This is an amazing price for a bento lunch box!
- Microwavable – Yes! These containers can go into the microwave! Leftovers for dinner? No need to pack in separate container.. just pack in here, refrigerate, and its ready to go to heat up the next day.
- Kit includes 4 containers -definitely enough containers to have a variety of food if you aren’t into the creative bento food designs 🙂
- Everything – yes, everything – fits in this lunch box.. including the water bottle! Love this. The major lunch box systems all have a separate carrying case for the water bottle. This means over time, the drink gets to be room temperature (lets face, even the insulated ones get “warmer” over time). So, I love the fact that you can put the water bottle inside the lunch box to keep it cold!
- Ice packs – this is a slight issue for me. The website recommends putting ice in the water bottle to keep lunch box cold. When examining these at the store.. I know why. There is no room for an ice pack! No sleeve to slip one in, and the containers are snug in there. Yes, all 4 containers AND the water bottle to fit in this bag (amazing huh?), however, that leaves no room for an ice pack. Granted, if you have a thin one (a very thin one), you could probably pack one in there, but this was a huge disappointment to me. Why not leave an inch at the top of the lunch box to put an ice pack in this awesome insulating case?!
- Plastic – Issues with plastic on the bento world, or perhaps its just me. Yes, I love plastic containers because they are microwavable, however, I worry about foods staining the plastic. I cannot attest to whether food (i.e. red sauce) will stain these plastic containers, so this is definitely an issue for me at least.
- This system may be one of the more affordable ones out there, but the containers are made quite cheaply. They remind me tupperware products – like the ziploc containers you can buy at the local store. The lids are similar, and the “cheapness” of the plastic containers bother me. I worry how they will hold up over time.
- The designs – well, look at them. You can go see the ones online too, but the designs are more “adult like” rather than kid friendly. I’m sure a high schooler (or a middle schooler) wouldnt mind this fact, but to a young kiddo.. this is so boring!
Overall Impression: This is an affordable system perfect for someone just starting out in the bento world. I honestly do not think I could “sell” this lunch box to my daughter based on the design. I do think, however, that this would make an excellent lunch box for a working adult who has access to a microwave – one of my favorites for this reason!
Laptop Lunches: I have debated about this lunch box system for a very long time. I have done extensive research on it, read so many reviews.. so, these are my pros / cons about this lunch box system.. and ultimately why we do not own it is after seeing this lunch box in person.. I can’t justify buying it. What I see in person does simply does not match up with the rant and rave that their website claims.
- Kid-friendly! Out of the bento lunch box systems, this one is definitely kid friendly. So many colors and lunch box systems to choose from. Kids love colors, and I personally love how colorful this system is!
- Semi-Affordable. You can get the whole system for about $40 locally or online. Not too bad for a bento box.
- Myplate – ever heard of it? Surely you have heard of the Food Pyramid, yes? Well, MyPlate replaces the Food Pyramid 🙂 This bento lunch box system is suppose to mimic myplate regarding the food portions. I find this very intriguing, however, knowing me… I would not adhere to that and go off on my own bento creative craziness! But, love the intention behind making 5 containers to adhere to the MyPlate food portion recommendations!
- This is the only lunch box system that I have found that actually has a carrier that holds the lunch box horiztonally rather than vertically. Granted, its only a couple of carriers.. neither one my daughter liked (of course) – but still, this is a bento creators dream.. to have a lunch box carrier that the kiddo doesnt invert and “destroy” the creations that are made!!
- This is also one of hte few bento retailers that actually offers a water bottle (for an additional price, of course.. of $20 – pricey..?!) – but, they do offer one that fits into their carriers, unlike Planetbox and Yubo.
- The containers – This is the the absolute main reason why I dont want to get this system. These containers in person feel so cheaply made to me! And, sure enough, you can buy the actual lunch box (with the 5 containers) for about $20 – this is does not include the carrier, which is another $20, so that would explain why these containers feel pretty cheap.. they are.
- Leak Proof Issues – Their website claims these containers are leak proof. However, several, several reviews that I have read claim otherwise. (Note: Some reviews do claim they are leak proof though). I am flat out now willing to buy this if I know others are having issue with leaking – simple as that!
- Lid issues – Many reviews I have read say they have issues getting the lids on / off (huge issue for the little ones! A 6 year old could probably handle this, but for a little one.. doubtful). Also – getting the lids on may be difficult for the kids.. 5 containers for this lunch box, each has a lid – you really think a kiddo is going to take the time to line up the threading of the box with the lid and put all 5 lids back on? Doubtful – I have a hard enough issue getting my 6 year old to put two lids on (that just snap in place quite easily!)
Overall Impression: I wouldnt get this system. The containers are just too “cheaply” made once we got our hands on them at our local Whole Foods, who sells this system. I did not like the way these containers were made, the lids caused me a huge concern / issue, and ultimately, I would not get this system.. even though I think the concept behind the containers is adorable!
Go Green Lunch Box: Honestly, I wanted this lunch box for this school year for my daughter. It was my first choice, however, Keri thought it resembled the Planet Box too much and I was unable to talk her into it. Boo. Someday.. Someday…. 🙂
- 4 compartments… all insulated and leak proof! HUGE advantage over the Planet Box! You have 4 compartments here – no individual lids to mess with, and each compartment fits snuggly due to the lid (see picture) – and it makes these compartments leak proof.
- Less to wash – lets face it, dealing with multiple containers / lids.. blah. Okay, its not that bad, but still – this thing looks so incredibly easy to wash! (Much like the Planet Box is) – love this fact! No individual containers to mess with.
- Simple – no creativity required for this box. Granted, of course you can get creative with it (like I would obviously do), but each compartment is separate so you dont need to mix food together (as in the Yubo). Did I mention the compartments are leak proof..?
- The water bottle fits in the lunch box – say what?! One of my favorite features! I love the fact that there is no separate bulky carrier for the water / drink bottle. This set comes with a water bottle that is part of the actual lunch box system – I love this fact!
- Dry erase board – okay, am I the only one who is in love with this feature?! See the picture.. they have a unique dry erase board that you can write notes on to your kiddo that fits int he lunch box (or, is apart of it.. not quite sure on that one). Now granted, I dont know how well this unique feature works (i.e. if the marker “wears” off by rubbing before the kiddo opens and reads it and how easily the marker erases from the board once the kiddo gets home) – but I just love this concept.. and hoping it works and lives up to my expectations!
- One lid.. not more than one! Granted, I do not know if this belongs in the Pro or Con section – so, keep this in mind, but the lid secures to the lunch box by tabs on each side. So, you have multiple tabs to “pop” open and “click” shut. Sounds pretty simple to me.. but in reality, is it for kids? Not sure. But, one lid makes this system appealing!
- Affordable: Yep, about $35 for this entire kit! In my opinion, seeing the features of this lunch box compared with the price.. amazing. Plastic will always be cheaper than metal, so this lunch box is an excellent alternative to those who feel Planet Box is too expensive. They have many similar features!
- The lunch box carrier is eerily similar to PlanetBox. (That is, other than the unique dry erase feature). I am afraid that keeping this carrier clean will be an issue.. the same as with the Planet Box. Just observing the carrier seems as if it will pick up all kinds of dirt and get dirty, quickly.
- No ice packs! Gotta buy your own 🙂
- Not dishwasher safe. Doesnt matter – I never put my bento boxes in the diswasher anyways (why? Its so easy to clean these things by hand.. seriously, takes just a minute to clean!)
- Not for large appetites – Again, not an issue over here for my small appetite eater, but I can easily see how this lunch box would be an issue for those kiddos who have a bigger appetite – so please note this!
Overall Impression: I love this lunch box! As mentioned, this is the lunch box I wanted for my daughter.. but she wouldnt have it. It wasnt “pretty” enough for her. Oh-well, she liked the Yubo this year, so that is what we got. But, I would have definitely bought this lunch box in a heart beat if it was approved for my daughter to do so!
Easy Lunchboxes: Extremely simple eco-friendly lunch box that is perfect for the beginner bento, small kids, and those who just want to be eco-friendly! Pretty new system, but if you google “Bneto Boxes” – this will always come up!
- Easy to open for small kids – The lids are very easy to open, even for the smallest kids.
- Affordable – Out of all the lunch box systems, this is probably the most affordable for being economically friendly!
- Microwavable – Yep 🙂
- Dishwasher safe – Although I still don’t see why you would put any bento box in the dishwasher.. they are so easy to clean!
- Insulated lunch box – always a plus!
- If only using one container, the drink bottle will fit into the lunch carrier – which is great!
- Excellent lunch system for multiple kids! The kit comes with 4 containers; you could easily just buy one system an an extra lunch box for the kiddos and be set – extremely affordable for the family with more than one kiddo.
- Not leak proof – Nope. The compartments themselves are not leak proof; however, for an extra charge you can get several small leak proof containers that fit in the big containers – convenient! Just an extra charge. And, the little containers are not big enough to fit main course meals in.. just small items such as yogurt or applesauce.
- Not for kiddos with a big appetite – Definitely not! Well, I suppose you could fit 2 containers in there.. and leave out a drink bottle. Just wouldnt recommend this system for the kiddos who eat a lot.
- Does this system remind you of anything? Tupperware perhaps? Quite havent figured out any major differences between tupperware containers and these. You could easily just buy tupperware at the local store and a lunch box to put them in – So, to me, this system is not a unique bento box.. but, since it shows up in every Google search regarding bentos, thought I needed to include it.
Overall Impression: This is a very simplified lunch box system that is eco-friendly, over-simplified to use, and easy for kids to open. I would definitely not buy this system for my daughter.. just because its too simple for me. I prefer a more “true” bento style lunch box.
And, thats it 🙂 Hopefully this review guide has given you a lot to think about regarding which lunch box system you will be getting for you and/or your family! Comments are definitely welcome on your experiences with these lunch box systems to add to what I already have written.
Happy Bento Making!
(NOTE: I typed up this review in Fall, 2012, but never did post it, for whatever reason, so I’m just now getting around to posting it. I still stand by Yubo and Planet box for making exceptionally amazing Bento lunches! But, whatever lunch box you choose, I’m hoping this post helps you make a decision!)