Ever received those embarrassing stares from your workmates because your food sauce spilled all over your desk?
Lucky you if you haven't but I did, and I tell you, it's a big "uh-oh" moment for me! I just wanted the ground to swallow me whole!
Not only is it super embarrassing but it's stressful, too! Imagine all the work you have to do cleaning splattered food, removing the odor, and stuff.
What's worse, you'll lose your appetite, too, which is pretty much given what with all the mess, stress, and embarrassment you have to go through.
So, from that day forward, I swore, I will never go for a cheap lunch box ever again. Not ever.
But as it turns out, it’s not only the spills I need to factor in. In my quest of finding a lunch box that will spare me from this shameful experience, I found out that there are more things I need to consider.
So, what are these considerations? If you’re like me who loves to bring home-cooked meals to work (or anywhere), this post is for you!
I’ve made a list of the factors you need to consider when choosing the right bento lunch box so you can keep your meals fresh, avoid stressful spills and losing your appetite, and get the bang for your buck!
Airtight and Spill-Proof
Since I’ve already learned my lesson well from that super horrible experience, I put this factor on top of my list. I told myself that the next lunch box I should get for myself is something that is airtight and SPILL-PROOF.
Notice that I emphasized “spill-proof” because the leak was what placed me in the hall of shame.
Airtight lunch boxes work to prevent spills and leaks. What’s more, they also help keep your food tasting fresh and yummy.
Some bento lunch boxes also come with bands to keep your lunch box tight and secure. If you want extra confidence, I’d say go for a lunch box that includes bands, especially if you love stews and saucy meals.
My health-conscious self is speaking about this factor. What’s a spill-proof lunch box for anyway if it will endanger your health?
So, you’d probably understand why I’d say, “No, thanks” to a lunch box that’s not BPA-free. For me, it’s just not worth taking the risk.
Let’s just say that I don’t have a particularly huge appetite, but I love food. And space is also a factor for me. I want a lunch box that is space-savvy but has enough room to accommodate a gratifying lunch.
Size is also a factor for me because as much as possible, I want my lunch box to fit inside my bag. Why? Because that means one less thing to worry about.
There were instances when I forget my lunch bag at home or forget it at the office. Just imagine the hassle of having to clean your dirty lunch box the following morning when you get to work.
You’ll also be forced to opt for a restaurant lunch because where will you put your home-cooked meal? Unless, of course, if you have a spare.
So, as much as possible, I want my lunch box to be space-savvy enough to fit in my bag but still provide sufficient room to let me pack an appropriate meal size that can satisfy my appetite.
Some nutrition experts, however, say that the size of your bento box depends on several factors such as age and lifestyle.
For women aged 19 to 30 years old, the recommended bento box size is 800 ml, 700 ml, and 800 ml for those with a sedentary lifestyle, active lifestyle, and very active lifestyle, respectively.
The material with which the bento box is made of is another factor. For this part, I needed to weigh the pros and cons of each.
Basically, there are four options: Stainless, aluminum, plastic, and wood.
I figured using a wooden bento box just isn’t my thing because while it looks great and rice stays yummy, the cons outweigh the pros.
Number one, it’s hard to maintain. It’s not microwavable either, plus it’s not leak-proof (major turn off for me and you know why). Also, it’s usually more expensive.
And because a wooden lunch box is already out of the equation, I am left with three options...
An aluminum lunch box sounds like a good choice because it’s lightweight and long-lasting. But it’s not microwavable and not spill-proof (sadly).
Also, rice sticks easily to its surface, which is a big factor for me because I love rice!
Finally, something that has more pros than cons! Stainless lunch boxes are great because they are robust and durable, usually resistant to stain and smell, and easy to clean.
Many stainless bento boxes are also dishwasher-safe and leak-proof (plus point!). But the downside is they are not microwavable and come with limited designs.
Plastic lunch boxes are commonly the popular choice, and it’s easy to see why. They are durable and effective when it comes to food storage.
They are also usually economical, can be used multiple times, plus they have a wide variety of designs to choose from!
And most plastic bento boxes are airtight and leak-proof as well, and they’re friendly with the microwave, fridge, freezer, and dishwasher, too!
The only con, however, is that they easily absorb the smell and taste of the foods you store in them. So, you might have to clean them more thoroughly than usual if you put your curry in them.
You should also determine how much you are willing to spend on a lunch box. For me, I’ve decided that I’d go for a quality lunch box even if it means I would have to spend a little more.
Well, I’m not speaking for my lunch box preference per se but in all my purchasing decisions. Here’s a quick backstory:
When I was younger, all I cared about was to have more. But as I age, I realize that quality is more important.
So, when it comes to choosing the right lunch box, I’d say if it’s a quality one, and my budget can’t afford it yet, I’d save up for it. Because you know why? You’d actually save more!
If you go for a bento box that’s cheap but have lots of issues, you’d have to buy a new one. And if that new one (assuming it’s also cheap but with poor quality) also leaves you unsatisfied, you’d be forced to buy again.
And the cycle goes on. So, why not invest in a high-quality product that you can use for long and give you exactly what you’re looking for? For me, it’s usually worth it!
Dividers and Cutlery
As I’ve mentioned, I love food. So, I enjoy bringing a variety of food to work. Aside from my lunch meal, I also love to have snacks and fruits handy.
But the thing is, not all lunch boxes have extra compartments for snacks and munchies or even a divider.
So, sometimes I just resort to buying packed fruits or cookies from convenience stores, which defeats my purpose of eating healthy and reducing waste.
I figured I need to put an end to this because I want to stick to my nutritious diet as much as possible. The solution I saw was to look for a lunch box that has extra removable dividers and compartments.
I figured, this will not only allow me to enjoy all my favorites but will help me mind my portions as well.
For the cutlery – did I mention my old lunch box didn’t come with its own spoon and fork? I didn’t see this as a setback before because to my mind I can bring utensils from home anyway until I forgot to do so!
Imagine my shock when I found out I have no utensils to use! I consider myself lucky, though, because, at that time, my friend had extra new ones.
So, now it really matters to me that the lunch box has both dividers and extra removable containers plus cutlery! It would be a major plus point if the cutlery set has a knife, too!
I put this one last because some people may not be too picky when it comes to how their lunch box looks. For me, though, it also matters.
If you work in an office environment, you’d probably understand the pressure: You always need to dress appropriately, look presentable and sharp, and be smart.
Not that the company rules state that you should be using a slick lunch box, but you get the point. Who would want to use a lunch box covered with cartoon characters in an office setting anyway?
Unless you want to be tagged as the “Dora Lunch Box Queen,” I still believe this is a major no-no.
But you don’t need an extravagant lunch box either that’s filled with diamonds or other shining shimmering splendid things.
My rule of thumb is simple: It should look decent. And by decent, I already know what I was looking for.
I want a lunch box with a minimalist design that I’d be proud to flaunt anywhere (even the board room). At least this was my mentality.
The point is, while it’s not the top priority, you should also consider how your lunch box looks because who knows? Your boss might swing by your desk at lunchtime. At least save his good impression of you.
You can use these tips as a guide when choosing the right lunch box for you. All of us have different needs and standards, though, so what is great for me may not be great for you, and vice versa.
However, as a general principle, go for the one that has excellent quality and will give you value for your money.
So far, I’ve found one bento lunch box that ticks everything in my list, and it’s the Karma bento lunch box.
It’s slick, functional, and it’s a total package (complete with sauce pot, separator, cutlery, bands, and even its own case)! I mean, what’s not to love?
You can consider Karma when looking for your next lunch buddy as well. I hope this article helps, and you get to find the right lunch box for you, too!