- School lunches are very often mediocre, and for office workers, it costs a lot of money to buy food every day. So why not pack your lunch in a great lunch box?
- We’ve rounded up the very best lunch boxes for preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, and professional life.
Whether your child is heading back to school, you are going back to school, or you’ve just grown tired of buying your lunch from the food truck outside your workplace each day, there’s no denying that a new lunch box makes the midday meal just a little bit tastier.
After all, you have to tote your sandwich and beverage in something, so why not make that something a reusable lunch box that looks good on the lunchroom table and keeps your sandwich from getting smashed, rather than wasting money and resources on use-them-and-toss-them paper bags?
Here at Business Insider, we take our lunch breaks seriously. That’s why we set out to find the best lunch boxes available for every age from pre-school right through adulthood. Honestly, any of these picks could be good for any person, no matter their age.
We visited the top consumer websites to check out the research, and listened to buyer feedback on what owners love – and don’t love – about their purchases. So if you’re ready to eat, forget about that crumpled paper sack, and read on. Here are the six lunch boxes that we most recommend.
Here are the best lunch boxes you can buy:
- Best for preschool: Bentgo Kids Bento Box
- Best for elementary school: PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag
- Best for middle school: L.L. Bean Flip-Top Lunch Box
- Best for high school: L.L. Bean Insulated Lunch Box
- Best for outdoor workers: Ramaka Solutions Insulated Lunch Bag
- Best for office workers: PackIt lunch bags
Updated on 10/24/2019 by Connie Chen: Updated prices and links.
The best lunch box for preschoolers
The Bentgo Kids Bento Box is divided into perfectly sized compartments for your child’s preschool-sized appetite and comes in three bright colors.
The first day of pre-school is a day of tears across the country, but it’s not usually the little ones who are crying. Instead, they are the bittersweet tears of moms watching their babies spreading their wings in preparation for the inexorable flight out of the nest. These little birds are just as likely to forget their lunch boxes on the playground as they are to bring them home, so it’s a good idea to choose a box in one of the bright colors most favored by this age group. It’s harder to overlook something colorful.
The Bentgo Kids Bento Box delivers: It comes in three happy colors, including purple, blue, and green that are bright enough to be remembered. But best of all, this pre-school and daycare-friendly lunch box performs a trick that is very important to many youngsters: it keeps foods separate in their own compartments, so different foods don’t “touch.”
The sturdy plastic box is made without BPA, vinyl, lead, or PVC. It has rubber edges, so it won’t crack if dropped, and the two clasps are easy for little hands to open and close. The inner tray lifts out and is microwave and dishwasher safe. It’s also portioned into five compartments that are just the right size for the appetites of the pre-school crowd.
This preschool-perfect lunch box is a hit on Amazon, where it has more than 5,600 reviews and an average of 4.1 stars. Parents love that the box is leak-proof and easy for preschoolers to carry and open. However, many commented that the compartments are much smaller than they expected, so be aware that this lunch box is truly intended for very young kids or those with small appetites.
Pros: Sized right for kids in preschool and first grade, bright colors, compartments, easy to wash, durable
Con: Compartments are small, so your child’s appetite will likely outgrow the box by first grade
The best lunch box for elementary school
The PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag keeps your elementary kid’s lunch cold for hours, and it comes in more than 40 different fun designs.
For the majority of kids, the elementary-school years are good ones. Toddlerhood is firmly in the rearview window, the pangs and perils of puberty are still far ahead, and for most children in this age group, it’s all about family, friends, and fun.
When it comes to a lunch box, elementary school children generally gravitate toward bright colors, favorite animated characters, popular movie themes, cutesy animals, or wacky-but-fun designs. There’s still a fair chance your kid will forget to bring the lunch box home, but when it’s as colorful as the PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag, it’s a lot less likely to be left behind on the school bus.
There’s no need for separate gel packs or ice packs in this lunch bag. Its patented cooling technology is built right into the bag, so just pop it into the freezer overnight, and in the morning, it’s chilled enough to keep lunch fresh for hours. Of course, you don’t have to freeze the Packit lunch box. If you prefer, just pack lunch the night before and store it in the fridge until it’s time to head out the door.
The soft PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag is made of poly canvas, with a food-safe, water-resistant lining. It zips shut at the top and also has a Velcro tab for extra security. Plus, a buckle handle makes it easy to clip onto handlebars or a backpack. When lunchtime is over, the bag folds up to easily fit in a locker or backpack.
With more than 25 colors and designs to choose from, your child is sure to find a Packit Freezable bag he or she loves. Camouflage, bright geometrics, polka dots, tie-dye, treasure maps, owls, and many more designs are available. These lunch bags are fun.
The PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag is Good Housekeeping’s overall favorite. There are more than 4,400 customer reviews of the bag, with an average of 4.1 (out of 5) stars. Parents appreciate the way the bag stays cold for hours and holds plenty of food for your hungry elementary-age child. On the downside, many buyers commented that the Velcro tab quickly wore out, although the bag still closes with the zipper.
Pros: Many child-appealing designs and colors, stays cold a long time, buckle handle.
Cons: Velcro tab doesn’t hold up to regular use.
The best lunch box for middle school
- L.L. Bean/Business Insider
The L.L. Bean Flip-Top Lunch Box hits the sweet spot between grown-up style and kid-friendly design.
Ah, middle school. The in-between years are the hardest. Preteens are filled with yearnings to look, feel, and act more grown-up. And yet at the same time, they long to stay in the ease and comfort of childhood. You can’t easily solve all of the angst that comes with junior high, but you can at least make lunchtime a little bit brighter with a lunch box that both reflects the desired maturity of its carrier and yet retains the memory of the little-kid years they’ve so recently left behind.
The L.L. Bean Flip-Top Lunch Box hits that sweet spot for this age group. It’s available in a wide range of bright solids and equally bright and fun prints, yet it has a simple, “grown-up” design that proclaims the owner is no longer a little kid.
The rugged outer fabric is strong enough to take just about anything your child dishes out. The inner insulation keeps food cold for hours, is easy to clean, and resists leaks and stains. There’s a handy mesh pocket on the top of the lunch box (the part that flips open) to hold sandwiches, chips, utensils, snacks, or ice pack, and there’s plenty of room in the lower section for drinks, fruit, sandwiches, or plastic containers of food. An adjustable shoulder strap makes the bag easy to carry.
It’s not one of Wirecutter’s picks, but it does recommend the L.L. Bean Flip-Top Lunch Box if you’re looking for something larger. The site’s only quibble is that it won’t fit inside other bags, like a backpack.
Pros: Lots of great colors and designs, durable and classic design
Cons: None to speak of
The best lunch box for high school
- L.L. Bean/Business Insider
The L.L. Bean Insulated Lunch Box has a sturdy construction, comes in teen-friendly colors, and it boasts two mesh pockets.
High school is a busy time. The class load – and accompanying homework – is high, the pressure is on to figure out a life plan, hormones kick into overload, and for many kids, there’s also a part-time job, an intensive sport team schedule, or an overly-busy social life to attend to. To top it all off, many teens feel immense amounts of pressure to fit in and yet show individuality. It can be confusing, for sure.
But one thing that is generally blessedly simple during these four hectic years is the preferred lunch box. To-the-point, colorful, and absolutely not babyish, the L.L. Bean Insulated Lunch Box is a winner.
This well-designed lunch box sports an outer mesh pocket for utensils or small snacks, an inner mesh pocket on the box’s lid for sandwiches, chips, or other goodies that might otherwise be easily smashed, and a roomy lower section that’s big enough for drinks, plastic food containers, fruit, sandwiches, or whatever else your kiddo enjoys at lunchtime.
The box comes in a wide range of solid colors that will appeal to teens and an even larger selection of prints. Some of the prints are too childish for high school, but several are very suited to the older age group.
Good Housekeeping also likes this lunch box, praising its smooth plastic interior that easily wipes clean and resists staining.
Pros: Great selection of colors, two mesh pockets, classic design
Cons: If your child is extra-hungry, this lunch box might not be big enough
The best lunch box for outdoor workers
- Ramaka Solutions
If you like to pack a big lunch or you need to carry food for the whole day, the Ramaka Solutions Insulated Lunch Bag is a great choice.
Maybe you’re in college, maybe you’re just starting your first job, or maybe you’ve been on the job for years. Whatever your situation, you want a lunch box that gets the job done with a touch of panache, yet won’t draw negative attention in the lunchroom. Well, you’ve met your match with the Ramaka Solutions Insulated Lunch Bag.
This is the LBLB (little black lunch box) of the noon-day meal. It’s just about perfect for every lunch need. Not to say that it only comes in black, because it’s also available in blue, gray, red, and purple. But what makes this bag so great is that not only is it roomy enough to hold a large lunch plus a few snacks for your morning and afternoon breaks, it’s also well designed and easy to carry.
There’s a padded, adjustable shoulder strap, two large mesh side pockets that hold 20-ounce water bottles, an inside zipped mesh pocket for utensils or small snacks, and a large outer zipped pocket for even more snacks, small plastic food containers, fruit, or veggies. Plus, the interior is very roomy. Go ahead and pack in a few plastic food containers, drinks, and pieces of fruit – it’ll fit.
Amazon buyers like this lunch box. It has more than 1,000 reviews and an average of 4.1 stars. Customers praise the Ramaka Solutions Insulated Lunch Bag for its hefty size. Many say they use the outer pockets to hold keys, phone, wallet, and similar items. Buyers also love how well it is insulated. One owner says, “This bag is like a mini-refrigerator. It keeps my food cold even in the hottest weather.”
Of course, there are always naysayers to every product, although surprisingly, the characteristic many customers like most about the Ramaka Solutions bag – its large size – is the very thing others complain about, saying it is just too big (there’s actually an even bigger version). Undoubtedly, this is a lunch box for those with hefty appetites, or who like to bring a full day’s worth of food, instead of relying on the lunchroom or vending machine for snacks. If you prefer something smaller, you might be better pleased with the L.L. Bean Insulated Lunch Box listed above.
Pros: Big, roomy lunch box with multiple compartments, several colors to choose from, well insulated.
Cons: If you only pack a small lunch, this might be too big for your needs
The best lunch bags for office workers
PackIt makes lots of lunch bags, and they’re all great, but we like the new Traveler and Hamptons styles for people on the go who want to keep their food cold.
PackIt’s lunch bags are unique because you can freeze them and they’ll keep your food cold for hours. The company has lots of cute designs and shapes available, so you’re sure to find one you like.
The Traveler is good for everyday scenarios where you want a smaller lunch bag that holds the essentials, while the Hamptons bag is great for when you need to carry more food with you or a small group of people.
Pros: Cute designs, affordable, keep food cold, good amount of storage, designed for travel
Cons: Nothing major from our testing, although a few buyers complained about sealing and construction