It can be hard to splurge on expensive items designed to last a lifetime when cheap, semi-disposable alternatives abound in our stores. Their ubiquity makes them seem like the obvious choice.
For parents preparing to pack daily lunches for school, stainless steel and glass containers are a perfect example. I can buy a week’s worth of plastic sandwich boxes for the price of a single stainless steel one.†
Kids lose things. Kids break stuff. Kids aren’t necessarily careful with something just because Mom paid more for it.
And, after all, they are just children! While I want mine to grow up to be careful stewards of their possessions, I’d also like for them to be able to enjoy a meal without fretting about my reaction if the fancy new lunchbox gets dented or scratched.
In spite of such obstacles, the LunchBots brand proved to me this week that I was wise to invest a bit more cash in their products vs. the cheaper plastic competition in 2010. They stand behind their products, even 10 years after purchase!
LunchBots is one of a few companies I’ve personally patronized that opened for business c. 2008. That’s when plastic-as-poison was gaining mainstream steam, leading suburban moms like me to look for non-toxic alternatives to plastic food containers laced with BPA and other endocrine disrupting* compounds that may or may not leach at dangerous levels into what we eat and drink from them.
In 2020, LunchBots replaced a ten year old lid that my child lost. They didn’t charge me a cent, not even the actual cost of mailing it!
I wrote to the company asking if I could still purchase a replacement for a yellow Pico dual- compartment snack box; I was sent a new lid free of charge. LunchBots added their courteous thanks—for my business and my brand loyalty—to boot.
The large white rectangle on the old lid is where I’ve obscured my child’s name, not a feature of the lid itself. I stuck on a label made with my trusty Brother P-Touch (PT-1400) label maker. Those labels stick through many dishwasher cleanings. This is where I confess that I do not hand wash my painted LunchBots lids as they recommended in 2010 for optimal appearance.
Newer LunchBots bento boxes no longer come with painted lids, probably to avoid the cosmetic blemishes you’ll see on mine. But please recognize that I’m sharing pictures of a decade old painted lid that has gone through the dishwasher and never been babied. Expect this kind of condition from real world family use where the kids frequently eat lunch outside in the stony New England dirt.—chipped or intact—ever touches food inside. There are no signs of rust or any other functional failures in my Pico containers. The new lid does fit more tightly than my old, worn one, and it takes a bit of force for me to remove it though I have arthritic hands. Opening even the snugger fitting lid should be manageable by any child past toddlerhood.
It’s worth mentioning that I bought my LunchBots items from Amazon.com probably when they were on sale. I was not in the LunchBots customer database when I inquired, never having bought direct or joined their mailing list. I did include this photo of my Pico with my email requesting a new lid.
I purchased both of my LunchBots Pico containers in the same Amazon order on July 23, 2010. I may have been anticipating a new school year, or perhaps I was looking for snack containers for those sandy trips to the beach? The why is lost to time, but the when is definite.
I’ve purchased other‡ stainless steel lunch containers in the interim, but only one more made by LunchBots, also from Amazon, bought later in 2010. I don’t have a special relationship with them, nor could their customer service agent have had any way to guess how much money I spend on such purchases. It’s a fair guess that the treatment I received from LunchBots customer service is typical for an inquiry out of the blue.
Today, LunchBots offers three sizes of “bento box” style stainless steel containers. Instead of painted lids, they offer optional “snap on” plastic covers to color coordinate and customize otherwise plain stainless grey. There are a few variations of internal divisions available in each size. I don’t own any of the currently available boxes, so I can’t offer any advice specific to those, nor have I tried any of their “dip containers.”
I have recently begun replacing my Thermos brand insulated lunch jars with the LunchBots alternative: Thermals. Available in 8 oz, 12 oz, and 16 oz capacities, they cinched my purchase by using identical lids for all three standard-width** sizes.
The generous lid replacement after a decade had already primed me to go with LunchBots for this expensive set of replacements, though it was the sum total of their features that decided me on the brand.
My digressive nature almost led me into a full discussion here and now of the best insulating thermal food jar on the market, but I’ll save that for a future post. 1200 words is me being concise.
Today’s message is meant to be this: LunchBots proved the value of their higher cost, but longer lasting, containers to me by supporting their products for over a decade. Products that work perfectly for ten years—still with no signs of imminent failure—represent measurable financial and environmental value compared with cheaper plastic alternatives.
Each $13 sandwich box was money well spent, and I’ll look to LunchBots for packing portable meals for my family for the forseeable future.
† In local brick & mortar stores, it’s hard to even find non-plastic options. Where they do exist, at a health food shop or perhaps at Whole Foods, sizes and shapes are often extremely limited.
*BPA-free isn’t sufficient to get me to buy many plastic food storage boxes anymore. Producers of plastic foodwares have switched from one potentially problematic chemical to other, similar ones. It remains possible that there won’t be negative health effects from ingesting tiny amounts of these substances, but I choose to limit my use of any plastic in contact with warm-to-hot foods and drinks. I prefer not to be the lab rat upon whom these products are tested.
I do absolutely recognize situations where non-breakable, lightweight plastic is a risk worth taking, but I also acknowledge those to be risky choices in the long run.
‡ It turns out that U-Konserve —formerly Kids Konserve—sells the kinds of containers I tend to use most frequently, so they’ve gotten more of my business. Instead of bento style boxes, I reach for individual containers for each item in the typical American mode of packing a school lunch.
I do pack food bento style when I know my family will be pressed for time at a meal, and also when we take picnics to the beach. When I think sand will transfer into the food with too much fussing, or when plucking off individual lids will take too much time or effort, I use LunchBots or Laptop Lunches plastic bentos that I bought years before stainless alternatives became widely available.
I maintain a fairly large “wardrobe” of lunch packing options!** LunchBots sells one wider 16 oz Thermal insulated jar that uses a different diameter lid. I actually gave one of those wide jars to my father last year as a gift. Dad was working in a shop where the lunchroom microwave was always busy during his brief dinner break, significantly cutting into his meal time.
For a man with large hands, the wider jar makes for more comfortable eating, and easier deep cleaning when required. It was the right choice for Dad. With smaller appetites and a busier family kitchen, I’ll take a harder-to-scrub-clean jar with an interchangeable lid at my house, especially since Thermals are dishwasher safe. It’s a rare mess that forces me to fit my hand inside a food jar.