Sunday, January 01, 2012

Stainless Lunchboxes - reviews and lunch box ideas

It's been a while since my original post 'Stainless Steel Lunchboxes Part 1 - Starting Out'
and in that time we've had the chance to give our stainless lunchboxes a thorough run between the four children and sometimes, Dad too.

Firstly, some 'ideas to pack and how' lunch box pics from this year (when I've remembered to take the photos, which is usually after everyone's already at school darnit lol so these are just the ones I managed to squeeze in in the morning). I am thankful that our School has a 'no junk, minimal processed and packaged foods' approach to lunches - and outside that most of the parents do too, or at least an 'all in moderation but not over-the-top' approach.

Often the older children will have a larger lunchbox full plus a round full of fruit/yoghurt whatever else so they generally need two. This works well. The younger two usually only need one lunchbox.
Mr 10 year old's preference is for the Lunchbox 3-in-1 while Mr Nearly 3 prefers the Lunchbox Duo and has claimed it as 'his' lunchbox. Mr Nearly 7 has busted himself over the 3-in-1 all year so received one for Christmas just gone. Miss 12 likes anything she can fit heaps in so almost always takes two - either the Buffalo plus a round, or the Oval plus a round. Most of these pictures below show just one lunchbox (one of two for the child that likes two), or for the smaller boys who only need one/light lunch. I'll have to try and remember to get a full-bench photo when everyone's lunches are out and done, before going into bags.

Other lunchbox ideas include any thing left from dinner the night before (and we've taken all sorts!), quiche, pizza, fruit kebabs on popsticks, different fruits, nachos, tacos, wraps, yoghurt, cheese shapes (home made), home made sausage rolls, cold meats, salads, egg, all sorts of buns, rolls, breads, focaccia - you name it really it can become a lunch item.

The bigger kids used to make their own lunches (and Miss12 has done for the majority since late Kindy/ early Primary) but I am enjoying trying out different things and presentation so I do it unless they specifically want to make their own (which does happen). When I was really really sick last year, the bigger kids did their own and helped the younger ones, which was lovely from my spot on the kitchen floor!

Mr Nearly 7's Kindergarten class also provided morning tea so he only needed to take his lunch and they eat at the table with proper plates, bowls and cutlery so I needed to keep that in mind as they transfer their lunches to their plates most of the time.
Mr Nearly 3 liked to have lunch in a lunchbox just like everyone else, even though he was/is still home with me. Also means that when the 'I'm hungry' rolls out around morning tea time, he's sorted and I just pull it out of the fridge. Should probably do the same for myself eh! As you can see we had tomato in the garden all through winter and into summer this year, so they were almost always in the lunchbox... It seems I also didn't take many pics of the rounds in use, or the other lunchboes... but these will give an idea... so just a few pics from the year of lunches.

Lunchbots Trio
Lettuce, cheese and mayo wraps + fancy cut cherry tomato
oat biscuit and sultanas and dried apricots

pancakes are always a hit

Lunchbots Trio
Prunes, cherry toms, home made choc muffin
carrot skinnies and home grown lettuce

Stainless Round
apple and orange

Lunchbots Trio (on home made PUL lunchbag)
sandwich squares
home grown cherry toms and snow pea
home made muffin
home made pasties

I have found this the best way to pack cut orange and apple. The citrus in the orange stops the cut apple from browning and like this, looks really appealing too! Another option for cut apple is to sprinkle cinammon on it - it covers up any browning, and tastes great too :)

Lunchbots Trio
cucumber, capsi and home grown cherry toms
green and red cut apple

Eco Lunchbox Oval
home made pizza
home made aeroplane gingerbread biscuit

Lunchbots Trio
cherry toms, celery, carrot
cheese sticks, blanched almonds and sultanas

EcoLunchbox 3-in-1
Red and green apple + orange
mini salad - cherry toms, capsi, cucumber and cheese stars
home made pizza
home made gingerbread (sits on the baking paper on top of the pizza)

You can be as imaginative or not, as you like. If you want to be completely mind-blowingly inspired then Happy Little Bento is the place to check out.

----------Additions to the lunchbox 'stuff' - Waste Not Saks.----------

This was for those times where I wanted to pop a biscuit on top of pizza (as you can see in some of the pics above, in that case I was using Glad Bake to separate, which I didn't want to continue to do). The Waste Not Saks keep a sandwich fresh and you can pack more 'moist' things on top, or simply separate savoury/sweet, or different flavours so they don't mix. They fit neatly into the Buffalo and the Oval and the 3-in-1 with a slight fold. They are easy to wash, just turn inside out and fasten the velcro then in the wash with whatever load.

For the stainless lunchboxes, these are what we have and my updated reviews on each.

----------REVIEWS + SIZING----------

From left to right for comparison - Tupperware Sandwich Keeper plus, Lunchbots Trio, Lunchbots Duo, the triple lunchbox, the oval with smaller round, round (with a larger round insert for size), and Buffalo. I started by selling off the Tupperware that I had and no longer used, or that I was replacing with stainless. This is how I funded the 'stainless lunch box purchase' mission!

lunch box from Ash n Juls, purchased Nov 2010. Ash n Juls have always given us GREAT customer service and Pei-Shan is always happy to answer questions. The site is well set out and contains heaps of information. We do really like the Buffalo box, although now and then it would be good to be able to divide things up without paper wrapping sandwiches etc - though the Waste Not Saks provide a solution for this. A very sturdy lunchbox that has been easy to take care of and has put up with some fairly rough treatment in school bags etc
Round Stainless
We also have these Round Stainless containers in all three sizes. These work GREAT for Zeke (Kindy 2011) and Quinn (nearly 3) as a lunchbox on it's own as the larger two containers have a little insert so I can put salads up the top and then muffin/bread underneath and use the little one for fruit salad. They're watertight which is a bonus as not many stainless boxes are (only the rounds). Incidentally, this is how we use them when we go camping.
They are also a great 'part 2' for the older children who like to have the main lunchbox (Buffalo or Trio) but also want something 'wet' like fruit salad, yoghurt, nachos (corn chips on the bottom, salsa on the top) etc They are easy to open and close even for the toddler, and for me one handed when I need to.
Lunchbox 3 in 1
This lunchbox actually holds quite a lot and allows for putting sweet/savoury in one lunch box without them mixing. The little rectangle container that fits inside is quite handy again for separation or for something to compliment the main area. Reasonably sturdy although one buckle went a little off through a rather rough day at work, but was easily set right again.
ECO lunchbox oval 2pc set
this one we use mostly without the small round at all, or the small round is used in another child's lunch setup/separately. When the small round is inside the oval lunchbox, because neither are square you lose a bit of functional space with things that are square like sandwiches etc. If it's things that can be moved around like salads etc then it's not so much an issue.

LunchBots Duo
this one we use for the younger of the children as it divides things neatly, is about the right size for him without waste and he likes the colour! It's also a good 'extra' to use with another larger lunchbox like the Buffalo etc where you want just a little bit more so Buffalo + Duo, or Large Round + Duo.
Lunchbots Trio from 'Living Without Plastic' blog and shop. This one is between the Lunchbots Duo and the Lunchbox 3-in-1 for me. Great to have the three divisions to keep things separate but of course restricts the size of things you can put in. I can still fit a whole sandwich in, just have to cut it down.
So I decided that I would make some lunchbags from PUL *which doesn't come into contact with the food* rather it holds the lunchbox and ice bricks in a waterproof bag, and use the existing containers we had (Tupperware + some stainless) until I had sold off enough Tupperware to buy Planet Boxes. I chickened out doing zips and used my snap press instead. We also have various insulated lunchbags accumulated over the years but none are PVC-free as far as I know - there are some LOVELY bags out there though that are.
Within a group of Mums, there was some talk of a group order for PlanetBoxes and I contacted the online shop. They were very helpful in their reply, as well as giving details of what discounts for what quantity. See the site for dimensions, FAQ, video of how it all works etc. They are a pricey box BUT I reckon they'd be pretty awesome. Almost perfect in fact.
That's the extent of the funds from the Tupperware sell-off lol so that will be it for a while and definately won't stretch to PlanetBoxes so if anyone wants to organise a group order and place it - go for it but unfortunately I won't be joining you all this time... not yet anyway.
When I was ordering the lunchboxes, I found it hard to 'get' what might fit in what sizes when I look lunchboxes empty on the net, which is why the bento blog is helpful.
I've also found that while some lunchboxes LOOK small IRL, they are actually quite deceptive and can fit in a fair bit of food. I prefer the ones with latches to the ones with just lids, for security, but too many latches might be harder/fiddly/lids to lose, some might be not deep enough, need compartments etc. So something to consider when thinking about what your household needs from it's lunchboxes.
Hope this helps out a little and Happy Munching!

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