Ask Maxwell: What’s the Best School Lunch Box?

published Aug 24, 2021
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Vintage images of friends cheering during lunch.
Credit: Shutterstock/Everett Collection

Now that school is reopening in my neighborhood again, I need a new lunch box for my kid. What’s the best one you’ve found?


Morning! I’m running this again as I’ve had a bunch of new inquiries on this question! On to the email:

Dear Holly (as well as a few others that have just asked me this question again),

Over at The Kitchn, they’ve spent a good deal of time testing and writing about lunch boxes, and I’ve tried them all. My main problem is that my daughter has not met a lunch box that she doesn’t fall in love with (and quickly out again), so our house is filled with a graveyard of orphaned lunch boxes. Also, she tends to lose pieces somehow, so the orphanage just grows.

Credit: Monbento

That said, I did stumble upon a design that has worked really well for MOST of her school time and which I doubled down on a few years ago, getting us into a nice rhythm with less orphan moments. The challenge was that the box had to be leakproof and easy to wash, and come with many different compartment sizes. Most of the ones we had were not leakproof, and that always led to a mess.

My favorite is from a company called Monbento. I first saw Monbento at a trade show in Paris and bought one, carrying it home like a treasure in my baggage. However, the design soon arrived here in the States. Started by a young French couple, Fabien and Emilie, in 2009, they have crossed the ingenious Japanese bento-box design with their French design style to the benefit of the everyday lunch box.

Their boxes seal easily, click together, and stay that way with a simple strap. Their designs have changed over the years, but they are all good and now include screw on insulated soup canisters, which are great in the winter. I like to buy three sets of the classic design so we always have clean boxes ready to go in the kitchen and I don’t have to go looking in Ursula’s room for stray pieces.

Credit: Monbento

Made of lightweight, BPA-free plastic, Monbento boxes are airtight, freezer- and dishwasher-safe, and come in such a wide range of “soft touch” colors that you can customize to make your own. Two compartments are the norm, with a soft strap that holds them together. Smaller straps are available to wrap around one container only. The best thing? I no longer worry about ANYTHING leaking out into my or my daughter’s bag before it comes time for lunch.

ALSO, when it gets cold and you LOVE TO MAKE SOUP or anything hot, this is the best thing we’ve found for that. Doesn’t leak!

AND special bonus! Here’s a video I made on Monbento just a few years back!

Let’s all hope we get our kids to school this fall!

Best, M

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Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

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