There’s nothing quite as frustrating as lunch envy, especially when you covet the lunch box as well as its contents.
With the money spent on grab-and-go lunches at an all-time high, and single-use lunch packaging continuing to wreak havoc on the planet, it really is high time you invested in a reusable lunch box or two – if you haven’t done so already.
Options vary across the market, from stylish and sustainable bamboo containers, to silicone, BPA-free plastic and stainless steel options.
Depending on whether you’d like to transport a sandwich, a salad, or the remnants of last night’s takeaway, it’s important to distinguish whether your chosen container is microwavable, and can carry liquids.
Equally, some lunch boxes can be popped into the dishwasher for easy cleaning – great if you’ve filled yours up with a vivid red pasta sauce – while others need to be washed by hand.
First and foremost, we were looking for a container with a strong locking mechanism to avoid unwanted spillages; nobody wants their lunch leaking all over their bag.
While we wanted the promise of sturdiness, we were also after something that was easy to open and close; wasting precious lunchtime minutes trying to access your food and getting hangry is never ideal.
Size-wise, we wanted a compact and efficient design, something that wasn’t too bulky or heavy or would take up too much room in our bags.
Special consideration also went to reusable lunch boxes with added extras, whether that’s a fork and spoon, additional compartments, or a separate container for salad dressing.
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Black + Blum stainless steel lunch box, £31.95
Made from high quality stainless steel, this nifty lunch box also comes with a silicone strap, a stainless steel fork which tucks into the silicone band, and a removable divider to separate foods. It holds together tightly – the most secure out of all of the lunch boxes we tested – thanks to a vacuum release valve system, which is nifty, and ensures no leakages. While it was tricky to choose between this lunch box and Black + Blum’s sandwich box (which has a bamboo lid which doubles up as a chopping board), this one came out top as it has the added bonus of being able to be used in the oven, and can also be placed in the freezer (obviously not suitable for microwave as stainless steel). It’s surprisingly lightweight, and also looks the part. Box, fork and divider are all dishwasher safe.
Tala Push & Push food to go dual compartment tuck-box with cutlery: £6.67, Amazon
This compact lunch box, which can house 650ml and 230ml of contents respectively, promises to be 100 per cent leak proof and airtight – and we didn’t experience any leakages while testing. We particularly enjoyed is handy in built open and close mechanism where you push down to lock, and again push to open. We also liked the fact that it comes with a fork and spoon attached to its side, which fit snugly without being cumbersome and have a protective case around them to keep them clean. As a vertical container, this is great for salads, or noodle dishes like ramen. The separate compartment on top is handy for things such as herbs, nuts, or snacks, or salad dressing if you don’t want your salad to go soggy. It can be placed in the microwave, fridge, freezer and dishwasher and is BPA free.
Sistema salad to go reusable lunch box: £4.99, Amazon
This well-thought out and compact lunch box also has a large capacity, holding up to 1.1l. Its neat, square-shape fits nicely in a bag (and stacks away neatly into a cupboard), while also being highly functional: it houses a dual-top compartment, which is ideal for sandwiches and snacks, plus a separate bottom compartment, a nifty little pot for salad dressings and a spoon and fork which tucks away inside. It also clips shut tightly. The dividing tray, along with its connecting cutlery and salad dressing pot, are also removable if you simply want to fill the whole space with your choice of lunch. The cutlery is a nice touch, as is the salad dressing pot. It’s also safe to us in dishwasher, microwave (excluding lid), fridge and freezer and is phthalate and BPA free.
Lakeland small leak-proof lunch box with compartments: £7.99, Lakeland
The kidney-shaped design of this compact and functional lunchbox means it’s not too bulky for your bag. We also found it to be successfully leak-proof, in part due to its secure silicone rim. The clear lid is also handy for helping you identify which lunch is yours in the staff fridge, although it is slightly on the heavy side. Handy additions include a removable dressing pot, plus a fork which tucks neatly into the side of the container. Handily, it’s also dishwasher and microwave safe.
Tefal masterseal to go snack box,1.2l: £9, Amazon
When you can’t quite decide what to have for lunch, it’s best to have a bit of everything, and this well-designed lunch box is the answer. It comes with three removable compartments, which are incredibly useful if you’re feeling indecisive, or if you’re feeding a baby or toddler. Four large clips safely lock everything in place, so you don’t have to worry about spilling any of your lunch either. Handily, this is also microwave safe, and suitable for freezing.
Elephant Box steel reusable lunch box: £29.50, Yumbles
If you’re hoping to transport a hearty lunch, this one’s for you, and the fact that it’s made from sustainable, food grade stainless steel makes a welcome change to plastic. It boasts a fantastic depth (7.5cm, with a 1.8l capacity), so just the thing if you have a penchant for hefty, doorstop-style sandwiches for your lunch. Also, as it’s stainless steel, it doesn’t suffer from discolouring or lingering odours, which other lunch boxes on the market can. The design is inspired by traditional tiffin boxes, but as it isn’t leakproof we wouldn’t recommend filling with curry. It can be popped in the dishwasher, so it’s nice and easy to clean. You can even write your name on it with a dry-wipe marker.
bobbleBox 1.8l reusable lunch box: £13.99, Auteur
Available in a range of colours including surf, neon pink and our personal favourite, a combination of grey and neon pink, this vibrant lunchbox will certainly jazz up your lunch. This sizeable container comes with a removable top section, split into two for sandwiches/ snacks, and a larger bottom compartment for salads. Plus, unlike many of the other lunch boxes we tested, this comes with a removable ice pack to keep your lunches cool. Stylish yet robust, its leak-resistant thick walls means your lunch is going to stay in one piece, even if it’s thrown around in your bag on your commute. Good news for the environment, too – it’s recyclable and BPA free. For convenience, it can also be used in the freezer, microwave, and the top rack of the dishwasher.
Joseph Joseph go eat reusable lunch box: £16, Joseph Joseph
When it comes to kitchenware, Joseph Joseph is celebrated for its functional yet stylish products, and this lunch box is no exception. The lunch box comprises four easy-to-assemble pieces: a locking collar, silicone lid, wet food compartment with divider, and dry food compartment, which offer a leak-free way of transporting your lunch. It comes in two shades of green and is dishwasher and microwave safe (but the locking collar can’t be placed in the latter).
The verdict: Reusable lunch boxes
Given its airtight locking system and the fact that it can also be used as an oven or freezer dish, Black + Blum’s stainless steel lunch box comes out top for us, while Sistema’s to go salad lunch box ticks all the boxes, as well as being affordable. Oxfam’s bamboo lunch box and the Elephant Box steel lunch box also get a special mention for their eco credentials.