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Best lunchbox 2023: Our favourite bento and sandwich boxes to buy right now

Sick of squashed sarnies and overpriced cafe lunches? Pack and protect your own food with these lunchboxes

If you were a wee nipper the last time you ate from a lunchbox, you’re missing a trick. The best lunchboxes, like onesies and Chopper bikes, are ingenious design classics that are far too good to be hidden away in the kids’ aisle. In fact, a good lunchbox could change your life. It frees you from junk-food temptations, salad bar leftovers and Pret queues. It’ll make you happier too because no mass-market sarnie is as satisfying as the one you make yourself. Perhaps most importantly, though, it’ll massively reduce your single-use plastic waste and that’s as good a reason as any to get one.

Whether you’re a tapas-style luncher, a classic sarnie lover or the lord of leftovers, there really is a lunchbox design that’ll work for you. Be it a plastic, glass or bamboo lunchbox, we’ve tested and reviewed them all and posted our findings below. Indeed, we like to think we’ve dispelled those memories of the stinky plastic boxes of old, highlighting brilliant new designs that keep food fresh and help you eat in comfort, whether you’re in the canteen or at the park.

Before we reveal our pick of the best lunchboxes though, here’s a quick buying guide.

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Best lunchbox: At a glance

How to choose the best lunchbox for you

What type of lunchbox should I get?

It’s easier to say which type of lunchbox you shouldn’t get, so let’s start there.

Cheap plastic box: You can buy plastic takeaway boxes for next to nothing. Pound shops are full of them, but they’re little better than single-use plastic. You can’t throw them in the dishwasher, freeze or microwave them; they’re probably not BPA-free (they’ll leak chemicals and make your food taste funny, in other words); they’re not leak-proof, and they don’t look very nice.

So let’s move on to the lunchbox styles that are worth choosing from.

Bento box: Lunchbox trends took a big leap forward with the arrival of these Asian lunchboxes that separate food into tiers or compartments. The best double as crockery sets, with each compartment working as a separate container to eat from before fitting back together snugly.

Sandwich box: Most lunchboxes still aim to accommodate a couple of big slabs of bread, with room for fruit or a tub of yoghurt at the side. Many boxes described as ‘bento’ are actually sandwich boxes, because they simply contain a removable divider that you can ditch to make way for your cheese and pickle doorstep.

Lunch bag: Insulated picnic bags tend not to be rigid enough to keep your food from getting knocked and squashed on your journey. That said, one of our line-up offers the best of both worlds: a sturdy insulated box with zips and a strap that make it look (and carry) like a bag.

Food flask: If you’re a soup fiend, go for a flask instead of a lunchbox. Wide flasks such as the Thermos King Food are double-wall insulated and water-tight – more so than lunchboxes that describe themselves as leak-proof. A food flask is wide enough for rice, noodles and stews as well as soup. For more, read our review of the best flasks.

Which material is best for lunchboxes?

Plastic: Good quality polypropylene plastic is durable, dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe and freezer-safe. It’s light enough to pack a big lunch with minimal extra weight, and very affordable. All the plastic lunchboxes in our list are BPA-free.

Silicone: Silicone seals stop things leaking, so they turn up in all kinds of lunchboxes. Silicone isn’t as durable as polypropylene, so be wary of the dishwasher if there’s a lot of it in your lunchbox.

Stainless steel: Naturally antibacterial and chemical-free, stainless steel is more commonly used to make flasks, but also turns up in stackable bento boxes.

Bamboo: Bamboo is a strong, lightweight, affordable, eco-friendly and very attractive alternative to wood, but it warps and stains very easily and shouldn’t be immersed in water. Good for lunchbox components rather than entire lunchboxes.

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The best lunchboxes to buy in 2022

1. Yumbox Panino: Best leak-proof lunchbox

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

Probably the best lunchbox in the world was dreamt up in 2011 by South London mum Sarah Kerr, who couldn’t find a box that didn’t leak baby food all over her hands and bags. So she made one herself.

The Yumbox Panino is small and light enough to carry anywhere, and big enough to accommodate a filling lunch in four compartments that are ingeniously sealed from each other thanks to a single moulded silicone lid. Put yoghurt, hummus or sauce in the middle compartment, and it won’t leak into your sandwiches, salads, sushi or whatever else you pack into the other compartments.

We found the seal wasn’t 100% water-proof, so you’d want to keep drinks in a separate container, but the Yumbox is certainly the most ooze-proof box we tried.

All the plastic and silicone is BPA-free and phthalates-free, and the entire box is officially safe to stick in the dishwasher. However, the outer box contains a lot of silicone, so it’ll last longer if you hand-wash that and only put the durable inner tray in the dishwasher.

The Panino’s colour range is a vivid affair, so if you want something less garish for your boardroom lunches, check out the large dark blue Yumbox Tapas.

Key specs – Material: Plastic tray (dishwasher safe), plastic and silicone box (hand wash for maximum lifespan); Size: 22 x 15 x 5cm; Weight: 490g; Colours available: 7

2. Black+Blum Sandwich Box: Best sandwich box

Price: £26 | Buy now from Amazon

The best thing to happen to your sarnies since sliced bread? This classy steel box from Black+Blum – the Gucci of reusable food containers – could be just that.

It looks plain but it’s a clever piece of kit. The bamboo lid doubles as a chopping board, and the silicone seal helps prevent spillages. A wide elastic band keeps the whole thing together, and it feels snug (and looks amazing) but doesn’t feel as secure as a clip lid.

The box is roomier than you’d think from the photo. At 22cm long and 5cm deep it’s as big as the Yumbox, so there’s space for a sizeable sarnie plus nibbles.

Key specs – Material: Stainless steel and silicone box, bamboo lid (not dishwasher safe); Size: 22 x 15 x 5cm; Weight: 390g; Colours available: 3

3. Fluf Organic Cotton Zipper Lunch Bag: Best lunch bag

Price: From £38 | Buy now from Amazon

Is it a box? Is it a bag? Is it a design statement? This roomy beauty from Canadian company Fluf is all three, and with superb eco credentials to boot.

Twenty-six quid plus postage for a bag may sound steep, but this beautifully-made, cleverly-designed washable tote could slash your lunch bills for years. You wouldn’t want to put sarnies straight inside it without at least wrapping them in paper, but there’s plenty of room in there, plus a stretchy inner pocket for a small flask.

The double layer of thick organic cotton – plus sumptuous, thick, silky, water-safe polyester lining – help to keep food warm or cold, and the chunky zip and robust stitching are secure and durable. It’s even machine-washable. Best of all, the contemporary handbag design is a joy to use.

We love this bold, plain ‘Lunch’ edition, but there are several others to choose from, including the fabulous Jaws-style ‘Shark’ and fruit-patterned ‘Eat the Rainbow’; perfect for reminding you to eat your five-a-day.

Key specs – Material: Plastic (machine-washable cold); Capacity: 470ml; Size: 27 x 20 x 13 cm; Weight: 230g; Patterns available: 9

4. Umami Original Bento: Best large bento box

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

Portion control be damned. This classic stackable bento is two 600ml boxes in one, so you can take seconds to work as well as lunch.

Like the Black+Blum sandwich box, this bento has a silicone border and big elastic band to keep it all together – plus a clip lid for each 600ml box to keep them hermetically sealed. So, it’s potentially super-secure, but the various bits don’t all stay together without the elastic band.

The Umami, which comes in black or white, could be engineered better. The internal separators don’t fit snugly, and the wood-effect plastic is, well, plasticky. But it’s one of the most durable boxes on our list, and you get a set of proper plastic cutlery – no fiddly sporks or fifes here.

Key specs – Material: Plastic with silicone seal (dishwasher safe); Size: 18.5 x 10 x 11cm; Weight: 380g; Colours available: 2

5. Sistema Salad To Go: Best budget plastic lunchbox

Price: £8 | Buy now from Amazon

Skip the overpriced salad bar and take your own Caesar or Waldorf to work in this classic BPA-free plastic box, topped with Sistema’s distinctive KLIP-IT locking clips. It comes with a plastic knife and fork, and the dressing compartment stops your leaves from getting soggy on your commute.

This large 1.1-litre capacity plastic box is safe to stick in the microwave and freezer, in case you’re craving something a bit warmer or chillier than a salad. However we wouldn’t recommend carrying soup to work in it, because the flexible seal isn’t leak-proof.

Key specs – Material: Plastic (dishwasher safe); Size: 16.7 x 16.7 x 8.7cm; Colours available: 1

6. Dino Case: Great kids’ lunchbox

Price: £24 | Buy now from Amazon

You won’t find any silicone seals or insulated bento compartments here, but this sturdy polypropylene T-Rex head is big enough to store your bananas and juice boxes – and cool enough to cause a stir in the playground.

The elasticated handle keeps his hinged jaws shut when you’re not reaching in for food, and doubles as a carrying strap (dinosaur head handbag, anyone?). We’d hesitate to put this handsome creature in the dishwasher, but buyers claim they’ve “thrown it in the dishwasher weekly” for two years and it’s still going strong. Roar-some.

Key specs – Material: Plastic; Size: 22.9 x 15.7 x 13.2cm; Weight: 313g; Colours available: 1

7. Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine Lunch Set: Best kids lunchbox set

Price: £21 | Buy now from Amazon

Although it sadly doesn’t come with any Scooby Snacks, this official Scooby-Doo Lunch Set does come with all the lunchtime essentials: a lunch bag, snack pot and water bottle. The insulated lunch bag is made from 100% polyester, so although it should stand the test of time, it’s light enough for children to easily carry it around. The 473ml water bottle has conveniently been equipped with a carry handle and pop-up straw, which make it easy to both carry around and drink from without any spillages.

In terms of design, the lunch bag has the same iconic outline and colour scheme of the original Mystery Machine, while the bottle and snack box both have vibrant designs that feature the characters in some capacity.

Key specs – Material: BPA free plastic, 100% polyester; Size (lunch bag): 25.5 x 18 x 9cm; Size (snack pot): 12 x 12 x 5cm; Weight: 300g; Colours available: 1

8. Thermos Radiance Dual Lunch Kit: Best insulated lunch bag

Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon

The Radiance Dual Kit has a utility-style design,with two main compartments to separate your food, a zip pocket at the front and water bottle holder on the side. It features foam insulation to maintain the temperature of your food, keeping it cool throughout the day. If you’re someone who prepares meals in advance, you can place your container of food safely in the bottom compartment, while anything extra will fit tidily in the main section above. Constructed of 500D and 300D polyester, the Radiance Dual is a sturdy, practical lunchbox for adults and kids.

Key specsMaterial: Polyester; Size: 18.01 x 13 x 24.99cm; Weight: 160 Grams; Colours available: 1

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