The options are endless when it comes to buying the lunchbox itself, so it comes down to your priorities. Do you want variety at lunchtimes and need a box with different compartments? Or perhaps space inside your bag is limited, and you need something slimline.
There is no right or wrong type of lunchbox to buy, but try to make sure that you get one made without BPA – and one that doesn’t leak is crucial.
We put a range of lunchboxes to the test to find out which would survive our all-important leak test. Read on to discover our best lunchboxes. For over 400 buyer’s guides, visit our product review section and find reviews of reusable coffee cups, water bottles and more.
Black + Blum stainless steel lunchbox
Best overall lunchbox
Pros: stylish with great features
This lunchbox is really cleverly designed. It’s stainless steel, with a brightly coloured silicone strap (we had an orange one, but it also comes in blue or green). The strap also holds a stainless steel fork on the outside of the box. There’s a removable divider that slides up and down to make two compartments of whatever size you fancy.
Unusually, you can put the base section in the oven. It’s also safe to use in the freezer, so when not pressed into service as a lunchbox, it can be used for freezer meals. However, it’s not microwaveable, and is only partially dishwasher-safe (the lid and strap should be handwashed).
The box is lovely to look at and despite having no clips, is leakproof. It seals with a valve that you open and close. We packed a salad and liberally drizzled olive oil over it before turning the lunchbox upside down and swinging it about a bit, but it didn’t leak a drop.
We also checked to see if it was big enough for a sandwich. It needed to be cut in half, but the box was tall enough for the sandwich halves to be stacked on top of each other. There was room for a small salad too.
Best lunchbox for keeping your lunch cold
Pros: keeps lunch cold without the need for ice packs
Cons: on the small side
If you’re fed up with having warm salad for lunch, or tired of carting about cool bags and ice packs, this lunchbox could be the answer.
Just put the lid in the freezer for at least 10 hours – we kept it in overnight. Once you’ve made your lunch in the morning, put the lid back on the box and it will keep your food cold.
We filled the box with salad and left it in a warm kitchen for five hours (the average time between making your lunch and eating it). Our salad was beautifully chilled. The packaging claims it will stay cold for around seven hours, and it was still cold after this time too.
We liked the way the lid clicked on without any clasps, and it didn’t leak either. It’s safe to use in the dishwasher or microwave (except the lid). There’s a small separate, removable lidded box inside as well.
Tefal MasterSeal To Go food storage 1.2-litre lunchbox
Most user-friendly lunchbox
Pros: good size, leakproof, versatile, dishwasher-safe
Cons: no individual lids on compartments
This multi-compartment lunchbox is designed for flexibility. There’s one large compartment and two smaller ones. All of these sit inside the main box, so you can remove some or all of the compartments if you want a bigger space.
The whole lunchbox sits on a plate, which helps stop crumbs getting all over your keyboard when you’re eating at your desk. The box is sealed with four long clasps, and a very broad strap keeps it together.
The lunchbox passed our drip test admirably, with not a drop of olive oil seeping through – living up to the ‘100% leakproof’ claim on the packaging. It also comes with a 30-year guarantee for good measure.
It ticks all the boxes, as it’s BPA-free and is safe to use in the freezer, microwave and dishwasher. We fitted a sizeable homemade roll in the main compartment, with carrot and dried apricots in the other two. It’s easy to open and close, and the lime-coloured compartments, plate and seal are eye-catching too.
OXO Good Grips on-the-go lunch container
Best no-nonsense lunchbox
Pros: extremely practical
Cons: not the cheapest
Sometimes you just want something that is effective and solid without worrying too much about the style. This box has a deep main bowl which can easily house a large roll or salad.
There’s also a removable shallow top layer for a sandwich, biscuits, carrot sticks or anything else you fancy, so you can keep your food separate.
The clear lid has four clasps to lock it, and the green seal – which can be removed for washing – provides a splash of colour.
Eco-friendly bamboo & cornstarch lunchbox
Best ‘green’ lunchbox
Pros: environmentally-friendly, small but big enough for a sarnie
Cons: not airtight
This is a dinky little box with impeccable credentials, being made from bamboo and cornstarch. Once you no longer need it, it won’t take up space in a landfill as it’s biodegradable. Even the label is made from recycled material.
It’s green in colour (dyed with natural colourants, of course), with a contrasting white band that sits neatly in the indent.
We managed to pack a whole sandwich, then tried the lettuce-and-olive-oil test. The box specifically says it isn’t airtight, so we thought it performed well – just a few drops leaked through. This is an ideal size if you don’t want to cart around a chunky lunchbox.
Alessi food à porter
Best blow-the-budget lunchbox
Pros: converts into a mini bag so you can easily carry it separately
Cons: the price tag
This oval-shaped bento box has a big main compartment and two smaller ones. The main one, though not broad enough for a whole sandwich, is plenty tall enough to fit two sandwich halves stacked on top of each other.
You secure it with a band, and, very cleverly, a silicone handle which can be wrapped around it so it can be easily carried.
The seal is really tight – if anything, it’s hard to remove the lids – and nothing escaped from it.
We tried the grey model (it also comes in red and light blue) and overall it’s very stylish, with subtle Alessi branding on the box and strap. We liked the matte main compartment, which contrasted nicely with the glossy central section.
Sistema salad & sandwich to go
Best space-saving lunchbox
Pros: well designed to fit two different lunch foods
Cons: not the most stylish
With a generous 1.63-litre capacity, this box is surprisingly compact. There’s a deep main section that’s plenty big enough for a good-sized salad, and a removable top section for a sandwich. We also found it worked the other way round, with a large roll in the main section and a few carrot and cucumber sticks in the top.
The box is secured with four small but effective locking clasps, and we liked that the bright pink contrasted the clear box.
It’s deep, so it won’t fit into the smallest of bags, but the shape means it wouldn’t take up too much cupboard space. It’s also highly practical, as you can put it in the microwave, dishwasher and freezer.
Mon Bento MB original green English garden bento box
Best bento box
Pros: cleverly designed
Cons: on the pricey side
Made in France, this chic box oozes style, but it has hidden features too. There are two equal-sized boxes, one green and one white, with individual lids and a pretty green top lid. One compartment has a small removable section which can hold something small like raisins, and it doubles up as a divider. The box is held together with a grey strap.
In addition to scoring high on the looks front, we awarded this top marks because, unusually for bento boxes, you can use it in the microwave and it’s airtight too. You just pull the silicone flap in each section to reveal a steam hole, making it suitable for the microwave.
We tried packing salad with olive oil and turning it upside down for an hour, but nothing came out. The box can also be used in the dishwasher and freezer. With a one-litre capacity, it holds a decent amount too.
Why buy a lunchbox?
The question really should be – why not buy a lunchbox? If you regularly take lunch to work, or pack one when you’re on a day trip, they are infinitely superior to wrapping your sarnie in foil or using a single-use sandwich bag.
Using a lunchbox is better for the environment, will save you money in the long run, and avoids the annoyance of squashed sandwiches.
You don’t have to think about borrowing your kid’s Star Wars lunchbox either – there are lots of stylish or just plain effective options for adults.
Which lunchbox should I buy?
First of all, think about what you will use it for. If it’s just for a sandwich, you don’t need to worry too much about leaks, but if you like a salad with dressing, it’s important to find one that is airtight.
Capacity is important – how big is your average lunch? Larger boxes will hold more substantial lunches, but also take up more space in your bag.
Fancy a sandwich, salad, and some fruit too? If you don’t want it all mixed up together, search for one with compartments. Some of the boxes in our sample had adjustable dividers so you could move them around to make the compartments work for you. We also tested bento boxes, which often have two or three completely separate containers.
Some lunchboxes are insulated, so if you tend to have lunches that need to be kept cool, opt for one of these.
Do you like taking leftovers to work? If you want to take last night’s curry to the office, find a lunchbox that can go in the microwave.
Lunchboxes vary considerably in price. Our sample ranged from £1.50 to £44.
Finally, think about style. If you’re going to use it every day, you might as well find a lunchbox that you find attractive. You might prefer a no-nonsense, rugged lunchbox, or you might prefer a model that’s so sophisticated, you become the envy of the office. Do you want one with a pretty pattern, or a see-through box so you can gaze hungrily at its contents?
What we looked for in a lunchbox…
No leaks: We filled each box with salad and olive oil before shaking and turning them upside down. We also put the boxes in bags and swung them about as we walked before checking them for leaks.
Clever features: Does the box have removable compartments, keep your lunch cold, or come with a knife and fork?
Easy to use: No one wants to waste precious lunchtime minutes wrestling to open their lunchbox. We checked for easy-to-open clasps and smoothly opening boxes.
Size: We looked for lunchboxes that were big enough to hold a grown-up lunch, and gave bonus points to ones that managed to do that without being too bulky.
Style: We were pleasantly surprised by how attractive some of the lunchboxes were and awarded marks for this.
Value for money: There was a big price range, but the most important question was whether the boxes merited their price tag.
This review was last updated in May 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a trusty lunchbox you can’t live without? Leave a comment below…