Home tools Buyer's Guides from tech enthusiast who loves technology and clever solutions for better living.
Best meal prep bags 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated December 1, 2018
Best meal prep bags of 2018
There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 3 of the very best options. Customers need to be careful on how they spend their money on these products.
Come with me. I want to find something that’s designed well (both for aesthetic purposes and efficiency).
Test Results and Ratings
|Ease of use||
№1 – EDC Meal Prep Bag by Evolutionize – Full Meal Management System includes Portion Control Meal Prep Containers + Ice Pack
Why did this meal prep bags win the first place?
The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack. The rear part fits perfectly! It is mounted really tight and reliable. I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product.
Why did this meal prep bags come in second place?
The material is pretty strong and easy to wash if needed. This is a pretty decent product that perfectly fitted the interior of our office. Managers explained me all the details about the product range, price, and delivery. I recommend you to consider buying this model, it definitely worth its money.
Why did this meal prep bags take third place?
This price is appropriate since the product is very well built. It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time. The material is incredibly nice to the touch. It has a great color, which will suit any wallpapers. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new.
meal prep bags Buyer’s Guide
Hey, proper storage is no laughing matter. I have had my fair share of spilled foods, leaky lids, microwave meltdowns, and other food-related tragedies that I’d now rather avoid, and you probably have too. You might be tempted to use any ol’ container—maybe even reuse an old cottage-cheese container—but a proper food-storage container helps reduce spoilage by keeping air out and preventing fridge smells from permeating your goods.
There are a few ways to test your lids
A winning lid and accompanying container should survive at least two of those tests without a problem. Even if you’re unlikely to bring liquid meals with you on the go, having a firm-fitting lid will save your bags from accidents.
It’s a cold world out there.
Freezing your food can ensure its longevity, but this also subjects it to the harshness of sub-zero temperatures, resulting in freezer burn—you know, those nasty white splotches on food that make it taste like something you’d find at a wax museum. Worse, improperly frozen foods can absorb other smells and flavors.
Here’s where freezer-friendly containers can protect the flavor, texture, and color of the food. They help reduce the food’s exposure to air, which is responsible for many of the unwanted side effects of freezing. Proper freezer-friendly containers should be sealable and rigid; some glass ones, like Mason jars, can work, but make sure to give your food some room to crystallize and expand. Plastic freezer Ziploc bags can be awesome alternatives as well.
Freezer-friendly containers won’t prevent freezer burn entirely, but they do go a long way in helping to preserve your food.
Reminder: The amount of time individual foods can be stored before their flavors and texture deteriorate can vary. Uncooked meat, for example, tends to store longer than cooked meat. Just make sure you label and rotate through your frozen foods in a timely manner.
Containers that don’t break the bank.
Buy one set to get started. Beware that some sets will advertise having a certain number of pieces, but often this number includes the lids, meaning you’re probably getting fewer actual containers. If you’re willing to splurge, glass sets are really worth the purchase.
The bag is overall recommended because it carries a lot in a compact space. Trainers and athletes can pack several full meals and snacks in this bag. The shaker cup can easily mix meal supplements or protein powder for athletically-inclined users. The shaker bottle also doubles as a water bottle.
No shoulder strap
This bag is large enough to fit not just food, but other accessories as well. A folded towel and sunglasses can be carried with ease, particularly for those who wish to take the bag on a picnic or hiking trip. The bag also has a fleece-lined pocket and two additional insulated pockets. The larger compartment is designed to carry as many as three full meals. Cutlery utensils are not included, but they can be carried in the zipper compartment. The pack does include three plastic containers with lids. These containers are designed to hold meals, and the pack also includes a smaller container for carrying smaller items, such as vitamin supplements.
This pack is recommended for its organizational capabilities. The meal system even includes a small, removable pouch along with the bag. This pouch can hold small personal items, such as a cell phone or wallet.
Must be carried on the back with shoulder straps
This LISH bag is intended for the sporty user who wishes to tote multiple small meals and snacks at once, either to the gym or on a hiking trip. Users who wish to cook and transport healthy meals will find this bag a viable option. The bag has both a top carrying handle and a detachable shoulder strap. The six containers include four larger square containers and two smaller rectangular ones. One ice pack to keep food fresh and cool is also included in the bag. A small, plastic vitamin supplement container is also included. The side mesh pocket makes it easy to carry a water bottle or sports drink.
The included ice pack can keep food fresh for a couple of hours. However, if the user wants the food to stay fresh all day, it is highly recommended that the user purchase a second ice pack to go along with the included one.
The pack is overall recommended for its simplicity. It easily fits the six included containers, and there is a side pocket for additional storage space.
No extra features
In addition to the meal bag, this system also includes four large containers to fit up to four meals. An adjustable bottle holder is made onto the side of the bag, and this is intended for the user to carry a water bottle or another drink. The bag itself is insulated, which helps to keep food cool and fresh. Made for durability, the bag is lined with quality nylon inside and a polyester shell outside. Buyers have a choice between a red, black, grey or blue bag.
Overall, the bag is recommended as a good choice for those who want a simple bag and do not need lots of additional storage space.
Meal prep bags come in all colors. Bright neon ones are best for the gym or best to be used as a travel cooler. A basic black bag is inconspicuous and looks professional. Neon colors are generally not a great fit for a professional office environment.
Straps and Handles
Some meal prep bags include both a carrying handle atop the bag as well as a shoulder strap. When shopping for a meal prep bag, the customer should consider which feature is most important. For ease of use, the shoulder strap is perhaps the most comfortable. A shoulder strap with a metal harness tends to be sturdier than a plastic one. Meal prep bags with only carrying handles on top will work if the bag is a small one (measuring less than 1inches high and 1inches wide). Otherwise, carrying the bag using the top handle will most often cause the bag to rip or come unstitched.
All of the meal prep bags mentioned here are insulated, but in most cases, insulation simply consists of strips of foam underneath a layer of nylon. Even the best of these products can get worn down with time. Thus, the most trustworthy companies will offer a warranty.
What To Look For In Meal Prep Bag
Backpack: As the way it is named, it comes with two straps and it is meant to be carried on the back. This is usually the largest. It can also be capable of holding more, even a laptop.
Single Strap: This works pretty much like a duffel bag and is perhaps the most common. There is a strap that you wear on your shoulder to carry this bag. It is often more comfortable.
Comfort: It is important to choose a meal prep bag that you will feel comfortable with. The straps should be padded so that carrying the bag will be comfortable.
Size: Consider how big is your appetite or how often you should eat to determine the right size of the meal prep bag that will be perfect for your needs.
Insulation: This is a good way to make sure that your food will retain its ideal temperature, even after hours of being stored in the bag.
Inclusions: What are included in the set of the meal prep bag that you will purchase? Aside from the actual bag, consider how many containers are included. In some cases, a protein shaker is also provided.
Design: You will be bringing your meal prep bag like a normal bag. With this, it is also important to consider the way it looks. A good option will also have several exterior pockets, providing ample amount of space for other things you have to bring.
Big Cycle Design Meal Prep Bag
This is another option that is great for budget-conscious buyers. More than its price, one more thing that you will love is its large size, which will allow you to prepare and bring more meals. It comes with six trays for portion control.
The trays are great because they are made from sturdy and thick materials, making it offer good insulation, so as the bag. To add, they are also made using BPA-free materials. You can have peace of mind knowing that it won’t be toxic.
If you want to have a risk-free purchase, you have another good reason to pick this product. You can have peace of mind knowing that the manufacturer is offering a satisfaction guarantee for 30 days. Within a month, if you are unhappy in any way with your purchase, the manufacturer will issue an unconditional refund.
Who should get this
If you or your kids have a lunch box that is difficult to clean and is beginning to smell a little funky, it’s probably time for a new one. If you’re an adult who works in remote locations, or if you have kids in grades K–12, access to refrigeration for packed lunches is unlikely. A durable, insulated lunch box is a must for holding ice packs and keeping foods at safe temperatures.
How we picked and tested
After researching 50 lunch containers, we tested 1for this guide.
For this guide we tested lunch boxes for both adults and kids, covering insulated lunch boxes, bento boxes, and metal and plastic food storage containers. Regardless of the type of lunch container you use, it should be break-resistant, stain-resistant, and easy to clean and store. Food storage containers should also be leakproof.
Since insulated lunch boxes are intended to keep food cold without refrigeration, they need to be large enough to hold a substantial lunch and multiple ice packs (ideally, they should have a mesh pocket on the interior lid for holding an ice pack in place). A shoulder strap is a must if you’re an outdoor worker, especially if you’re carrying other equipment to a jobsite. Though we had difficulty finding waterproof lunch boxes, an exterior material that’s slow to absorb liquids is a nice feature for keeping rainwater out, especially when you’re working outdoors.
For kids, we looked for insulated lunch boxes that were roomy enough to hold an average-size lunch yet compact enough to fit in a backpack. We tested lunch boxes with mesh pockets on the side, which are convenient for holding additional snacks.
Some parents feel uncomfortable using plastic food storage containers. For this reason, we decided to try a couple of metal containers, which are a good alternative to glass because they weigh less and won’t break. However, they can’t go into a microwave to reheat your lunch, and they aren’t leakproof. (We do recommend several glass options in our guide to the best food storage containers).
Our picks for the best insulated lunch boxes: the L.L.Bean Lunch Box (left) and the Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler (right).
We also looked for bento-style boxes for young kids and adults that have either separate compartments with individual lids or a single lid that seals the entire box. Bento designs with a single lid need to be airtight to prevent the contents from spilling over the compartment walls and to keep food odors from mingling. Cassie Hollmann, assistant children’s programming director at Citibabes in New York, who works with kids from months to years old, told us, “A good seal might be the most important thing.” A tight seal is especially important for little kids who store their lunches in their backpacks or cubbies. “Many times backpacks, lunch boxes, and shoes end up upside down and haphazardly put away,” Hollmann said.
Some bento boxes, such as the Bentgo Kids Lunch Box, have a single lid that covers individual compartments.
No adult bento boxes did well in our tests. If you prefer packing your lunch in separate compartments, we’ve found that nothing works better than glass or plastic food storage containers.
Care and maintenance
It’s important to keep the contents of a lunch box within an acceptable temperature range for food safety. In an article for Foodsafety.gov, Bridgette A. Keefe writes, “Remember the 2-Hour rule: you must keep hot foods HOT and cold foods COLD.” Perishables last only two hours in temperatures between 40°F and 90°F before they spoil. If the temperature of food is between 90°F and 140°F, perishables will last only about one hour before you need to refrigerate or freeze them. Always keep cold foods under 40°F and hot foods above 140°F. If you or your child don’t have access to a refrigerator, the USDA recommends using two cold packs (larger than by inches each), one above and one below perishable items such as dairy or sandwiches.
Most insulated lunch boxes are not machine washable or dishwasher safe. Manufacturers suggest wiping insulated lunch boxes clean with a mild dish detergent and a damp paper towel. Be sure to dry an insulated lunch box with paper towels or a cloth and leave it open and unzipped to air dry completely before you use it. Your best bet is to clean an insulated lunch box once or twice a week to prevent it from acquiring an unpleasant, off scent.
For difficult stains, such as those from tomato sauce, removing the soiled area may take multiple attempts. If the exterior becomes stained, we recommend cleaning it immediately with a little soap and water for best results.
Most plastic and metal food storage containers are dishwasher safe (top rack only), but always read the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and care. For some bento boxes with rubber seals around the lid, wash by hand to avoid possible deterioration.
The Rubbermaid LunchBlox Sandwich Kit 180623is a great storage option for young kids. These containers stack together nicely and lock into a plastic, freezable ice pack, which in our tests kept foods at safe temperatures for nearly four hours. However, since this set is so tall when stacked, it doesn’t fit into shallower lunch boxes like our pick from L.L.Bean.
For young kids, the ECOlunchbox Three-in-One is a nice, compact stainless steel option. The metal containers are easy to clean and dishwasher safe. This lunch box didn’t suffer any dents or permanent damage in our drop tests, but we ruled it out because it’s not leakproof and it’s too small for older kids and adults.
The Ramaka Solutions Insulated Lunch Bag is cheaply made and too big to serve as a lunch bag for a single person. The thin walls of this bag also lack structure, so it sags when fully packed. In our tests the exterior of the bag stained badly with tomato sauce, and the interior lining was difficult to wipe clean. However, a representative from Ramaka Solutions has informed us that this bag is now being made by a new supplier. We’ll consider testing the new bag for our next update.
Because the Herschel Canteen Lunch Pack lacks a handle, it’s inconvenient to hold. In person, the color of this bag is neon orange, as opposed to the rust color depicted on the Herschel website. We found that the inner lining stained easily, and it was difficult to clean.
The Wildkin Lunch Box has an inner lining with a lot of seams that trap crumbs and make cleaning difficult. In our tests the interior stained badly with tomato sauce.
The Bentology Bento Set seems cheaply made. The lids do not fit the bases well (before or after dishwashing), and they’re not leakproof.
The Happy Tiffin Raja Tier Tiffin Lunch Box is too large for a lunch portion; it’s more suitable for bringing to picnics. It’s also a bit tall to fit in a crowded fridge, especially if you’re bringing it to work. It dented in our drop tests.
How many meals do you take per day? to 6? Or, to 4, maybe? There’s little chance that your workplace fridge will be of help here.
To avoid that energy and time from going to waste, use a meal prep bag to store your food conveniently when you’re not a home. With a meal prep bag, you won’t have to worry about taking up too much space on shared storage or disgusting someone with your diet, no matter how weird it might be.
Outside zippered pockets
Want to help improve the world but don’t know how to go about it? With every ThinkFit Lunch Box you purchase, a dollar is donated to impoverished families.
Extra storage pocket
The storage containers are microwave- and dishwasher-safe. Also, the shaker cup is BPA free and thus safe to your health. Then again, the shoulder strap makes it easy for you to carry the bag along.
Looking for a meal prep bag that will serve you for a long time? Go for the ThinkFit Lunch Box. This product is built from high quality material that not only give it a long life but also help it retain its usefulness over the years.
The ThinkFit Lunch Box has a 4-sided snap lid that lets you open it easily while keeping your food safe from impurities.
The ice pack is also free of toxins.
The Big Cycle Meal Prep Bag is created using PEVA fabrics and covered with waterproof polyurethane. This design makes it sturdy and long lasting.
Apart from the bag’s main compartments, there are additional pockets for storing water bottles and shakers.
Got taste for snacks? This meal prep bag comes with a snacker so you can include all your healthy snacks in your meal plan.
The JaxxFitPak Deluxe comes with meal containers that are reusable. of them have the capacity of cups while the other two have the capacity of cup.
You also get a free 24-oz shaker cup. This cup has a patented design that helps you mix up your supplements easily.
All the containers and cups that cup with this bag are dishwasher and microwave safe.
The bag has a grey PVC-free PEVA coating that is easy to clean. Moreover, this bag has a zipper for security and an interior mesh pocket where you can keep other items, such as water bottles and protein shakes securely.
Different meal prep bags come with a different number of meal prep containers. Some will have 3, others 4, others 6, others 10, and so on. Some brands’ containers are stackable, to facilitate convenient storage without taking up too much space.
Also, some brands have containers that are dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe.
Another important factor you should probably consider is the number of compartments the bag has. If you’re looking to carry other items, such as your laptop in the bag, you need a bag with more compartments.
Side pockets will help you carry water bottles conveniently.
Full Meal Bags
This is without doubt the most vital type of meal prep bag. Full meal prep bags enable you to have full meals as you go about your daily activities. They normally come with or more containers to keep your food and at least an extra pocket for keeping a water bottle.
When seeking a full-size bag, I suggest you consider the number of containers it has and the sizes of these containers so you know if it suits your preferred portion sizes.
Also, try getting full meal bags from the same brand so that when you misplace container lids, you can use another container’s lid.
Snack-size meal prep bags are small in size, and thus ideal for carrying a single meal. You might be tempted to think that because of their compact designs, they can’t last long; the opposite is actually true. These little meal prep bags are incredibly sturdy (but of course, that also depends on the brand you buy from).
These meal prep bags normally have a twist and lock lid system, which tightens easily. Something else worth mentioning is that the bags normally come with stackable containers with a variety of sizes.
Plastic Ziploc Bags
These are not only very affordable but also easy to dispose. They are, as a matter of fact, the real pioneers of meal prepping. Your grandparents might have used them to live a healthy lifestyle on the go.
You can slice some apples or any easy snack you have in mind and toss it in your plastic Ziploc bag. Alternatively, you may place a few scoops of protein powder in there and mix them with your shaker after a good workout session in the gym.
Apart from that, you can store your multi-vitamins and other supplements in this original meal storage solution, which happens to be very inexpensive yet incredibly effective.
ThinkFit is a British fitness firm that was established in 201It operations encompass all aspects of healthy living, including physical exercising, supplements, and meal prepping.
Their main aim is to provide you with the tools you need to hit your targets, whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, improve your cardiovascular system or just develop better routines with regard to your meals and physical training.
ThinkFit produces meal prep bags that are tailored to fit the needs of most clients but with a common mission – convenient access to healthy meals on the go.
For instance, their ThinkFit Lunch Box is double insulated to help you have access to fresh meals for longer. Also, it comes with a shoulder strap so you can carry it around easily.
This brand endeavors to support you to live a healthy lifestyle by making it easy for you to pack and take your healthy, homemade meals anywhere you go.
In that regard, they stock a wide assortment of lunch bags with portion control containers and other inclusions like shaker cups.
Got a sense of fashion? Fit&Fresh meal prep bags are designed with not just function but also fashion in mind. For example, their JaxxFitPak Meal Prep Bag is available in a range of colors so you can choose the one that goes with your style.
With the brand’s graduated containers, portion control becomes an easy task for you. You can measure the exact volume of the meals/drinks you take.
This is a web-based kitchenware retail outlet that serves customers mostly in the US, Europe, and Asia. The brand is a subsidiary of HomeNative, a company that commits itself to offering you high-grade products at the affordable prices in the market.
For that reason, if you have a limited budget, you should probably consider buying from PrepNaturals.
Also, it helps you see what other people are saying about their products. And, the brand has received tons of positive reviews from customers that have benefited from its line of meal prep bags.
The great reviews might be because of the unique features of the brand’s meal prep bags. For instance, their PrepNaturals Meal Prep Bag is manufactured from FDA-approved materials. That means that the quality is unparalleled.
Before you jump into planning your first shopping list, you’ll want to make sure your pantry is in order.
It’s good to keep a few staples, or go-to ingredients, on hand and to replenish them when you run out. There’s nothing worse in meal prep than starting a recipe and realizing you don’t have a basic ingredient like olive oil or rice.
Having plenty of basics on hand means you should be able to throw something together in a pinch even if you’re running low on other ingredients.
Don’t panic if you don’t have these items on hand yet. They’re not essential, but as you start to acquire the basics, you’ll see that your weekly grocery list gets shorter.
Here are a few items that are part of a well-stocked meal prep pantry. Of course, this list may vary depending on your specific dietary needs, but it’s a good starting point.
Optimize your Time
When it’s time to start prepping, you’ll want to embrace your inner Top Chef and utilize the efficient and organized elements of mise-en-place. Go ahead and grab all of the tools and ingredients you’ll need and group them together. It’s generally easiest to complete one stage of prep before moving on to the next.
So, you’ll want to do all of your chopping at once and just set ingredients aside as you finish. Then you can weigh your raw components (as needed) and then begin cooking.
Before you start cooking, it’s helpful to go ahead and read all the way through any recipes you have and make a cooking plan. You’ll want to start with whatever component takes the longest.
Crock Pots are versatile tools that aren’t just for stews. You can’t beat the ease and convenience of fully cooked dinners that didn’t require any prep work during the day. Crock pots make batch cooking protein simple. This easy Crock Pot Chicken recipe makes servings and requires very little prep work in the kitchen. Serve over rice and with avocado slices for a complete meal.
This is a great way to have a one pot meal while you mix and match foods. You can quickly stir-fry a protein of your choice and then add lots of veggies. With a non-stick skillet, it’s easy enough to stir-fry 3-meals worth of food, give the pan a quick wipe down, toss in a healthy cooking oil, and then cook up another batch of meals with different ingredients and flavors. Check out this quick take on stir-fry basics from NerdFitness.
Recommended Meal Prep Recipes
If you’re new to meal prep, you might find that you don’t have enough containers to store all of your food in. Here are a few different types of containers that work for different budgets and lifestyle needs.
LunchBots Trio Stainless Steel Food Container — These stainless steel lunch boxes come with compartments and are a good lunch option. They’re not completely leak proof so steer clear of soups and too much dressing. If you’re looking to avoid plastic and the weight of glass, this is a good, easy to clean option.
Bentgo All-in-One Stackable Lunch/Bento Box — This lunch box set is BPA-free, stackable, and comes with a small plastic cutlery set. A variety of compartments offer good meal prep options.
Rubbermaid 42-Piece Easy Find Lid Food Storage Set — A great budget set if you’re looking to load up on high-quality plastic storage containers. The lids snap to the bottom of their respective containers which makes storage easy. The containers in this set are all BPA free and come in a wide variety of sizes.
Glasslock 18-Piece Assorted Oven Safe Container Set — This glass set is airtight, leak-proof, oven-safe, and microwave safe.
Snapware Total Solution 10-Piece Glass Food Storage Set — This 5-piece glass set features oven-safe glass and latch-on lids. This is a good sized kit to supplement a plastic collection.
Reditainer Compartment Microwave Safe Food Container with Lid/Divided Plate/Lunch Tray with Cover, Pack — Look like a meal prep pro with these restaurant style food containers. Seal tight plastic lids come with or compartment plastic rectangular containers. They’re dishwasher and microwave safe, but not as long lasting as some other options.
Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless Steel Lunch Jar — If you need the option to keep cold foods cold or hot foods hot, this Stainless Bento Jar is the way to go. You’ll have the option to keep compartments hot OR cold and then keep another containers room temperature. A good choice for someone who doesn’t have access to a fridge or microwave during the day.
Fitmark Bags — All Fitmark bags come with seal-tight containers and lots of storage options for accessories, shaker cups, and snacks. Check out the full line for a variety of shapes and sizes to fit different lifestyle needs.
Core150 Stack Pack — Meal prep on the go? This fitness travel system holds days’ worth of meals, a shaker bottle, and even your laptop.
This is the second installment of the time hack series, where we go over practical ways to be more efficient in improving your fitness.
One of those strategies included meal prepping.
To start, chop up your protein (fish, meat, chicken, etc) into small 1-oz slices. Over one of the burners, cook the protein using a frying pan.
How to Choose Healthy Meal Prep Ideas
Every week mix and match different Proteins, Fats, Carbs and Vegetables. The possibilities are endless.
Although the food that you eat will be similar throughout the week, every meal prep session brings a new journey and a new delicious plate.
Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Containers
Though we feature great container options in this article, our favorite product comes from Prep Naturals. We like the fact that they are made from glass (our preferred material) but also the sturdiness of these containers is simply unparalleled – the ability to bring them from the oven to the freezer to the microwave makes meal prepping super convenient.
No doubt, the biggest and first consideration you’ll want to make when purchasing your meal prep food containers is what material they are made from. The most popular container materials are the big three – plastic, glass, and metal.
If you’re just bringing sandwiches and raw veggies along, a super-tight lid may not be the most important factor in your purchase. However, if you love soups and stews, you’ll want to invest in a set that uses a quality lid.
What We Like
These containers have just a handful of negative reviews, but of the ones that are not five stars, some users complain that they are not quite as “stackable” as advertised. They can be placed on top of each other, but they tend to slide and move.
Misc Home Glass Meal Prep Containers
The glass meal prep containers from Home feature two compartments and vented snap-locking lids. The containers fit normal 6-pack bags and travel easily to and from work or school.
Soup eaters rejoice! These snap-lock, silicone-sealed lids act as a barricade between your hot soup and the inside of your backpack. Reviewers love the airtight, serious seal these lids provide.
MealPrep are eco-friendly, durable, and non-toxic.
Enther Meal Prep Containers
The Oxo Good Grips POP Containers are very useful and can be utilized in many ways. These containers have a decent airtight design, all you need to do is press the button on top to seal them closed and press again to open. They also come in a variety of sizes and they can be stacked neatly one on top of the other.
The Insider Pick
School lunches are very often mediocre, and it costs a lot of money to buy food every day. So why not pack your lunch in an awesome lunch box? We’ve rounded up the very best lunch boxes for pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and professional life.
Whether your child is heading back to school, you are going back to school, or you’ve just grown tired of buying your lunch from the food truck outside your workplace each day, there’s no denying that a new lunch box makes the midday meal just a little bit tastier.
We visited the top consumer websites to check out the research, and listened to buyer feedback on what owners love — and don’t love — about their purchases. So if you’re ready to eat, forget about that crumpled paper sack, and read on. Here are the five lunch boxes that we most recommend.
The Bentgo Kids Bento Box, the Packit Freezable Lunch Bag, the L.L. Bean Flip-Top Lunch Box, the L.L. Bean Insulated Lunch Box, and the Ramaka Solutions Insulated Lunch Bag are the best lunch boxes you can buy no matter your age.
What This “wild” collection of colourful backpacks come in vibrant green, blue, magenta and orange and boast adorable illustrations of animals like the giraffes, ostrich, tiger, rhinoceros and tortoise. Made of polyester, the bag has a large main compartment, zip pockets and a chest strap to balance the distribution of weight. By the way, a portion of the proceeds from these bags go to the Momella Foundation in Tanzania to support education and entrepreneurship.
What This home-grown brand produces children’s backpacks with ergonomic spinal protection. Available in trendy colours, the bags are much lighter than the usual kid’s backpacks and have a good amount of soft padding on the back for extra protection. The bag is also contoured to fit junior’s back arch perfectly and features a chest strap for added support. Inside, several separate compartments keep everything neatly, so you can easily locate your stuff.
Parents say “School-going kids carry a lot of books these days. Since this bag is made to fit the body snugly, it doesn’t put a lot of stress on my son’s back and shoulders,” says mum-of- three Sharon Simon.
Make the entire process fun.
When you make cooking and eating healthy fun, it becomes a whole lot easier. Turn on music, sip on a glass of wine, or listen to your favorite podcast while you plan, prep and cook. Look at your time in the kitchen as a way to relax, unwind, and live in the present moment.
Fall in love with soup.
If you want to make full recipes to eat throughout the week, go through your cookbooks and pick recipes that make large batches or choose ones that you can double. Even if a recipe is intended for one person or one night, just doubling or tripling it will allow you to cook it once and eat for a week. Before you head to the store, do the calculations first. Usually the rule of thumb is to double big items like fats, proteins, and produce, but adjust smaller items like spices and seasonings to taste. And when it comes to cooking, it usually won’t be double the time. Check the recipe for doneness at the time called for in the recipe, and if it’s not ready, check again in roughly five minute increments.
FIND INGREDIENT OVERLAPS
MIX IT UP
If you can’t fathom eating the same thing two days in a row, plan on making two or three different dishes that you can alternate or mix-and-match throughout the week. With the right planning and creativity, you can make the same food go a long way. By just making different sauces, already prepped chicken and vegetables can be an Asian stir-fry one night, Mexican chicken fajitas the next, and Italian chicken cacciatore another.
The first thing to consider when choosing recipes is making sure they’re freezer-friendly. Some food is better suited to freezing and reheating than others: “Soups, broths, smoothies and sauces can be frozen in ice cubes trays, which comes in handy for portion control and weight management. Veggie-based casseroles, whole-grain wrap burritos and homemade turkey or veggie burgers can be frozen individually, giving family members a healthy grab-and-go option,” explains Stephanie Brookshier, RDN, ACSM-CPT. When your meal is already made and only needs to be reheated, you’re less likely to give into calling for takeout on hectic evenings. For some more ideas, check out our roundup of 20 Healthy Freezer Meals to Lose Weight.
MAKE A LIST
Once you know how many meals you’re making and what you’re making, use your recipes to write a detailed shopping list with specific numbers, weights, and measurements. Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN explains, “Making a list will help you avoid unhealthy impulse buys, and knowing what you’re cooking in advance will prevent you from ordering sodium- and calorie-filled take-out fare or bingeing on whatever’s in the pantry when dinnertime rolls around.” Keep in mind to look through your pantry and fridge before heading out the door to see if you already have some things you need.
GET PROPER CONTAINERS
Make sure you have quality containers! Mason jars, tupperware, and plastic bags will all do. You can also check out a local restaurant supply shop for some takeout-style containers. If you’re unhappy with your plastic containers, recycle them and replace them with stainless steel or glass containers. If you’re going to go plastic, choose BPA-free containers with lockable lids to prevent spilling.
Wash, chop, and prepare most of your veggies for the week—whether they’re going to be left raw or used in a cooked dish—and store them in tupperware containers. Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD shares her reasoning, “I love vegetables, but I’m more likely to eat and cook them if they’re cut and ready to go. Store each vegetable in an individual container so when it comes time to cook, all you have to do it grab the ones you want and get to work. They’re also great to have on hand to snack on when you get hungry.” There are a few exceptions, though. For example, slicing strawberries ahead of time is a mistake because oxidation devalues some of their nutrition, and an herb like mint is best chopped immediately before using.
GET YOUR GRAINS
Whole wheat pastas, quinoa, farro, rice, barley, whatever your pick, get your grain on. These grains can be used as sides, the base of a bowl, or in main dishes like fried rice. Usually these grains will last in the fridge for two to three days, so be sure to freeze a portion if you plan to eat it later in the week.
UTILIZE YOUR GADGETS
It’s not easy to make two or three dishes by yourself. Why not break out those unused wedding gifts? Slow cookers, rice cookers, pressure cookers, oven, microwave, toaster oven, utilize them all! Yes, it might mean for a little extra clean up, but it will drastically cut your prep time down.
Instead of making large casserole-style dishes, if you’re making something like meatloaf, make it in individual portions instead of a whole loaf. Or, choose recipes that are already made pre-portioned, like muffins! That way, when you freeze it, it’s already ready to go, rather than you needing to thaw the whole portion and then take what you need out.
Fully cooking batches of things like casseroles, soups, enchiladas, or pasta dishes that you can reheat in the microwave or oven is always great, but “despite what many people think, you don’t have to cook entire meals ahead of time—that can be overwhelming” says Stephanie Brookshier, RDN, ACSM-CPT. Instead of baking, just prep all your food Sunday and sequester it raw into baggies. This way you don’t feel like you’re eating leftovers every day. Throw a bag of pre-portioned chicken and veggies into the slow cooker before work, or put an unbaked, frozen casserole dish in the oven right when you get home. Sometimes just a little shortcut here and there will save you hours in the long run.
CREATE BUILDING BLOCKS
Similar to a bouillon cube, you can make yourself meal building blocks to get dinner started in a jiffy. Freeze pre-portioned packets of chicken or vegetable stock, pesto, or herb compound butter, or make up baggies of your own spice mixes—oregano, basil, parsley, and thyme for an Italian dish; onion, garlic, and chili powder, paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper for a Fajita seasoning; and chili powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne, paprika, and garlic powder for any barbeque rub.
TAKE A CHILL PILL
Not all food will last the whole week in the fridge, so be sure to freeze some of it. After you’ve cooked your food, you have to make sure it cools completely before putting it in the freezer. When you put away foods that are still warm, it can raise the general temperature of the freezer. When this happens, it may cause the food around it to partially thaw and refreeze, which alters the taste and texture. Moisture can also evaporate and condense in the plastic container, which will make your food mushy. To keep food safe, cool freshly cooked dishes by placing food in a wide, shallow container and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool. For soups, you can pour them into a metal bowl and set in an ice bath.
OPTIMIZE FREEZER STORAGE
Use moisture-proof zipper bags and containers to help minimize freezer burn. Store foods in small servings to help them freeze quickly and to allow you to defrost only what you need. If you’re storing individual servings of something, like pancakes, freeze everything first in a single layer. Once cold, you can stuff them all into a bag so they won’t stick together. For soups and stews, keep them in a plastic bag to save space: fill the bag and flatten it as you seal it to remove air from the bag and allow it to be stackable.
Produce Prep Tricks
Because I buy a lot of frozen veggies (broccoli, kale, green beans, etc.) and the bulk of the fruit I put in smoothies (mango, pineapple, and sometimes mixed berries) from Costco, I never have too much fresh produce to wash.
Next, everything gets rinsed, dried, and either stored on the counter (apples, oranges, etc.) or chopped and put into containers or zip lock bags. Herbs and bunches of greens will also get a paper towel stored with them just to soak up an extra moisture.
At the store
Strip down. Look for products with minimal packaging, like unwrapped produce or meat straight from the deli counter or butcher. Excess packaging is often made out of unsustainable materials and contributes to waste that ends up in landfills. Perhaps the worst culprit is polystyrene (a.k.a. Styrofoam), which is a suspected carcinogen and is manufactured through an energy-intensive process that creates hazardous waste and greenhouse gases.
Don’t buy the bottle. Millions of tons of plastic are used to produce billions of plastic water bottles each year. Save money and lessen waste by drinking tap water from a reusable water bottle. Worried about your health? Try a water filter, or take courage from the fact that a lot of bottled water is likely no better than what’s on tap.
Shop different. Choose to give your money to stores that demonstrate care for the planet, both in their company practices and in the food selections they provide. Look for a selection of local and organic foods as well as store practices that limit waste (think doors on the refrigerated sections so that energy isn’t wasted, minimal and/or recyclable packaging and a store-wide recycling program).
Go local. Eating locally grown foods is possibly the best way to lower your carbon footprint when it comes to what you eat. Bonus: Eating locally means that food will be fresher — and therefore taste better and perhaps retain more nutrients — than food shipped across the globe.
Eat more of it. Eat more produce than any other food category, and you’ve already made an impact for the planet (not to mention your body!).
Go organic. The definition of organic can be a little confusing, but food labels can help. Certified organic foods are grown and processed using farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity, without the use of synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes or petroleum- or sewage-sludge-based fertilizers. (Weird. Who wouldn’t want their food grown in sewage sludge?) Though their benefits to the environment have a long-term payoff, organic foods can be pricier — if you’re on a budget, find out which foods are most worth buying organic, and limit your organic purchases to the ones that make the biggest impact.
Eat it raw. Chomp down on a raw carrot instead of boiling or sautéing it, and save energy that would otherwise have been used to power cooking appliances.
Eat in season. Seasonal nomming allows you to eat locally — and we’ve already covered how important local purchasing is for the environment. Check out what’s growing nearby right now.
Preserve it. Want to eat more locally, but love to eat strawberries year-round? Learn how to preserve fruits and vegetables so you can eat locally grown produce all year long (it’s bound to impress Grandma, too).
1Grow it. You don’t need to live in the wild to grow your own fruits and veggies. Join a community garden, or, if you’re cramped for space, create a vertical garden right inside your window.
1Get some community support. Not into the idea of growing your own? Consider joining a CSA (short for community supported agriculture), which allows you to reap the benefits of locally grown produce without getting your hands dirty.
1You guessed it: buy local. We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again: buying local is a great way to cut down on the environmental impact of your food. Just imagine how much energy it would take to haul a side of beef from, say, New Zealand, in comparison to transporting it from the local butcher shop.
1Go organic. When it comes to meat, the definition of “organic” changes a little. Obviously, chickens aren’t grown in the soil, nor are they (we hope!) conventionally grown with pesticides. Rather, organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and cannot be supplemented with antibiotics or growth hormones.
1Be anti-antibiotics. It’s common practice these days to feed growth-producing antibiotics to animals raised for meat, but this results in health risks for the animals — and, by extension, the people who eat them.
1Go out to pasture. Pasture-raised livestock make less of a negative environmental impact. They’re also treated more humanely than their industrially raised counterparts.
1Look for the label. Figuring out how to buy sustainable seafood is tough: turns out “wild caught” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s environmentally friendly, after all, while some farmed fish are. The easiest way to sort through all the confusion is to look for the label of the Marine Stewardship Council, which guarantees that a product has successfully met requirements for sustainability.
1Know your fish. Check out these guides to figure out which fish are least endangered and most likely to be farmed sustainably, and use them to guide your buying decisions.
20. Be a patriot. Buy U.S. caught or farmed fish. It’s as close as you can get to buying “local” when you live in a land-locked state, and it also means that the product has had the chance to be reviewed by the Marine Stewardship Council, so you have a better sense of the conditions under which the fish were caught.
2Try something new. Instead of eating the ever-popular Alaskan salmon along with everybody else at the restaurant, expand your diet and distribute your impact by trying different varieties of fish. Check out these alternatives to some of our fishy favorites — you might even find a variety that you like more than tuna. In the process, you’ll reduce the risk of endangering key species.
2Be hormone-free. (Wouldn’t that have made adolescence easier…) Just as livestock raised for consumption are often pumped full of antibiotics, dairy cows are often fed artificial hormones to up their milk production. This has big health impacts for the cows, the people who consume their milk and other dairy products, and the environment (manure lagoons sure don’t sound like a good thing to us). Industrial dairy production is also linked to massive greenhouse gas emissions. Luckily, hormone-free dairy products are readily available.
2Surprise! Go local. As always when buying local, you’ll be reducing the distance that food must travel — and the energy it takes to do so — on its way to your plate.
2Go organic. It’s better for the environment and for your body.
2Cut back. The production of one pound of cheese might produce upwards of 1lbs. of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities and a big driver of climate change. As with meat, you can quickly lessen your environmental impact simply by eating less dairy. Bonus: eliminating common staples from your diet one or two days a week is a chance to experiment with fun new recipes.
At a restaurant
2Order from the tap. Cut down on packaging; ask for tap water instead of bottled. Likewise, save the beer bottle and order on tap.
2Eat local. Just because you’re not at the farmer’s market doesn’t mean the market’s bounty isn’t available to you. More and more restaurants are incorporating locally sourced items into their menus.
2Don’t be afraid to ask. There’s no shame in asking your server or a manager how your food was grown or processed (though it’s probably best not to take it to this extreme).
Eating at home
2Reduce waste. Use cloth napkins and real plates, bowls and utensils.
30. Turn waste into a resource. If you’ve got the inclination and a little bit of free time, give composting a try and turn food scraps into a resource that keeps on giving.
3Revamp leftovers. Instead of dumping leftovers in the trash, turn them into new meals. It’ll reduce waste and also save on the energy it would have taken to cook a different meal the next day.
3Double your recipes. Leftovers will last twice as long, and you’ll use less energy than you would if you cooked multiple meals.
3Cook one local meal per week. Challenge yourself to cook one meal a week (or month) that is composed completely of local ingredients. Get some friends in on the action and revel in doing something good for your health and the health of the planet.
You might be thinking tupperware first (which works), but today companies produce specifically designed plastic containers for meal prep.
Pros of plastic: lightweight, can be divided, sometimes reusable, and mostly microwavable. If you will be transporting your food any type of distance, say to work, plastic containers are much easier to carry around. Cons: plastic containers will not last as long as others like glass or if chemicals in plastic concern you.
If you are worried about BPA, which may be an endocrine (hormone) disruptor, there is good news. The FDA highly regulates food storage containers, and you will be hard pressed to actually find anything plastic containing this, but I would double check to be sure.
Here are plastic safety numbers (the number inside the recycling symbol) and what to look out for.
Pyrex, likely comes to mind in this category. But again, meal and food storage has become a huge market. Today there are all sorts of specially made glass containers, plus others like mason jars that work well, too.
Pros: often airtight containers that are microwavable, dishwasher safe, and will last many years. Cons: glass is very heavy compared to their plastic counterparts, but also breakable if you are not careful.
A couple of main points
Airtight containers are going to best for limiting the bacteria growth that can occur and spread through the air.
Cooked foods should go directly into the refrigerator once separated for storage when finished cooking to prevent bacteria growth.
For meals that includes cooked meats, to days of refrigeration time is about as long as you will want to go before spoilage can set in. For strictly vegetarian meals, the time-frame can be extended a couple more days.
What About Using the 2Day Fix Containers for Storage?
Since I write a lot about the 2Day Fix and other Beachbody workout programs, I know I am probably going to get this question.
No, I would not recommend using the 2Day Fix containers for food storage. They are not airtight, can leak, and were just not designed for food storage. They were made to portion out the correct serving size of their corresponding food group.
Glass will typically clean easier than plastic containers. Plastic containers are more apt to stain from certain foods.
If you are not going to be storing your food all the same way, you may want to order a couple different types of containers. Then you can figure out works best for you.
Plastic Meal Prep Storage Containers
This is a one-compartment 2oz container, which is a great size. These containers are manufactured in Canada and are toxin-free, BPA-free, phthalate-free, and free of toxic additives. Completely compliant with strict FDA (US) and CFIA (Canada) guidelines.
This one may come off as a bit of a head-scratcher. I’ll put it simply; Cup Ramen, Chef Boyardee, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches on White, Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal and other things like them should pretty much NEVER be on the menu in your professional life (or at all, really). Aside from the snickers (the laughing kind, not the candy) that you’ll get for eating food geared toward pre-adolescents, it’s simply understood that quality-wise, when you eat these things you’re getting mega-doses of salt and sugar, and little else. As a child you ate this stuff because you didn’t know any better, and in college you ate this stuff because you couldn’t afford any better. Neither is the case now, so scratch them off your shopping list.
In the morning before work you’re in a hurry. This is a fact. If it wasn’t the easiest thing to grab on your way out the door, you likely would have opted out of the Hot Pocket in exchange for something a bit better. Sure you COULD set your alarm for earlier, but if you’re like me that just means you hit the snooze button a few extra times before really getting out of bed. And honestly, other “quick grab” options from the supermarket freezer are not much better. The cheap ones usually contain food that would make high school cafeteria food seem delicious, and the expensive ones are, well, expensive. My father used to tell me there was “no dignified way to eat a TV dinner in public,” and I’m starting to understand what he meant.
At the Grocery Store
Here’s a couple of my favorite combinations, but don’t be afraid to get creative, the combinations you can put together are near-endless.
Tangy BBQ – Beef fajitas strips, pineapple, onion, bell peppers (red, green, yellow), BBQ sauce.
Stir (not) Fried – Chicken fajita strips, Asian Stir-Fry veggies, teriyaki sauce.
Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli – Chicken, broccoli, minced onion, cheese sauce.
You’ll notice how there’s no pasta/rice/bread part to that meal. That’s intentional. I don’t generally eat much along the way of carbs after breakfast, and you might want to consider doing the same. That being said, a handful of minute rice plays very nicely with other foods in the steamer bags.
Choose your sauces carefully. Like salad dressing, a bad sauce selection can make your otherwise perfect meal nearly as unhealthy as fast food. If you’re not yet in the habit of looking at the nutrition facts on EVERYTHING you eat, it’s time to start. You’ll be glad you did.
Write a shopping list
Draw up a weekly meal plan using up ingredients you already have and make a shopping list of any missing items.
The average family with children throws away almost £60 of good food every month. Be strict about buying only what you’ll actually eat.
Eat leftovers for lunch
Cook extra portions for your evening meal so that you can have the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Try cheaper brands
You could save money by buying cheaper brands than you normally do. There’s not always much difference between value and premium ranges. Give it a go and let your taste buds be the judge, not the shiny label.
Cook with pulses
Pulses, such as beans, lentils and peas, are some of the cheapest foods on the supermarket shelf. These pulses are low in calories and fat but packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals and also count towards your A Day.
Freeze leftover bread
Bread is one of the most wasted household foods. Reduce waste by freezing bread, preferably in portions (for convenience) and when it’s at its freshest (for taste).
Know your kitchen
Fruit and vegetables sometimes cost more pre-packed than loose. Check the price per weight (for example £/kg). Stores know that consumers want to buy in bulk, and so they mix it up: sometimes the packed produce is cheaper, sometimes it’s more expensive.
Shop during the ‘happy hour’
Most supermarkets discount fresh items towards the end of the day. However, with longer opening hours it’s a case of finding out just the right time to grab those bargains. If you time it right and the “reduced to clear shelves” can save you big money. Always check use-by dates.
Other Considerations When Choosing Your Menu
Your food choices should include items that are packaged in containers that will be easy to fit into a backpack. They should also be things that you enjoy eating. Choose lighter options that are packed with calories. For example, an apple is heavy and the caloric count is low. Make sure that the foods you take for your backpack are easy to open and ready to eat. You can save the heavier items and those that will need preparation for when you get back to camp for the evening.
Some hunters plan on having a big breakfast before heading out, while others skip it altogether and opt for snacking until dinner time. It’s best to start out with a nutritious meal if at all possible. This can help to tide you over along with the snacks that you carry until the evening meal. Think in terms of calorie count and generating the energy you’ll need while out in the field.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your meal prep bags wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of meal prep bags
- №1 — EDC Meal Prep Bag by Evolutionize – Full Meal Management System includes Portion Control Meal Prep Containers + Ice Pack
- №2 — Fitpacker Meal Prep Bag – Double Insulation with 4 Meal Prep Containers
- №3 — ThinkFit Insulated Lunch Boxes with 6 Portion Control Containers