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Thursday, November 10, 2011

BPA-free(ish)? A look at lunch boxes.

I recently read an article that indicated BPA-free isn't all it's cracked up to be. Turns out, BPA-free plastics do still leach system altering chemicals into the food they touch. I did further research and while I readily admit the science is above me, the message is clear: there really isn't a safe plastic. (This article is a good starting place if you want to find out more.) I began to feel foolish for paying so much attention to the food we eat and consume, but neglecting to focus on how it is served and stored.

I shared what I had dug up with Jon and he didn't hesitate to agree that we need to ditch the plastic. The frustrating part is that I already did this a few years ago when the whole BPA thing was front page news. I tossed all of our expensive, but seemingly BPA containing water bottles, oodles of tupperware, etc in favor of BPA-free. But now that I'm learning that BPA-free does not equal safe, I'm doing it again. From how I store my frozen food (no more contact with ziplocs) to how we brew our coffee (no more plastic coffee maker), slowly but surely we trying to reduce the plastic exposure we can control.

I'm super excited about what came in the mail recently: new lunch boxes for the kids! They are from Planetbox - 100% stainless steel and totally legit. I actually looked at these over the summer, but did not get them because of the price. They're not cheap. Instead I opted for plastic bento boxes for my oldest two to take their lunch to school (no gluten-free school lunch options so we pack everyday.) I'm slightly miffed I didn't just buy these in the first place, but live and learn. I'll give you the ins and outs of Planetbox in case you're thinking of going plastic-free with your lunch ware.  As a lady who has made a lot of school lunches over the years, I'm going to have to say I feel qualified in saying these are the best. Here's why:

  • 18/8 high quality stainless steel. Besides glass, which *probably* isn't the smartest idea for a school lunch, not much else is safer and kid-friendly than these boxes. They're built tough.
  • Perfect portions. The tray is cut out so well for portions - the possibilities are endless. They hold a lot of food. Plus, I actually look forward to coming up with ideas on how to fill them every morning. It just doesn't seem like such a chore. Even the kids are getting in on it by coming up with ideas and filling them up. A lunchbox that promotes self-sufficiency? Brilliant.
  • Cool compartments. I know there are some people who enjoy making artwork out of kids' lunches. I'm not one of them. I'm more interested in the content of the lunch than if it looks like creepy pandas. These boxes are definitely utilitarian and I love it. The Planetbox design keeps all food separate - which many kids prefer. The lid is also raised - not flat like most bentos - so you can pile the goodies high and it will close.
  • Built in latch. Many bentos have velcro straps or you have to use rubber bands to keep them closed. Not so with this sucker which has a fun, kid-friendly latch. I feel totally safe with my 2nd grader tossing this thing all over the place during the day and it not popping open. Love it. (And in case you were wondering, rubber bands are frowned upon in the lunchroom. Certain attendants are not too happy with a certain mom who put rubber bands on her kids' bentos and now they treat said kids with unwarranted rubber band suspicion. Fact.)
  • Two "Dippers" - These little bowls fit perfectly in the box OR in the pocket on the outside of the bag. They have a removable silicone seal giving it a tight fit. They are perfect for "wet" foods like yogurt, dips, nut butters, fruits, applesauce, etc. Or you can use them for dry foods, too. They're easy for little hands to open - no screwing. They're not meant for liquids, but we have yet to have anything we've tried leak.
  • Easy eating. My son has like 20 minutes to eat. Subtract talking time and it is like 4.5 minutes. He likes that he can pop open the tray and everything is ready to go - no need to have to open multiple containers, etc. When he's done, he closes it and he's off. Nothing to clean up or throw out.
  • Dishwasher safe. Please. Like that was even negotiable for me. Even the bag can be submerged in water to clean. These clean up beautifully.
  • Environmentally friendly. First of all, no more ziplocs to throw away. Also, these trays come with their own insulated carry bags made from recycled materials and are certified lead, PVC, and phthalate free. Heck - Planetbox prefers to ship USPS because it is the least harmful to the environment shipping option. Every design and production choice seems well thought out. The whole thing screams Mother Earth approved.
  • Customizable. The kids dig the magnets that come with their boxes. You can order a whole bunch of different ones - sports, rockets, princess-y, rock star, etc. 
  • Thin. They can slide into a backpack without bulking it up.
  • Fits Water Bottles. Just as long as they are about 3 inches in diameter.   
  • Easy to make ahead. Because the food stays separate, these boxes are easy to pack ahead of time and stick in the fridge while keeping the food fresh. Putting in the fridge also tends to keep the food colder because metal holds the cold better than plastic does.
  • Awesome warranty. The bag warranty is only a year. I get that as no lunch bag is kid-proof. But the box itself has a warranty of FIVE years. That's fantastic. It makes the initial hit to the wallet a lot less painful knowing buying a Planetbox is WAY cheaper than buying a new lunch box every year plus all of the baggies, pre-packaged food, etc. No doubt this will save us money.

  • Planetbox with 2 "Dippers"
    Planetbox with "Dippers" inside.
    Lunch for my 11 year-old: Turkey breast, salad fixings, cheese, dressing (in the small dipper), and a few chocolate chips for a treat. :) Everything stayed separate and fresh until she was ready to eat.
What don't I like? I was a bit surprised by the weight. But oddly enough, metal weighs more than plastic. Go figure. Seriously, though. They're not that heavy...just not feather light like a plastic rubbermaid. Also, my kids' bags are slightly different in material and handle. It doesn't bother me, but I thought it odd since they came from the same place at the same time. We ordered navy and teal so perhaps color has to do with it. Both bags have a pocket for water bottle and velcro pocket on the outside. On the inside is a mesh pocket - perfect for slipping in an ice pack.

So how much? The box itself is $34.95. You can buy the dippers, the bag, extra magnets, etc. individually or buy the whole system as a bundle. The bundle saved a bundle so that's what I did. It ended up being $59.95 for the box, the bag, a set of magnets, and two dippers (big and small). Yeah. I know. It sounded like a lot to me, too. And that's why I passed on buying them this summer and opted for the chemical-leaching, non-closing, food-mushing bento. But I should have just done this in the first place. They're cheaper in the long run and, more importantly, much safer. (*Note: if you decide to use your own bag, just make sure you match up its measurements to the Planetbox. I would recommend just getting their bag. They are really a great value and are a perfect match for the box. I'm quite pleased.)

Where to buy? You have two choices: or Pottery Barn They're the same price. PBK has no shipping on these, but you'll pay tax if you have a store in your state. Also, the color and magnet selection is limited to two choices: navy with rockets or pink with unicorns. I ordered from Planetbox and while I paid shipping, it was just about the same as tax would have been and I had more customizing options. They came in just three days. Nice!
Jungle magnets on Planetbox with navy bag

Jungle magnets on Planetbox - latch opened.

Paisley magnets Planetbox - latch closed.

Teal Planetbox bag. Holds standard water bottles (plastic or stainless steel like Klean Kanteen). Velcro pocket holds napkins, utensils or even a "Dipper" with a snack.

Check out Planetbox for more pictures and lunch ideas. They have lots on their Facebook page as well.

That's it for today. I will post shortly on our new non-plastic coffee brewing station that is on its way from Amazon. Until then, eat clean and be well!


  1. Love it, that's a tasty looking lunch!

    Reminds me of this cool blog:

    She does some cute things with her son's lunches.

  2. Yes! She's no joke when it comes to school lunches. She's like a lunch artist.

    I bought those silicone cups she uses after reading her blog this past summer. I haven't found a need for the cups with the Planetbox. One less thing to clean!

  3. My daughter absolutely loves her Planet Box. After using it for a few months now, I would never switch to anything else. So easy to pack and clean. I am thinking of getting a few as gifts. Everyone should know about these!!!!

  4. hi kim!

    what great lunch boxes. i bought my son a tiffin box a few years ago and we use it all the time. my goal this coming year is to get rid of the lingering plastic in my kitchen. also, i read about your glass tea kettle and i'm going to get one of those too!

    about the grainless granola recipe, i have yet to soak the nuts, but i too have read some articles about the toxins in nuts and the benefits of soaking and drying. another new year project for me. going paleo/primal has consumed so much time and energy (in the best way possible) that i find i have to pace myself with changes, transitions, skill acquisition. i unplugged the microwave for good last week, so right now my family is learning how to reheat food the old fashioned way.

    looking forward to chatting with you. feel free to email me anytime!