When I was preparing to go from stay at home mom to working mom, one of the hardest things to do was to wrap my head around the whole day care thing. Having been at home with the kiddos from day one (a total of three and a half years!), I had zero experience with getting kids packed up and ready to go to daycare. I ventured out to Target, without really having a clue as to what I needed or wanted, I just knew I needed to find something in which to pack the kids’ (and my own) lunches.
Immediately upon arrival at Target, I was frustrated. It seems no one who decides where things in Target are placed actually shops there because lunch bags and lunch boxes were at completely opposite ends of the store. After wandering around the store, I finally found insulated lunch bags amongst the camping gear, and ice packs were thankfully in the next aisle. The lunch boxes however, were in the opposite corner of the store, in the same aisle as the food storage items: plastic wrap, aluminum foil, etc. Oh, and then there was also a random selection of lunch boxes in the baby aisle. The selection of lunch boxes wasn’t that great, but with shopping time limited to either the couple of hours in between the two naps that my little guy still takes (assuming I have the emotional strength to go shopping with the little- ahem-angels), or the few hours after bedtime (with the hubs at home of course) assuming I have the energy to drag myself out at the end of the day, you just don’t have the luxury of shopping around. Besides, with about a week from job offer to first day, I had a ton of prep to do and couldn’t spend much time on this task either.
Amongst a sea of uninspired boxes, the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox boxes caught my eye. The green lids popped on the shelf and the various compartments inside the main boxes offered a variety of options for lunch components. After all, my plan was to offer a variety of foods in an interesting presentation. I decided to buy two sets of the Entree Open Stock boxes for the kids and a Salad Kit for myself.
The Entree Open Stock Box. Notice the two removable compartments, and the indentations on the lid.
The kids’ boxes are rectangular and shallow and come with a small and large rectangular insert so you can pack a sandwich and a side and they won’t mix and get soggy. The lids have indentations that allow you to click other smaller containers from the same line if you want to pack more food without the different containers getting jumbled up. Overall I’m satisfied with these boxes. My only wish is that Rubbermaid would offer more varieties of the inserts that go inside the box so that you could pack different sides, say crackers and fruit without mixing them. But my bento box inspired solution has been to use silicone baking cups to create smaller areas within the boxes. I should also add that because the boxes are quite long, they just barely fit inside a standard insulated kids’ lunch bag.
My salad kit is more of a cube shape and comes with an insert divided into three sections, a container for dressing, and an icepack. The icepack attaches to the bottom of the box and the lid has the same indentations as the other boxes for additional containers. The idea behind the insert is that you can pack salad fixings and keep them separated from your salad until you are ready to eat. It’s a nice idea but with the insert in place, there isn’t much room left for the salad itself. In fact, on its own the box is a little small for a salad that is meant to be a meal. Just to try to make a salad that wouldn’t leave me starving I ended up packing it so tight that there wasn’t any room to mix the salad ingredients or evenly distribute the dressing when I was ready to eat. Trying to dig in the bottom for some greens, would result in something else flying out of the salad on to my desk. Then there is the container specifically made for dressing. I thought this was the best concept ever. I’ve always used those little jam jars you get at hotels or on an airplane for my salad dressing, but they’re just a little too small (and I don’t even like my salad to be swimming in dressing). So, you can imagine my disappointment when on my first day at work I opened up my lunch tote, only to find an oil slick coating its bottom. The dressing was still mostly in its container, but apparently the lid was not quite tight enough and some oil from my vinaigrette made it out. At first I thought I hadn’t closed the lid carefully enough, but after six months on the job and more oil slicks than not, I have concluded that there is some design flaw with the lid that requires it to be closed precisely for an airtight (or oil tight) seal. I have noticed that this is not so much of a problem with creamier or thicker dressings, but I mostly use vinaigrette, so it’s an issue for me.
The Salad Kit. See how little space there is for a salad when the insert is in place?
My final verdict is that the Entree Open Stock containers are okay for kids lunches, especially with the option of attaching smaller containers to the lid. However, I am disappointed in the Salad Kit because of its small size and awkward shape, and because of the inconsistent seal on the dressing container. I have stopped using the main container and have started to pack my salads in a larger container from the Rubbermaid Premier Food Storage set. I still use the dressing container and end up with the occasional oil slick in my lunch tote.
I love these Rubbermaid containers, but that’s a topic for another post. I use the deep medium box on the left for my fit-for-a-meal lunch salads.