Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: Easy Lunchbox System

I have been using the Easy Lunchbox containers in all my pictures, so I thought it was time for a review :) To give you some context, I will first explain that I am a veteran of the lunch container. I have food sensitivities and for me, packing a lunch is a necessity! I am also pretty frugal and don't like spending a ton of money eating out. Some containers I have used in the past include:
  • A set from tupperware featuring four round stacking containers. This was a sturdy, well-built set but was not flexible for packing anything but soup lunches, and the carrying case it came with was not accommodating for other containers for snacks and things
  • A laptop lunchbox. This was my main lunchbox for awhile, and I was delighted when 2.0 came out and there were lids for every container, and a salad-sized container too. However, I found that the containers invariably leaked, and I didn't like having to wrestle with the large, fragile shell where the lid did not come off when you washed it. This set was fiddly to store and clean, and I found that carrying two of them (as I do on days I get the school lunch to bring home for dinner) was needlessly bulky.
  • Containers in various configurations from Lock and Lock. This was my go-to for the last year. I had two configurations (a soup-based and a salad-based, with containers for entree, side dishes and a snack) that fit perfectly in my laptop lunches carrying bag. I could slip it in a backpack and not have to worry, Loved it, except that it was a LOT of little pieces to wash every night!
I saw the easy lunchboxes and was very interested. I liked that I could carry so many different items and only have two pieces to wash. I was seriously spending a ton of time washing all those little containers and lids! And I was finding that stuff would get stuck under the little rubberized bits of the lock and lock lid. It did not seem very sanitary and it was difficult to fully clean in all those little cracks and spaces! I did like the fool-proof water-tight seal on the Lock and Lock containers, but I figured that if I was carrying the easy lunchboxes flat, it wouldn't be a big deal to put liquidy things in there.

The lunchboxes were backordered for some time, so I made do with some dollar store ziploc ones in the meanwhile. By the time the easy lunchboxes arrived, they were warping and cracking, so I was happy to see that the easy lunchboxes are sturdy and solid. And they fit---even laid flat---in the lunch tote I have already! I did experiment with the tote they came with and found I preferred to have a little more room since I often carry two of them together and a snack container or thermos, and the lunch tote I have is pretty, so I may not use the cooler bag often.

The lunchbox is very economical---there were four in the set, and at half the price of a single laptop lunchbox! They are lighter to carry, and it's so easy to just wash a lid and a base and not have to worry about anything else. On days I pack soup, I use a small thermos and then pack my afternoon snack in the big compartment. On days I don't pack soup, I pack an entree in the main compartment and pack a small tupperware with a snack.

I also love that these lunchboxes encourage portion control, as the laptop lunches did. On salad or entree days, I can fill the main compartment, pack a fruit and a vegetable, and come out at about 350-400 calories most times without even thinking. On soup days, I can pack some crackers and fruit to go with my thermos and get a well-rounded meal with only one extra thing to wash.

I have had no problems packing liquidy things. Since my lunch bag (as well as the cooler bag it came with) leaves them flat, there have been no spills. This was an issue with the original, lid-less laptop lunchbox set---their bag stored the lunchbox upright, so you could only pack dry things in the non-lidded container. I packed applesauce in the easy lunchbox one day, and it was fine---but I am an adult and not a little kid swinging the bag around!

I also love the convenience of these two-piece containers. I pack my lunch the night before and just stick it in my tote with a spare container for if I am getting the school lunch to bring home. I can get a whole day's worth of food and only have two bases and two lids to wash!

My one complaint has been about packing things which need to be warmed up. My side dishes are usually cut fruits and vegetables, so those are easy to spoon out (and then back in again) while I reheat a main dish in the microwave. But if I want a side dish that can't be easily removed, like the applesauce, I have to plan it for days I am taking a soup entree, which I carry in a separate container. I'd love it if there was a one extra piece to this kit, a liner sized to fit the big compartment, so that you could easily pull out one item and reheat it separately.

I also found the website a little cluttered to navigate. There are photo galleries, plus Facebook pictures, plus a Flickr group. I like the Flickr group---Facebook is the only place on-line where I use my real name, so I would never, ever post something like this there. But the photo gallery was just one more thing to click on, and it seemed every area of the site was like that---too many choices, too many little sub-areas. If they re-design it, a more stream-lined, less link-heavy page would be wonderful. I'd also love to see them have a recipe page or a page of mix and match choices or something a little more content-oriented, as opposed to the tease of a ton of off-site links.

Overall, I am very pleased with this purchase and it has made my lunch-packing much easier. It is so nice not to have to fiddle with so many lids and tiny bits and pieces! And it's made it easy to plan healthy meals that fit into my diet and lifestyle. I look forward to seeing what else the easy lunchbox people bring my way!

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