Insulated Lunch Containers
My old thermos broke, so I'm looking for a good lunch container to take hot foods to work that STAYS HOT. My office doesn't have a microwave (don't ask - I almost wouldn't have taken the job if they didn't have one. Just goes to show you, you have to remember to ask the right questions when you take a new job!), and I've forced to fill food up into a thermos to take it to work. I saw the Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless-Steel lined Lunch Jar on Amazon:
Its a little much, but anyone try it yet? Other than that, any recs for ones that keep food hot for at least 5 hours would be greatly appreciated.
Why not check out the Aladdin/Stanley line of stainless thermos' I've had one for years and it's still going strong. Just preheat and it will last allday. Parts are easy to replace too.
I haven't used Mr Bento at all (I use a standard thermos jar and a plastic Japanese bento for foods to be eaten at room temp); but there is a whole flickr group devoted to Mr Bento. Here is the link to the group where you can read discussion on several issues like staining, heat and leakage. Hope this helps.
I got my gf the smaller version of the Zojirushi container... she likes it pretty well, except the top doesn't seem totally watertight. She doesn't use it to keep food hot, but having used their products, I'm pretty sure it will keep food hot if it says it does.
I have the Mr Bento and I am really pleased with it. I also thought it was a bit much for a lunch box, but it's worked out very well for me.
If I know it might be a while before I eat, I'll heat the thermos with boiling (boiled) water while I heat up my other containers (without lids) in the microwave. With this method, the food is still nice and hot 4 hours later (I've never gone more than 4 hours, but it would probably stay pretty hot for 5).
Other days, when it matters less or I'm just lazy, I just heat the food in the containers, and it's still pleasantly warm 3 hours later.
I find that I tend to balance my meals better with all the different containers. It's a purely psychological thing, but it's effective.
I think the biggest downside to Mr Bento is its weight, but I don't see how a well-insulated lunchbox could be lighter, and it's not unmanageable by any means (I take a combination bus and walking route every day).
All in all, I'm really pleased with the insulation and the overall design, and I feel that I am getting my money's worth.
I had trouble trying to figure out how much food each of those containers could hold, and how large the entire system was. Can you give me an idea?
Do you microwave the food IN the containers that they provide?
I guess I could justify this purchase to myself since I'd use it almost every day...
I'm eating out of it right now, so I'll give my best estimations.
The soup container (bottom, leak-proof) holds almost exactly 8 oz. (if not exactly).
The rice bowl (insulated lid, not totally leak-proof--but there are ways to mitigate this), probably 16 oz., perhaps as much as 20 oz.
The next bowl up, probably around 12 oz. The top bowl holds 8 oz as well.
I'm very confident about the top and bottom 8 oz. measurements, since I regularly fill them from 8 oz. containers (yogurt, soups) and they fit perfectly. The middle 2 are more estimated, but I would say they hold at least the minimum guess.
The whole system together: it's about 5 in. in diameter, about 11-12 in. tall. It comes with the black carrying case, which gives you enough room to add napkins, extra utensils, maybe a candy bar, etc., but nothing so large as a drink (maybe a capri sun, but who drinks those). The case has 2 straps: one small to carry in hand, one longer (adjustable) to put over your shoulder).
you can mitigate the non-leak-proof rice bowl by putting your liquid food on the bottom of the bowl and adding rice on top: makes a kind of lid. Or you can just do what I do, which is put your saucey stuff in the soup bowl and omit soup from the menu.
And yes, as posted below, you can microwave the containers (if I was unclear before, that's how I do it: microwave the food in the bowls in the morning, but without the lid on).
I've had mine since October, and I'm glad to have it. However, it does appear that the price has gone up at least $10 since then, maybe alomst $20 (Can't remember if i paid closer to 30 or 40). If budget is so tight that buying it would jeopardize your ability to put food in it, then of course it's not worth it. But if you can accomodate, I think you'll be pleased with it. I never regretted buying it.
I would also add, for general information, that it's not at all worth it if you don't plan on using it to keep food hot. There are smaller, cheaper containers out there.