When you only need to click a picture of a roast turkey sandwich to get it delivered to your office, it can be difficult to consider an alternative. That mystery meat sandwich may be tasty (and it got here in 15 minutes!), but making a meal yourself can save money and give you more control over eating healthy. These sophisticated adult lunch boxes will sensibly store your food, and more importantly, avoid giving off the idea that your mom packed it for you. Below each choice is a lunch recipe that’s healthy, affordable and easy to make the night before.
Nickel-Plated Aluminum Lunch Box
For the Modern Miner: During the Great Depression, a 17-year-old miner tried to sit on an old tin box and it collapsed. He designed this aluminum lunch box in response. Kaufmann Mercantile’s handcrafted aluminum take on the classic design is sturdy enough to sit on if you can’t find a seat outside, and more importantly, should last you a lifetime. There’s a large bottom compartment for all of your food, along with some space above it, where you can store a bottle with a removable wire. You can even wash it like your normal dishes and use furniture polish to keep its sheen. 7.25 x 12.25 x 4.5 inches
Pack this: If you’re using this chair/lunch box, you probably need something hearty for lunch. Make an “end-of-the-week deli sandwich” at the beginning of the week instead and keep it in the fridge to last a few days. That probably won’t fill you up, so add a German potato salad.
Classic Stainless Lunch Jar
For the Real Bento-Maker: “Bento” is the Japanese word for “packed lunch”. Traditionally bento is divided into rice and a vegetable or meat; this contains stacking compartments for each, along with a third waterproof one for soups, all housed in a vacuum-sealed stainless steel cylinder. All three are microwaveable, and the box boasts excellent heat retention for hot and cold dishes, even when the two are packed together. It even includes chopsticks with their own case. 9.4 x 6 x 5.4 inches
Pack this: If you’re using a bento-style lunch box, you have to try some foods in the classic style. For example, you can split up this noodle salad with chicken and chile scallion oil into noodles in one bowl and the rest in another. For your soup, try this lemongrass soup with mushroom dumplings. Both should take an hour together and the flavors will work together perfectly.
Artifact Lunch Tote
For the Kindergartener at Heart: Though this bag from Artifact directly evokes your grade-school brown bag, it’s well suited for adult life. The materials are largely sourced from American companies; the duck canvas is water resistant, while the leather strap and nickel steel rivets close the top opening. The cinnamon-colored version most strongly evokes that old brown paper, but other colors are available if you would prefer to forget about school lunches. 11.75 x 8.0 x 5.5 inches
Pack this: For this old-school lunch tote, how do you pack anything but a sandwich? This porchetta sandwich isn’t the healthiest; just blame the school cafeteria’s lack of options. Toss in an apple and potato chips and it’s like you’re still in elementary school. It also is the most difficult recipe on the list, but you’ll see why it’s worth it on Thursday.
The Finishing Touches
Best Made Hobo Knife: A knife, fork and spoon all in one, and they’re detachable. $26
Lifefactory Glass Food Storage: For the lunch boxes without built-in storage, these clear glass containers are everything-safe. $15+
Salad Dressing Container: Dressing a salad in the morning will leave your lettuce soggy by lunch, this small container is the answer. $4
Built NY Bento Lunch Box
For the Split-Minded: This two-compartment lunchbox from Built NY is simple: it’s two tupperware-like containers that fit together snugly, wrapped in a zip-up neoprene sleeve. The sleeve is insular, stretchable, water-resistant and machine washable. The two plastic containers inside are PVC- and BPA-free and machine washable. The whole package is understated, blending in with a more formal work environment (unlike, perhaps, the Artifact Tote). 4.7 x 7.3 x 7.25 inches
Pack this: This lunch box calls for a salad in one container and a protein and grain in the other. For the salad, use whatever greens and toppings you want with this herby lime dressing. For your second container, try out this California barley bowl — filling and full of essential protein.
Modern Metal Lunchbox
For the Light Eater: This metal lunchbox is the smallest of the list, intended for a miniature three-course mid-day snack. Don’t let the size fool you: the stainless steel protects the food within from getting crushed and is easy to clean. There are two layers that clasp together for neat transportation, and a small container for condiments that can fit within. The design is inspired by tiffin lunch boxes, which originated in British India for the purpose of carrying a second breakfast or light lunch. 3.75 x 4 x 5.5 inches
Pack this: For the last-minute small meal, you can’t go wrong with tossing some healthy ingredients together: two hard-boiled eggs, a cheddar cheese wedge, an apple and rye crackers, and you’ll be out the door in a minute.