I can't tell you how excited I was to receive a shiny new lunch box the other day (yes, I know, I probably have more lunchboxes than any other Mum in the UK already, but still, a new lunch box!). This one is the Yumbox, a US designed bento box that I've long admired from afar. I was so pleased when I heard that Yumbox was soon to be available here in the UK, and even more so when I was given the opportunity to review one!
Of course I had to get it out the minute it arrived, and oohed and aahed over it so much that Small Child had to ask "is this lunch box for me Mummy, or for you?" My first impression of it was that it was more shiny, chunky and sturdy than I expected, and also a bit smaller. I decided to reserve judgement on the size until I had actually packed a lunch or two though, as appearances can be deceiving. As you can see I chose the green Yumbox, it is also available in a several other colours.
Inside the box is a removable inner tray made of clear plastic and a silicone lining on the lid, which is designed to form a seal over the compartments when it is shut, making the Yumbox leak-proof. The box clips together with the blue clasp on the front.
Here's a close up of the silicone lining. It's attached to the lid, and as you can see it is moulded to the shape of the compartments. Because it's incorporated into the lid, it makes washing up easy. The design of this is so clever! No more danger of losing little lids on separate containers, and it makes the whole process of getting to the food a lot quicker and easier for little ones too.
Here's the clear inner tray, which is easy to remove and could be used alone as a fun compartmented plate too. As you can see, it's divided up and labelled with the main food groups; dairy, protein, fruit, vegetables and grains, and there's an extra mini compartment which would be perfect for a small treat or a dip too. As it is US designed and manufactured, the food groups correspond to the US MyPlate recommendations, but they tie up perfectly with the UK Eatwell Plate recommendations too, if you take 'grains' to mean starchy foods. The pictures in the compartments are really cute and fun, and the labels are applied to the bottom of the clear tray, so there's no danger of them peeling off into the food (Small Child was slightly worried about this!). This is one of my favourite features of the Yumbox; it makes packing a balanced lunch really easy and helps with controlling portions sizes too.
After a good look at the box, it was time to make a meal in it! Small Child is still off school owing to the flooding, but I couldn't resist making his tea up in the box so that I could try it out! I was pleasantly surprised at how much food I was able to fit in the box in the end. The compartments are deeper than they look in the pictures, and if you fill them all up then they hold a really decent amount.
Here's the first meal I packed for Small Child in his Yumbox! The protein compartment held a couple of cold home-made beef meatballs, the grains (starchy foods) compartment held some cold left-over home made potato wedges, the vegetable compartment had a whole mini red pepper and some raw purple carrot disks, cut with a crinkle cutter, the fruit compartment held a satsuma and some red grapes (there are more grapes underneath that you can't see in the photo; as I mentioned the compartment is quite deep), and I filled the dairy compartment with organic strawberry yoghurt, topped with a few polka dot sprinkles. Of course I had to test the 'treat' compartment too, so I added a small pile of Cadbury's mini eggs. I decorated the meal with lots of fun eye bento picks, and also used alphabet bento picks and a heart pick to deliver our verdict of the Yumbox!
All in all, I'm extremely impressed with the Yumbox. The leak-proof design is brilliant, and I really like the removable tray and labelled compartments. The box is sturdy and well made, and it's compact size means that it fits nicely in most standard lunch bags. It holds a lot more food than I thought it would at first sight, but I would say it is probably most suited to younger children. I expect it will last Small Child a couple more years though (he's just coming up for 6), so if you bought it for a pre-schooler, you'd get a good few years use out of it.
The other point to make about the Yumbox is that it is definitely designed for bento-style lunches; standard sandwiches for example wouldn't fit unless they were cut up into smaller pieces, and the shape of the compartments doesn't give a huge amount of flexibility for packing larger items. Having said that, it's absolutely perfect for more traditional bento foods such as rice, vegetables and meat, as you could pack a really good portion of those kinds of foods in it. Over all, we are really happy with it, and look forward to packing many more lunches in it!
UPDATE: The Yumbox bento box is now available in the UK, and can now be bought from the Eats Amazing Shop! After using it for nearly 6 months, it has become one of our all time favourite lunch boxes and I can't recommend it highly enough!