5 Best Stainless Steel Lunch Boxes & Food Containers

Are you looking for a reusable stainless steel lunch box?

I’ve got a number of stainless steel food containers and I think they’re brilliant.

I use them multiple times a week without fail. Whether I’m going to work in the office, on a day trip or storing leftover food in my fridge. My sturdy stainless steel food boxes come in handy all the time! 

We’ll take a look at the many benefits and a few FAQs, before heading into my 5 favourite stainless steel lunch boxes.

Why do I like stainless steel lunch boxes so much?

If I’m heading into the office for a full day of work, I take food for breakfast and lunch, plus snacks in between. I pack most of this food into my stainless steel containers. 

I also carry my trusty stainless steel water bottle or Chilly bottle pretty much everywhere I go.

For me, stainless steel is hard wearing, reusable, easily cleaned (huge plus when you use them a lot!) and has many environmental benefits. 

It’s also continuously recyclable, it won’t break down into micro parts and new stainless steel is often made from recycled material. 

Yes, stainless steel is intensive to first produce. It’s often powered by coal – or has been in the past – but sustainable stainless steel production is becoming more and more common.

Benefits of stainless steel lunch boxes

stainless steel food containers and water bottle
At work my stainless steel lunch boxes and water bottle

I’ve been using stainless steel food containers on a daily basis now for a number of years and have seen the benefits first time.

Many parents are now finding these stainless steel lunchboxes really useful for their children to take to school due to their non-breakable nature. You can even get names stamped or printed on the container to personalise it.

There are a number of benefits to using a stainless steel lunch box or food container. The main benefits include:

  • Reusable – you’re not going to find many more materials that are as reusable as stainless steel. This is perfect if you are using your lunch boxes most days like me
  • Recycled material – 80% of new stainless steel is made from waste and via electricity
  • Plastic free – not a drop of plastic in site, just metal
  • Durable – it’s not going to break any time soon (a bonus for children and parents)
  • Passive material – unlike plastic it won’t react with your food or absorb any smells. It also won’t emit or leach anything out itself
  • Fully recyclable – stainless steel is one of the most recycled materials on Earth thanks to it’s high worth and easy to process nature
  • Safe – many of the benefits listed here mean stainless steel is safe. It won’t break or shatter and it won’t release toxins
  • Personalised – it’s possible to get your name stamped into the metal
  • Get rid of single use items – ditch the cling film, plastic food wrap and even aluminium foil

On this last topic, another alternative to single use films is to use reusable items such as beeswax food wraps which can be cleaned after each use. 

Is stainless steel better than plastic lunch box?

stainless steel lunch box with yoghurt on desk
Couldn’t be easier to clean these lunch boxes after use

In my opinion, a stainless steel lunch box is way better than a plastic one.

And for multiple reasons. 

Plastic lunch boxes are prone to cracking and splitting after a few uses or when dropped. This won’t happen with stainless steel, which will last much, much longer than plastic. Stainless steel is solid and won’t degrade.

A plastic lunch box will also take on smells and even colours from the food that it contains.

I’m sure you’ve opened a plastic tupperware box before and smelt the last meal that was in it – I know I have! Once this happens there’s no going back.

You don’t get this with stainless steel because of the protective, impenetrable layer.

You can also freeze a stainless steel container without causing damage to the box. If you put a plastic food box in the freezer it will generally crack and come out damaged.

Are stainless steel lunch boxes recyclable?

stainless steel food boxes on wooden board
My stainless steel food container collection – all forever recyclable afterwards

Depending on the type of plastic, a plastic food container should be recyclable.

However with plastic, it’s not continuously recyclable. It loses quality each time it’s reformed into a new product.

Stainless steel on the other hand is infinitely recyclable.

The waste material from stainless steel products can be collected, melted down and reformed over and over again without losing its inherent qualities.  

The only reason they stopped making metal lunch boxes and replaced them with plastic was to do with the cost of manufacturing. Surprise, surprise, it’s cheaper to make plastic products.

Plastic is derived from fossil fuels, whereas stainless steel is derived from iron ore and a few other metals. It’s true that virgin steel manufacturing is more often than not powered by fossil fuels, but on the positive side, recycled steel that’s being re-processed can be done with electricity. 

Downsides of a stainless steel food containers

stainless steel eco lunch box with food
Lunch time with my split stainless steel lunch box

Despite the many benefits to stainless steel containers, there are a number of potential negatives that you should be aware of. 

Firstly, as mentioned, no type of stainless steel can be put in the microwave. This is dangerous and a potential fire hazard. If you want to warm your food up, you’ll have to take it out of the box and put it on a microwavable plate or bowl. 

Leak proof or not?

Another downside I’ve noticed is that some stainless steel containers are not fully leak-proof. This depends on the product you buy. 

Some stainless steel lunch boxes come with a removable silicone seal to make them completely leak-proof.

My stainless steel water bottle has a silicone ring for this reason, which is a common addition for the twist shut stainless steel containers. You can read a little more about silicone sustainability here.

All my boxes don’t have a seal and I’ve had a couple of leaks in my bag from the likes of porridge, yoghurt and chilli. If I keep my bag straight though and wrap with recyclable kitchen paper – which I often reuse first – this isn’t a problem.

Also if you mainly use it for dry products and baking items, you’ll be more than fine. 

Carbon footprint

The other issue is that manufacturing steel initially is energy intensive and does come with carbon footprint. You can read more about how it’s made and if stainless steel is sustainable here, but in a nutshell, iron ore needs to be mined and processed. 

As the product is incredibly durable and will last for years and years, this should pay back over time.

Even more, many companies now are offsetting their carbon emissions with tree planting initiatives and by supporting carbon reduction projects such as those offered by Ecologi – you can read my Ecologi review here. 

5 best stainless steel lunch boxes and food containers

Stainless steel food containers are a little more expensive than their plastic alternatives. But it’s for good reason. 

A stainless steel lunch box for example will last for years. I’ve been using mine on a weekly basis now for over 2 years and they’re all as good as new. I have three larger boxes that are all structured a little differently inside, plus one small box.

There are a few great UK online eco sites who sell stainless steel food boxes. Here are some of my favourite companies:

1. Mintie Lunch Boxes

mintie stainless steel lunchbox
Mintie Lunch Box

Mintie offer a range of stainless steel eco lunch boxes – from the standard push on lid to ones with clips and silicone seals. They also come in a range of sizes which is always useful.

Mintie offset the carbon emissions from their lunchboxes with one of my favourite companies, Ecologi.

Shop at the Mintie website here – use the code TINYECO for 10% off!

2. A Slice of Green

slice of green stainless steel lunchbox
A Slice Of Green stainless steel food container

A Slice of Green was started by Charity in 2015 with the premise of creating reusable and stylish products. Since then they have gone from strength to strength with ethics and sustainability at their centre.

For their metal lunchboxes, A Slice of Green offer plastic-free food containers in a range of sizes, including multi-tiered ones. They send out their products in plastic-free, recyclable packaging too which is great.

Shop A Slice of Green here

3. Elephant Box

elephant box stainless steel food container
Elephant Box stainless steel lunch box and mini box

Large, mini, round, leak-proof, tiered and more, Elephant Box have created a fantastic range of stainless steel food containers.

Founded by Liz and Joy, Elephant Box started to help supply a solution to the single-use plastic problem. All of their products are reusable, in fact they will last a lifetime!

Shop the Elephant Box collection here

4. Black + Blum

black and blum steel eco lunch box

Founded in 1998 in London, Black + Blum are very experienced when it comes to producing high quality products with sleek designs.

Their food containers come in many formats, including leakproof and insulated. Their products are on the high end but are undoubtedly made to last. I’ve tried the Black + Blum charcoal water filter which was great.

Shop Black + Blum here

5. Klean Kanteen

klean kanteen stainless steel lunch box

First started in the US, Klean Kanteen are a family and employee-owned company. Their also B Corp Certified, which shows they operate with sustainability at their core.

From lunch boxes to canisters and full sets, you’ll be able to get your food container game all sorted with Klean Kanteen.

Shop Klean Kanteen here

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you go…

Opting for a stainless steel lunch box is just one small way of living a more sustainable life.

There are lots of other eco swaps you can make – particularly if you’re looking to create a more eco kitchen.

If you’re looking to make big changes, you might want to look at your kitchen appliances and going for energy efficient models of fridge freezers, dishwashers and eco kettles.

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Ben & Murphy Peaks Mam Tor

I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about living a more sustainable, environmentally friendly life. Away from the laptop, I love spending time in nature and with my young family (plus Murphy the dog!). I write and send out the Eco Life Newsletter.