Hi everyone! I am still in hospital, but am feeling a lot better and spending most of my day sitting up instead of lying like a sad floppy seal in bed. And most of all, I have my laptop and internet access! I can’t post much in the way of bentos and recipes until I get out, but I do have some things that I was working on before I had to have my emergency surgery.
These days, there are some great dedicated sellers of Japanese bento boxes that can be relied upon to bring you the best of what is available in Japan (see the sidebar for some of the best, who are also smart enough to sponsor JustBento ^_^.) Still, I do like to keep an eye out for non-traditional containers that can be used very successfully as bento boxes. Here are three such boxes.
If you are determined to avoid any kind of plastic or plastic-like material for your lunch containers, LunchBots  may be for you. LunchBots is based in California; their lunch boxes are made of stainless steel, with enameled lids, and come in several sizes. They are totally plastic and silicone free. I have the Duo  one, which has a non-removable divider in the middle.
It holds about 650ml, so it’s a perfect size for a medium sized bento. The divider is pretty handy, and the box is dishwasher safe.
The LunchBots boxes do have a couple of things against them though in my opinion.Essentially they are sturdy stainless steel tins; the lids do fit tightly, but they are not leakproof since they lack any rubberized seals, so you can’t put anything that could leak inside them. Another strike against them is just a matter of aesthetics, but the box lids are color coded according to size and type, so if you want a certain box - say, the Duo, you are stuck with the lid it comes with even if you hate orange.
I do like stainless steel as a material for bento boxes though. I prefer my Aizawa Kobo stainless steel boxes that I talked about here , since they have silicone seals around the lids and clips to secure the lids onto the box body too. I like them so much that one is featured on the cover of my book ! However, if you want to be totally plastic and silicone free, the LunchBots boxes are a good alternative.
(Update: A commenter noted that she had had trouble with the enamel on the lid of her LunchBots box chipping. A LunchBots representative contacted me to say that the chipping problem was a temporary manufacturing issue that occured some time in 2009, and had since been resolved. She also offered the commenter a replacement box. Anyone who is having trouble with their LunchBots box lids are advised to contact them at info (at) lunchbots dot com.)
Light My Fire  is a Swedish maker of stylish camping equipment. Their lunchbox is meant for use outdoors, but can be used as an unusual bento box too. The box body is grey, and the lid comes in 8 cool colors.
You can buy the box alone, the box with a spork, or a complete meal kit that comes with a cup with a lid attached with a plastic tie, a lidded container, a mini cutting board/strainer, and a spork. I got my set at a camping store when it was on sale.
I’ve already featured this box in several bentos here on the site, such as this Christmas themed one . The unusual shape lends itself to all kinds of ideas. It is on the big side, so it might be too substantial to pack with a traditional rice-based bento, but it’s ideal for holding a salad, a sandwich and fruit, and so on. The lid is not super-secure, so if you think you might tip the box over or something during transit, you might want to use it with the Harness  that Light My Fire sells.
You can buy the Light My Fire lunch box from Amazon  and at outdoor/sporting/camping stores. I’ve seen it sold in such stores in the U.S. as well as France and Switzerland.
Rosti Mepal is a Dutch manufacturer of plastic cookware and household items. I first saw their TAB lunch boxes  for sale in Japan, at Loft in Yokohama (see Where to buy bento boxes and accessories in Japan ). I bought two of the medium size, in bright yellow and blue. They hold about 800 ml, so are a good size for salads and such or sandwich bentos.
I haven’t used the whole box yet in a featured bento, but I did use the lid as a plate to hold the frittata here .
The thing I like best about the Rosti Mepal lunch box is the lid. It’s the most air-tight, leak proof lid of all the boxes I own. I can actually here that little ‘sigh’ when I open the lid, which indicates that there was an airtight seal. I can fill the box with water, put the lid on and turn it upside down, and it doesn’t leak.
At the moment I’m considering buying the very flat box. It was designed to hold up to 4 sandwiches apparently, and can fit vertically in a laptop bag. I don’t think I’m every hungry enough to need 4 sandwiches, but the flat shape is quite intriguing - I’d love to figure out how to pack things in it. The bright colors and the sleek, modern designs are quite appealing too.
Rosti Mepal is sold at department stores and kitchen/cookware supply stores in Europe. I am not sure if they have distribution in the U.S. - their website  doesn’t tell you much - but I did locate an online seller in Germany  that will ship worldwide.
Have you used any of these boxes? If you have, let us know what you think of them in the comments!