The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 3, 2009

PlanetBox Stainless Steel Lunch Kit

Planet Box lunch boxLast month, Fake Plastic Fish reader Alanna sent me a link to a very cool new stainless steel lunch option.  PlanetBox, a company created just this year, has designed a lunch box that is airtight and has compartments for all the different foods you might want to pack.  And unlike Bentology/Laptop Lunches, which I have never promoted because they are made from plastic, the PlanetBox container is plastic-free.



I asked the owner, Caroline Miros (who happens to also live in the Bay Area) about the materials in the lunch box, and here is what she told me:

  • Our PlanetBox lunch box is made out of high quality stainless steel – no plastic.
  • Each PlanetBox comes with a set of magnets that are made out of synthetic rubber, but not PVC (the standard for thin flexible magnets).  We had to look long and hard for a supplier that did not use PVC and found one in Asia that sold to the European Markets (with their smarter, tougher standards.)  So the magnets are still plastic, but at least not PVC. If someone requested to not have the magnets with their PlanetBox, we would gladly comply.
  • Our Big and Little Dipper containers have a small silicone rubber seal on top, in order to make it more liquid tight.  We tried lots of different options to try to not use silicone for this, but ultimately had to in order to get it to hold liquid.
  • Our Carry Bag is made out of 100% recycled material made from plastic bottles, as well as polyurethane.  Again, this isn’t a perfect solution, but it is durable and washes well, which we felt was important for a children’s lunch bag.  And of course, it’s certified free of toxic materials like lead and BPA/phthalates.

I appreciated Caroline’s candid answers to my questions, so I asked her to tell me a little about her inspiration for designing PlanetBox:

As a mom who has been packing lunches for over 8 years, I’ve been frustrated by the ever-changing news about what plastics are considered “safe.” First PVC was bad, then Polystyrene. Then the bad news of #7 Polycarbonate plastics came. Which plastic was going to go toxic next?

I started to look for good alternatives for packing my kid’s lunch. I found that glass is great for home, but my daughter’s pre-school politely asked me to stop packing glass containers after one dropped on the floor and created quite a hazard — who can blame them? I turned my attention to metal containers – buying up anything I could get my hands on in this country, over the internet, or through my husband’s travels around the world. I amassed quite a collection! But none of these containers really worked well for my kids — they were either too big, too awkward, or weren’t good for little hands to open and close.

That’s why I teamed up with my product designer husband and created PlanetBox. In addition to being safer than plastic, PlanetBox also functions better – the metal latch is easier to open and close than Tupperware lids, and stainless steel even cleans better than plastic. Why not skip the problems with plastic and pack lunch in a PlanetBox?

In addition to the health concerns associated with plastics, the creators of PlanetBox are also concerned about issues of waste and pollution from disposable products.  From the Why PlanetBox section of their website:

While many people are used to the “convenience” of using single-use plastic baggies and containers, all that convenience can make 90 pounds of garbage per year, per kid!

All that garbage ends up in our oceans and landfills and contributes to more global warming gases, which threaten our children’s future.

Most plastic food containers claim to be recyclable even though they are made of resins that are not readily recyclable at your curbside. Your PlanetBox is truly 100% recyclable. We’re so committed we’ll even recycle it for you after years of good use!

I feel like this is a company that “gets it.”

What is your favorite tip for making it easier to buy food in bulk (therefore minimizing plastic packaging)?

Here is her personal tip:

A few years ago, I bought organic cotton reusable bags to buy food from the bulk bins, but I had a hard time remembering to use them, until I labeled each with a permanent marker with what foods went in each bag (ie, oatmeal, brown rice, white rice, etc…). Once I did this I found it was much easier for me to make use of them).

Have you purchased food from bulk bins?  What is your tip for making bulk purchasing a stress-free experience?  And if you haven’t done it yet, please let us know why and what would need to change for you to be able to do it.  If you have no bulk food stores in your area, please let us know that too.

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Olivia Mather
13 years ago

Thanks to your recommendation, I ordered a Planetbox for my 4-year-old. I requested on the webform that they not use extra plastic to package it. I got my wish! The item came plain (in its carrying case) in the priority mail cardboard box. My son hasn’t used it yet, but it looks like it will be a great product for us.

connie curtis
13 years ago

I am looking for stainless steel canisters with stainless steel lids. Does anyone know where these would available online or a store?

The Raven
13 years ago

My 10yo son sometimes reads stuff over my shoulder–and since he saw your pictures of the Graze bags, he started making me check your blog every hour (which seems a bit obsessive even for your lovely blog) to see if we won. Then when he saw the Planet box, he got even more excited. Since my son is homeschooled, the food carriers would mostly be for “Papa” to take to work–but since son has been so excited about them, I may have to order one of them for a Hanukkah present for him!

13 years ago

I’ve been feeling guilty about buying bulk (which I do) because I basically use plastic containers to store and carry the food. Because of this I’ve been saving up glass jars in order to keep the food in the fridge, but haven’t solved the transportation problem, but I do think that maybe making my own cloth bags as suggested here will help.

The lunchbox looks cool, but unfortunately for work I have to go with a pyrex contain with what I believe is a silicone lid since I tend to take leftovers to reheat.

Making cloth bags to carry my fruit and veggies to work is now at the top of my list though!

13 years ago

I think the most important part of shopping in bulk for me is having a place to put it. I invested in some STRONG shelves, since bulk food can be heavy, and I store it all in glass half-gallon jars. What a disaster it would be if all my precious food came crashing down and got mixed up with broken glass!

Alyssum Pohl
13 years ago

I save my glass juice bottles and put my bulk items in them. Each is labelled with a similar label, so they look really nice in the pantry. Whenever one gets low, I simply make a note of it, and get more @ our bulk section next time I’m at the grocery. As my glass bottle collection increases, so does the amount of bulk items I can buy.

Renee J
13 years ago

I have gotten in the habit of purchasing bulk at the local foods market using the same bags each time. I really like the idea of using mason jars though – and I have so many of them!

Mandy Mc
13 years ago

I love, love, love this lunch box!

We don’t do a lot of bulk buying because there are only 3 of us and we don’t have a ton of storage space, BUT we do use reusable bags when we go to the farmers market or grocery store.

13 years ago

it is kind of a pain, but i usually take our home containers for the bulk items to the store, tare the weight and fill them on site. a lot of people at my coop bring cardboard boxes of all their various containers, to help carry them if you are buying a lot of items.

susanna eve
13 years ago

I went to buy nuts for holiday baking at a bulk barn store on saturday. I brought my own plastic bags to reuse because I know they won’t weigh containers there. I was told at the cash not to do that again, their stores do not allow for customers to reuse bags. I think that I could probably get away with reusing their own plastic bags but that would bring an entire new set of plastic bags into the house. We buy a lot of our flour in bulk and we reuse the same plastic bags over and over, dumping into large glass jars at home.
So, for now I am stuck buying nuts prepackaged. The only nearby store doesn’t have nuts in bulk because of possible cross contamination issues.
While the small food coop I belong to bags all its bulk products in plastic bags, I can go to the store and use my own containers if I go after hours when it isn’t busy.

13 years ago

Oh, I buy spices in bulk. I have nice spice jars (from the Spice House in Chicago), and I just bring them back to get refilled. This keeps my spices looking all uniform and pretty, and keeps some trash out of the landfill!

Joanne Rafferty
13 years ago

by the way, Planetbox is awesome. Wish I was a kid going to school. I am trying to think of kids that I want to get this for Christmas. Thank you for being so smart and following through on an idea Caroline.

Joanne Rafferty
13 years ago

I buy the old polyester scarves in thrift stores that ladies no longer wear on their curls. They tend to be colorful yet see through and mesh like. Fold them in have and sew up the sides. Add a draw string at the top. Now I have recycled, kept plastic out of a land fill and have something to talk to people at the store about. I don’t have bulk so I use these to replace the produce bags at the store. Also, you can wash and rinse right in the bag when you get home, hang to dry.

Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship
13 years ago

Buying in bulk is easiest through a co-op – I love that my 25-lb bag of oats was packaged in paper, not plastic! Although a lot of the other bags are plastic, at least there are fewer of them, and I do my darndest to reuse them.

13 years ago

I reuse gallon ziploc bags and write the bulk code on the bag. I transfer them to glass jars at home. I have the bulk codes on them for the next time i shop. Those lunchboxes look like the answer to my lunch issues. Kids would love to eat from them.

13 years ago

I like to take a string bag instead of a canvas bag to pack all the “bulky” bags in, as it expands and expands at the checkout. I also buy produce for canning in bulk at local farms and orchards. These folks usually have “seconds” or “drops” in bushel baskets or crates for a very good price, and they are happy to help heave the basket into the car. So think beyond oatmeal and rice for bulk purchasing!

13 years ago

I have found that whole foods makes it super easy to buy in bulk. However, here in NJ bulk hasn’t caught on like it has in Cali. Our options are extremely limited. The best solution I have found is to keep muslin bags in my car so I don’t have to remember to bring them with me when I shop.

13 years ago

I have a GREAT coop in my town. They really love when people bring their own bag/ containers and even give a discount for this! I have some home made bags that I picked up from a stall at our farmer’s market two summers ago. I use jars that can’t be re-purposed for canning to hold my bulk items and just write on the jar what the contents are and when they were purchased.

13 years ago

I’m so excited! This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for! I kept saying how much I wished Laptop Lunches (which is what I send with my kids every day) would make a stainless steel version. I spent hours and hours and hours searching the web for something comparable (because I love the LL system) that came in stainless. Oh, I really really really want to win this one!

13 years ago

I use cloth bags for things like pasta, but mostly I reuse jars, especially large apple sauce jars. I then store the food in them. (I always feel that I can’t store the food in the bags because they get stale or soft.) Berkeley Bowl (large grocery store in Berkeley) and the Berkeley Natural Grocery will pre-weigh containers, which is nice. For some reason, though, they won’t pre-weigh for the olive bar, so I’ve been buying jars. It’s too bad because they’re mainly for my son, so we can’t always finish them before they go bad.
I tried sending his lunch to preschool in a metal tiffin, but the teacher thought it was too complicated and took up too much room. He’s been using Lunchbots this year, which I love, but he can’t open it himself. It would be great to have something bigger than a Lunchbot that he can actually open. Thanks for hosting the give-away!

13 years ago

We just moved to a rural area with no bulk option for 50 miles…but in two weeks our new buying club will receive its first shipment! One member offered to sew bags with some cloth she already has on hand. I would re-use the plastic bags at our old co-op for bulk, but they would only last a few trips. Getting totally rid of plastic bags is my 2010 resolution.

13 years ago

What a fantastic product! I hope to be returning to grad school next autumn and I’d love to have this to take for lunches. I have washable reusable cloth bags that I take to the bulk bins. When I get home, I transfer my purchases to repurposed glass jars. All grains, nuts, and flours (almost everything except legumes, really) then go into the refrigerator to extend their shelf life and protect against infestation.

13 years ago

My friend and I sewed up some cotton muslin produce/bulk bags. I bring them with me whenever I go shopping. There are few places to buy bulk food right now, and I can’t really afford to buy the foods they offer (a small natural food store selling organics, and Whole Foods), so I try instead to buy things packaged in paper/paperboard.

Jennifer Kubina
13 years ago

I have a few repurposed plastic containers that I reuse over and over. I take them with me to the grocery store, fill them with bulk food items, and immediately move the food to mason jars or other non-plastic storage when I get home. Then I just wash the plastic container and put it back in my reusable grocery bags which I keep in my car. (That way, I am never without both reusable bags and bulk food storage.)

Deborah Walker
13 years ago

We used to buy from bulk food bins often when we lived in Washington state. The store we purchased from gave a discount for bringing your own bags, so we had motivation to remember them.

However, we haven’t found a bulk food store in Western KY (other than Sam’s Club).

Tip: Plan out a place where you’re going to store your purchase before you go to the store.

13 years ago

I have amassed quite a collection of glass storage (pyrex-like ones, and also canisters), and I always divide my bulk stuff up once I get home, unless they’re freezable. In that case, I always do the “flash freezing” method, and freeze them on a cookie sheet and then dump them in a storage container in the freezer, so I can take them out individually at my leisure. Easy-peasy!

13 years ago

Know how to store things! I had issues with buying oils and nut butters in bulk, and then forgetting to refrigerate them. Of course, they then went rancid and I really didn’t save any resources at all. My husband I and also like to keep bulk nuts and oilier grains chilled so they keep longer.

This is a great little invention by the way! Even if I don’t win I fully intend to buy one when I have a few spare pennies lying around. =P

Allison Jones
13 years ago

The stores in my rural area don’t have bulk bins, so instead of buying in bulk I buy things with glass or paper packaging, even though this usually means buying less of it at one time and paying more. Your boxes look wicked cool!

Kelly Long
13 years ago

I am very new to “going green” so I honestly don’t have any tips for buying in bulk. My only tip would be to read great blogs like Beth Terry to get tips. I find that I am often not even aware of things that I do that have a negative effect so I am trying to become aware of those things.

I would love to win the PlanetBox for my daughter! Her favorite t-shirt right now says “Be kind to my Planet” It would be perfect for her.

13 years ago

I try to keep both bulk bags and other non-plastic storage containers in my car. Since I get most of my daily food from farmers markets I rarely plan trips to the grocery store but instead end up going if I happen to be passing by. So this way I have containers with me when I happen to think to stop at the store.

13 years ago

Unfortunately the area I live isn’t very bulk food friendly. What I do try to do is minimize the amount of plastic packaging a I buy. I don’t get individually wrapped stuff anymore and if there’s a non-plastic version I try to get it.

I live with my parents so I don’t necessarily have the biggest voice when shopping. My mom got the message though when I held up the individually wrapped chicken breast she bought and declared them “MASS OF PLASTIC WASTE”.

13 years ago

These are super cool! I pack lunch for work one day a week, and I use my home glassware for transport. Though I have kids, they are homeschooled so school lunches aren’t an issue. On field trip or class days, we use our regular house goods and a cooler I’ve had for a long time.

My favorite local store carries bulk but doesn’t have scales to tare my own containers. I use mason jars in assorted sizes for storage.

13 years ago

A the regular grocery store – I buy my fruits and vegis without using the plastic bag they provide – strait into the cart for me – and then home into reuseable containers

13 years ago

I cannot purchase groceries from bulk bins due to my son’s food allergies. Cross contamination from items that contain nuts, dairy, etc. is literally life threatening to him. In order for us (and the many other families affected by food allergies, most of whom shop in natural food stores to find specialty products) bulk items would need to be dispensed from sealed packages from the manufacturer, which could not have the usual scoops stuck into them. I would love to see this.

13 years ago

My family just moved recently, and when I noticed that I had ran out of honey in our ancient bear-shaped container, I also noticed a sign for a local honey farm not even a mile away. They filled my larger jar, so not only am I getting a better price for buying bulk, I’m buying local! I wish I had more options like that around here, but in the middle of nowhere the grocery stores aren’t that fancy.

Stacy @ Moderate Means
13 years ago

No bulk around here…at least not that I’ve found. I buy unpackaged fresh fruits and veggies from farmer markets but just so bag-less. Instead, I’ll share my cafeteria trick :) I usually pack my lunch but I keep a tiffin and silverware at the office. When I end up buying, I take it with me and can use the containers for hot food or the salad bar.

13 years ago

I don’t do much bulk buying, but when I do, I use muslin bags that I sewed a sleeve on with a plastic insert so I can stick the label in showing the price/code (like you have for id cards). I repurposed the plastic from something else and it doesn’t actually touch the food, so I’m okay with it, but it isn’t necessary. I also store all my food in glass jars in the pantry. I love the way all the jars look lined up.

13 years ago

My tip actually came from a friend of mine: when washing cloth produce bags, turn them inside out. That way, anything clinging to the sides and bottom (like rice bits for flecks of walnut) will come out in the wash.

The lunch box looks really cool!

13 years ago

I have reused plastic bags from bulk bins before; now I use reusable bags, tho’ I am ashamed to say they are nylon & thus not plastic-free. I have mesh bags that I use for produce (or I could use them for, say, unshelled nuts). I could try cotton bags I suppose!

Sometimes when I go to a store w/bulk bins that I’ve not shopped in before I get a little paranoid that I’ll look like a shoplifter, what w/digging in my bag to get out the reusable bags & then filling them up & them not looking anything like the bags in the store. So I tend to ask someone working there (assuming they’re not swamped w/other customers) if it’s okay to use my own bags & they are usually thrilled.

The PlanetBox looks amazing!!!

13 years ago

I miss buying in bulk! We don’t have this option in my neighborhood. When I lived in a small college town, I was part of a food coop and loved being able to do this. I just reused containers and it was easy. Happy bulk shopping!

13 years ago

Wow! this looks so cool for lunches!!! I hope I win so I can try it.

To make it easier for me to buy in bulk?

I save glass jars from food that I eat and use plastic Chinese takeout containers for storing the food. I bring the containers to the store.

I write the tare on the bottom of the container using a Sharpie. I only need to weigh it once! The container can go through the dishwasher and the tare stays on it (at least for glass). For things that I purchase a lot and keep on hand, I also write the 4 digit product code (or for another store, the price) on the top of the container. Now I don’t have to keep remembering a bunch of codes/prices and the cashier doesn’t have to look it up.

13 years ago

This looks awesome!

I don’t have a bulk food option, and our farmer’s market shuts down at the end of summer, so it’s hard sometimes to avoid the plastic!

Sometimes I will end up buying things in plastic like yogurts and milk that are marked down because I know that at least if I buy them, the containers will be reused/recycled properly. If I didn’t, when the “sell by” date has passed, they would just be thrown in the landfill full of wasted food. I know it means that I am eating some food/drink out of plastic, but at least it is keeping it out of the landfill!

13 years ago

Since becoming a member of Beth Terry, I have been changing over from about 50% use of plastic (I’ve always hated the temporary life of plastic) to completely eliminating plastic from my life. I recently bought some scrap cotton fabric at a thrift store, and a mending/hemming sewing machine (it’s small and has about 5 different stitches). I’m making my own bags! It’s new for me to shop without plastic bags, but bulk has always been my first choice. It’s cheaper, and I’m also very frugal. Hopefully my use of cloth will educate and not irritate here in my redneck rural town. ;)

13 years ago

Well, there aren’t any bulk stores in my town, but once my fiance and I move to a house, our plan is to build our food stores month-by-month. We’ll buy a different kind of bean, grain, flour, or other staple every month (along with non-plastic bins to hold them) until we have a respectable pantry full of stored foods that will last us in case of an emergency (losing a job, natural disaster, etc).

13 years ago

While no store around me sells in bulk (yet!), I would definitely whip up a few organic cotton bags to put purchased bulk products in.

13 years ago

I adore the PlanetBox! How lovely! I have a stainless steel adoration thing going!

At my coop during the last recession that almost killed us c 1995, we started to pack the more costly bulk items like organically grown nuts in plastic bags in the store because the bulk bins kept getting moths and the foods needed to be sold at cost or thrown away. We also bag freezer items like perogis, berries, peas, corn and beans. I do remember fondly the days of the galvanized garbage cans filled with goodies like demerara sugar – I LOVED scraping the bottom of that barrel!

Now partly at my insistence we are looking at alternatives. But the sorts of solutions we need cost money, and we are barely hanging on now. There’s gravity dispensors for most bulk items like coffees, oatmeal, rices, flour, dried peas and beans etc. We got those dispensors cheap or free from other coops that spent money on equipment and bins, then went under, sadly.

We sell nut butters, yeast, tofu, miso, bagels, pasta and cleaning supplies in bulk. We have milk, kefir and cream in glass bottles with deposits, and eggs in bulk. So, boy am I lucky to have Karma Coop to help me spare the planet of more plastic!

Of course, I reuse the plastic bags I do end up with. As soon as I pour the food into my designated mason jar at home, I twist tie the bag up again and it goes into the Karma Coop bag that hangs on the back of my kitchen door. The Karma bags go to the coop and all the clean bags and containers go into the communal reuse bin next to the weight scale. Rarely does any one at Karma buy a plastic bag or container, but if they do, it costs them $.03 to $.30.

Now that our city has mandated that store charge $.05 minimum for plastic shopping bags, it’s difficult to find one at the coop, but most of us have been doing the reusable bag thing for decades. You can buy Karma Coop burlap bags at the cash – they are made by Hey Jute and not lined with plastic.

So the bag on the back of my kitchen door is my solution. If I need a bag, I just go there, and if I forget my bag when I go to Karma Coop, there’s always the communal bin, and my bicycle panniers…

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

13 years ago

The best way to get yourself to buy bulk is to write a list of the things you need as they get used up and bring it to the store with you. Make the bulk section your 1st visit so that you are not tempted with the convienence of the packaged products!

13 years ago

My biggest obstacle to using reusable bags for bulk (and produce) is having them with me. The best tip I can offer is to transfer your bulk purchases to storage containers as soon as you get home (I use thoroughly-cleaned spaghetti sauce jars) and then get those bulk bags back in the trunk of the car (or wherever you keep your shopping stuff if you use alternative transportation). Over the years, a few times I’ve ended up using a plastic bag and twist tie from the store, and then I make an effort to reuse that bag (and twist tie!) over and over.

Thanks for this opportunity; the PlanetBox looks awesome! – Rachel

13 years ago

I try not to use the plastic ties with the bags whenever I’m buying food.

Just Ducky
13 years ago

I have to have two sets of bags—-one set is in my purse for when I run to the store. The other set is at home in the kitchen. When I fill up the first set at the store and bring them home—as I am putting them away in the cupboards, I put the “home” set (2nd) set in my purse so that I have a set with me at all times and I don’t have to try to remember to bring my bags! If I make it as fool-proof as possible—I can’t help but succeed!

~Just Ducky