Let me give you a glimpse into my morning routine on workdays.
Hit snooze approximately four times. Roll out of bed. Do all the hygiene stuff. Brush on some makeup to look more human, less zombie. Throw on a dress (because I don’t have to match anything). Pour coffee in a to-go mug. Throw a container of leftovers in a plastic grocery bag. Peel out of the driveway.
By time I get to work, I’m a mess. Coffee drips down my arm, sweat beads along my brow after walking two blocks (I live in Florida, OK?!), and that plastic bag with my lunch rattles so loudly it’s basically shouting, “Hey, look at this mess of a person! Don’t trust her to have her act together today!”
That’s usually when my put-together co-worker breezes through the office. She’s managed to curl her hair and match a skirt to a blouse. Completing her look is the most professional-looking lunch box I’ve ever seen.
Now, I’m not saying the lunch box makes or breaks professionalism, but these classically grade-school contraptions are especially handy for work.
Not only will you look a heck of a lot better than the office slug (me), you’ll also be able to avoid the crowded, messy fridge and keep your food cold (or warm). Heck, it might even motivate you to pack lunch in the mornings, saving you a ton of money on food.
The 5 Best Lunch Boxes for Adults (Less Than $20)
In the spirit of being professional — yet frugal — we found five of the best adult lunch boxes that cost less than $20.
(Did you know some lunch boxes come with a $50-plus price tag?!)
1. For the Very Hungry Caterpillar…
If you’re anything like my hulk of a brother, you’ll want to pack a giant cooler for work. Which he does. Is it a little intrusive? Sure, but he’s got his foodstuff for the day.
This Coleman 16-can soft cooler can also do the trick.
As its name suggests, it holds 16 cans, which should be enough for a few Tupperwares-worth of food. It also has a hard plastic liner, which will keep your bag of chips from becoming crumbs during your commute. For anything that’s not cold, you can stick it in the front pocket.
One reviewer named “hard to please” gave the box five stars and said, “This pail holds one sandwich in a ‘hard plastic sandwich container,’ two large Gatorade-size drinks, two small hard plastic snack cups and a slim ice pack, along with two bags of lunch-size chips! YEA!”
If the hard plastic liner ever sees a spill or stain, just take it out and give it a wash.
Current price on Amazon Prime: $17.02
2. For the Feminine Fashionista…
Remember how much fun you had in elementary school when you got to pick out a new lunch box? As an adult, you unfortunately don’t get all the superhero Barbie options. (If you haven’t figured it out, being an adult isn’t nearly as fun as being a kid. Ever.)
But the Wonderful Flower lunch bag just might do the trick — if you’re into flowers. You’ve got 18 options, one for each outfit. (Just kidding.) The bag is also waterproof and insulated, great for keeping items hot or cold. There’s no hard lining, so it’s easy to store.
Some reviewers have complained of the small size, but many say it’s perfect for a salad or sandwich container, a yogurt and some fruit or nuts. In other words, it’s perfect for those of us who don’t need a whole cooler of food to keep going.
Current price on Amazon Prime: $16.99
3. For the Squirrely Snackers…
I’m only calling you squirrely snackers because I understand. I am one. Many times, my lunches include some random nuts, a sliced apple, a turkey-and-cheese roll-up and a few Hershey’s Kisses, if I’m feeling wild. This hodgepodge leads to 100 plastic baggies within the noisy grocery bag. It’s very crinkly-sounding, and it makes me feel bad for the environment.
This Bento Lunch Box Set is my perfect solution. The leakproof bento box comes with four compartments. Not only that, the box also fits inside a seafoam-colored insulated bag, which will keep your items hot or cold. The box itself is microwave- and dishwasher-safe. You can also stick it in the freezer.
Of its 41 Amazon reviews, 39 deemed it a 5-star lunch box. I’m sold. (Seriously. I’m about to make an impulse purchase…)
Current price on Amazon Prime: $19.97
4. For the Nostalgic Prep-Schooler…
OK, you don’t have to be a prep-school alum to appreciate a great denim design.
This cotton, canvas-like bag is soft, yet sturdy, meaning your muffins won’t get squashed. And you should be able to fit a good amount of muffins in there, if you so wish. One reviewer said she can fit a container, drink and several other snack packs.
Others have reported it keeps their food cold for three to four hours — just in time for lunch.
Of the 95 customer reviews, 85 deemed the bag five-star worthy.
Current price on Amazon Prime: $12.99
5. For The “I Just Want a Plain Lunch Box” Professionals…
Based on its design, we could also call this one: “For Those Who Want to Trick Everyone Into Thinking They’re a Professional Photographer…”
The Mier Adult Lunch Box is perhaps the simplest option on the list — but also the highest-rated.
It contains two separate compartments, so you can keep your cold items in the bottom and your warm items or snacks up top for easy access. There’s also a front zipper, perfect for your utensils. (Because let’s be real, are the utensils at work actually sanitary? No.)
There’s also a shoulder strap, which makes it easy to throw on before facing your morning commute.
Reviewers say it’s large — spacious enough to fit two meals, but not too large. One reviewer uses it to pack lunches for two. Another reviewer bought it for her husband, who works 12-hour shifts. She says she packs his warm lunch on top and his cold dinner on the bottom.
(Note to self: Find a partner who’ll pack my lunch.)
Current price on Amazon Prime: $16.55
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She hopes a snazzy new lunch box will help motivate her to pack lunches each day. And to look more professional, because that grocery bag ain’t doin’ a thing to help her look.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.