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Posted on Jul 21, 2008 in Laptop Lunchbox, Organize, Tips | 53 comments

Laptop Lunch planner from DooF-a-Palooza

Laptop Lunch planner from DooF-a-Palooza

Planning worksheet for the Laptop Lunchbox

Last weekend I attended DooF-a-Palooza, a big kids’ cooking event at the Google headquarters in Mountain View put on by the organizers of DooF (food spelled backwards). DooF is an upcoming kids’ cooking show on PBS that has similarities to Spatulatta. I stopped by the Laptop Lunch booth, met president and co-founder Amy Hemmert, and picked up their very handy visual planning worksheet for lunches packed in the Laptop Lunchbox (UPDATE: download from Obentec or here). The reverse side has a list of packed lunch ideas organized by food type (fruits, vegetables, sandwich fillings, and sandwich alternatives). As the planner isn’t available on their website, the folks at Laptop Lunches sent me the PDF file and graciously agreed to let me put it up on Lunch in a Box for downloading. (UPDATE: The Laptop Lunch folks have made the worksheet available for download on their website.)

Laptop LunchboxBecause I’m container-agnostic and use a variety of lunch containers, I find that jotting down rough meal ideas on a magnetic whiteboard sheet on my refrigerator works well enough for me, but I definitely see the appeal of this sort of visual planner as well. If you’d like to try it out, download it, print it out, and put a copy up on your fridge to make a glanceable lunch plan that incorporates a balance of foods and dinner leftovers.

The planner is similar to Maki’s weekly bento planner on Just Bento.  If you have a different type of lunch container or bento box, you could make your own version of these planners pretty easily. Do you plan out your packed lunches? What planning method works best for you? Let us know in comments!  (Read on for Laptop Lunchbox photos taken at DooF-a-Palooza.)

Laptop Lunchbox display at DooF-a-Palooza 2008

Here you have a pretty representative sample of the Laptop Lunchbox product lineup, including thermal food jars, water bottles, an insulated carrying case, and the Laptop Lunchbox itself (original colors). They had a few books as well, namely Jennifer McCann’s Vegan Lunch Box (new edition to be released August 4, 2008), Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, and The Laptop Lunch User’s Guide. Yes, that’s Bug playing with the utensils — he had a blast at DooF-a-Palooza, especially at the petting zoo and the face-painting stand.

 Laptop Lunchbox booth at DooF-a-Palooza 2008

Above is co-founder Amy Hemmert working the Laptop Lunch booth, by their table of boxes with plastic play food for kids to practice filling their lunches with healthy foods. Amy was very personable and approachable, and we chatted for a bit about our time in Japan and her favorite water bottle. She likes their large, insulated stainless steel water bottle because it has a small opening at the top for drinking, and also unscrews in the middle for easy washing. Looks like they’re out of stock at the moment, though, which is too bad.

Laptop Lunchboxes display at DooF-a-Palooza 2008

Obentec makes a number of different colored boxes and inner containers now; you can see their full product lineup at the Laptop Lunch website. I find the Laptop Lunchbox handy for packing bulkier foods like salads, barbecued ribs, and sandwiches, but it’s a bit big for my three-year-old. And because not all of the inner containers have lids, you have to think about what might leak when the box is turned on its side, and pack appropriately.

(Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliations with Obentec or Laptop Lunch. Amazon and Reusable Bags links are affiliate links that give Lunch in a Box pennies on the dollar when you use them to get to those sites when shopping.)

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  1. Ooh, very cool!!! I wish they’d have events like that here in NYC… well, maybe one day soon. Very very cool :) and I used to draw out my lunches on a pad, when I first began bento’ing, but now I do most of it freehand. Then again, I haven’t been packing anything intricate or stuff that’s more complicated then sections in a row…

  2. I love my LLB and am sort of tempted to try the planning worksheet! Mostly my planning happens in my head, though — when I’m cooking I tend to make things that will be good as leftovers packed in lunches, and then I tend to say, at some point before bed, “hm, what’s my lunch tomorrow going to be?” and then I’ll just run through the options in my head/aloud and then decide.

  3. I’ve been underwhelmed with my Laptop Lunch box. Too big for my 3y.o., too small for my husband, the beverage bottle leaked from the start, the utensils broke after 6 months, and the price for all that was rather a lot. I love what they’re trying to do, I just don’t think they’ve yet succeeded.

  4. Whoops, meant to say also that DooF-a-Palooza looks like fun, and I’m looking forward to checking out the show with my daughter!

  5. The lunch planner is too funny — I’ve taken to doing a rough sketch on a big post-it note the night before, then sticking it to the container I’m going to use the next morning.

    I like your white board idea better, Biggie. Less waste!

  6. I don’t quite bento (though I just received my first bento from ichibankan and I’m very excited to start using it) so the way I make my lunches is much more container heavy. I make a ton of leftovers, usually a full 8-10 servings for just my fiance and myself. Then I package all the leftovers into individual sizes – I try for 2 sizes of each type. I can then mix and match in the morning and it only takes about 2 minutes to put together a full lunch for each of us. I don’t have to worry about flavors mixing, and I can keep hot and cold stuff seperate.

    Downsides are the lack of pretty, and the extra dishes. I don’t have a dishwasher, so the time I save in the morning I definetly make up for at night! :)

    I’m definetly going to try the Just Bento planner. I bet it would be easier for DF (dear fiance) to pack his own lunch if he knew what we had!

  7. Biggie, the planner is now available on their website, under the schools heading, at the bottom of the page under resources. (General purpose people probably wouldn’t look for it there, though.)

  8. What a great site, I can use all the help I can get and will definitely be back! It was great meeting you at BlogHer! How are my shoes doing? (The cute Nine West ones from Macy’s) Smiles!

  9. As always, thanks for the great review! I had been thinking about buying a “Laptop Lunch”, but I wasn’t sure about the leak issue, and the cost was a little high (in my opinion) for a bunch of plastic.

    I doubt any of us say it enough, but I really do appreciate your site. You provide really good and useful information. Thanks for all the hard work and time you put into it!

  10. I dont really plan my bento lunches in advance. I go to the store twice a week and pick up some healthy add ons that are used in bentos that week. I just use the leftovers from dinner as the main dish and fill it up with the rest.

  11. @1 from Yvo: Honestly, I just started planning out the next day’s lunches after my recent kitchen reorganization. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep it up! I admire your freehand sketching of your bentos (but can draw absolutely nothing myself).

  12. @2 from Heather: The evening-before thinking casual approach has worked for me for years as well — the no-pressure way. Historically my problem has been forgetting what I have available in the fridge…

  13. @3 from Kristi: I agree on the water bottle, and the utensils seem a bit flimsy (although they haven’t busted yet as I haven’t really used them or the LLB very much). I wonder what would happen if I really put them through the paces — probably break! DooF-a-Palooza I’d do again, but I hesitate to add yet another TV show to our TiVo list (it’s too long already with shows we “need” to watch).

  14. @5 from Elaine: Hmm, the post-it on the container approach hadn’t occurred to me — thanks for adding it to the mix!

  15. @6 from Amanda: Wow, your planned leftover approach sounds SO organized! That much advance cooking is sadly beyond me, but more power to you!

  16. @8 from Wifey: WIFEY!!!! Thanks for stopping by! “Your” shoes are just fabulous — I wore them on Sunday to the Unconference and a Food Blogger restaurant lunch meet-up, and smiled a lot remembering our raid on the size 11′s in Macy’s storeroom. I think that may have been the first time I’ve been shoe shopping with other Bigfoot Women besides my sister. What a blast!

  17. @9 from Distant Smoke: Thanks so much for the kind words, Distant Smoke! The leak issue is a real one with the LLB, especially because the carrying bags are designed to carry it on its side instead of flat.

  18. My 4 yr old hasn’t had a leak issue with the LLB, but maybe because I overfill (we often have the leftover lunch at snack time/pickup) & I build the lunch around the containers it has (one potential leak food in the covered container per meal).

    I love the idea of a record of the lunch- she starts 5 days a week school in the fall. I need a system to remember what she had already in the week vs. planning ahead, as I usually pull from assorted leftovers. I know I have a whiteboard somewhere.

  19. I just wanted to weigh in on the LLB for those interested, but not sure if it is worth it. I haven’t had a problem with the bottle leaking, but two sets of utensils broke. I just called the company and w/i two days, I had two replacement sets. They said they stand by their products, and so far, I think they do. I did realize that I should never let these soak in the water. I wash as soon as they are used. I think soaking or being in the dishwasher does the damage.

    “A lot of money for a bunch of plastic,” oh I debated this for a couple weeks, then realized that no one else could really say w/o a doubt their products were lead-free all the way around, nor that they kept up with testing to insure their manufacturers were keeping up with the standards.

    Because the the box and bottle actually fit well into the carrying case, this system stood up to my son’s lunch box abuse and will see us through another school year. That ends up breaking down my lunch box costs so far, to $18 a year. We usually go through, at least three lunch boxes a year at $10+ a pop!

    And, lastly, my son picked it out and requests that we use it everyday for his lunch. He’s 8 and likes the lay-out. If he doesn’t eat everything at lunch or snack time, he eats it on the ride from school to day care.

    I’d love to see a toddler version created by the company, but until then, I use a Sassy meal-time container or a 4 compartment Lock & Lock!

    Of course, if you have other questions call the company, they are absolutely wonderful to talk to and will answer any question you have.

  20. Seriously, there’s a sheet for planning them out? Ok… I need t contemplate the actual need or the created need.

    And I for one don’t like Laptop Lundboxes a single bit.

  21. Yeesh. I was just going to post that the download isn’t working for me. Instead of words I get strings of question marks.

    I guess I’ll just give a shout out to LapTop Lunchbox though. I am heading into year three with my two original sets and I haven’t had a problem. No broken flatware, no leaky things. I use my sets (for my son and me) two or three times a week during the school year. Maybe I’m just easier on the stuff? I dunno. I love the set and recommend LLB all the time.

    I also love all my Japanese bento boxes as well!

  22. @22 from Beanbean: Hmm, that’s interesting/odd that the download isn’t working for you. What kind of computer and OS are you using? If you have a PC, do you have Adobe reader on your computer?

  23. My biggest complaint about the Laptop Lunchbox is that the sizes aren’t set up well for real life families. You can’t fit a sandwich without cutting it into strange shapes (cutting it in half, either in triangles or rectangles, just didn’t work unless I took 2 containers out, and then what’s the point?), and if you have a teenager going through a growth spurt, it doesn’t hold nearly enough food.

    Ditto if you like fresh lettuce salads–I am an average-sized person, and if I have a long workday, I don’t want to pack TWO lunchboxes. I want to pack one, and nibble all day, but it doesn’t hold enough food.

    I agree with Kristi–I love what they are trying to do, and I’m sure they’ll get it refined eventually.

  24. @25 from Alison: You know, I’ve seen that product in Ichiban Kan’s retail stores before. One issue there is that there’s a gap between the top of the inner containers and the lid, so food will jump between containers if you turn it on its side. (I also haven’t seen a good lunch bag that would allow it to lie flat.) It’s bulky, which is both a plus and a minus (hey, you can pack more food, but it’d be a pain to carry around). I like that it’s only $7, but buyer beware on the transport issue.

  25. Hi, great site! I was wondering if you happened to discuss with Amy Hemmert the possibility of designing lids to fit the other containers in the box? This is one of the main reasons I have not chosen to purchase the item. Clearly there is the leakage issue & to think of kids carrying the bag to school swinging it around just equals a mess in my mind :)

  26. @24 from Alison: With the LLB, I think it could pack enough food for a teenager if you pack it with more calorically dense food like rice, pasta, etc. as opposed to a salad or sandwich. The sandwich cutting I don’t mind as you can get them in the smaller box by cutting the sandwich into halves or thirds and standing the sandwich up vertically. What really bothers me is the lack of a watertight seal on all of the containers.

    For packing larger amounts of food, there’s always the option of big thermal lunch jars like the Mr. Bento (or the even bigger Mr. Bento Classic) with sealed inner containers, but then they’re heavy and don’t fit nicely inside of a messenger bag or backpack filled with books. If you’re up for carrying one separately, though, they can be a good solution that lets you pack soup. Beware the warming effect, though, as the temperature inside those tends to even out over time — good for packing all warm foods or all cool foods, but not so great at packing a mixture of hot/cool foods.

  27. @27 from Gigi: No, I fell down on the job and didn’t think of bringing that question up with Amy. Bad Biggie! ;-) Your concern is a valid one, though. I’ve seen some people fashion a work-around with the LLB by using plastic wrap or Glad Press N Seal sealing wrap on the lidless containers, but that’s just another step in the morning, it’s not 100% leakproof, and isn’t as environmentally friendly as proper reusable lids.

  28. I WISH WISH WISH I had nice things to say about my LLB, but I don’t :(

    We bought three including the bags, and they were pricey. Sadly, only the bags are left.

    The utensils fell apart, literally the handles crumbled into pieces, within the first few weeks of use.

    The water bottles cracked not long after.

    The boxes themselves cracked and split at the seams.

    The containers warped and the lids stopped fitting.

    All of this for almost $45 each? BIG disappointment.

    We’ve had a lot of luck with Rubbermaid’s products, our favorite is now the Lunchtopia. Sturdy, see through, and more customizable.

    Sorry, LLB. I really, really wanted to love you and write rave reviews. Plz keep trying :-(

  29. @30 from Christiane: I tried googling Rubbermaid Lunchtopia, and couldn’t find anything. Do you know of a link with description of it?

  30. Wow! I am totally out of touch. I had no idea these compact lunch boxes were available. So compact. I love it. I have bookmarked this site. You are very creative and I am not. This site will help me out alot when it comes to doing the lunch thing for my little ones. This is awesome. Thanks:)

  31. Silly question: I love the idea of this laptop box and case, but if you hold the case by the handle, won’t everything slide around? Especially if each compartment doesn’t come with an airtight lid?

    I feel kind of embarrassed asking about this because I feel like I’m missing something obvious. (But oh well! I still want to know!)

  32. I am sorry this has nothing to do with laptop lunch box but when I saw this, it made me laugh. But 4 sets for less than $10 that is a great deal.

    http://www.mcphee.com/items/11279.html

    Also I was trying to make some futomaki and trying to look up recipe for cooking the mushroom, I saw this and I thought maybe you should try it since you can read Japanese and post the finish product on your site! Good luck!

    http://cookpad.com/recipe/376073

  33. daffiney,

    I have a Laptop Lunch Box, and I haven’t had a problem with things sliding around. The top of the lunch box just about touches the tops of the compartments so things don’t spill all over. Also there are ridges in the bottom of the box to keep the compartments in place.

    I’ve only owned it for a few months, but none of my utensils or boxes have cracked or broken. As others have mentioned, the key to this may be handwashing everything.

    I’m surprised so many people are miffed that there’s only one large container with a lid. I almost never find myself packing a lunch with more than one liquidy food. Personally I love my LLB, the only thing I’ve given up on is the water bottle which is hard to drink out of.

  34. @30 from Christiane: I’m sorry you had such bad experiences with the LLB. Reader Alison and I were both unable to find info on the Lunchtopia via Google. You wouldn’t happen to have a link or more info, would you? Now I’m curious…

  35. @34 from CarmenVj: Welcome to the fold! Feel free to ask questions or comment even on old entries. My inbox is a little scary, but I try to keep up via the Recent Comments widget to the right.

  36. @35 from daffiney: You’ve hit upon the exact issue some of us have with the LLB. There’s one larger container that holds the four smaller containers (only one of which has a sealing lid). The largest overall container is not watertight, but does come all the way down to the top of the inner containers enough to keep most foods from shifting. Moist foods will drip all over when you carry it on its side in the carrying case, however. Thus the need to really think about what you’re packing in it and take the potential leakage issue into account… Not a stupid question at all!

  37. @36 from Crazy_Japanese_Lady: Goodness, I’d forgotten all about the Parasite Pals bento boxes!!! They’re so twisted and funny (and cheap) — I LOVE them even though I don’t have one and haven’t tested them out. Thanks for the link! I’ll add it to my online shopping guide shortly.

  38. @37 from Kelly: Yes, I think your mileage can vary with the LLB. If you’re not in the habit of packing liquidy foods and the size is right for you, it can be a convenient packing option. Personally I like to have a variety of containers on hand so that I can look at the lunch I want to pack and then choose the container accordingly. I want the food to dictate the container, not vice versa. For me, the LLB is just another tool in the toolbox.

  39. My Parasite Pals lunchbox came out of the gift wrap with a broken wing flap, so I use a bento band to keep it together. The plastic fork just broke the other day when I tried to cut a not-that-terribly-tough piece of doughnut.

    It’s awesome and I love it, but it’s more kitschy than functional. If they’re really that cheap, though, you could have one you use and cannibalize the other three for parts when you need them.

  40. @43 from Sterling: Thanks for the feedback on the Parasite Pals durability (or lack thereof), Sterling. Can you tell me more about the construction of the wing flap? Is there metal securing the flap to the box, or is it just a tiny plastic nubbin? Those plastic nubbins are a bane of my existence (okay, so I’m exaggerating) — they break and then you’re out of a bento box. SOL.

  41. DOH! My fault! I went to the tupperware cabinet… and it is “Lunchopolis” not “Lunchtopia.” Sorry about that!

    http://lunchopolis.com/

    The green is super cute and hard for the kids to forget and leave behind at school ;-)

    I really like the Fit ‘N’ Fresh stuff which you had reviewed a while back, too, but I couldn’t find the carrying case at Target (ordered it from their website). I LOVE the built-in ice pack which has saved my salads from wilting in the Texas heat many a time ;-)

    Of course, these AREN’T bentos, they are more just regular old storage. However, they have been really sturdy and have withstood daily use and abuse by my 9, 5 and 2 year olds :-)

    (PS, I’ve never commented before, so I will take a second to say… THANK YOU! Your blog has really saved our family from wasting money on school lunches!! The best part is that, by looking at the pics you take, the kids can tell me if they are willing to try something new!)

  42. Yahoo!!! I can view the comments via Firefox finally!

    I’ve never been tempted to purchase one of these, I think they are too big and bulky and my kids would never want to bring them to school.

    I have a green clip file which I doodle the following morning’s bento menu the night before. I get quite spaced out if I don’t do my “homework” and I tend to be running late in the morning.

    Planning a rough visual the night before is important for me!

  43. Unfortunately, just the little plastic nubbies. My issue is less that they’re broken off completely but more that they’re not quite the right size, so when you try to lift it off it falls off.

    If I didn’t have a collection of other Parasite Pals goodies (from the same friend), I probably wouldn’t keep this box. It takes a bit more work than it should to make it functional.

  44. Not sure I’ve ever commented here before (though I’m a regular reader), and I’m waaay late to this one… but I have to defend the LLB! We adore ours. We have three (my two school-aged children and I use them). I’ve had them going on a year, use them 3-4 times a week, and haven’t had a SINGLE problem with them. I wash the containers in the dishwasher (top rack) and the utensils in the dishwasher as well, and nothing has fallen apart. When my daughter’s pink neoprene bag got dirty, I threw it in the wash. Viola! Like new.

    As for leaking, like anything else, you just have to plan ahead. No, I can’t pack two containers of liquid-y stuff for each child b/c only one container has a lid. In a pinch, I can give one child my lidded container and pack something different for myself (for example, my daughter loves watermelon, so if I’m packing that and something else I want covered–like a sauce-y pasta–I give her my lidded container, so she has two in her lunch that day).

    As for portion size, I love that too. It’s just right for my kids (and a sandwich cut in half fits if you take out one of the boxes or stand the sandwich halves on end), and it’s just right for me to snack all day at work which is how I prefer to eat “lunch”.

    My kids’ lunch habits have changed dramatically from the old baggie days. My son regularly came home with most of his lunch uneaten. But now, most of it is gone when he climbs in the car and what is left is not smushed to bits, so it’s still appealing to eat on the ride home. Sure, you can do this with any tupperware-like product. But for me the “system” aspect of it was important to staying organized. I’d tried lock-and-lock and other bento-like boxes, but it is easier for me to stick to one product.

    Sorry to go on so long… but I adore the LLB and wanted to give it some props!

  45. I have to join Amy @48 and the others in defense of the LLB. I’ve used mine for almost two years and just LOVE it. I do wish I had a second lidded large inner box as I have done some silly packing that results in leaks. A learning curve, sure, but no more than going from sandwich bags and candy bars to bento style lunches with more fruits and veggies. But I do have the advantage of popping it into the fridge when I get to work. As for the utensils, any clear hard acrylic like that will crack in the dishwasher. I just handwash mine after using it at the office. If you don’t like to handwash, just pick up a set at the Goodwill to replace it.

  46. I have a laptop lunchbox, but I’m using it to pack adult lunches and it drives me just a little nuts.

    1) I don’t know what kind of sandwiches you guys are packing that you can cut in such a way that they fit in the box. I use good sturdy Brownberry wheat bread (ideally toasted) & typically have a 1/4 inch of filling. No way that will fit without trimming the sandwich or smashing the bread! Or taking out a container, which sort of spoils the fun of the box.

    2) When I don’t pack sandwiches, I like to pack moist leftovers. If even one of the small containers also had a lid it would make my life easier. Yes, I understand it was designed to have minimal pieces to lose.

    That said, I still use it, but only when I happen to be packing leftovers that conveniently fit.

    My current favorite lunchboxes are as follows: a box made by Fit & Fresh that has two smaller containers that sit on an icepack with a compartment on the bottom for a sandwich, and a 1 liter container with three dividers made by Lock & Lock– a sandwich cut in half fits very neatly turned on edge in the larger section. And they are much cheaper than the laptop lunchbox as well!

  47. Hi there,

    My husband and I bought the Obentec boxes almost a year ago, and we love them. However, some days get kind of hectic, and it gets hard to figure out right then what to pack. So I end up not packing lunch on those days. I like the planning sheet. Maybe it will enable me to carry lunch more often!

    I took it a step further. I printed out the sheet and laminated it with my Xyron machine. Then I took one of those printable magnet sheets and printed (in the middle of the sheet) a list of the items that we pack the most often (carrots, nuts, cheese, etc.) and cut them up into tiny magnets. (I repeated each one five times in case we wanted the same thing all week.) I took the outer margin of the magnet sheet and made it into a frame. I stuck the printed sheet to the fridge with the frame. Now I can use the magnets to plan the week, using only one sheet. That way I save paper and trees. :) It isn’t really portable, but that isn’t really a problem for me. At least I always know where it is! I think with the lamination I should also be able to use erasable markers for foods that I don’t have magnets for. I’ve used it for the past couple of days. We’ll see if it turns out to be a good solution. But I thought I would pass that on to you.

  48. @52, KT Hunter, thanks for all your clarifications :). I handwash everything because – well – there’s no dishwasher in the household. I just can’t to seem to work up a flare for using this bento nor the pragmatic use of its various parts. I assume it might be one of those things that either ou love or loathe.

  49. Christiane–I looked at the lunchopolis site and it looks like a good solution for us. My question is: Do you (or anyone reading) know which plastic is used for the bottom and lid of the containers? We’re pretty conscious of BPA and have thrown away everything but 2,4 and 5 recycle numbers.

    This is a great site! I found it first when I used the Tavolo molds for boiled eggs–my girls love them!

  50. I did notice that the website for lunchopolis did NOT answer the question of weather or not it had BPA. It just said that everyone like the FDA said it was safe. My guess is it does have it. They would not have found it necessary to go through that little song and dance of not quite answering the question. Those that don’t have it will tell you flat out “WE don’t use BPA.”

  51. by the way, print out a planner then take it to be laminated.

    VOILA!

    A wipe off visual menu board.

  52. No, I’ve never been to Japan, sorry…

    :)

    I work at an Office Max though, hence the tip.

    Naomi

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