Monday, October 25, 2010

More on those insulated thermal food container thing-a-ma-bobs

Because my daughter is a vegetarian in a class where there is a peanut, treenut and fish ban, I spent far more time than is good for me this past August trying to find the perfect thermos for her. Homemade soups and pastas are lunch box staples for us. Why, what better food is there than minestrone soup? It gives you a wide variety of vegetables, protein in the kidney beans (or chick peas), and carbohydrate in the noodles. Plus it's cheap, a cinch to make in large batches, and is delicious.

But getting back to August. We live in a small city and we looked everywhere for the perfect thermos to no avail. Sure there were old fashioned glass thermoses at Zellers and Canadian Tire, but having broken my way through more than my fair share of those as a child, I refused to lay down my cash for one. We did see numerous stainless steel Thermos brand "Funtainers," but we weren't drawn to them for a couple of reasons: 1. despite their small size, it seemed as if getting a soup spoon into them would be awkward because of the depth to mouth-width ratio, and 2. the designs we could find locally were all based on Disney movies and my daughter is decidedly anti-Disney after a couple of attempts at watching their movies scared the living bejeebus outta her. We would have slapped down money for a "Funtainer" if we could have found this one, but no one in my town carried it:Hello Kitty: you always make me smile even if you have strayed so far from your roots.

Eventually we stumbled into the uber-trendy kitchen store downtown where they assured me they were getting in a shipment of the best stainless steel food containers on the planet! --that came in great, child-friendly designs! --that also happened to be Canadian made! --and that had a fun product name: Otter Bottle! "Wha-hoo," I thought. "I gotta see these."

One week went by. Then two. Then we were into the first week of school. At long last, the shipment arrived. The result? Well, not exactly what I had hoped for but ok. In fact, they're not all that different from the Thermos-brand Funtainers and have the same depth to mouth-width ratio problem. They are Disney-free, though, and my daughter was quite keen on this one:

The design should grow with her longer than the Funtainer designs would, so that does make up for their slightly higher price. The kicker for me, though, is despite this being a Canadian company, the first thing I had to do was peel off a "Made in China" sticker from the bottom. I guess that's just the state of the world these days. Ho hum.

Now that the Otter Bottle has been in use for nearly two months, I can report back to say that it works just fine. It seems to keep her food hot enough and she still likes the shiny-pretty of the thing. My daughter has no problem opening and closing it, but I do know that another girl in her class had to get a new thermos because her hand wasn't big enough to handle the width of the lid--this was on a Funatainer and not an Otter Bottle but there really isn't a size difference between the two products, so keep this in mind if you have a child with small hands.

I bought a larger size Otter Bottle food container for myself and, while I like it a lot, I sorta wish I had gone for the smaller size, because pouring chunky soup from it into a bowl at work is a risky business of noodle-to-face splashing. Each time I feel the spray, I am reminded why the Funtainer and Otter Bottle (small size) design is optimum despite my initial misgivings about the width of the mouth.

So there you have it. My take on insulated thermal food container thing-a-ma-bobs. The point of this post: don't transfer your anxiety about your child starting school into consumer indecision. Just buy a friggin' food container already. Your child may end up hating school with a passion but at least she'll enjoy her lunch.


Note: no companies have endorsed this post nor have I been given any kind of product, coupon or money to write it. In fact, neither company realizes I'm alive--which is just fine by me.


  1. My kid has a small Thermos - we also put hot pasta, rice, risotto in it - and cold yogurt mixed up with jelly. Is very versatile. Two years down the road, though, the painted (non-character!) design is flaking off...

  2. Not that this is about the container, but I can understand the aversion to Disney movies. Some of them are seriously scary. Or, as in Ice Age, sad. My son was extremely upset in Ice Age - these movies should come with a warning for sensitive kids!

  3. what do you use to wash out the lid... that thin part with the grooves around the edge. I can't find a brush that fits down in there, and all manner of food gets trapped in there. I've been using toothpicks, and the long, soapy soak, but it's no fun. help.

  4. PM: Uh, uh... I don't know. My husband washes all the dishes in our house. (Ducking) I'll ask him what he uses.

  5. One more thing I wanted to say is that no matter how many times you remind your kid to put the lid back on the thermos after lunch and screw it tight, they will forget and you will be washing the lunch box and back pack on a regular basis. Maybe this situation changes after Kindergarten. I hope so but I have my doubts.

  6. My 8 year old just had a snit in the car on the way home because her art project was wet with juice from her snack bag. The future is dim.

    Again, this is helpful. I saw plain Thermos Jars at the supermarket for $20, which seemed expensive, and some other kind, which upon closer examination, was only for keeping cold. My husband, who must have some allegiance to the Detect-a-geek Society, is lobbying to ban the Thermos plan.

    A lunch you can look forward to has gotten many a kid and a prole through the day.

  7. I know you mentioned that it seems to keep the food hot enough, but for those that have containers that dont as well, here's a tip: Fill the container with very hot water and allow to sit for 5 minutes or so. Then load up your hot food. The extra warmth of the container helps to keep the food hot longer, in my experience.

    We got a nice stainless steel container with non-character paint at a Hannah Anderssen outlet for a mere $9. Sales in places like that sometimes have treasure in the realm of toys or lunch items.

    Also? My oldest is petrified of Disney movies. Brave scared the wits out of her. Then? My mother in law let her watch Bambi. Nightmares. Lots of nightmares.