I've been playing around with a medly of these containers for packing bentos for about two weeks now. Their general concept is a very good one – plastic boxes of various sizes that snap together and into coordinating Blue Ice cold packs – and the execution is only prevented from attaining excellence by a couple of peculiarities.
But first the good!
The boxes come in a variety of good sizes, from the 0.5 cup snack containers (118mL) to the 4.1 cup (970mL) entree container that comes with interior dividing boxes. There are also a variety of kits, which come with various assortments of boxes and include the specially shaped cold pack. Of special note is the salad kit, which has one large box (1230mL) that holds greens, an interior tray to keep toppings separate, and a dressing cup – this is only sold as a kit. Everything else is sold as seperate components.
The result of so many different containers means it can be configured to fit almost any need. Need to bring a breakfast one day? Snap on another box and you're set. Portion control? They're available in any conceivable portion, large or small. Don't like your food touching? Use as many separate containers as you want. As a system, it's extremely flexible.
Everything snaps together very intuitively, and a set of boxes can accomadate as many Blue Ices as you care to add – which will be handy as it starts warming up here in Texas. Once the cold pack has thawed, the boxes don't snap in it very well, but this is just an unfortunate side effect of physics.
They're durable – microwave, dishwashwer, and freezer safe. They hand wash reasonably well, and mine have not retained odors as long as I allow them to air dry overnight.
And everything is relatively inexpensive, even the custom Blue Ice blocks purchased through Rubbermaid's website aren't expensive (although I haven't investigated shipping costs).
The more I use these to pack lunches, and especially as I move away from the staticness of the sandwich kit's 4 box paradigm, the more I like them. They're very versatile.
But they aren't perfect. They're very, very close, but still miss the mark. I would give them five stars, except for two major flaws.
The first is that the snack containers just don't snap into anything else properly, not even each other. This is a common complaint, but Rubbermaid's stock response is “If you think you received a bad set and it's shortly after your purchase…” blah blah blah. But when my snack containers didn't snap into anything properly, I fiddled with the open stock of snack containers at the store… and none of them snap together properly. The salad dressing container, which shares the same footprint and lid has the same issue. I think this is a general manufacturing problem, not an instance of people getting bad containers. Because lunch boxes as LEGOS is the entire gimmick, failure to deliver costs Rubbermaid a star.
This problem doesn't impact me much – I don't find the smallest containers very useful – but it's still a huge flaw.
The second flaw concerns the salad kit. The salad kit is nice enough, but it's best feature is the cunning little dressing container. The dressing container has the same footprint as the snack container, and looks to be about half the height. It's an astonishingly useful little thing, easy to pickaback on to a well packed box without taking up precious interior space. I have one, from my salad kit, and wish I had more! They are a truly perfect sauce container and I would buy them by the pack… if Rubbermaid sold them separately. Which they don't. I find that both inexplicable and irrational. And for this sort of mental inflexibility, they get docked another star. (I'll give it back if they start selling them separate from the salad kits.)