Last week I discussed some of the basics of choosing a bento box. This week we’re going to look at another style of bento box: the stacking bento.

A selection of stacking bento boxes

Stacking boxes are a very common style of bento box and are pretty easy to find. They usually consist of two separate tiers that are designed to be stacked on top of each other. Occasionally you will find a stacking bento box with three or more layers, though these are often meant to hold food for more than one person. As with single layer boxes, they come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and designs.

Because stacking bentos tend to have a few pieces — the boxes are intended to hold food, the lid, and a silverware tray — you need a way to hold all of the different elements in place. Sometimes the lids of these boxes come with hinges that snap down over the lower layer of the box to hold the stack together. These are nice because it decreases the number of pieces you need to keep track of.

More frequently, stacking boxes come with several loose pieces that don’t directly attach to each other. These kinds of boxes require an elastic band or bento “belt” to keep them neatly stacked and prevent them from opening in a lunch box or back pack.

Since stacking bento boxes take up a bit of space when they’re fully assembled, the layers are often designed to nest when they’re not in use. This gives them a slimmer profile for storage.

This bento box holds pasta with meat sauce, chunks of watermelon and frozen peas. The peas help to keep the meal cold through the morning and will thaw by lunch time.

I frequently use stacking bento boxes to pack my kids’ lunches and I particularly like using them for my preschooler. My little guy isn’t very tolerant of different types of food touching each other and the two layers naturally act as food separators.  It’s easy to divide each layer further by putting some of the food in a silicone baking cup. When he was at a school that heated his food, it worked really well to pack foods meant to be eaten hot and cold in the separate layers. His teacher could pop the proper layer in the microwave without worrying about taking the cold foods out of the box.