THE LUNCHBOX: Carrier Revamp

Lunch shouldn’t be stressful, but it seriously started to become so.

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Why? Because it’s near impossible to eat clean while eating out. All the lunch staples–salad dressing, soups, sandwich meats–have a high liklihood of pain-inducing additives, ones most people don’t realize are the source of their not-feeling-so-great-after-lunch blues.

When I started this blog, my focus was to highlight “clean” lunch joints in the OC, but considering I can’t plan where I’ll be everyday (and lately, our news day changes every ten minutes) it makes more sense to pack it, that way I don’t end up starving or grabbing the closest bean burrito, or eating something I KNOW will give me a migraine.

And besides… I can make a WAY more interesting lunch than I can find in a hurry, right? And certainly much cleaner. I just need to plan a little ahead, which I’m sure will get easier as time goes on. I’m sure. Yes. It will. As will getting out of bed earlier to do it.

In the meantime,  I wasn’t too fond of my lunch box. I’m a blue-collar kind of girl, from a blue-collar family, but seriously… carrying the gigantic playmate is just… awkward. Plus, since I put cold food in there with ice packs, I then have to carry a separate Thermos with hot items (because I like hot items at lunch), in addition to my computer bag, and water bottle, and… and… and… keys… It was too much to juggle.

I needed to find a better lunch box.

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I have my favorite vintage lunchbox I bought Brian for our first Christmas together twenty years ago, but it’s too darned small. How was this a man’s lunchbox?? Am I that much of a pig? Don’t answer that.

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And of course this bitchin’ Sex Pistols lunchbox Brian picked up at the 99 Cent store… but I’m getting to an age where I might look like I’m trying too hard if I use it, plus, again, too small.

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In addition to finding a better carrier , I also want better food containers. I’m on a get-plastic-away-from-my-food kick after learning from the Nutrition Diva podcast how much plastic we have in our blood as a result of all the plastic in and around our food. Scary stuff!

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So I’m purging all of the old Tupperware knockoffs from the cabinet, and replacing them with glass for the house and stainless for carry around.

With all those ideas in mind, I went on an online hunt for the perfect lunch gear, and this is what I found:

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Some are good; some not so good. We’ll start with the not-so-good.

A couple of years ago, I gave a colleague a Zojirushi Bento food container since she’s diligent about bringing her lunch. The concept is cool–three bowls that stack into an insulated container–so I figured I’d give it a try, and ordered one for myself, but I’m pretty disappointed. First of all, while stainless on the outside, the interior bowls are plastic (which if I would have paid attention I would have realized “microwavable” translated to “plastic”). It functions okay, but not nearly as good as my all-stainless Thermos. I used it once, and put it on the shelf.

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One of my good finds, this ten-ounce food jar by Thermos. My old fifteen ounce Thermos was a bit too big and hard to get a spoon down into the bottom. This holds the perfect amount of soup for lunch and retains the heat quite well.

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Also good, with a tiny side of bad, are these Eco Lunchbox tins to replace the Tupperware.

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I didn’t notice they were for kids when I ordered them (my fault) and they’re pretty small–like not quite sandwich sized–even though the product description claimed to be…(gee… sensing a too-small theme, along with a not-reading-things-thoroughly theme here?) BUT they’re super cool looking and they function quite well. I suggest putting a bit of parchment over the food in the bottom container so the one sitting on top doesn’t get all foodied on the bottom. Nothing like beet juice to stain everything in sight!

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I also found a great lunch bag. The 12-Hour Shift bag has two separate insulated compartments so I can put hot on one side and cold on the other and consolidate all my lunch stuff into one bag, PLUS, it has a shoulder strap. It doesn’t keep things quite as cold as the Playmate, but it has plenty of space. See? Not everything is too small! The downside here? It doesn’t seal in smells as well as the Playmate did, so if you have some smelly garlic chicken in there (like I had today), you’ll probably smell it even zipped up.

12/4/2013 UPDATE: Well, much as I liked this bag and how great it worked, the zipper has now torn out rendering one side of the bag completely unusable. It didn’t even last a year! Granted, I used it every day. Anyway… back on the hunt.

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If you’re looking to revamp your lunchware, I suggest NOT following my lead, and instead go to a store. While online shopping is great for research and finding options, I would have made other choices had I seen them in person, and now, after spending a good amount of dough, I’m still not 100% on my gear, but I am getting there.

Now the quest is to find interesting options to pack in them! If you have any lunch ideas, let me know!

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Until next time when I experiment with making my own cream cheese (I’m so excited!!!)…

Later Gators!

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