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Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to Make Packing Lunch an Easier & Better Experience

I can't say that I've always been a lover of the packed lunch, but for personal economical purposes & health it really can't be beat. You have to have the right tools, though, to make bringing a lunch to work or school a healthy & enjoyable venture. If you're eliminating or diminishing packaged foods from your life (no more Twinkies, for example), you'll have to have your own storage containers. This means not just a baggie for chips & one for sandwiches, especially if you're going to be bringing snacks as well as a meal. Lunchtime products for packing have come a long way since I was a kid, when a hard lunch box, a thermos if your parents really cared (mine didn't) or a brown paper bag were your sole options for toting!

Lots of great options exist for carrying lunch to work or school these days, far more than I could ever include in entirety in this blog. A black, zippered, insulated tote bag is an inconspicuous way to carry your lunch to & from work/school, for example. Consider carefully how much & what type of food you'll be bringing with you each day, how heavy a bag you're willing to carry, if you need to put containers in the microwave or not & your personal style when choosing a lunch bag. If you're disabled, bear in mind that you'll likely need a bag you can wear cross-body or at least over your shoulder- you probably don't want to be stuck carrying it in your hand all the time. For some, a soup thermos would get used daily while for others it would sitting gathering dust in their kitchen cabinet. Just to give you an example of what's out there, here's a few links to well-liked bags with reviews for purchase:

One of the key elements to the concept of "clean eating" for fitness enthusiasts is eating every three hours or so. If you work away from home nine or ten hours a day, obviously you will need more than just a sandwich to fuel your long day. Lock & Lock products are my favorite for storing salad dressing, salads, fresh fruit & much more. They're easy to open even with one hand, but because of their design won't flip open & leave you with a wet mess somewhere in your lunch bag. The small pieces hold salad dressing, toppings like sunflower seeds, single-serving portions of nuts or dried fruit & condiments. They are also great for storing leftover chicken broth or tomato paste when you're cooking. The bigger ones hold anything & everything you can think of- tall, slender ones are great for storing pasta, for example. So their uses go far beyond lunchtime, and you know how much I love multi-functioning pieces! Many times these pieces are sold individually in grocery stores, but sets can be the cheapest way to buy in bulk. I've had all of mine for several years- no mold or mildew builds up in any crevices, there's been no broken pieces, no misshapen tops, nothing. They come out clean in the dishwasher every time. They also store leftovers extremely well in the fridge or freezer because they're airtight & lock together in four places on every piece. I'd say I own about twenty pieces, and I've given some away to family to help them out, too. One of my family members even uses a big round one with a locking top as a mixing bowl for things like pasta salad, and then puts the top right on it to store in the fridge. Talk about simplifying!

Even if you use an insulated bag, I would still suggest putting in a blue ice freezer pack. There are refrigerators for putting stuff in some workplaces, but I always preferred to keep my stuff at my own desk when I worked outside the home anyway. Theft, messes & other issues can come into play when you store your lunch somewhere that you can't keep an eye on it. And it means you have to go get your bag whenever you want to eat- if you're like I was & are on timed breaks (which was unfortunately just company policy), then you won't have the time to do so. These freezer packs can usually be found inexpensively in the grocery store, but in case they aren't, here's a couple of links below.

I always keep my stainless steel 16 oz. water bottle in my purse, but you can definitely put something like this in your lunch bag if there's room instead. It just depends on personal preference. I only use FlyLady's water bottle. Not because I have to or because I have some endorsement agreement (I wish!), but since it's simply the best. It fits in every car holder for drinks. It slips easily in my purse's side pocket. It doesn't sweat, it's airtight, it has a bigger slot for putting in ice & a smaller one for drinking from. There are no spills. Stuff stays cold as can be in it- don't overfill it with ice, because if you keep the bottle closed, ice lasts for hours & hours in the container, even overnight. I've used it for hot drinks, too, and it works well for them. You can use them as your protein drink shaker, again because they are so airtight & sturdy (it'll be loud if you have ice in it, but whatever works!) I can wash both the top & the bottle itself in the top rack of the dishwasher, and they come out fine. If you have a bottle brush, that'll clean up it up through hand-washing quite easily, though. She's made them in both a 16 oz. size & a 12 oz. size:

You can also buy them in a set of each:

Finally, for medications and/or supplements, a few different storage options exist. This isn't applicable to everyone, but if it's something you need to do, I wanted to bring it up. You can use the smallest Lock & Lock piece to hold these little items. Personally, I need & use a divided pillbox. Not everyone wants to carry something like this around, but I find it invaluable. Pill fobs are also good to hold an emergency storage of pills, or just one day's small supply with you, especially on your keychain.

Remember to bring along flatware & a napkin or paper towel with lunch, as well.

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,


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