Friday, August 12, 2011

Brown-bagging it

This year, the Engineer has resolved to pack lunches to go to work, in an effort both to eat better and to save some money. He says he would be happy with a plain old sandwich every day, but I know that wouldn’t do it for me. So I decided to round up all the links I had saved for packing lunches – a lot of them are from The Kitchn, but I’ve got a few other sites, too. I’ll use this post as a reference for lunch ideas as well as gear like lunch boxes and thermoses. Don’t hesitate to leave your own tips and ideas in the comments!

Food

For starters, here is a link with 10 healthy lunch recipes that happen to be vegan: bean dips and spreads, a chickpea sandwich, noodle salads, lentil salads, couscous, stews and vegetable rolls. The Kitchn also has five complete lunches under 400 calories, for those of you watching your weight, as well as a photo gallery of inspiration for lunches. Lentil salads are particularly convenient, because you can make them ahead of time, freeze them and just let them thaw in your lunchbox – they’ll be just right by lunchtime.

This article is also extremely useful to help you make lunches that don’t need to be refrigerated! Keep in mind that certain herbs, like basil, keep very well at room temperature and can be added to your lunches when you’re ready to eat. There are more ideas here and here, in the comments especially. And if you can’t reheat your lunch, try one of these 15 salads (meat, grain, pasta and bean salads, not lettuce salads, though those work too). If you want to bring dinner leftovers to lunch, remember that they should be easy to reheat or good cold, easy to eat (think chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken breast) and easy to pack. Here are 10 ideas to get you started. There are also various things you can cook ahead of time on the weekend and use in your lunches that week, like rice, beans, quinoa and more.

For snacks, check out these 15 ideas (like granola, yogurt, roasted chickpeas or nuts), if you're bored with fruits and veggies.

If you are looking for healthy lunches that your kids will actually eat, please read this great post on The Kind Life. It’s full of tips and ideas, such as making sure your child is involved in choosing what goes in the lunch, making the food fun (cutting the sandwich in different shapes, for example), giving a variety of tastes and textures, and having an adequate lunch box. There are also ideas for meals and snacks. I have to mention bento boxes as well, though I wouldn’t have the patience to pack those. If you’re making sandwiches for lots of people and want a way to streamline your morning routine, make yourself a prep station!

Lunch bags and accessories

As far as interesting gizmos go, I really like the idea of the Toastabag: it’s a reusable (and dishwasher-safe) bag in which you slip a sandwich, then you put the bag in the toaster and get a grilled sandwich, without a mess! This is great when you don’t have a stovetop at work (or don’t want to go through the trouble of using it). As a bonus, for anyone eating gluten-free, it prevents the bread from coming in contact with crumbs of gluten in a shared toaster. I also like the Fit & Fresh Salad Shaker, which keeps your salad and dressing separate and has a cooling pack right in the lid.

For those of you who want to minimize the amount of trash at each lunch, here are a few resources for reusable straws that aren’t plastic. Obviously, take reusable utensils with you! To replace disposable sandwich bags, take a look at this post on The Kitchn, which has tons of options; there are also reusable bags on Etsy (like these, to name just one) or, if you’re crafty, you can make them yourself (here, for example, but use Google to get dozens more tutorials). There are also 18 resources here. Plus, there’s a neat container designed to keep your sandwich from getting soggy: it separates the contents from the bread until you are ready to eat the sandwich, but still makes it super easy to actually make the sandwich. Be sure to watch the video!

Lunch boxes can be hard to find for adults, but check out the Zojirushi lunch jars, which are both stylish and extremely practical! They come in a variety of sizes and are insulated. OM Goods makes great tiffins out of stainless steel, which is both hygienic and eco-friendly. I also like the Planet Box and especially the Goodbyn, both of which have compartments for your main course, snacks and dessert. Oots has a lunch box with nestling containers that looks sturdy enough for kids, but could be used by adults. And Built has some great lunch totes. The Container Store also has lunch boxes and containers.

Other tips

This is a fun video from two of my favourite stores that has both lunch ideas and resources for specialized carrying containers. Unclutterer also has some tips – and don’t forget to read the comments. I hope this was useful to those of you who have kids starting school soon and to those who were looking for new inspiration.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

My parents got me to make my lunches while in late elementary school. This probably explains why I had a cream cheese sandwich almost every day in grade 5 (and now can't stand the stuff) and then had bread and cheese nearly every day for all of high school. Fortunately, I still love bread and cheese sandwiches, but have chosen to reduce the quantities and toast them as an open-faced breakfast sandwich.
All this to say that variety is important. Since Jen doesn't like leftovers and I do, I usually get to have whatever is left from supper for lunch. Also, when there are no leftovers in the fridge, there is almost always something left in the freezer (burgers freeze wonderfully and are tasty when thawed and reheated). I recommend keeping various items in the freezer, but knowing the Engineer, he may be happy with the same thing every day if it is something he likes a lot.
One of the reasons I get up so early in the morning (90-120 minutes before I have to leave for work) is to have time to make a good lunch. I always have some fruit and a veg (Jen makes 5-6 packs of raw vegetables for me every Sundays), along with the lunch.
The point of this comment is, sadly, lost on me...

Amélie said...

My mother tells me that in elementary school, I insisted on a ham sandwich every day. Now I usually can't stand them! Bringing leftovers is a great idea, though.

Here are 20 more recipe ideas: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/recipe-roundup/back-to-school-20-great-recipes-for-the-lunchbox-154277

I'm saddened to report that the Engineer has already decided to call it quits. There's this "food club" that, for $25/month, provides food such as bagels and bread, jam and peanut butter, apples and bananas. He participated last year, but without much enthusiasm. The club is way in the red, but still operating somehow. Personally, I find the choice dismal. If I were in charge, I'd double or even triple the price (which would still be a bargain for participants) and offer additional choices like cheese, chickpeas, tuna, hard-boiled eggs and a simple salad of lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Amélie said...

And more ideas for lunch bags: http://www.ohdeedoh.com/ohdeedoh/meal-time/too-cool-for-school-inconspicuous-lunch-bags-for-older-kids-154045

Amélie said...

Two more neat posts: ideas for lunches one can eat while standing and with no prep work (http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/good-questions/good-lunches-to-eat-standing-up-good-questions-154573), as well as frittata sandwiches (http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/roundup-food-blogs/leftovers-for-lunch-the-frittata-sandwich-154561)!

Amélie said...

A little kitchen origami for you: how to create a handle on a brown paper bag: http://www.instructables.com/id/Practical-Origami-instant-handles-for-paper-bags/

Amélie said...

And another link, this one specifically for gluten-free lunches: http://www.thekitchn.com/ideas-for-satisfying-portable-gluten-free-lunchesrecipe-questions-168331

Amélie said...

Here's a link to 15 reusable and washable sandwich bags: http://www.thekitchn.com/15-reusable-washable-sandwich-bags-product-roundup-177314

Amélie said...

20 well-rounded and perfectly packed lunches: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-pinterest-packs-its-lunch-186247

Amélie said...

Awesome ideas for wraps here! http://120dollarsfoodchallenge.com/2011/01/24/lunchbox-treats-ideas-for-wrap-fillings/

Amélie said...

Shake up your green salad routine: http://www.thekitchn.com/im-tired-of-green-salads-help-me-mix-up-my-lunches-good-questions-192135

Amélie said...

3 tips to actually pack and eat a lunch: http://www.thekitchn.com/brown-bagging-it-tips-from-a-recovering-lunch-buyer-194037

Amélie said...

Shelf-stable lunch items to keep at work: http://www.thekitchn.com/healthy-lunch-items-i-can-keep-in-my-desk-at-work-good-questions-196383

Amélie said...

The Kitchn's tips for a healthier lunch: http://www.thekitchn.com/16-tips-for-eating-a-healthier-lunch-reader-intelligence-report-207655

Amélie said...

Cute bento box! http://www.trudeaucorp.com/ca-en/products/fuel/types/food-contrainer/p--31408288.html

Amélie said...

More tips about packing school lunches: http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/common-mistakes/article/school-lunch-common-mistakes

Amélie said...

Another nice bento box! http://www.lunchbots.com/products/food-containers/lunchbots-cinco-bento-box-stainless-steel/

Amélie said...

En français: un mois de lunchs, pour faciliter la rentrée: http://www.coupdepouce.com/mamans/manger-en-famille/recette-pour-la-famille/un-mois-de-lunchs-pour-la-rentree/m/1527

Amélie said...

A round-up of 8 bento boxes: http://www.thekitchn.com/8-bento-boxes-to-help-you-brown-bag-it-223191

And 10 nut-free, sandwich-free lunch ideas to inspire you: http://www.thekitchn.com/thinking-outside-the-lunch-box-10-sandwich-free-kids-lunch-ideas-222906

Amélie said...

17 tips for packing a healthier lunch: http://www.thekitchn.com/16-tips-for-eating-a-healthier-lunch-reader-intelligence-report-207655
(The link says 16 tips, but there are two #5, so it's really 17.)

Amélie said...

Another link from The Kitchn, with a great comments section: http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-your-best-advice-for-taking-your-lunch-to-work-226937

Amélie said...

5 tips that will help you actually pack a lunch: http://www.thekitchn.com/5-smart-tips-that-will-help-you-actually-pack-a-lunch-228197

Amélie said...

Ooh! Look at this: http://omielife.com/
Omie boxes have a (removable) compartment that can keep food warm, including soup!

Amélie said...

- 10 rules for packing a week of lunches: http://www.thekitchn.com/10-rule-for-packing-a-week-of-lunches-234520

- 7 lunches made with grocery store shortcuts: http://www.thekitchn.com/7-lunches-made-with-grocery-store-shortcuts-234617

- 5 tips for mastering lunch (build to last all week): http://www.thekitchn.com/5-tips-for-mastering-lunch-build-to-last-all-week-234527

- When it comes to packing school lunches, think in threes: http://www.thekitchn.com/when-it-comes-to-packing-school-lunch-experts-say-think-in-threes-233822

Amélie said...

- 10 frozen foods you can pack in your lunch without thawing: http://www.thekitchn.com/10-frozen-foods-you-can-pack-for-lunches-without-thawing-234642

- 10 reasons you're not packing your lunch and how to fix them: http://www.thekitchn.com/10-reasons-youre-not-packing-your-lunch-and-how-to-fix-them-234762

- The etiquette of eating lunch at work: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-etiquette-of-eating-lunch-at-work-234760

- Everything you need to know to pack school lunches for a week at once: http://www.thekitchn.com/everything-you-need-to-know-to-pack-10-school-lunches-at-once-234641

Amélie said...

- 23 make-ahead lunches: http://www.thekitchn.com/23-makeahead-lunches-to-get-you-through-the-work-week-recipes-from-the-kitchn-216410

- 26 make-ahead lunches: http://www.thekitchn.com/26-make-ahead-lunches-you-can-pack-tonight-235200

Amélie said...

More types of lunch containers (the last 3 are inexpensive enough that it might not matter too much if your kids lose one):

- the Yumbox http://www.thekitchn.com/a-reader-recommended-lunch-box-it-makes-packing-lunch-extra-easy-223396

- Fit & Fresh http://www.reuseit.com/fit-and-fresh-fit-and-fresh-smart-portion-value-food-containers-pack-of-4.htm?siteID=TnL5HPStwNw-Zlpi7DxLyL6HvIYZyZ5yCQ&affid=LK

- Mr. Lid containers https://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store/product/mr-lid-10-piece-container-set/1042586142?Keyword=Mr.+Lid+Container+Set%2c&AID=11469020&PID=7112259&SID=34276X922256X5575be90568d7938fcee335d4cfa3f45&source=Commission+Junction&utm_source=Skimlinks&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=Bed+Bath+%26+Beyond+Deep+Link&mcid=AF_CJ___2617611

- Reusable bento boxes by Kitchen Discovery https://www.amazon.com/Compartment-Containers-Stackable-Microwave-Dishwasher/dp/B01D0F325Q/ref=lp_12900081_1_17?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1478616554&sr=1-17

Amélie said...

How to make a week's worth of lunches ahead of time: http://happymoneysaver.com/cold-lunches-in-a-day/#_a5y_p=5708300

Amélie said...

And the perfect bento box for travel snacks: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-perfect-bento-box-for-travel-snacks-228968

Amélie said...

Tips on packing sandwiches properly: http://www.thekitchn.com/packing-sandwiches-the-right-way-tips-from-the-kitchn-205007

Amélie said...

- 30 lunch ideas by celebrity chefs: http://www.parents.com/recipes/familyrecipes/lunch/celebrity-chef-kid-lunches/

- Healthy school lunches and snacks: http://www.parents.com/kids/nutrition/lunch/healthy-school-lunches-snacks/

- Bentology has cute lunch containers: https://bentology.com/

Amélie said...

16 tips for packing a healthier lunch: http://www.thekitchn.com/16-tips-for-eating-a-healthier-lunch-reader-intelligence-report-207655

Amélie said...

7 plastic-free ways to package lunches: https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/7-plastic-free-ways-to-pack-your-meal-prepped-lunches/slide/3

That link is where I found out about U Konserve (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01A0EHXL4/ref=as_at/?creativeASIN=B01A0EHXL4&imprToken=cNJcjKLHzZ94QCXCU28oZw&slotNum=4&ie=UTF8&linkCode=w61&tag=rodalesorganiclife-20&linkId=6fc27cda75c04a372396957db988da76), which seems both practical and affordable!

Amélie said...

Yumbox is making the argument that bento boxes help teach kids what a healthy meal looks like: https://www.realsimple.com/syndication/yumbox-review?

Amélie said...

I wanted to link to a "Best Lunch Boxes" road test published in the June 2017 edition of Real Simple, but can't find it on their website. So I ended up typing up the lunch boxes myself and providing links - I think these categories are interesting!

Best for leftovers: OXO Good Grips 5.1 Cup SNAP Container (https://www.oxo.com/products/storage-organization/food/5-1-cup-snap-container)

Best for a smorgasbord: Takenaka Bento Box Expanded Double (https://www.takenaka-global.com/expande-double)

Best for compact storage: Blue Water Bento Seal Cups (https://ecolunchboxes.com/collections/all-products/products/seal-cup-set-of-5)

Best for sandwiches and salads: Onyx Large 2 Layer Sandwich Box (http://www.thetickletrunk.com/lunch-containers/77-large-2-layer-sandwich-box.html)

Best insulated tote: Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Lunch Box (https://herschel.com/shop/accessories/pop-quiz-lunch-box?v=10227-01399-OS)
Best for hot lunches: Hydro Flask 12 oz. Food Flask (https://www.hydroflask.com/12-oz-food-flask-2#92=59)

Best Kids Lunch Box: Bentgo Kids Lunch Box (https://bentgo.com/pages/bentgo-kids-shop)

Amélie said...

10 kid-friendly lunch boxes without Disney characters on them: http://www.thekitchn.com/10-kid-friendly-lunch-boxes-without-disney-characters-on-them-247035

Smart lunch gear: https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/organizing/smart-lunch-gear#goodbyn-bynto

Gear up for lunch: https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/tools-products/gear-up-for-lunch#packing-snacks

Amélie said...

My secret for packing lunch for the office in under 6 minutes: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-secret-to-packing-weekday-lunches-for-the-office-245093

It involves one person packing mains and a coworker packing sides; you switch days on a predetermined schedule. When I was a substitute teacher, I've witnessed regulars lunch buddies (teachers!) who would take turns packing lunch for a week, and they loved the system because they usually put a lot more effort into it than they would have if for themselves alone.

Amélie said...

For those of you with kids who tend to lose their lunchbox (and therefore understandably don't want to pay $40 for a bento box), I've got two new-to-me options for you!

There's Rubbermaid: https://www.amazon.com/Rubbermaid-1806231-Lunch-Blox-Sandwich/dp/B0078K416Y/ref=as_at?creativeASIN=B0078K416Y&linkCode=w50&tag=REASIM03-20&imprToken=cTScUXYSNBQUGy8xLg1gIw&slotNum=0

And Ziploc: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-best-lunch-box-for-elementary-school-kids-247034

Amélie said...

Plus, recommendations from a friend (mother of twins) for snacks:

- https://www.walmart.com/ip/Rubbermaid-Take-Alongs-Twist-Seal-Liquid-Storage-3-CT/16408625?action=product_interest&action_type=title&beacon_version=1.0.2&bucket_id=irsbucketdefault&client_guid=8f1f1769-f257-40a0-8310-04118e1d301d&config_id=106&customer_id_enc&findingMethod=p13n&guid=8f1f1769-f257-40a0-8310-04118e1d301d&item_id=16408625&parent_anchor_item_id=14894228&parent_item_id=14894228&placement_id=irs-106-m3&reporter=recommendations&source=new_site&strategy=PWBAB&visitor_id=bvW_CGozrT2I0IiXTtdVls

- https://www.glad.com/food-storage/containers/mini-round/

Amélie said...

And hey, Rubbermaid has a bento-style lunchbox! https://www.amazon.com/Rubbermaid-LunchBlox-Leak-proof-Container-2000580/dp/B06XN5FVDQ/ref=as_at/?imprToken=sMWa4WpBZGpVkp5FMYk-3A&slotNum=2&srs=12258884011&ie=UTF8&qid=1503056349&sr=8-2&linkCode=sl1&tag=kitchn_deals_8_18-20&linkId=b5d76794e5d0a2c2297eb3920ffa88ee

Amélie said...

- 7 creative back-to-school lunches: https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/kids-lunch-box-ideas

- The Kitchn's 20 most popular make-ahead lunches: http://www.thekitchn.com/our-20-most-popular-make-ahead-lunch-recipes-247323

- 10 reasons you're not packing your lunch and how to fix them: http://www.thekitchn.com/10-reasons-youre-not-packing-your-lunch-and-how-to-fix-them-234762

Amélie said...

- Smart lunch gear: https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/organizing/smart-lunch-gear

- 18 recipes to upgrade a brown-bag lunch: https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/upgrade-brown-bag-lunch