These are the components that I use to pack and transport the food:
- a washable neoprene lunch bag (I got mine at TJ Maxx for a good price)
- 1-cup sized Pyrex containers (I got mine in a 4-pack from Wal-Mart)
- regular cutlery (fork and spoon--I prefer to pre-cut any food, so a knife won't be necessary)
- a reusable ice pack (I got a package of two that use water at Target)
- a cloth napkin (I got mine from Etsy)
The neoprene bag is good to use because it will stretch to fit just about anything you put in there and it is machine washable, so it won't be all germy. I use 1-cup containers because that makes it easier for me to portion out my food; I use Pyrex because of microwaving plastic concerns (even though I know it's technically safe, it's weird, and plastic gets all funky and stained over time, unlike Pyrex). Regular cutlery and cloth napkins can be washed, so that cuts down on cost and waste. Finally, the ice pack is necessary to keep the food cold until it can be microwaved or eaten cold. It's not necessary if you have a work refrigerator, of course.
I like to pack a variety of food so that I don't get bored with my meal. Also, I think it's important to fit all the significant food groups into a meal. So, a typical work day's worth of food might look like this:
- 1/2 c beans, 1/2 c brown rice (one Pyrex container)
- 1/2 c peas, 1/2 c broccoli, both steamed with s+p (one Pyrex container)
- two clementines
- 1/2 c plain nonfat Greek yogurt (one Pyrex container) (this is for the afternoon snack)
- separate smaller container with a dab of honey for the yogurt (this can just go in the tote bag containing the lunch bag and the bottle of water)
- 1 c of celery slices with a dab of peanut butter (this is for the morning snack)
It looks like a lot, but it goes so quickly. I also keep a microwaveable travel mug at work for tea or hot chocolate. I always bring a big metal bottle of water to work and I keep a gallon jug at work for refills.
This is a much cheaper, healthier way of feeding myself throughout the work day. I know how much salt and fat is in my food; I know how it was prepared. Also, it tastes better than anything I could get from a fast food place or even the cafeteria because it's tailored to what I like and it is frequently something more unusual than would be served at any nearby eatery. For example, today, I will be having leftover sukiyaki with clementines, yogurt, and Wheat Thins with PB. Yum, yum.
I pack everything the night before and keep the bag in the fridge, so I won't forget anything. I might chop the celery right before leaving the house, just to make sure it's crisp and fresh. It only takes a few minutes.
If you don't already take your lunch to work or pack lunch for your children (or make them pack their own lunches), I suggest you try it. Bring leftovers! It doesn't have to be a sandwich and an apple. It can be a nice, homey break for the middle of the day. Bring something to read while you eat and luxuriate in an oasis before getting back to spreadsheets and grading papers.