The Ultimate Lunchbox

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Most days I bring my lunch to work--I always have. As an editorial assistant, it wasn't a choice: I brought cans of soup, apples, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because that was all my budget afforded (I hadn't yet truly embraced home cooking). These days, it's a choice, and I'm happier for it. In midtown Manhattan, lunch will almost always run you $5 and most often costs something more like $8 or $10. I figure bringing me lunch saves me hundreds, if not thousands a year.I use up leftovers and I know what goes into my lunch. The only drawback is that on a busy day, I often won't leave my desk at all.

Lately, I've worked on perfecting my lunch-bringing routine, and I wanted to share a few products and tips for brown bagging your mid-day meal. Here are some of the things I have learned and products I adore:


A dish towel is a great lunch accessory: Use it to wrap fragile fruits like bananas and peaches while they are in transport, then use it as a napkin for your meal. IKEA's Elly dish towels are a bargain at $1 a piece--we have tons of these at my house, but any cloth towel will work.


I was mightily impressed when I received some samples of Klean Kanteen's food canisters to test last year. They are as lightweight as plastic tupperware, but so, so much better. Because they are metal they don't absorb odors or flavors. Plus, they're more attractive and nicer to eat out of than a piece of plastic. I personally prefer the non-insulated version because they are lighter (and my purse is heavy enough as it is), but if you need to keep your food hot, or cold, the insulated ones could be handy. Klean Kanteen Food Canisters, $18 to $35, kleankanteen.com.


In the photo business, you'll often come across miniature jam jars in the catering provided on shoots (you'll also find them in nicer continental breakfasts at hotels). I soak the labels off and use them as the tiniest of containers, and they're super-handy for lunches to-go. I keep a mini jar of kosher salt in my desk drawer and fill others with salad dressing when I bring a salad for lunch.
Photo: Sweet Paul


I found two of these SIGG lunch boxes at a thrift store for $1 a piece, and bought them on a whim. Now I bring my lunch in them nearly every single day. Like the Klean Kanteen canisters, they are super lightweight and don't get smelly (hurray!). They're also pretty darn spill-proof. The price seems high, but I promise, these are a worthwhile investment. SIGG Aluminum Box Mini, $32, mysigg.com
If you want to tote coffee with you on your commute, this is my new favorite travel mug (with one caveat!). Of all the travel mugs I have tried Contigo's is the most spill-proof of the bunch: You can literally throw it into your purse because it's natural position is sealed shut and you must push a button to release the coffee. It's also easier to clean than other models and again, I like the aluminum's impermeability. The one drawback of this mug is that it does not fit into the cup holder of my 2002 Subaru (that said, Subaru has terribly-designed cup holders!). West Loop Stainless Travel Mug with Open-Access Lid, $21, gocontigo.com.


Don't use the plastic cutlery in your office (wasteful and so unpleasant to eat off of), don't bring your home flatware to work (you'll likely lose it) and don't go buy any fancy camping flatware (save your money for that SIGG lunch box. Instead, poke your head into a thrift store and buy yourself a single fork, spoon and knife, which will probably cost you less than a dollar.
Photo: Faire Notions


This is not the water bottle I use, rather it is the more attractive model of the one I use. I like Klean Kanteen's water bottles because they are simple and they fit in the aforementioned cup holder of my car. If you're using your water bottle to work out, opt for a model with a "sport cap," but if you're tossing this in your purse or bag, don't tempt fate, opt for the sealed-tight at all times top. (I actually have both a loop cap and a sport cap for my bottle so I can switch between the two.) The Reflect Kanteen, $35, leankanteen.com. 

What about you? What do you recommend for bringing your lunch to work? I'd love to hear your comments.

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