Monday, February 21, 2011

Bringing Lunch

During the week, I eat 90% of my daily food at work. I usually eat breakfast, lunch, and an early, light dinner at my desk. I also eat a large volume of food. I’m (mostly) vegetarian, so I consume a lot of bulky items. Every morning, I haul a few pounds of meals and snacks to work:


Last Thursday’s “lunch:” oatmeal, protein powder, banana, apple, two hard-boiled eggs, potato chips, cranberry-apricot-orange bread, curried beet and squash soup, croutons, Odwalla bar, apricots, almonds, peanut butter sandwich, cheese sandwich, roasted potatoes. And I bought milk at work.


I included Walter for scale…but instead of illustrating the huge size of my lunch, he looks giant.

As I assemble my smorgasboard on the counter each day, I wrestle with how to get it all to work. Believe it or not, it doesn't fit in my everyday bag (pictured at right). That’s probably because it’s already crammed full with my laptop, paperwork, running clothes, and spare shoes. I also worry about the liquid lunch items leaking. I’ve worn a curry-stained (and smelling!) tee to Zumba courtesy of a faulty lid. I shudder to think of what beet soup would do to my favorite white running shirt.

Because of the sheer volume of food and danger of leakage, I often end up carrying my lunch like this:


Earth-friendly, but so NOT chic.

I’m curious. Do you take a big “lunch” each day? How do you carry it? Is there a stylish substitute for the grocery sack? I’ve seen plenty of cute, reuseable lunchbags on the market, but never one big enough for my lunch!

45 comments:

Lorena said...

I bring lunch to work 70% of the time.
Usually I just throw it inside my bag (when these are huge) but I put them inside a plastic bag - as I already have had to clean beans and tomato soup off of my belongings :(
I am sorry to say that when my bag is not big enough I am just forced to take a regular bag... I have not found the fancy way yet and it upsets me -

Maria said...

Hi Kasmira,
Like you, I carry a lot of little things to eat throughout the day at work (including breakfast, which I eat/drink while driving to the office). I carry all my goodies in a Built "Gourmet Getaway" Neoprene lunch bag, which comes in a ton of cute & funky patterns. Search "built lunch bag" on Amazon.com for all the choices.

Another option, also available on Amazon.com, is the Thermos Raya lunch bag. The Insulated 12 Can Lunch Tote is a good size.

Check out the Amazon list "Stylish Lunch Totes for Working Women" (http://www.amazon.com/Stylish-Lunch-Totes-Working-Women/lm/R2TOPSX5W924OR/ref=cm_lmt_srch_f_2_rsrsrs0) for more options.

Hope this helps!

Best,
Maria

-smatz- said...

I recommend a small, squishy cooler. They come in a variety of sizes + shapes but are almost always square-ish, making it easy to prop items up against each other (or the cooling block, if you decide to buy/pack one of those), they're waterproof so if something does spill, it's easy to wipe off & they are firm enough to protect soft things like bread. I have a pink polka-dotted one that I swear by. Any camping store should be able to help you out. I also really like this one:

http://www.builtny.com/lunch-bags-totes/extra-relish-lunch-tote.html

happy lunching!

Melissa said...

I do tend to take a big haul of food each day (esp when in training-mode) but also struggle with a "chic" way to carry it. Sometimes I can make it fit in my large work tote but other days it's also the reusable grocery bag! (*cringe*) I have other totes I could use, I guess, but then I wonder if it looks like I'm carrying two purses? I also don't want to switch to an even bigger tote for fear of it looking like a beach bag!

Sorry this wasn't helpful...just commiserating!

Betty said...

I take my lunch and after working at a law firm where the LAWYERS stole the CLERKS & SECRETARIES lunches, I quickly devised a clever plan to stop the "I thought it was mine" line. (Every Wal-mart bag does look the same in the fridge.) I took a cheap cloth purse I had (it was red white & blue for July 4th) and took my lunch in that. Stopped my lunch from being stolen! Ha! I have since bought a dedicated bag to tote my lunch in. Something (usually from walmart) cheap and cloth, but sturdy and CUTE. Whenever I take soemthing liquid, I try to put it in a walmart bag. And since it's cloth, if it get's dirty I just wash it. It usually just looks like I'm carrying two purses - and it still keeps my food from getting stolen!

Anonymous said...

Mmmm... lunch! That cranberry-apricot-orange bread sounds (and looks) delish!

I carry 3 bags too... purse, work bag and an insulated lunch bag.
Check out www.reuseit.com. I've had great luck with their products (LOVE their EarthTote grocery bags) and they have an awesome selection. This lunch bag, though not cheap ($34.95), should hold your "lunch" (it's 12"H x12"L x8"W), and keep it cool in the summer as it is insulated: http://www.reuseit.com/store/bazura-bags-large-insulated-lunch-grocery-p-650.html

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie said...

your grocery sack is better than my plastic shopping bag.

and one of my besties swears that Oxyclean removes beets!!!

crisi-tunity said...

I had this exact problem - I bring lunch 99.9% of the time, and I sometimes take large plastic containers, and I couldn't find a lunch bag that carried everything I needed and was shapeless enough to get the containers inside (and was not a beige plastic grocery bag).

So I knitted one! I took this knitting pattern and pretty much doubled everything to make a large enough bag, felted it, put some buttons on it, and bam, good to go. It wasn't cute, but it worked exactly like I wanted it to.

Unfortunately I washed it a second time and it re-felted and is now too small. So I felted a couple of holey old sweaters, cut them up, and plan to sew them together to make Lunch Bag Mark 2. (This itself is a pretty good solution for those who don't knit.) I just hate to sew so I haven't gotten around to it!

crisi-tunity said...

I also added a handle to the pattern above, something that goes over my shoulder.

Reedie said...

I use a Built bag...love that they are washable and cute!

Julia said...

I also use a reusable grocery bag (TJ's usually) to carry my lunch in. It's just the most efficient way for me to haul in a large lunch that doesn't fit with the computer/gym clothes bags. It's also easy to walk with (if you're a walking commuter).

The Nightmare Child said...

No.

The nature of my job prevents me from not only bringing my lunch, but storing it, keeping it fresh and preparing anything. I have to subsist on drive-through or carry out.

Sheila said...

I don't have this issue anymore since I'm out of work, but I did tote my lunch with me 4/5 days a week for 4+ years, so I know of what you speak!

I actually re-used a Lululemon shopping bag (the small size) for a couple of years before it finally gave up and burst its seams on me. You can find nicely made giant bags online and in specialty gift-type stores. You need something more stylin', Kasmira!

Rachel said...

I definitely have the same problem - as part of my lunch I usually take a giant salad, the container for which is far too big to carry in my regular bag (not to mention snacks etc). So I also usually end up carrying a canvas bag of sorts for my lunch. Drives me kind of crazy, but better that than giving up my lunches!

Cindy said...

Here's a link for a set of 5 grocery bags. Two are insulated, with zippers, and 3 are smaller cloth ones. They are great for groceries, plus the insulated one could be used for your lunch items. Not real stylish, but only $10 plus shipping for the whole set.

http://flylady.net/pages/flyshop_gbs.asp

Anonymous said...

Also, Trader Joe's & some other groceries sell a reusable thermal/insulated shopping bag that might work better, if you're into the quilted aluminum look! At least it would contain spills.

McKristie said...

I use a built also - I do love mine - but I would probably guess that your lunch perhaps may be too big - I think there is a built shopping bag that would work - I love the neoprene and you can wash it - and it holds and ice pack -

Any chance of sharing the quick bread recipe:) - sounds nummy!

Terri said...

I usually just throw a piece of fruit or two in my briefcase! Keep popcorn at my desk.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe someone style obsessed is not into bento! Plastica makes HUGE bento boxes (I have the medium size, and with 2 snacks and a big lunch still can't fill it), plus the accessories are adorable and cheap. Go to amazon or eBay for both. Sooooo much more stylish, and almost all with built in handles!

sabina said...

Another vote for a soft (squishy), square cooler bag! I eat small meals frequently, so that means plenty of small containers for food. The cooler bag is big enough to include a few ice packs when needed.

Another helpful container: corningware small ceramic dishes (with plastic lids). they're perfect for reheating food (I don't microwave the plastic part).

Art said...

I heart my Rebel Green lunch bag: http://rebelgreen.com/lunchbags.html. It's gigantic, and it squishes up when it's empty. I take a huge lunch as well--which is part of why I've started using my Kelty backpack instead of a purse or anything. it's huge and perfect, but I'm also a student, which is waay different than real life!

Buffalo Girl said...

I use a built Market Tote bag, the others are too small for my big lunches. I often stuff my container in a ziploc bag if I suspect i have a faulty top.

I have also used an Envirosak. The roll up nicely when you're done.

Jessica said...

I'm also a vegetarian and pack my lunch most days. I usually cram everything into a lunch box that I carry back and forth. I do like the Trader Joe's bag!

Lauren said...

Love your blog! Actually have something to add on the topic today, try a search for Sachi lunch totes, they're insulated, zippered, and come in a variety of sizes and patterns. People mistake mine for a purse all the time.

clotheshunger said...

i take the bus to work so i need a big bag to carry all my stuff around. when i first moved to the city, i used a normal grocery bag but i, too, got sick of the look of it. so i found a colorfully decorated bag from marshalls for $25 and it's big enough to carry my lunch and a lot of other things. i learned that it's a fubu/sean john type brand AFTER i bought it and i get tons of compliments from girls who dress in that style (like the other day a girl yelled at me, "girl, i seen beyonce with that bag in pink!" true story). i mainly bought because it was black, green and silver like slytherin colors. :B

/long pointless comment

C said...

uhg...take my lunch...snacks and a big thermos....sometimes I think it would be so easy if I could eat at home. Sometimes I eat all the stuff I bring with me and have to go buy a sandwich anyway...I just re-use plastic grocery/shopping bags.

KateJane said...

I have a Button Rose Oilcloth Book Bag (code:258-957-3-1) from Cath Kidston used just for my lunch : ) ... The tidy rose print goes with most things I wear.

KateJane

P.S. Glad I'm not alone in taking a large lunch "bag" to work...

bonincontrus said...

Good morning! Not only do I pack lunch everyday, I am also a public commuter/bike rider. I ended up buying a couple completely adorable bento boxes for my lunch. Some days I have a respectable solid color or floral box, but most days I use my Pororo box. It is a little silly, but it always gives me and my co workers a smile or giggle in the middle of a rough work day. It has two tiers and removal compartments for lots of food. I also ended up buying all kinds of cute things at www.allthingsforsale.com like little punches to make faces on my eggs and little cups and containers for cut up fruit. http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSc_3ZCv5o5oTXmW5t71VNORVJSdZ61fWJq8__0w4sO2qFsUNDnSw this my my bento box

EvaNadine said...

my only recommendation is to not limit yourself to "lunch bags" when searching for one. think more about the size of bag you need and the style of bag you want, then use it as a lunch bag. if you get a large enough bag, you can always add in cooler packs or thermoses as needed. also, whenever i carry potentially spillable items, i usually place the container inside of a large ziplock bag -- if it spills, its contained, and if it doesnt, the bag can still be reused!

JavaChick said...

I usually tote breakfast, lunch and snacks to work every day. I tend to eat vegetarian during the day, but since I have dinner with my Husband it will often include meat. If I'm eating dinner on my own, I go veg as well.

Today: I had a protein drink at home, then brought plain yogurt with berries & Kashi Honey Almond Flax cereal, a salad with guacamole to add as a topping/dressing, and a peanut butter sandwich. I keep LaraBars in my desk.

I manage to fit all this in my laptop bag, but I'm not toting workout clothes (I work out at home in my basement). Back when I used to go to the gym on my lunch hour, I kept my gym sneakers at work so I wouldn't have to carry them back and forth every day. I had a second pair of sneakers for home.

Adeline said...

I always bring my food to work! It's better than buying any microwave dinners...anyway, I have gotten cute reusable shopping bags about that size from forever21. I have one with elephants on it, and one with owls. They may not be super chic, but they'd be cuter than a trader joe's bag! Even though trader joe's is great...hope I helped! -adeline

fisherwillow.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

hi there,
i would get a cute vintage "overnight" case. you know, the rectangular box type that's lined with fabric & has a little mirror inside? that will accommodate many food items and look great with everything. put anything that could leak into a bread bag with a twist tie.

~eve

pink pumpkin said...

I am physically at work 10 1/2hrs a day, so I eat 2 full meals while at work,plus snacks,I feel like I bring a few pounds everyday. Sometimes I try to pack bento style meals, and whole frutis and veggies for snacks, but it still seems like I lug in quite the pack everyday, so I use a totebag.

Londyn said...

I bring a mid morning snack, lunch, and mid afternoon snack with me to work everyday. I have a very large lunch bag!!

I've also been keeping bulk non-perishable items at work (oatmeal packets, granola bars, nuts, etc..), so I don't have to pack them daily.

Hooray for us bag ladies!!

Jen said...

This is the solution to your problem: http://www.amazon.com/Vivo-Oval-Bento-Orange-Yellow/dp/B001CSMJ9Y/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1298559749&sr=8-15

I got a few of these for my family three years ago and they are all still in perfect shape! They get compliments whenever we take them out.

Kasmira said...

Jen - that's the cutest bento box I've seen yet!

nix said...

At my old job I did some grocery shopping straight to my desk! I'd duck out once in a while on a lunch hour and bring back some fruit, drinks, granola bars, oatmeal, and crackers- anything that didn't need refrigerating, basically- and stored that stuff right at my desk on a bookshelf with a flap to hide everything. I also kept yogurt and some frozen items in the office fridge. Doing this saved me lugging things all the way from home.

The Tote Trove said...

I take my lunch and some snacks to work every day. This usually means some combination of yogurt, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a piece of fruit, a granola bar, a juice box, and crackers or cookies. I usually bring a tote bag and a purse. (I switch my purse every day.) The tote bag contains my lunchtime reading book, a notebook, my makeup bag, and my pumps if it's snowy enough for me to be wearing snow boots. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who feels like she's packing for an overnight stay each time she sets off for work! By the way, your meals sound very healthy. Way healthier than what I eat (once I get home it all slowly goes downhill :)

Anonymous said...

Get a big purse or bag in a thrift store.
Jessica

Emily said...

Park + Vine has super cute bags intended for use as grocery bags, but are great for anything. Strong, cute, and they pack down tiny.

Tina said...

I bring a LOT of food to work every day too: breakfast, lunch, and snack, each with lots of fruits and veggies. The only lunch bag I've found that actually accomodates everything I bring is this:

http://www.target.com/Igloo-Soft-Sided-Cooler-Quarts/dp/B004GFFMDA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&searchView=grid5&keywords=igloo&fromGsearch=true&sr=1-3&qid=1298901900&rh=&searchRank=target104545&id=Igloo%20Soft%20Sided%20Cooler%20Quarts&node=1038576|1287991011&searchSize=30&searchPage=1&searchNodeID=1038576|1287991011&searchBinNameList=subjectbin,price,target_com_primary_color-bin,target_com_size-bin,target_com_brand-bin&frombrowse=0

But it's not very cute.

Annie said...

http://www.envirosax.com.au/ I love mine...

Daytime Night Owl said...

Wow! I am coming in late and wish I had time to read everyone's comments because I have this same issue.

I started carrying a Thermos Raya® 9 Can Tote when they moved a relative into my office and I couldn't make it to our break room without a 45 minute conversation everyday. It works ok. I also purchased some of those blue cooler ice packs (not the ice cube mats because those eventually wear, break and leak) to put in there to keep things cold.

Unfortunately, it gets heavy. Especially, when I also carry my 10 lb purse and my work bag. I also like to bring a lot of water with me to work and when I bring a lot of food, there isn't room for all of it so I end up carrying, yet, another bag or carrying individual items in my hands. It's overwhelming and extremely annoying. I'm actually considering some type of soft-sided cooler on wheels.

What I do like about the lunch tote is that the inside is definitely easy to clean. I imagine I could throw it in the washer, if I felt it was necessary. For now, I just wipe it out occasionally.

Would love to hear what you come up with.

Kristen said...

I'm always encouraging people to pack a healthy affordable lunch at least three days per week. You can save lots of money, slim down (seriously anything you buy out is going to be more calories) and reduce tons and tons of needless waste. great post you got here:-)