June 30, 2010

Garbage-less Lunches

I may write a whole lot about food over at my other blog (It Ain't Meat, Babe), but I don't get much of a chance to write about how that food gets eaten. I usually leave that up to my readers. But personally, despite spending most of my time thinking about how the food gets prepared, I also have some systems in place for how it gets eaten.

First let me tell you that my day job necessitates a lot of travel. A LOT! I am rarely in my office. Some days I am working in rural communities two hours out of the city. Some days I'm in some far-flung suburb. Occasionally I am lucky enough to be working somewhere within walking or biking distance. As a result of this, I've become very good at packing a lunch. I know it's usually the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly thing to do. Not to mention the fact that vegan food is hard to come by in most places, especially if I'm looking for a quick lunch to eat while I'm traveling.

So I pack my lunch. But what do I pack it in?

Over my many years of lunch-bringing, I've figured out how to make everything involved with my lunch reusable. Lots of schools have garbage-less lunch programs in place, I figured why not have a one-woman garbage-less lunch policy in place for myself?

My first step was to find some glass containers with good lids. I try to use as little plastic as possible, period. Although we have no microwave at home, I do sometimes use one when I'm lunching elsewhere and I am loathe to microwave any of my food in a plastic container. (Why fuss around trying to figure out if one container or another is "microwave safe" when you can just avoid the potential danger all together?)

So far, in our house, we've tried three different kinds of glass containers (all have plastic lids). The little round one in the photo above is made by Anchor. We have larger versions as well and I have to say that they are the clear winners. They are union-made in the United States and they are reasonably priced, widely available, and oven safe. The lids fit tightly, even after a few dishwasher washings. They aren't completely leak-proof, but they aren't too bad if the food inside isn't too liquidy.

The other container in the photo is made by Pyrex and it is my least favourite of our three varieties. The sizes are kind of awkward, and the lids are freakishly tight at first and then loosen a lot when washed in the dishwasher. Though I must say, looking at their website it seems they've introduced a line of containers with "No-Leak Lids". I'd be anxious to give those a try.

My other favourite is the Glasslock containers (not pictured). The lids are almost completely leak-proof (why "almost"? Well, let's just say my purse smells a bit more like curried cauliflower than I'd like it too. However, my boss brings soup in one of these containers everyday and her briefcase is unscathed, so I may just have a slightly wonky specimen.) These are a little heavier than the Anchor containers and some of them are labelled "not safe for oven". They are also made in the U.S.A.

The other lunch item I never leave home without is my homemade cutlery holder. If you can sew in a straight line, you can make one of these. All it is, is a rectangle of fabric, folded over on one end with stitches making sections of the fork, knife, spoon, and napkin. I added a ribbon to one end so that after I fold down the top flap and roll it up, I can tie it closed. Some spare cutlery from a secondhand store and a cute cotton napkin complete the project. It doubles as a placemat if you want to be fancy. And at the end of the week you can throw it in the washer. I like it so much I'm slowly making similar ones for all my coworkers.

And last, but not least, (though totally unrelated to lunches, at least right now) I wanted to give you all a garden update. You may remember my last post about getting over my fear of starting seedlings from scratch. Well, get a load of those little seedings now:

They're big, healthy tomato plants! Growing happily in the garden. I can't wait until harvest time.



Julie said...

Great ideas! I also pack my lunch every day, and you've given some great ideas! I have purchased cloth containers called "Snack Taxis" which are great for non-liquid items. I'm sure one could make them, but I haven't had the time. I also love your cutlery container! I am definitely going to make a couple of those.

Adrienne said...

Those pyrex containers... the lids on mine say not to put them in the dishwasher. That might be why yours leak. I actually wash all the lids to my glass containers by hand as I'm paranoid about the seals becoming worse for wear in the dishwasher.

SweetKaroline said...

i have a dozen of those anchor containers and they are the best.

the cutlery container is super cute. they have a bunch of nice ones on etsy too

Jennifer (It Ain't Meat, Babe) said...

Julie: Snack taxis! How cute!

Adrienne: My lids say "top dishwasher rack only" which I guess keeps them away from the more intense heat. But I think handwashing them is probably the fail-safe way to go.

Sweet Karoline: I have a few friends who got cutlery containers on Etsy, too. Lots of different options!

Kerstin Svendsen said...

great post! i am totally going to make one of those cutlery holders. i made one of those for paintbrushes, but never thought to make one like this.

Marie said...

Thanks for the review of glass lunch dishes. I pack lunch with similar ideals. And we have a nice set of Pyrex a friend gave us as a gift. Washing the lids by hand has kept them all in great shape. No leaks in two years. But, every so often one gets broken and I'm looking for some new pieces. I'll be checking out your recommendations.

I made cutlery rolls for me and the husband last year, and all of our workmates are envious! It is a great way to save on all that plastic.

Just curious what do you pack everything in? My hubby has a rigid cooler with nylon cover that he has had for years. I've gone through a few of them, I have bad zipper mojo and my latest find is a bag made by Bazura that gets lots of great comments and holds my lunch beautifully. Here's the link...http://www.reusablebags.com/store/bazura-bags-medium-insulated-lunch-p-652.html

Thanks for all the great tips!

Anonymous said...

How have I not come across your blog before now?? I have a lot of catch-up reading to do :)

Marfa said...

Your lunch looks scrumptious...thanks for the great ideas!
P.S. I also LOVE the made in USA! Local, (even just the country) is best.