There are a million really cute articles, videos, and blogs about how to pack cute, healthy, and totally ridiculous kids lunch boxes. That’s great, but after you cut out the sandwiches into the shape of a panda, and arrange the carrots and celery to look like a palm tree, try packing something good for yourself to bring to work…
- Get a good lunch bag – This is a tough find and I’m constantly on the lookout for the perfect lunch bag. You want something that can handle a few containers and an ice pack and still be able to close. The best one I found is actually one that my sister bought for me last year. It’s a cooler bag that goes completely in the freezer because the lining is made of ice pack. It rolls up into a tube shape, holds a ton of stuff, and stays cold for a long time, you can find it here.
- Containers are key – Some of the best containers for packing a lunch box are the bulk plastic ones that you can find at kitchen equipment stores. In our family we call them “Chinese food containers” because my Mom would always save the ones that the soup and other things came in from the Chinese food takeout order. They come in a few sizes, and are small, stack well and tightly close so you don’t have to worry about leaking. They are also cheap and you can toss them in the dishwasher. The bottom line about your containers is that they have to fit in your lunch bag well, otherwise you won’t use them and you will get frustrated trying to get everything you want for the day in there.
- Think about your day – When you are getting ready to pack up your lunch, stop and think about what your day will look like. Do you have non-stop meetings all afternoon, are you leaving early to pick up the kids, do you have clients coming in for a lunch meeting? All of that influences what you need to pack for the day. If you know that you will be stuck at your desk all day on conference calls, make sure to pack a few more snacks, or think about doing an easy lunch like a salad or sandwich that you don’t have to leave your desk to warm up. If you are leaving early maybe you pack a couple things that you know you can eat in the car like granola bars or dried fruit for an afternoon boost. If you know you have a lunch meeting, go light on what you bring, and if you have an open calendar, throw in some of those leftovers from last night because you will have time to actually walk to the kitchen and warm them. It’s one of my weird idiosyncrasies that I hate bringing home stuff in my lunch bag. I know, I’m strange, but it almost makes packing a lunch a competitive game…h+ow spot on can I get it to where I’m not missing anything and not bringing anything home either. It’s the little things that amuse me…
- Pack snacks – Kids aren’t the only ones who need snack time. I can’t stress this enough, you need snacks throughout the day. Pieces of fruit, mixed nuts, hummus and veggies, string cheese, whatever. You need fuel throughout the day and snacks will keep your blood sugar at an even keel so that you don’t end up being starving and binging on something you will regret eating later on. Sometimes my lunch is completely comprised of “snacks” eaten throughout the day. One of my favorite things right now is pretzel chips and hummus, or a couple string cheese with a couple clementines. Yogurt is always a good go to snack as is hand fruit like bananas, apples, pears…they travel well and can be eaten on the go if you need them too.
- Don’t forget the extras – I hate it when I forget things I need in order to eat with and of course I forget them on the days when I have no time to go down to the cafe and get them. Remember to pack silverware, napkins, and even a paper plate sometimes if you need it for reheating. I know I used to keep lots of those throw away items at my desk, but now that I don’t have a dedicated office space and use a drop in desk, I need to make sure all of that makes its way into the bag.
- Pack a little something sweet – Whatever it is, a piece of chocolate, a slice of banana bread, or a couple cookies you made with the kids over the weekend you want something in there that is a little treat. When 3:00 pm rolls around and your eyes glaze over as you scroll through emails, listen to the drone of conference calls, or read one more document, you will need something to snap you out of the monotony as well as something that tastes good with a cup of coffee or tea for a little extra caffeine boost to get you through til quitting time.
I don’t pack a lunch every day, especially now that I work from my home most days, but being able to go into the office and know that I don’t have to worry about what I’m eating and when I can go get it makes the day a little easier. Packing a smart lunch keeps you focused, helps you reduce food waste, since leftovers can be utilized, and even keeps you healthier as you keep your body fueled throughout the day.