Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lunch jars

How to pack lunch to take to the office?  I've been pondering that question for a while.  Here have been some of the choices, and also some of the why-I'm-not-quite-happy with those -- and also my happy recent discovery.

Sandwich bags (and really, for me, any plastic bag is a sandwich bag.  Pantyhose bags, coffee filter bagss, chocolate chip bags . . .  I'll repurpose just about anything).
  • Advantages: cheap, all-too-abundant (unfortunately).
  • Disadvantages: Can't hold soup or other left-overs; things get smooshed by my laptop and books.
Plastic containers.
  • Advantages: convenient size, good for left-overs.  Don't usually leak.  I can freeze leftovers in them if by some miracle there are lots of leftovers despite my voracious boys.  The husband acquires the plastic stuff through his non-miser purchases of lunch meats (unless I do preventative shopping), so we have lots of them.
  • Disadvantages: Sometimes leak.  I'm a bit nervous about heating things up in plastic, too.  Some people don't worry at all about plastic touching their food; some people are plastic puritans; I'm somewhere in the middle but sliding surely leftward.  
My momentarily organized collection of pyrex and plastic containers.
Pyrex bowls.
  • Advantages: These can go in the freezer AND in the microwave.  
  • Disadvantages: They leak.  Soup is right out for transportation, unless it's frozen.  And, although they are fairly durable, when they do break, they cost money to replace.
Thermoses and metal lunch boxes.
  • Advantages: they don't leak, or so I've heard.
  • Disadvantages: For me, the big one is I'd have to go buy them -- that's why I have no photos.  A close second is that they're single purpose.  I'm searching for something versatile, that doesn't mind playing multiple roles in the kitchen.
I was fretting about lunch wrappings again the other night once again as I was cleaning out the dishwasher and packing up that night's soup . . . when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a clean canning jar, and 8 bottles of beer!  Well, okay not really the bottles of beer.  But the canning jar, yes.

Canning jars.
  • Advantages: I have a lot of them lying around.  I've tried using them for about a week now, and they haven't leaked yet.  They hold just about anything except sandwiches (pictured below are noodles, lentil soup, and homemade yogurt).  They're microwavable.
  • Disadvantages:  Not good for the freezer.  Not good for sandwiches.
Lunch in 3 jars:
leftover noodles, homemade yogurt, and leftover lentil soup.

In fact, the lunch jar experiment has proved so successful that this past weekend I tried my hand at homemade yogurt for the first time.  (Big nod to Frugal Girl here).  It worked!  yay!!

Canning jars are not going to be right for everyone, of course.  They cost a bunch up front (maybe close to $1/jar new).  I've read reports of thrift shops selling them for 20¢ a piece, but my local so-called-thrift shops charge 78¢ each -- and that's even without lids and rings.  If all you're going to use them for is lunch, it might make as much sense to thrift-shop-purchase a thermos or lunch box, depending on your situation.

But for me, I have piles of jars around -- I'm finally at the point where I'm getting them from friends and family.  For me, this isn't a "go out and buy" solution; it's a "gratitude for what I already have" solution.  And gratitude, contentment, even delight -- that's a great combination to take to lunch each day.  Yum!


  1. Really any jar will do; salsa jars, pickle jars, peanut butter jars, jelly or jam jars; I hadn't thought of this before, but I do have canning jars and the aforementioned jars sitting around calling out for a useful life. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Nice, looks like a great solution! I just came across a crockpot making yogurt that I will be trying next month! Glad to hear yours turned out!