Starting Right: Brown Bag Equipment

“The readiness is all.”  (Hamlet, Act V, Scene II)

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For many years, I was a traveling trainer for a government agency.  My job required that I drive long distances to remote offices all over Los Angeles County.  I frequently taught at locations that did not offer drinks or any other refreshments.  If I were lucky, there might be a Starbucks or other restaurant nearby, but that was not always the case.  So I had to provide for myself if I had any hope of eating during the day.

Here’s a list of equipment that I found useful during my time as a trainer:

Lunch bag.  I’m extremely absent-minded, especially in the morning.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked out the door without my keys, or my wallet, or… my lunch bag.  To get organized before leaving for work, I started packing all my items (purses, lunch bags, coffee thermos) into a rolling backpack.  To save room, I needed a small, compact food carrier that would easily fit inside the backpack.

After checking prices at various locations, I settled on an Arctic Zone lunch bag which I bought at Walmart for $7.97.

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The bag is approximately 6″x9″ and well insulated.  It has two interior sections for food storage.  And it easily fits into a backpack.

Individual food containers.  Walmart carries these items for $6.92.  They fit nicely into the Arctic Zone lunch bag, and they are BPA free, freezer safe, microwave safe, and dishwasher safe.

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By the way:  In a previous blog, I referred to the fact that it’s important to keep food cold until it’s consumed or heated up.  We certainly don’t want to get salmonella poisoning from our food.  So please put a frozen cold pack in your lunch bag before leaving the house.

Thermos.  What if you don’t have access to a microwave and you want a hot lunch?  There are a few options out there.  For example, a solid steel Thermos will keep food hot or cold for hours.  Here’s what I’ve always used:

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I bought this item on Amazon.com for $19.99.  It’s more expensive than other types of thermos….but it works.  If you want to use the Genuine Thermos for a hot lunch, fill it with very hot water from the tap and let sit for 10 minutes.  Then pour the water out and add your heated food.  Just as the label says, this thermos will keep your stuff hot for hours, and it holds up to 16 oz. of food.  Caveat:  The thermos works best with foods that contain plenty of liquid, such as oatmeal, soup, and stews.  It does not keep pilaf or pasta warm for a long time.  But here’s something else that does…..

Plug-in Lunch Warmer.  Over the last few years, experts have developed a whole list of plug-in lunch containers that are alternatives to microwaves or toaster ovens.  I’ve tried one or two of these items.  My favorite is the Crock-Pot Lunch Warmer.

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CROCK POT

You can purchase the lunch warmer online from various sources, including Amazon.com, Target, Best Buy, and crock-pot.com.  It holds 20 oz. and costs anywhere from $19.99 to $29.99, depending on where you buy it.  (I note that Best Buy advertises it at the lower price.)

The lunch warmer is by far my favorite brown bag device.  It heats your food within two hours without burning or drying it up.  The best feature is the double seal, which keeps food odors from escaping while lunch is cooking.  Thus, you can plug the warmer in at your desk without bothering your neighbors.  I’ve warmed up everything from stews to pasta to pilaf, and the results are always great.  By the way, the inner container is removable and very easy to clean.  Caveat:  Although the instructions indicate that you can coil the plug-in cord around the base of the warmer for storage, do not do this.  Over time, this stresses the base of the cord, and the warmer will eventually short out.  I found out the hard way and ended up purchasing another one.  Also, do not cook raw food with this lunch warmer.  It’s only to be used for warming food that’s already cooked.

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