I have a confession to make.
My name is Sasha, and I’ve spent the last five years completely opposed to bringing my lunch to work. Diametrically opposed, in fact. I’d shudder when my favorite frugal bloggers brought it up, shifting to the next topic as quickly as I could.
“Yes,” I’d think to myself, “I know I’m spending $10-$12 per day on lunch alone, not to mention those $3 muffins I occasionally fall prey to in the morning. Yes, I know it must cost me an insane amount of money per year. But I don’t care because I can’t spare the time to deal with the headache of bringing lunch. I’m organized, but too busy to be that organized.”
And on I went, repeating my daily lunch mantra, scoffing at the unsexy brown lunch bags people pulled, half-frozen, from our cramped little minifridge at work as I wandered off in search of something more exciting — namely, the same exact salad I’d buy almost every day from the place around the corner, then devour over my keyboard. Yep, most of the time, my lunch was downright thrilling.
I have another confession to make, however. I’ve changed.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been bringing my salads myself. In spite of vowing never to do this again after excavating my precious organic baby lettuces from the minifridge only to find each leaf encased in ice, here I am, toting in my haute cuisine.
Why the change? I’m a huge fan of gadgets, and recently discovered some toys just cool enough that I’m willing to spare the time to load them up each evening.
It started with this:
Fit & Fresh Salad Shaker
When I turned the corner in the supermarket and spied this item, I knew I had to have it, but at around $10, I picked it up and put it down again a few times before taking the leap. It’s big enough for a filling lunch salad, my utensils are included with the lid so I don’t have to mooch from my coworker’s stash, and, best of all, there’s a cute little separate dressing chamber that deploys — and I do mean deploys — itself into your salad with the twist of a dial. It’s so amusing that I’ve demonstrated it for several coworkers already. There’s a specially-sized ice pack which sits under the cover, so I can keep this in my tote till lunch without ever again experiencing Ice Age lettuce. I’m sold, and I now spend my lunches feasting on nice, organic farmers market salads.
The, company, Fit & Fresh, also makes a cute chilled sandwich container which features separate compartments for bread, filling and condiments to keep things fresh and unsoggy, and best of all, a breakfast kit which holds cereal, milk (within a chilled ice ring) fruit and even a spoon. To me it seems a truly decadent, not to mention inexpensive option to have a big bowl of cereal with fruit at my desk in the morning.
These containers aren’t the cheapest options, certainly, but to me the fun factor is worth it and I like the reusability aspect, replacing disposable containers or utensils.
Come to think of it, a bento box-type setup like the Mr. Bento by Zojirushi with separate little microwaveable dishes in an insulated container would be pretty cool, too, albeit more pricey. There’s even a version pour les femmes, known as Ms. Bento.
And lest one’s beverage become boring in comparison, there’s My SIGG, a series of wildly customizable reusable aluminum water bottles, meant to be an eco- and budget- friendly alternative to disposable bottled water. Well, once one gets past the initial $20-something expense, that is.
I now realize it could end up costing me quite a lot to save money by bringing my lunch, but as long as I exercise some restraint, I should still be better off than I was buying my bodega salads. Personally, I prefer to invest in a few fun, reusable basics rather than a stockpile of disposable items, but I’m entertained by the range of options overall, from that crumpled brown bag and tin-foiled turkey club on up.
Do you have any fun lunch accessories to share? What works best for you?
Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published September 5, 2007.