For those that don’t have access to a stove or microwave at lunch time, variety can be a challenge. That lack of variety was costing me $500 a year until I found a tool to make lunches at work more interesting.
Lunch without a microwave can be tough
Earlier this year I took a new job. It has a been a great experience overall, but a couple of the drawbacks are that my new office isn’t close enough to my home to go home for lunch, and there is no microwave in the break room.
I asked my boss if we could get a microwave, but my boss explained she didn’t think a microwave was a great idea because our office is small and a microwave would make the whole place smell like food. That explanation made sense, but it left me short on options for lunch.
I started making myself a cold sandwich every day for lunch, and I had that day after day after day. A cold sandwich is a great lunch from time to time, but it gets pretty boring when you have it for lunch everyday.Because I was bored with sandwiches, I started going out to lunch at least a couple times a week.
Besides the fact that meals eaten at restaurants are generally not as healthy as making your own meals I started spending a lot of money. If you assume a restaurant lunch costs $5 more than a lunch you pack I was spending an extra $10 a week when I ate out twice in a week.If you take 2 weeks of vacation a year that means you work 50 weeks a year, and eating out twice a week will cost you $500 a year! This wasn’t working out for me, so I had to think of something.
An ordinary thermos doesn’t cut it
I got an old thermos from a garage sale, but that didn’t work out so well. I made a can of tomato soup in the morning and poured it into the thermos to go along with my sandwich. By lunch time, the soup was barely luke warm, and cold tomato soup isn’t any better than a cold sandwich.
This thermos wasn’t going to work. I don’t normally subscribe to the school of thought that says you get what you paid for, but I wondered if maybe a higher quality thermos might keep soup hot enough for lunch.
The food jar
I read some reviews online, and found the Stanley Food Jar got the best reviews. I was skeptical about paying $27 for a thermos, but figured if it would save me $500 a year that $27 was nothing, so I went ahead and bought it. (Tip: When buying on Amazon, check all the different colors and sizes. For some reason one color or another is usually cheaper than the other.)
The food jar arrived on a Friday and the first thing I noticed was that it claimed to keep food warm for 15 hours. I decided to test this claim by filling it with boiling water and letting it sit for 15 hours. Just as I suspected, the good folks at Stanley were flat out lieing when they said their food jar could keep food hot for 15 hours. It can’t. After 15 hours, the water was room temperature. After lieing to me right off the bat, I was more sceptical than ever that this food jar would work out better than the cheap thermos I tried.
I went ahead and tried it out Monday morning and it worked great. I started by filling up the food jar with hot water for about 10 minutes to make sure the jar was nice and hot before I put the soup in it. Then I heated up the soup until it was too hot to eat. You don’t want to make it merely warm enough to eat, you want to heat it up until it’s too hot to eat so that when lunch time rolls around the food will still be nice and hot.
It worked! The soup was nice and hot when I went to eat it about 5 hours after I packed it. All of a sudden lunches weren’t limited to cold sandwiches, but I had all kinds of options available to keep boredom away so I wasn’t tempted to go to restaurants all the time.
In addition to being better at keeping food hot than a regular thermos, the food jar also is nice and wide, so it is easier to fit a wide variety of food into it than a narrow thermos made for liquids.
Experimenting with different stuff for lunch
Now that I had more options, I started experimenting to see what kind of things worked well. To tell you the truth, everything I tried worked well. The food jar kept everything nice and hot long enough to enjoy it at lunch.My wife is a great cook, so the leftovers of pretty much anything she makes for dinner the night before makes a great lunch. Here are some things you might want to try:
Soup- This one is the most obvious, and is a great choice to go along with a cold sandwich. Some times I will make a big pot of chili or homemade chicken noodle soup to last me the week on Sunday nights. I also keep a good supply of canned soup around for those times when there are no leftovers from the night before and I need to come up with something fast.
Pasta dishes- You might think pasta would get overcooked from being kept hot that long, but it really works pretty well. My favorite is a dish non-Mid-westerners might not be familiar with called chicken and noodles (not the soup). Plain old spagehetti works great too. I boil the spahetti just like normal, but to get the spaghetti sauce nice and hot I warm that up in the microwave before adding it to the food spaghetti in the food jar. Nothing is stopping you from throwing in a few microwaved meatballs, either.
Rice dishes- I have tried jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo, and Chinese fried rice. It all works great. Rice dishes are some of my favorites because they are also very economical.Mashed potatoes- Whenever my wife makes mashed potatoes for dinner, I always ask her to make extra for my lunch the next day. This makes a filling side dish to go with baked chicken, roast beef, or whatever other left overs are on hand.
Hot sandwiches- I know I got the food jar, to get away from sandwiches, but now hot sandwiches are one of my favorite lunches. Don’t put the bread in the food jar, pack that seperately and just put the sandwich filling in the food jar. A meatball sub is super easy to make, just microwave a few meatballs along with a 1/4 cup of spaghetti sauce and throw it in the jar. I often eat last nights leftovers in sandwich form. My favorite was when my wife was feeling fancy and made chicken parmesan for dinner.
>If you don’t have access to a microwave or stove at lunch time cold sandwiches get boring and make you want to spend money eating out. Most thermoses aren’t thermosey enough to keep food hot for 5 hours, but the Stanley Food Jar is thermosey enough. Now I am able to eat delicious leftovers everyday in my office, which saves me time and money since I don’t go to restaurants.