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  #1  
Old 04-25-2010, 01:47 PM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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Portable healthy lunch ideas that don't require refrigeration or a microwave

Mods, if this is more appropriate to MPSIS, by all means move it, but I thought it might go in Cafe because it's about food.

The next two weeks at work I'll be doing a lot of driving and holding meetings out of the office for almost the whole day, every day. I've never worked a job or internship where I didn't have access to a fridge, freezer, and microwave. Most of my lunches are stored in Pyrex in the fridge, and I usually bring leftovers from the night before, so they get heated up in the microwave. Off the top of my head, the only lunch I could think that wouldn't need to be refrigerated would be a nut butter (I like almond) sandwich. But don't cut up fruits and vegetables need refrigeration? Any sort of cheese or meat would, right? Or am I going to be eating essentially vegan meals for the next two weeks to be on the safe side?

Could an insulated lunch bag solve my problem? I guess I'd be going with all the contents being cold. Does anyone have an insulated lunch bag recommendations? I don't think I've carried a lunch bag since the fourth grade.

Help!

Last edited by lindsaybluth; 04-25-2010 at 01:48 PM..
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  #2  
Old 04-25-2010, 02:01 PM
Hello Again Hello Again is online now
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No, most things actually do not need refrigeration for the 3-4 hours before lunch. As long as you never use Mayo, and avoid "wet" dairy products like sour cream, you'll be fine.

There's fridge drama at my work, so I never use it. A typical lunch for me is: some meat like cubed roast beef or grilled chicken, raw veggies, a bit of tabouleh salad or humus, some fruit, and a chunk of cheese. All perfectly fine when previously refrigerated.
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Old 04-25-2010, 02:01 PM
Manda JO Manda JO is online now
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I eat baked chicken pieces, carrots, and strawberries (all separate). The strawberries are frozen, so they work as an "ice pack": the chicken stays cool, if not cold, and it hasn't killed me yet. I now have an insulated lunch box, which helps (bought at Target), but honestly, I've done this for years and I just don't worry to much about cold food in a closed container moving towards room temperature for a morning.

If your lunch will be sitting in a hot parked car all day (instead of an air-conditioned building), you might want to throw in an ice pack or two. If you get a cheap styrofoam cooler and dump ice in it, stuff will stay COLD all day.
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Old 04-25-2010, 02:08 PM
Superfluous Parentheses Superfluous Parentheses is offline
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Most cooked meats and stuff like cheese and salad greens will stay edible for hours outside of the fridge. I know because I took sandwiches with me to school for over a decade.

Also: fruit, nuts and everything else you don't need to store in the fridge in the first place are obvious choices.

Last edited by Superfluous Parentheses; 04-25-2010 at 02:09 PM..
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Old 04-25-2010, 02:09 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Why would freshl fruits and vegetables need refrigeration? Perhaps you've noticed at the store they are displayed without refrigeration?

I've worked a couple jobs were there is no access to fridge, microwave, etc. where I basically work out of my car, or at least have it nearby. Here is what I do:

1) Large Styrofoam cooler. This can be a cheap one if it lives in the trunk of a car. You want to pay for insulation, not a fancy exterior of no practical value.

2) Blue freeze packs - you know what I mean. I use a large one, and have two, so I use one on one day while the spare is in the freezer, then switch them the next day.

3) Sandwiches are your friend. Meat and cheese are OK as long as they're in the cooler. If you really want to be safe stay away from mayonnaise and similar condiments, unless you get sealed one-serving packs. Personally, unless it's really, really hot I'll slather on mayo and the like and I haven't had a problem, but some people are more concerned about that than others.

4) Salads can work - but may wilt or brown slightly over time, but I find they usually last until lunch with no problem. Bring the dressing in a separate container and apply just before eating.

5) Bring your fruits and vegees. Yum!

6) Bring DRINKS. Bring at least one serving of plain old water, along with other beverage(s) of your choice.

7) Add a couple extra snacky type things - a small thing of pretzels, for example, or some crackers, just in case you get extra hungry or have a delay or something.

(Now you know why I suggested a full size cooler)

If you don't have room for a cooler, or don't want to use one, keeping perishables in an insulated bag can work IF it's a type that has a compartment or room for a small freezer pack. As noted, fruits and vegees don't need refrigerator unless you put something perishable on top of them.

In addition - bring NAPKINS, or a roll of paper towels. Bring hand sanitizer. Bring cutlery - plastic or real, whichever. A small paring knife for cutting up fruits and vegetables if you like them that way, slicing open stubborn condiment packages, and so forth. Oh yes, - condiments. Save those single-serve packets from restaurants: ketchup, mustard, mayo, salt, pepper, sugar, soy sauce, sweet and sour, BBQ, horseradish, etc.

With that, you should be fully equipped to eat anywhere you can park your car. If you wind up with better accommodations where you're going that's great, but if you're on the road a lot best to be prepared. This may be overkill for some people, so scale back according to your needs.

(I also carry a roll of toilet paper in a zip lock baggie - I sometimes work places where I"m not even guaranteed a toilet, much less paper! Hope you aren't encountering those extremes.)
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Old 04-25-2010, 02:13 PM
Sehmket Sehmket is offline
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When I was in high school, my dad went through some fridge drama at his work. He got a tiny cooler - one that's just big enough for his lunch. He packed his lunch the night before, then stuck the whole thing in the fridge, which kept it nice and cool until lunch time.

All through school (k-12), I packed my lunch with a frozen Capri Sun or Hi-C and a frozen sandwich (I was a consistant kind of gal). Even in a toasty locker, it stayed... well, not cool, but it was better than most people's lunches.
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Old 04-25-2010, 02:21 PM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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I know it sounds gross, but yogurt will be okay. My FIL likes things room temp and let's his lunch (yogurt and a sandwich I think) sit on his desk all day. Never had a problem.
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Old 04-25-2010, 02:22 PM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
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You can also freeze yoghurt overnight and take it in the morning. By noon, iy will be dethawed and fine to eat.
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  #9  
Old 04-25-2010, 02:47 PM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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Woah, so many great responses!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
If your lunch will be sitting in a hot parked car all day (instead of an air-conditioned building), you might want to throw in an ice pack or two. If you get a cheap styrofoam cooler and dump ice in it, stuff will stay COLD all day.
Could you give a cite, so I could see what kind of cooler you mean (I've only seen really huge ones before)? Unfortunately I don't have an ice maker, so ice would be a problem, but I do have lots of cold packs.

Broomstick, you have a lot of great ideas - especially the condiments ideas. I'll just give up salads for the two weeks. I guess I could go to McDonald's and buy a $1 menu item and get a bunch of condiments there, or maybe Boston Market because they'd be higher quality/larger. Do you have any specific recommendations for where to get a range of condiments?

I'm not sure whether to go with the cooler or a lunch bag still. If anyone has used both and has a strong preference either way, that would help.

I think some days my lunch would sit in the somewhat hot parked car (my car is black on black, and the high is between 60-65, with Friday being 75) and other days would be on my desk of the day in the A/C.
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Old 04-25-2010, 03:12 PM
Jeff Maple Jeff Maple is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
I guess I could go to McDonald's and buy a $1 menu item and get a bunch of condiments there, or maybe Boston Market because they'd be higher quality/larger. Do you have any specific recommendations for where to get a range of condiments?
Isn't that akin to stealing?
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  #11  
Old 04-25-2010, 03:14 PM
Fuzzy Dunlop Fuzzy Dunlop is offline
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Originally Posted by Jeff Maple View Post
Isn't that akin to stealing?
Nope. Why would you think that?
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  #12  
Old 04-25-2010, 03:17 PM
Jeff Maple Jeff Maple is offline
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Originally Posted by Fuzzy Dunlop View Post
Nope. Why would you think that?
Let's see. Buying a $1.00 value sandwich, the most one could reasonably expect to use is 1-2 condiment packets. How is taking more than that NOT stealing? Especially with the specific intent to use them for future, non restaurant purchased meals? Are you kidding?

Last edited by Jeff Maple; 04-25-2010 at 03:18 PM..
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  #13  
Old 04-25-2010, 03:22 PM
Manda JO Manda JO is online now
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Like this:
http://www.school-for-champions.com/...oam_cooler.jpg

The little ones are like $10, I think? Look in the "seasonal" aisle of your grocery store, Walmart, or Target. They should have the "summer" displays out, and they always include these.
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  #14  
Old 04-25-2010, 03:42 PM
Visual Purple Visual Purple is offline
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Since you don't have an ice maker, you'll probably want to buy an ice cube tray just for general use. For ice packs, get the blue things in plastic bags. Sandwiches with mustard will survive in a hot car. They aren't as healthy as I'd like, but if you choose a reasonable cold cut or cheese, it's not too bad. Lettuce will get gross if the car is in the sun, but tomato will just sort of cook. Baby cut carrots are indestructible, as are many whole fruit--not ripish peaches or bananas, though. Hot yoghurt is not to my taste, but it's spoilage resistant. I'd probably go for cheese, bread to cut on the spot, carrots, and fruit.
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  #15  
Old 04-25-2010, 03:58 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
Broomstick, you have a lot of great ideas - especially the condiments ideas. I'll just give up salads for the two weeks. I guess I could go to McDonald's and buy a $1 menu item and get a bunch of condiments there, or maybe Boston Market because they'd be higher quality/larger. Do you have any specific recommendations for where to get a range of condiments?
Whatever you usually like to have, basically. I wouldn't grab handfuls, but 1 or 2 more than you usually use won't be a problem. Ketchup is easy - if you got to a place like McDonad's or Burger King say "can I have some ketchup?" and they'll usually dump in a handful. Arby's has "horsey sauce", which is horseradish (sort of), and any Chinese take out has sweet and sour as well as soy. McDonald's also has sweet and sour, and a variety of other "dipping" sauces to go with their chicken nuggets.

Like I said, I don't advocate running off with great handfuls, but taking a few isn't a problem. I pick them up when I am out eating fast food or whatever. As long as they're sealed it shouldn't be a problem, although I wouldn't trust something like mayo if at high heat for a prolong period. Just a few hours, though, are OK.

I actually don't eat ketchup at all, but if I'm somewhere that has mayo or mustard packs I'll grab a few. Truck stops and "stop-n-rob" stores with the hot dogs/brats turning in the back usually have all sorts of condiment packs.

Quote:
I'm not sure whether to go with the cooler or a lunch bag still. If anyone has used both and has a strong preference either way, that would help.
I like the cooler (in fact, I own four - when I'm working outside in heat I'll have one with food and one with just drinks) but really, it's what works for YOU.

Quote:
I think some days my lunch would sit in the somewhat hot parked car (my car is black on black, and the high is between 60-65, with Friday being 75) and other days would be on my desk of the day in the A/C.
For the car I'd recommend a cooler, but for sitting on your desk the lunch bag would certainly blend in better (When I went for my Census training I got teased a bit for my "construction worker lunch box" which, um, yes, it was that, as I do do that sort of work these days).
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Old 04-25-2010, 04:12 PM
Jeff Maple Jeff Maple is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
Like I said, I don't advocate running off with great handfuls, but taking a few isn't a problem.
How do you get to decide this? If you're taking more than you need for your sandwich, with the specific intent of using it later, it's stealing. Do you take extra TP from the restroom, too?
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  #17  
Old 04-25-2010, 04:23 PM
Superfluous Parentheses Superfluous Parentheses is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
Unfortunately I don't have an ice maker, so ice would be a problem, but I do have lots of cold packs.
I may be misinterpreting you, but an ice maker is something that makes only ice. Ice packs can just be thrown into the freezer, assuming you have one.
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  #18  
Old 04-25-2010, 04:39 PM
Manda JO Manda JO is online now
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A bag of ice is also $1. You can stick it in the freezer and top off the cooler every day.
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  #19  
Old 04-25-2010, 04:40 PM
singular1 singular1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Maple View Post
How do you get to decide this? If you're taking more than you need for your sandwich, with the specific intent of using it later, it's stealing. Do you take extra TP from the restroom, too?
Lighten up, Frances.
Tell ya what, OP - in the past 56 years, anytime I have ever gotten a sandwich at a fast food or stop&rob, I've never taken any condiments that didn't come on the food. I usually ask them to leave them off in the first place. I'm just not a condiment kinda gal. So go ahead and *gasp* grab a couple extra packets to get you thru the next two weeks, and Karmically we'll all come out even without bruising the tender Ethicometers of bunched-panty bunch.
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Old 04-25-2010, 04:44 PM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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Just pick up hitchhikers. You'll probably want to stash a shovel in your trunk to get rid of leftovers.

Oh, wait ... you said you can't cook on the road.
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  #21  
Old 04-25-2010, 04:48 PM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
Broomstick, you have a lot of great ideas - especially the condiments ideas. I'll just give up salads for the two weeks. I guess I could go to McDonald's and buy a $1 menu item and get a bunch of condiments there, or maybe Boston Market because they'd be higher quality/larger. Do you have any specific recommendations for where to get a range of condiments?
No specific recommendations, but you do raise an interesting possibility for discussion.

Napkin Sandwiches!
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  #22  
Old 04-25-2010, 04:55 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manda JO View Post
Like this:
http://www.school-for-champions.com/...oam_cooler.jpg

The little ones are like $10, I think? Look in the "seasonal" aisle of your grocery store, Walmart, or Target. They should have the "summer" displays out, and they always include these.
I was thinking of something like this, which is a Stanley Lunchbox Cooler. Many construction workers carry their lunches in something like it, and they may not even be able to leave it someplace shaded all morning.
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  #23  
Old 04-25-2010, 05:11 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Maple View Post
How do you get to decide this? If you're taking more than you need for your sandwich, with the specific intent of using it later, it's stealing.
If I go to a fast food place (as an example) and they dump a handful of condiments into the bag without my asking I figure it's OK - they're giving that stuff to me to either eat immediately or do with what I will. If I'm ordering I might say "Hey, can I have an extra dipping sauce?" and if they give me one, cool, or if not, no problem. If I'm in a "greasy spoon" diner and they give me two horseradish sauce to go with the corned beef and cabbage I just ordered I might eat one there and take the other with me. If I'm going to a truck stop and grab a few extra condiment packs I'll usually say "do you mind if I take these to go?" Almost always it's no problem, although sometimes places might charge you a nickel or a quarter and if so I'll pay it.

In other words, I'm not going into a back room and plundering supplies. I'm not sneaking anything out the door. I ask if I can take a few extra and if it's not OK I don't argue and I don't steal.

No, I'm not making napkin sandwiches on the sly.

MOST places don't mind you doing this. Seriously, they don't, as long as you aren't grabbing handfuls. I'm way honest, that's why I ask, but plenty of folks just grab a few extra. I'm sure this isn't a revelation, as the stuff is usually out in the open and as long as you're buying something else and not going condiments crazy they seem to regard it as a service to customers. Like I said, I'm perfectly willing to make token payments.

Quote:
Do you take extra TP from the restroom, too?
No, as previously stated I keep a spare roll in the car or truck in a ziplock baggie. Just in case some prior dishonest bastard DID steal the TP in the bathroom before I got there.
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  #24  
Old 04-25-2010, 05:17 PM
Manda JO Manda JO is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I was thinking of something like this, which is a Stanley Lunchbox Cooler. Many construction workers carry their lunches in something like it, and they may not even be able to leave it someplace shaded all morning.
I am assuming she wants to keep things cheap, since this is a two week gig.
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Old 04-25-2010, 05:18 PM
kaylasdad99 kaylasdad99 is online now
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You put horseradish on corned beef?
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  #26  
Old 04-25-2010, 05:28 PM
Jeff Maple Jeff Maple is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by singular1 View Post
Lighten up, Frances.
Tell ya what, OP - in the past 56 years, anytime I have ever gotten a sandwich at a fast food or stop&rob, I've never taken any condiments that didn't come on the food. I usually ask them to leave them off in the first place. I'm just not a condiment kinda gal. So go ahead and *gasp* grab a couple extra packets to get you thru the next two weeks, and Karmically we'll all come out even without bruising the tender Ethicometers of bunched-panty bunch.
Why would anyone need stolen condiments to get you "thru" the next two weeks? They do sell ketchup, mustard, mayo, salt, pepper, etc at the store. Go buy some.
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Old 04-25-2010, 08:01 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Originally Posted by kaylasdad99 View Post
You put horseradish on corned beef?
My husband does.

Once in awhile I do, too, now.
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  #28  
Old 04-25-2010, 08:47 PM
Jeff Maple Jeff Maple is offline
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Why does the SDMB promote a culture of theft?
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Old 04-25-2010, 09:06 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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I thought I made it clear I wasn't stealing anything - unless using the packets the fast food drone dumps into your to-go bag that you have paid for now somehow constitutes stealing.
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Old 04-25-2010, 09:39 PM
GilaB GilaB is offline
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People are very afraid of mayo sitting out of the refrigerator for any length of time, but bought mayonnaise is actually quite stable and unlikely to go bad. (The homemade stuff is supposed to be vastly tastier, but isn't made from pasteurized eggs and such.) Don't worry about using a bit of mayo in your cheese sandwich, or whatever else you'd normally do with it.

In what sort of environment will you be working? Is it an air-conditioned building that just lacks kitchen facilities? At that point, just brown-bag it, and don't worry about any special cooling mechanisms. If you'll be outside, or leaving your lunch in a hot vehicle, then get the cooler.
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  #31  
Old 04-25-2010, 09:41 PM
needscoffee needscoffee is offline
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Store-bought mayonnaise doesn't even have to be stored in the refrigerator after opening (read the jar). It's not going to go bad in your sandwich.
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Old 04-25-2010, 09:50 PM
Jeff Maple Jeff Maple is offline
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Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
I thought I made it clear I wasn't stealing anything - unless using the packets the fast food drone dumps into your to-go bag that you have paid for now somehow constitutes stealing.
That's not what yer pal Lindsay said. She was looking for ways to steal.

Last edited by Jeff Maple; 04-25-2010 at 09:50 PM..
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Old 04-25-2010, 10:27 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Maple View Post
That's not what yer pal Lindsay said. She was looking for ways to steal.
Enough already. Nobody suggested stealing anything and you're hijacking the thread. If you want to debate the ethics of taking condiments, go to IMHO, and if you want to criticize the posters who suggested keeping leftover condiments, go to the Pit.
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Old 04-26-2010, 12:30 AM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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Originally Posted by Superfluous Parentheses View Post
I may be misinterpreting you, but an ice maker is something that makes only ice. Ice packs can just be thrown into the freezer, assuming you have one.
Right, I meant like a fridge with an automatic ice maker - that I lack. But I do have ice packs, because I have a regular freezer .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
Truck stops and "stop-n-rob" stores with the hot dogs/brats turning in the back usually have all sorts of condiment packs.

I like the cooler (in fact, I own four - when I'm working outside in heat I'll have one with food and one with just drinks) but really, it's what works for YOU.

For the car I'd recommend a cooler, but for sitting on your desk the lunch bag would certainly blend in better <snip>.
Good advice. Tomorrow I only have one meeting in the morning and a possible one in the afternoon, so I'll scout out Target for a tiny styrofoam cooler. If not, I have a big Rubbermaid I can put in the trunk and just leave there, but I'd rather trash the styrofoam after the two weeks. And don't worry, I'll have a toilet wherever I am. Even if I don't, it's a dense city, so anywhere I'd be relieving myself would be within view of people!

Quote:
Originally Posted by singular1 View Post
Tell ya what, OP - in the past 56 years, anytime I have ever gotten a sandwich at a fast food or stop&rob, I've never taken any condiments that didn't come on the food. I usually ask them to leave them off in the first place. I'm just not a condiment kinda gal. So go ahead and *gasp* grab a couple extra packets to get you thru the next two weeks, and Karmically we'll all come out even without bruising the tender Ethicometers of bunched-panty bunch.
Well thanks! It's very rare to see someone saved from the rudeness of another poster, so I appreciate it. Plus I really don't like many condiments per se, but realizing that my normal lunches are out the window (because they often need to be reheated) I'll probably be making plenty of sandwiches with condiments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I was thinking of something like this, which is a Stanley Lunchbox Cooler. Many construction workers carry their lunches in something like it, and they may not even be able to leave it someplace shaded all morning.
Right, like Manda Jo said, it's just for two weeks, then I'm back to the soft, cushy world with a kitchenette at my disposal But that's a really sweet lunchbox, I may recommend it to my brother who camps a lot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GilaB View Post
In what sort of environment will you be working? Is it an air-conditioned building that just lacks kitchen facilities? At that point, just brown-bag it, and don't worry about any special cooling mechanisms. If you'll be outside, or leaving your lunch in a hot vehicle, then get the cooler.
It's gonna be both - sometimes I'll be in an a/c'd office all day, but other times I'll be running from location to location and will probably leave my lunch in the car. So it's for both, really.

needscoffee, you're right about some stuff not needing to be refrigerated, but man, I will not eat a soggy sandwich, not even remotely soggy, so I won't be slathering on mayo before I leave the house. I'm so anal that if I have a leftover sandwich I'll peel the lettuce off and broil it for a few minutes.

So far I've got 1) condiment packets, especially mustard and mayo 2) styrofoam and cheap insulated lunch bag of some sort 3) keep everything separate so it won't get mushy 4) ice packs are my friend and 5) no overly ripe fruit.

Any main course ideas aside from sandwiches? I'll probably do a few batches of spicy peanut udon noodles with a bunch of veggies, since that's better cold than anything.
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  #35  
Old 04-26-2010, 12:59 AM
MsChilePepper MsChilePepper is offline
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I am a vendor at farmers markets, festivals, and artists shows, which means I schlep all my stuff in with me, including my meal for the day. I'm a solo act, so I can't very well run around trying to find food (which would be expensive and probably not all that healthy). Most of the time I'm outdoors, during warm months (sometimes in the 90s), and that means I'm a super-duper pro at lunch-packing!

I use an Igloo cooler (the Legend24, if you care, which is sized to hold 24 soda/beer cans). It was what I already owned when I started this gig, but it works out well because I usually take a 1.5 liter bottle of water with me, and it fits. This thing is the real deal; it is VERY well insulated. A large cooler probably isn't necessary, but if you really want to keep your stuff cold, you need more than just an insulated lunch bag thingo. Go to a thrift store for a cheap cooler! You'll be able to use it for years if you take care of it.

As for ice, ixnay on those blue ice packs that are like a plastic bag filled with goo, and don't waste money or time on ice cubes. They just don't stay cold as long as a solid block of ice. Take an empty water bottle, fill it with tap water (leave a bit of room for expansion), and chuck it in the freezer. The longer it's been frozen, the longer it will last in the cooler. In a pinch, you can drink the melted water. I use a square 1L Rubbermaid drink bottle for my ice block; it doesn't take up as much room as a round one. I just keep refreezing the same water.

I use cloth napkins at home exclusively, so I just toss a couple of my older ones into the cooler, plus a spoon or fork if I need them that day. I do leave a tiny salt/pepper shaker in the cooler, as well as some packets of Emergen-C for, y'know, emergencies. And I use Tupperware-type containers because I really hate wasting plastic bags, and they're just not as utilitarian as rigid plastic containers.

I like a sandwich and something crunchy with it, like Sun Chips or Goldfish crackers or pretzels, for my lunch. I also usually have an apple or pear and one or two sticks of string cheese. I core and slice the apple and put it in a small Tupperware container. Sandwiches and chips go in square containers, so they don't get squished. I also usually have raw baby carrots or broccoli florets, yogurt, juice or some other drink as well as water. Sometimes I'll have a salad, which I'll prep at home in a Tupperware box, dressing in a separate wee container. I tend to go for things that are easy to pick up and eat a few bites, then put it down to deal with customers, although that's likely not going to be an issue for you. And I try to bring a variety of things, because I just don't always know what I'll want to eat when I'm hungry. If I don't eat it that day, I take it home and eat it later.

Other things you can do with a little forethought:

- pasta salad with lots of veggies and Italian dressing plus maybe some grilled chicken
- a couple slices of cold pizza
- cold fried chicken and potato salad
- pita pocket sandwich
- crackers, cheese, summer sausage
- margarita in a sippy cup

My favorite sandwich is pepper-crusted deli turkey and Havarti cheese on whole grain bread, with leaf lettuce, plus roasted red pepper hummus spread on the bread with sunflower seeds smushed into the hummus (so they don't fall out!). Soooo yummy! Excellent protein-rich sammich.
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Old 04-26-2010, 01:23 AM
raindrop raindrop is offline
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Since you don't plan on condiments until later you can freeze a sandwich without condiments and that will help keep it cool a little longer. The sandwich should be thawed by lunchtime. Wrapping it well and/or putting inside a little plastic box also helps keep it cold longer.

More thoughts...
Lots of cold things packed closely together in one container keeps everything colder longer. That means that even though an apple doesn't really need refrigeration, packing a cold apple in your lunch will help keep other things cold for a longer period. Also, putting your cold lunch bag inside of another larger tote or backpack will help keep the lunch cooler. If you don't have a real insulated cooler right away just think in layers, also keeping the bag out of the sun as much as possible.

Consider nut butters in place of meat. If you're near Whole Foods you easily can find sesame, cashew, or almond butters.

You can get things like tuna in single-serving cans or tear-open aluminum pouches. Things like fruit cocktail and applesauce can also be purchased in small single-serve containers. (Don't forget plastic utensils.)

Consider things like nuts, and also dried fruits like raisins, craisins, dates, figs, prunes, apples, pineapple, yogurt-covered raisins, hard cheeses, boiled eggs, etc.

Consider including things like bran muffins, oatmeal and banana nut breads. Those are usually healthier, less sugar, and can help satisfy the craving for something sweet.

Use good quality whole grain or multi-grain breads, rolls and crackers. A multi-grain bagel is one of my favorite things to toss into a bag, because it's almost indestructible, it's very filling, and it tastes even better when it's been sitting in a hot car.

Besides fresh, dried or canned fruit, dessert can be a healthier version of cookies, like oatmeal cookies made with raisins, nuts, coconut.

Partly fill a water bottle and freeze it, leaving room for expansion during freezing. Pack it with your lunch to help keep the other contents cool, and you can drink the water when it's thawed.

There are tons of insulated lunchboxes, lunch bags, and coolers of every size and shape, both hard and soft, simple and complex. If you haven't shopped for one in a long while you'll be surprised at all your options. I have a rigid plastic one with a hinged lid that's so small it's only big enough for one sandwich. I have another that came with a removable freezable compartment in the lid. The extra compartment is designed to be filled with water and then frozen. The frozen container gets reattached to the inside of the lid when I leave the house. I also have an insulated soft one that is like a fashionable shoulder bag, and another soft one that's a backpack. One always goes with me when I hike in the woods. I even put CDs/DVDs in a cooler when carrying them back and forth to the library during the hot summer.

Okay, I just saw MsChilePepper's mention of cold fried chicken. I don't fry chicken anymore, but that reminds me that cold roasted chicken is one of my favorite things, and much better than any processed cold cuts. Also cold leftover roast beef is good.
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  #37  
Old 04-26-2010, 01:41 AM
Suse Suse is offline
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We have a few of these Fit and Fresh containers that have the ice pack that fits in the lid. One of them is a salad keeper that also has a dressing container in the lid that holds about 2 T of dressing. I would just fit the ice pack in the lid in the morning and it kept my salad and dressing cool without refrigeration until lunchtime.
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  #38  
Old 04-26-2010, 03:26 AM
jackdavinci jackdavinci is offline
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Originally Posted by Hello Again View Post
No, most things actually do not need refrigeration for the 3-4 hours before lunch. As long as you never use Mayo, and avoid "wet" dairy products like sour cream, you'll be fine..
I agree that most things do not need refrigeration beyond a 24 hour period. Lettuce is fine if not over moisturized - dry it and keep it in a container with paper towels. But what's the problem with mayo? Does it not contain enough vinegar to keep it safe practically forever? Perhaps you are thinking of various salads that contain mayo? I find that tuna salad does not last very long. Chicken salad does though. And pasta salad lasts particularly long. I think it's the things you add to the mayo and not the mayo...
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  #39  
Old 04-26-2010, 11:23 AM
kimera kimera is offline
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I work in an environment that alternates between dry and insanely humid with daily temperatures averaging between 80-105 in the shade. We don't use coolers when we pack our lunch and we've found that most foods simply don't need as much refrigeration as most Americans/Europeans give them. I try to eat eggs, dairy (unless it's cooked into a dish), and uncooked dishes with mayo by 10 am at the latest (after having been out in the field since 4 am). Chicken (the only type of meat I eat) is eaten by 12 (8 hours without refrigeration and it's fine). I've had coworkers who ate boiled eggs at 3 pm (after sitting in a hot car since 4 am) and they've been perfectly fine, but I'm more cautious with my food. Since you'll be in a more reasonable climate, you should be even safer.

If it's REALLY hot (105 in the shade, 110 walking around), I've had veggies go bad if I don't get to them until after 5, but that's only happened rarely. Lettuce never lasts in the field and I don't bring it. If I have something like jello, I try to eat it straight away, as it can melt after just a few hours in the heat. Peanut butter sandwiches last forever (put them in a tupperwear container rather than a plastic bag if you plan to be moving them around) and you can add all sorts of yummy things to them like jelly, honey, bananas, chocolate, etc. We can't bring much fruit in the field because of our job, but I do like to have apple slices with peanut butter on occasion and I just add a bit of lime juice to the apple slices to prevent them from browning.

Put your lunch in the fridge the night before, and it should last even longer than usual.

Last edited by kimera; 04-26-2010 at 11:23 AM..
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  #40  
Old 04-26-2010, 11:28 AM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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For condiments I have a variety of little condiment containers that I fill with what I need and wash out when I get home at night. Tiny squeeze bottles with caps for soy sauce, and little sealed cups, sometimes with little scoops, for thicker sauce-type condiments (most everything else). That way I don't have to be reliant on what packets are around, and can instead carry in something like that yummy bottled peanut sauce I got at the store, or even something I made myself.

You can find some of these at places like the Container Store. Their Nalgene bottle collection in the travel section is good for this, with tiny capped bottles and little lidded sealed boxes.

If you're fortunate enough to live somewhere that has a Japanese market, you may be able to find bento box (Japanese lunches in small boxed form, typically designed for non-refrigeration conditions) supplies. They have lots of little bottles and condiment containers. Alternately you can order sauce bottles and cups online from various stores.
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  #41  
Old 04-26-2010, 12:13 PM
justrob justrob is offline
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Reading this and the condiment thief thread in The Pit got me thinking that it would be nice if a person could just buy a variety pack of those single serving condiments for uses like this. So I searched and for some reason my google-fu worked, I found a link to...

A small seving website

How awesome is that place!
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  #42  
Old 04-26-2010, 12:28 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I was thinking of something like this, which is a Stanley Lunchbox Cooler. Many construction workers carry their lunches in something like it, and they may not even be able to leave it someplace shaded all morning.
Right, like Manda Jo said, it's just for two weeks, then I'm back to the soft, cushy world with a kitchenette at my disposal But that's a really sweet lunchbox, I may recommend it to my brother who camps a lot.
Another small cooler to consider is the Igloo Playmate, which is actually what I was thinking of as the cooler most often used by construction workers. The one shown is less than twenty bucks, so it might be worth it even for this short project.

Or if you don't want to spend any money, take a small duffle bag (or some other suitcase you already own) and line it with towels to insulate it.
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  #43  
Old 04-26-2010, 04:05 PM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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Originally Posted by MsChilePepper View Post
Take an empty water bottle, fill it with tap water (leave a bit of room for expansion), and chuck it in the freezer. The longer it's been frozen, the longer it will last in the cooler. <snip>
My favorite sandwich is pepper-crusted deli turkey and Havarti cheese on whole grain bread, with leaf lettuce, plus roasted red pepper hummus spread on the bread with sunflower seeds smushed into the hummus (so they don't fall out!). Soooo yummy! Excellent protein-rich sammich.
While my parents have tons of space and tons of cheapie water bottles, I don't, so I'll just stick with the frozen packs. If this were a more long term thing, I'd be sure to swipe some from home the next time I'm there.

That sandwich sounds amazing - like I said, I usually take leftovers, so it's pretty hard for me to think of sandwiches that are largely made of deli meats (egg and tuna salad would be too mushy). I have everything but the cheese, so I'll run out tonight to be sure I can make the whole concoction

Dewey, that Igloo was my first thought, but it would be really, really out of place, as functional as it is. I'll probably get a soft sided box tonight from Target or TJ Maxx, and a small styrofoam cooler to fill with water and drinks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by justrob View Post
Reading this and the condiment thief thread in The Pit got me thinking that it would be nice if a person could just buy a variety pack of those single serving condiments for uses like this.
I see it was some nut who (likely) had been previously banned. Thanks Marley - the mods often have an utterly thankless job.

Now, I usually cut my apple up in the office with the knives there, so I'll probably cut it up and put it in a baggie in the morning. I've always used lime juice for it in the past, but wasn't really a fan of the super acidic taste. Would lemon juice be less offensive?

Raindrop, I like almond butter as my go-to nut butter. What else would I like? Since they're $6 a pop, I don't want to buy something I wouldn't like.

Everyone else, you have some great recommendations, keep 'em coming!
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  #44  
Old 04-26-2010, 06:52 PM
Folly Folly is offline
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May I ask what workplace fridge drama consists of? People stealing other people's lunches?
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  #45  
Old 04-26-2010, 07:50 PM
Sehmket Sehmket is offline
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Originally Posted by Folly View Post
May I ask what workplace fridge drama consists of? People stealing other people's lunches?
Frequently it's that, but I've been at one, my dad's been at one, and my husband is currently at one workplace where the fridge drama consists of actually having a fridge - it's such an afterthought when companies are setting up new work areas.
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  #46  
Old 04-27-2010, 12:52 AM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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Oh man, fridge drama is somethin' else. My fridge drama was people constantly changing the temperature. People let their lunches rot in the fridge when they either have to or decide to order food out. They they become putrified liquid....yeah. I pity the person who has to clean out the fridge. My own fridge can get scuzzy at times.
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  #47  
Old 04-27-2010, 01:15 AM
raindrop raindrop is offline
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Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
Raindrop, I like almond butter as my go-to nut butter. What else would I like? Since they're $6 a pop, I don't want to buy something I wouldn't like.
I like almond butter too. I also like sesame (aka tahini), and cashew butters. I expect if there's a nut you like you'll also like its butter version. When compared to peanut butter the other nut butters seem expensive, but that's only because peanuts are so darn cheap. But when compared to meat, tuna, and cold-cuts, nut butters aren't so unreasonable. Or if you're adventurous you might want to try making your own to save on the cost.
http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/gist96.html

Talking about nut butters reminded me that I like black beans so much I've recently started smashing them into a paste and make a type of black bean dip, seasoned with garlic powder, minced onion, ground cumin, basil, and Thai chili paste. I dip corn tortillas in it, toasted flatbread, or toasted whole-grain bread.
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  #48  
Old 04-27-2010, 02:43 AM
lindsaybluth lindsaybluth is offline
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I'll definitely be trying cashew then. Peanut butter to me, tastes almost nothing like peanuts, but almond butter tastes quite a bit like pulverized almonds.

In a pinch when you don't want to smash your own black beans, you should try Trader Joe's refried black beans. IIRC, they've got no added fat (like lard, which most Mexican brands have) and they're pretty tasty. My boyfriend makes burritos with whole wheat tortillas and stuffs them with the refried black beans and low fat cheese.
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  #49  
Old 04-27-2010, 05:16 AM
Weedy Weedy is online now
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<del. gibberis posded by someone pouring milksake on my keyboard>

Last edited by Weedy; 04-27-2010 at 05:20 AM..
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  #50  
Old 04-27-2010, 08:09 AM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Originally Posted by raindrop View Post
When compared to peanut butter the other nut butters seem expensive, but that's only because peanuts are so darn cheap. But when compared to meat, tuna, and cold-cuts, nut butters aren't so unreasonable.
Quote:
Originally Posted by lindsaybluth View Post
I'll definitely be trying cashew then. Peanut butter to me, tastes almost nothing like peanuts, but almond butter tastes quite a bit like pulverized almonds.
That's because many commercial brands of peanut butter actually aren't entirely peanuts, they have fillers, extenders, sugar....

REAL peanut butter - that is, made from peanuts and nothing else - tastes much more like peanuts. It is also more expensive than bargain brands.
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