Last fall I started working in an office after spending the better part of four years working from home. This introduced an unexpected challenge—preparing an allergy-safe lunch in the office.
It’s not as easy as it used to be. With a corn allergy, I can’t just bring a frozen meal and pop it in the microwave. Microwave use is controversial these days for many reasons. For people like me who are so sensitive to tiny amounts of corn, the microwave is especially high-risk. Let’s face it, it’s got popcorn cooties!
The Search for Containers
I love my canning jars. Cheap, interchangeable lids and non-porous, what’s not to love! Even though they’re glass, they’ve proven to be pretty durable. I use them extensively for over five years now and may have broken about ten. When eating away from home, I use them to carry condiments and food that doesn’t need reheating, like the hummus and carrot sticks in the picture above. I’m looking forward to some layered jar salads once it warms up!
For hot foods, I tried several thermal containers and I followed all the directions to pre-heat the thermos. But, it didn’t matter how many hours they claimed to keep the food hot, my lunch was always lukewarm. Blech!
I’ve only found thermal containers to work on soups. It must have something to do with removing most of the air. So, hot casseroles for lunch in the winter time wouldn’t work.
Electric Lunch Warmer
After trying and discarding several thermal containers, I found a solution that works very well for cubicle dwellers like myself. I purchased an electric lunch warmer seen on the right side of this picture. There are several brands out there (including ones with USB plugs) but this one works well for me.
It’s basically a tiny slow cooker that manufacturer’s claim will not cook your food, only reheat it. It gets pretty hot though. On cold days, it also doubles as a hand warmer. More surface area than a coffee cup—just sayin’!
I like that the lunch warmer doesn’t need me to heat of my food in the morning. I don’t even have to thaw it! I can pop it straight into the removable bowl from the freezer. You just plug it in about an hour before you want to eat. I should note that it’s not watertight. So soup is still a thermal container only food. No problem! I’ve got half a dozen of those!
Other Office Lunch Nice-to-haves
- A dedicated cheap set of utensils for lunches – I’m not willing to let my flatware at home leave the house. The pattern is discontinued and I would be really mad at myself if I lost any pieces.
- Cloth napkins – They double as a tiny picnic blanket for your desk. No crumbs in the keyboard that way.
- World’s smallest cutting board (@ 5″x7″) and a paring knife – This is for cutting up fruit. I like to keep it at the office in a plastic bag.
What to take for lunch
- Turkey Sloppy Joes – Take the crumbs from your bean chips (corn-substitute) bag to sprinkle over the heated sauce
- Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Mini Frittatas
- Apple with Cashew Butter – Check out my easy solution to make it more portable and less messy!
- Turkey Chili
- Chicken Creole
- Hummus and carrot sticks in a jar – If you tolerate them, black olives works very well with this pairing.
- Chicken and Rice
- Persian Shepard Pie
- Tikka Makhani (Butter Chicken)