Since I work so far from home I take a lot of things with me on a daily basis that many people wouldn't necessarily take with them. I need my meals with me for the day as well as clothes to go for my lunchtime walk, medical items and schoolbooks to study on work breaks or while waiting for people to arrive at an after work activity I participate in. I think the best when I am not overly fatigued so I am not always at my best come evening for studying and therefore like to fit in a little whenever I can. If you meal prep for strength gains and go to the gym before or after work you might end up packing similar to this. You might also pack like this if you have a lot of food allergies or are trying to save money by meal prepping and live a very active lifestyle where you are out of the house for the majority of the day and evening. When I pack for a workday I usually end up packing at least half of my daily meals (depending on the day possibly all of my meals) in a lunchbox, at least one schoolbook, notebook, pens and a highlighter, workout clothes, jogging shoes, medical supplies, toiletries and chargers for my electronics. I don't take my laptop as it won't fit in my bag. I normally pack my bag the evening before so that everything is ready and I just have to grab my lunchbox out of the fridge, toss in the icepacks and head out. Depending on the meal plan for the week I may scramble some eggs fresh while I am getting ready for work.
You can see that my scrambled eggs container is empty in the photo above. I also have a container of nuts that isn't always in my bag, depending on the week's plan and the day, pictured here.
So... starting in the kitchen:
I have my lunch/meal-box here. For this day I have a container of soup, a chicken thigh with zucchini, an egg muffin and sausage piece, a large salad, fresh veggies, an apple, nuts, seeds, a protein bar, and salad dressing. The nuts, seeds and protein bar will stay at work for the duration of the week for those times that I stay late at work (or run off without my eggs... it has happened people... my brain these days!). Most of the time I don't get through even half of what is pictured on the nuts and seeds front but I prefer to be prepared. That brings this day's meal plan to:
Breakfast: eggs and sausage piece
Snack: egg muffin and an apple
Lunch: soup and fresh veggies with homemade salad dressing
Dinner: chicken thigh with salad and zucchini
For the Office (for the week): mixed nuts, seeds, and a protein bar (organic, no extra junk added)
I have three small bags that fit inside the front compartments of my backpack.
Everything fits inside one bag this way (barely) and I don't have to worry about lugging around multiple bags... which I can't really do all that well. On the side pockets I put my water bottle and my green smoothie. If I decide to bring tea then I can carry that pretty easily- I don't put bottles, even hard bottles like the ones I use, inside after an issue I had with an exploding smoothie...
When it comes to after work activities I don't pack them into this bag as they don't fit and there really is no reason to do so. I pack for the week's activities on the weekend like so:
This bag was a gift and is wonderful for what it is- a laptop backpack- but it doesn't really do everything that I need it to do so I have been looking at getting a meal management backpack such as the Isopack or Expedition 500. I will likely still use this bag if I don't need to pack meals as I think it is really well made and has a ton of storage areas. One of the things that I need it to do is hold the rest of my medical odds and ends so that I can stop carrying a purse on workdays... I can't really leave them in the car as the heat can cause issues with them and replacing them can get quite expensive. There has been a lot of review watching and reading, comparison shopping, and debate on which bag I will get but I think I am just about ready to make a purchase. Since it is a larger purchase I will be cutting back in some other areas for a while on my budget to pay for it but I think it will be worth it in the end. Once I make my final decision and use the bag for a while I will do a review of the new backpack. Feel free to put any comments in the bottom if you already own a meal management backpack that you own and love/hate... I'm always open to more information when making a larger purchase like this! The two that I am currently spending most of my focus on are below:
I've had allergies and asthma since I was a kid that caused some issues but my chronic illness journey didn't really start until I was 12 years old. In October of that year I was hospitalized for a week when I needed an emergency appendectomy. I came in to the ER with a pain, a high fever and, unbeknownst to us, pneumonia and ended up in surgery fairly quickly to have my appendix removed. A fairly standard operation ended up keeping me in the hospital for a week as my fever shot up very high every evening as I healed from both the surgery and pneumonia. Everything seemed fairly normal after I left the hospital though, I was very tired and couldn't do a lot of exercise but that was to be expected. Over time when the fatigue didn't abate and I started getting more symptoms, such as high heart rate when I was standing, dizziness, vertigo, and nausea, we went to our family doctor trying to find answers. It didn't even occur to us that it was side effects from the surgery since it had been quite a long time by this point and I was healed. In truth the surgery and ensuing hospital stay wasn't the reason that I was sick but it was, most likely, the trigger that set everything else in motion. When you have dysautonomia it isn't a disease you catch but rather something you are predisposed to developing.
The journey to find answers to the mysterious illness that was slowly taking over my life took 6 years and included several cardiologists, a pulmonologists, a gastroenterologist, a sleep therapist, a couple of neurologists, an endocrinologists and even a psychiatrist when they thought that maybe depression was causing the insomnia and possibly more. The therapist sent me home with us both in agreement that I wasn't depressed. At points later I will admit though that depression did come into play in my life but it wasn't the cause of my illness(es).
Symptoms ranged from gastrointestinal issues like IBS to heart problems such as tachycardia and blood pressure spikes/dips and more but it seemed like no one had the answer to what the diagnosis should be. There were some wonderful doctors along the way who cared very much and did their best to treat the symptoms I was experiencing and then there were some doctors... we'll just leave it as they weren't so wonderful in their treatment of me. Eventually I was diagnosed with POTS, NCS, and NMH. All three are forms of dysautonomia which is a disregularization of the autonomic nervous system. Having a diagnosis didn't really change the treatment I was receiving very much though as, at the time, treatment was mostly symptom management which was what we were already doing. However, it opened the door to support groups around the world that were all dealing with the same issues as me. That was a blessing beyond measure.
Over the years my symptoms have had good spells and bad spells but I know so many others with the same conditions as myself who are in much more difficult situations medically. I am very grateful that I am able to work for instance- I can't work outdoors in the heat and I can't do a lot of physical labor type tasks but I can work in an office or a classroom. I am grateful that I am able to walk- not everyone with dysautonomia can stand for more than a few minutes, let alone walk far. My limit used to be 20 minutes for standing which made regular activities such as grocery shopping, going out with friends, and getting around an airport rather tricky to say the least. As I have found physical coping mechanisms, changed lifestyle habits, and perhaps just gotten better somehow, I have been able to reduce a lot of my symptoms and I can stand for much longer now.
Within the past few years a few new things have come my way on the medical front. A diagnosis of MTHFR, a genetic disorder that affects detoxification and menthylation within the body, was one that came on the heals of a scary time for my sister. She had some issues and the doctors discovered that MTHFR was the problem. Since it is genetic the whole family needed to be tested. I had to fight for a year to be tested as they told me there was no cause to test because there isn't a treatment and that it 'really doesn't cause any problems.' So far research has linked blood clots, aneurysms, miscarriage, depression, fatigue, migraines, certain mental disorders, anxiety, high blood pressure, and other issues to MTHFR- some of which I experience myself. This does not mean that MTHFR is the cause of these issues though, further research is needed to determine causation, as of now we only have a link or association. I have defects on the two main genes they test for when checking for MTHFR but I only have one copy of the mutation on each gene rather than two (this would be called compound heterozygous) so my symptoms aren't as pronounced as someone who would have both copies but worse than someone with no copies or a copy on just one gene.
The second issue that has come up is pain... All of the pain. Every morning I wake up and roll out of bed hearing a dozen snaps, crackles and pops in the joints of my body. They usually do not hurt much but if a joint subluxed, or partially dislocated, while I slept there is pain. The joints that are more common for me to sublux in my day-to-day activities are my hips and shoulders but my ankles roll regularly and my knees give way without warning as well. Recently my thumb has begun to start subluxing more often as well... that isn't particularly fun but it will eventually be just like when my hip or shoulder does- put it back and move on with my day. All the pops and cracks along my spine especially tend to mean pain and inflammation. Luckily I have a wonderful massage therapist who I see regularly to help with the knots and tension that inevitably occur from all of this. Without her I would likely be dependent on pain killers and anti-inflammatory meds which would be bad for the next issue I'll talk about. I'm still waiting to be seen by a geneticist but symptom wise (there are more but this post is getting really long so I'm skipping past them) I'm likely looking at a form of EDS.
The last issue that I've been dealing with lately is headaches. I pretty much live with what I now consider to be a low grade headache 75% of the time. Sometimes that low grade headache will go away (hurray!) but other times it turns into a migraine, higher intensity tension headache and even the occasional cluster headache. I am working with a neurologist to see if we can discover the cause but so far we have ruled out rebound headaches. I have an MRI later this week as well as an ophthalmologist appointment upcoming to check for some of the worst issues like swelling in certain areas of the brain, descending cerebellum and tumors. After the doc looks over the results I may be looking at a spinal tap as well (no fun...). I am hopeful that we can find the answer and if not fix it then at least find some ways to combat it.
That's a pretty quick overview of the last 15 years of my life from an illness perspective. There have been a lot of bad things but also a lot of good... I wouldn't be who I am today without having gone through everything that I have in my life. I like who I am so it makes the good list. Further, I have met some amazing people on this journey that I wouldn't have met otherwise. I've been able to help people that I may not have been able to otherwise. I also discovered Paleo/Primal/Real Foods Movement along my journey... it has changed my life for the better. My symptoms are so much better and it has opened new doors to my understanding of my body with researching the diet and lifestyle that surrounds many of its practitioners. Basically... it's not all bad, I'm used to a certain level of pain and live a fairly regimented life most days but it is who I am and I am ok with that.
This week was a bit difficult for me since I was dealing with a very sick pup all week. Being under a lot of stress and/or disrupting my sleep pattern significantly can cause a lot of health issues for someone like me and, unfortunately, both of those things were going on this week. When I am ill I need a large amount of sodium which obviously means that some days I needed to eat in order to get my salt in rather than the meals I had prepped for the week on Sunday but I did my best to choose the most compliant options. Further, when I saw how ill my dog was I literally scooped her up and ran out the door without everything other than my purse, which was by the door... so there was a not-completely compliant meal there as I grabbed something while out of the house. Even if you try to get grain and sugar-less options you can't really control the oil when you are eating out so there was likely some not-approved oil.
If you are wondering about my dog: The vet said it was Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis and they have no idea what caused it... but she nearly died. She is doing much better now thankfully.
All in all though the eating went fairly well this week as I ended up sticking to the program 90%+ of the time despite the crazy week. As for side effects I'm not sure what is stress and what is sugar detox. I do have a breakout of acne on my chin at the moment and am a bit more tired than usual but I'm not sure of the cause and, as far as I know, there is no way to tell for sure.
Meal prep for Week 3 was pretty simple as I already had the protein portions made from previous weeks in the freezer (citrus braised carnitas, spicy roast beef and the chicken thighs from last week since I doubled that recipe). I made several different veggies and added them to containers with the meats for this week's meals. Sauteed zucchini, baked zucchini, roasted green beans with a touch of lemon and roasted brussel sprouts made up this week's vegetables. I have never had brussel sprouts so we will see how that goes this week. I also have a few veggies that I will steam later this week, more green beans and a veggie mixture, in the fridge right now and some green apples for snacks. I tend to not need to cook proteins/mains about once a month as I cook a bit more than needed each week and freeze the excess for future use. This works great in case I get sick on a weekend and cannot cook for the next week. If needed, I have at least a few days worth of meals stored so that I can wait until midweek once I am feeling better before I need to meal prep again. This is also useful as it frees up that extra weekend a month for some deep cleaning that I don't do weekly, go out of town, or anything else that might come up.
Again, here are the books if you are interested. So far I haven't found the program excessively difficult. It has helped me kick the soda habit and may have made this week a little bit easier as there was less stress on my system.
I wanted to take a few minutes today to tell you about a podcast that I have been listening to lately... and by listening lately I mean that I have listed to all 200 and something episodes on my commutes over the past couple of months. Sooo... I like it. Obviously. If you like learning about health topics but also like talk radio and morning shows then this is the show for you. Diane and Liz are hilarious and don't take themselves too seriously but still offer great advise backed by research on health topics from prenatal care to eczema and everything in between. The show is called Balanced Bites.
On some episodes the two hosts will bring on individuals to interview from the Paleo and/or Real Food community at large. There have been doctors of all kinds, chiropractors, nutritionists, chefs, medical researchers, other scientist, cookbook and other authors, as well as others over the years. The interviews typically consist of a conversation with the interviewee and one of the hosts about the main area they work in followed by listener questions that have been submitted online beforehand. Oftentimes they will also offer a coupon code if they have a business as well which is nice.
The non-interview podcasts have varied in organization over the years but they typically have listener questions, kitchen tips, updates on any books or appearances by the hosts as well as life updates (such as funny goat stories from Liz who has a homestead or Diane's wedding plans), health topic discussions, and right now pregnancy information as Liz just had a baby and is about to launch a new product about fertility 'and beyond'.
They do have sponsors so you will listen to a few adds that they record themselves as well as mini-interviews with sponsors over the 4 years of episodes currently archived but those interviews are typically very interesting and they never stay completely related to the company's products rather the over-arching industry or problem they are trying to help with. Any podcast that has been going on for long will typically have sponsors though so that they can pay for hosting fees and recording equipment. I don't mind listening to a few 10 second ads mixed in with the hour of content that most episodes tend to be to be honest... and they only choose sponsors of products that they actually use themselves which is pretty awesome when you think about it.
Now on to how to find the podcast... search iTunes for "Balanced Bites" or go to one of the hosts' pages where they have links for their blogs, podcasts, and products (books, seminars, etc.).
I regularly laugh out loud listening to these two chat on this free podcast and always learn something new so I give this podcast two thumbs up and suggest you check it out.
Sorry for a short post today everyone, my dog was in the hospital for a day and a half this week so it's been a little hectic around here as you can imagine. Hectic days aren't particularly good for my health so this week has been especially difficult for both of my pups as well as myself. Thankfully she is back home and doing much better now so we can get back to normal around here. Thanks for being understanding.
The Spork is basically a fork, spoon and knife in one. The original is
6.75 inches long and weighs 0.3 oz according to their website (I did not whip out the scale to test it but that feels about right... it is very lightweight). I like that, while it is plastic, they use a BPA free material so I am limiting that exposure. I literally take this with me every day to work in my lunchbox. I own two- both in pink- that I purchased in a little novelty store while traveling. I would suggest purchasing them online as they are cheaper online than I paid originally... I overpaid but they were still worth it! The Spork comes in original size as well as a medium and large size for you who like camping and need serving and cooking utensils. The website says that the medium is good for eating freeze dried food out of pouches if you backpack though I have not tried it out so can't speak to that... I don't really backpack with my medical issues all that often as you can likely imagine. Amazon has this item in a 4-pack for $9.99 but they also have it individually if you search for it. It may not be on Prime though so if you are like me and have Prime and don't want to pay additional shipping you may be more inclined to purchase the 4 pack and get a bit more for your money (plus have to wash dishes less often or have one for every lunchbox in the family!). This may seem a little more expensive than you want to pay right off the bat for plastic-ware. I agreed actually but then changed my mind after seeing how durable these sporks are. They aren't your typical cheap cutlery where the tines bend a bit in the wash or nicks gouge out of the plastic easily (at least not in the past few months for my sporks). They haven't stained or warped at all in the dishwasher either. One thing that I wasn't sure about was kids with a knife edge though, but they covered that as well... If you do not want your little ones to have a knife edge the company offers the Spork Little which is A- adorable, B- smaller than the original for little hands, and C- lacks a knife edge. They also have it in Titanium for those not wanting plastic! I think this company has pretty much covered all their bases when it comes to making a product that most people would be able to use. I love this nifty product as I don't really like taking my silverware to work in a lunchbox and I'm all about colors... we need more color in the world. Color=happiness. Yes... I taught kindergarten and love to color. I'm just one of those people. :) So, pros and cons time...
My meal prep this week took about two hours (see below... I decided to make iced tea and dressing later that day so I added about 20 minutes for those items) but it was a lot more in depth than I normally would do since I usually make breakfasts in the morning and use my crock pot for one of the main entrees. So... keep that in mind if you are planning on making your breakfasts fresh. Honestly, the breakfasts took longer than any of the other meals so I could easily make just the lunches and dinners from this week in a little over an hour or an hour and a half if I needed to double/triple the number of meals prepared to cook for a larger number of people. If two hours doesn't sound like a bad deal to have every meal for the entire week ready to go then you and I are of the same mindset my friend.
For the numbers oriented reader:
I ended up with 15 mains, 7 breakfasts, and enough veggies and salad for myself for the week in under two hours, including salad dressing from scratch. If I was to cook for two it wouldn't take more than 10 minutes longer since doubling a recipe like these doesn't take long. Should I be cooking for a family though I would make an extra main in the crock pot and do the prep on one more that could be in the freezer ready to toss in mid-week... this would, from past experience, take about an additional 20 minutes for 2 extra mains and you would need to re-prep the veggies and breakfasts plus the one crock pot meal mid-week for about another 30-40 minutes total but would garner you: 60 mains, 28 breakfasts and enough salad and chopped fresh veggies for the week for the whole family. This is enough for a family of 4 easily and you are looking at about 3 hours total cook-time for the week... about 8 minutes per meal when you do the math or 2 minutes per serving... not including the chopped veggies which could easily be a snack. If you are making breakfasts fresh then make it 2 hours and 5 minutes per meal or so for the pre-prepared breakfasts plus however long you need for breakfast making in the morning.
Anywho, now that all the numbers game is taken care of lets get down to what I cooked during meal prep. This week I made: Italian Spice Blend (pg. 208) to use in a recipe, Mustard-Glazed Chicken Thighs (pg. 114), Apple Streusel Egg Muffins (pg. 102), and Green Apple Breakfast Sausage (pg. 94). I also did my own version of the No-Miso Soup on page 164 with what I had on hand "Asian Inspired Shrimp and Zucchini Soup." Additionally I prepped an extra-large salad, tons of sliced veggies including zucchini, peppers, carrots and tomatoes... and some sugar free buffalo ranch dressing as well as iced tea. All in all it was a fairly easy meal prep since the recipes were very easy to follow and uncomplicated.
I live in Texas. Texas is famous for a lot of things but BBQ and Tex Mex are the two big food things we are known for. BBQ was an easier fix when I went to a more Paleo/Primal lifestyle as the main part- meat- was still on the 'yes' list. I just had to make my own rubs and sauces without sugar which didn't take too long to work out and I was able to enjoy summer BBQ's without a problem. Tex Mex was another issue altogether. Chips, tortillas, rice, beans... all pretty much out or at least seriously limited. I have a couple different enchilada recipes I worked on for years to perfect that I can no longer eat since I don't eat tortillas any longer. It wasn't ok... I love enchiladas, enchiladas were something I was famous for in my little world. I needed enchiladas in my life. I tried Paleo Wraps and I tried making my own 'tortillas' at home (an epic failure). I tried so many recipes but I still haven't figured out a perfect replacement that holds up with enchiladas... I will keep trying though! This search led me to purchase some of Nikil's Roti at my local farmer's market when I saw them. While they didn't really work out as the perfect enchilada wrapper they were pretty tasty. I enjoyed them heated and used as scoops for dips and curries.
I will purchase these roti again most likely... I just won't use them to make enchiladas. On to new adventures!
Week one went really well... until the weekend. So I'll be adding an extra week to the 3 I planned on doing to even it out. I made the choice so its all on me, no excuses. Anywho, the sugar wasn't particularly difficult for me to cut out but I do miss the flavors... maple syrup would've been really tasty in a smoothie I made for instance and my morning tea with a touch of honey was missed. Other than that there weren't too many issues with the sweets for me... cheese was another issue. I ended up letting last week start at a lower level than I originally wanted so that I could take a week to finish up some of the cheese in my house. I somehow missed that I wasn't allowed to have cheese when I did my shopping for the week (ditzy moment much?) and I really didn't want to push the detox back a week so I moved down a level but stuck to the rules of level 3 for everything other than the cheese. This week the cheese is gone and its time for strict level 3.
Since this was my first week off soda, which I got hooked on during the stressful time of moving cross country with the divorce, I stuck with unsweetened black tea so that I would only have to detox off of one thing at a time. I missed my daily soda, that's for sure, but I think that it was easier to kick on the detox than it was the last time I kicked soda cold turkey soda a few years ago. Soda is super bad for you, as we are all aware, but it is really bad for me with my health issues as the chemicals, artificial dye and sweeteners as well as the caffeine can really cause issues with my system. And yet I did it anyways... I know, I know, not my brightest moment that's for sure. The soda is officially gone and I have moved to green tea this week to lessen the caffeine load on my body. This should help my autonomic system a bit but also my sleep cycle. Luckily, I have tons of tea (I LOVE tea) in my cupboard of all types so I will have a varied tea experience this week even eliminating the highly caffeinated black and red teas in my collection 'o loose leaf teas. Today I am drinking a tea my dad brought back from from China for me the last time he was abroad. It is light and pretty tasty even sans sweeten. A lot of people would add a bit of citrus to their tea in lieu of the sweetener but I've never been a huge citrus+tea fan so I personally have not done so yet. I may in the future though, we'll see.
On to prepping for week 2...
I decided to try out several of the recipes in the book for the next few weeks so that I could truly give a well informed review of the book(s) at the end of the process. This week I made: Italian Spice Blend (pg. 208), Mustard-Glazed Chicken Thighs (pg. 114), Apple Streusel Egg Muffins (pg. 102), CoCo-Monkey Smoothie (pg. 92), and Green Apple Breakfast Sausage (pg. 94). I also did my own version of the No-Miso Soup on page 164 since I didn't have all of the ingredients to make her version in the house (I somehow managed to forget to pick up baby bok choy and green onions at the store... I tell you, my brain these days!). I wrote a post about the soup, which turned out pretty awesome and will be my lunch today along with part of the huge salad I made for the week, titled "Asian Inspired Shrimp and Zucchini Soup." Additionally I prepped an extra-large salad, tons of sliced veggies and some sugar free salad dressing as well as iced tea. I will need to rotate some of the meals out of the freezer mid-week and make an additional batch of iced tea but I'm pretty much done cooking for the week. Hurray! I haven't eaten all of the recipes yet but I'll let you know about the ones that I have eaten already.
Apple Streusel Egg Muffins: Took a bit of getting used to as they smelled like they would be sweet but the certainly are not. Day 2 of eating them for breakfast though I really enjoyed it. I will likely add a touch more cinnamon to my next batch and maybe a bit of sweetener once I am off the 21DSD but I can only see myself learning to like these more over the rest of the week.
CoCo-Monkey Smoothie: I did not like this. I'm not sure why I didn't like it though. It was quite bitter of course so maybe I'll lessen the cocoa powder and make sure to ensure that the banana I use is the correct size? I'll let you know next week if I find a fix but for now this is not a recipe I am a fan of.
Green Apple Breakfast Sausage: This one was pretty tasty. I am not a huge fennel fan apparently but I still enjoyed a patty of this sausage with my egg muffin for breakfast this morning.
Italian Spice Blend: You use this in the breakfast sausage so yes, I have tried it. I'm not a huge fennel fan like I mentioned before but it smells just like what I imagine when I think Italian sausage which is what she was going for so I'll say thumbs up.
I am having the Mustard-Glazed Chicken Thighs for dinner (they smelled pretty awesome coming out of the oven!) so I'll let you know about those next week.
All the recipes this week were from the original 21DSD book but I have purchased the 21DSD Cookbook as well and will be trying recipes from it over the course of the next month or so as well. Links to the books for the 21 Day Sugar Detox, should you be interested, are below:
I was flipping though the pages of 21 Day Sugar Detox and saw a soup that looked really tasty but unfortunately I didn't have all the ingredients to make it in the house. It was a Miso soup remake and I'll definitely make sure to try it soon but I didn't want to go shopping so I took the inspiration and made my own soup with things I already had in the house. It made an awesome lunch and there were enough left overs to add to my ready meal stock for the rest of the week (more on that in a future post). This recipe could easily be made in a crock pot- just put everything in at once and set it on low for 4-6 hours. The recipe below made 5 portions. Here's the recipe:
36 oz Bone Broth (I used beef today because that is what I had on hand)
1 Tbsp coconut aminos
3 drops fish sauce
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp parsley, dried (feel free to use fresh, I didn't have any on hand)
1/2 lb white mushrooms
1 lb cooked shrimp
1. Bring the broth to a simmer with the coconut aminos and fish sauce in a large pot on the stove top.
2. Add all other ingredients to the pot.
3. Put the lid on the pot and turn the temperature to low. Allow the soup to simmer on low for about 30-45 minutes.
That's it... simple with very little hands-on time.
"Eating Paleo takes a bit of planning" A truer has never been made... but it is far from the crazy difficulty that I often am told it must be. One of the biggest planning tools that I use daily has been my lunch tote. It is very important that I am able to pack a substantial amount of food as most days I am bringing at least 2 meals with me- breakfast and lunch- and some days I am bringing as many as 4- breakfast, lunch, shake or snack, and dinner. Previously, I used a fairly traditional lunchbox... the type that tent up to the top. They look like they are large but there is a lot of unusable space due to the design. That is, if you want to zip the tote closed- a must to keep the food cold! My mother was at Sam's Club and found a really cute lunch kit for herself: the Nicole Miller of New York Insulated Lunch Cooler.
I love it! Finally, no more wasted space! This lunch kit reminds me of the ones I took as a child in that it is a simple rectangular prism (nearly cube) with a zipper and handles. Nothing super fancy... but pretty stinkin' cute you'd have to agree. Immediately I needed one. I was tired of carrying a lunchbox AND food to put in the fridge at work for my second meal of the day. My wonderful mother picked one up for me that very weekend in an adorable pink polka dot pattern. Isn't it totes adorbs (I'm in a movie/TV/song quote mood right now... fair warning. Also, if you haven't watched the Lizzie Bennett Diaries you are seriously missing out. Get to it!)?
There are both good and not so good qualities about this insulated tote but for the days when I need to pack only two meals this is a lunchbox I like very much
1. You can store a lot of food in here!
If you are like, 'Whoa! that's enough for 5 meals!' hold up a second... not quite. It is enough for a salads (about 2 C), two entrees/proteins, a snack (if I don't add an extra cold pack), a fruit or veggie side and portioned dressing/condiments. I can't put all of this in there if I am carrying a container of dressing or any type of uncut fruit for instance. If I use the containers that came with the tote
I have enough room for a larger salad, a protein, another veggie or fruit (or some nuts or etc) and breakfast plus my salad dressing, utensils, and cooling pack. If I pack it with all of the containers you saw above then I can't add extra cooling pouches. A must if I am going to need it to last till a late lunch or beyond unfortunately.
2. As I already mentioned... it comes with containers. From a little research online it looks like not all of the kits out there have the three pack that I received but getting some non-leak containers was certainly a plus for me. Perhaps it would be worth it to check out Sam's if you wanted the containers... the link I put above goes to Amazon and it appears from the tag that the containers are included, at least for the polka dot version.
3. It is easy to clean. Until you have had a green smoothie leak in your lunchbox you simply do not know the pain of deep cleaning a lunchbox... that stuff stains and gets into every crevice in a lunch kit... or backpack, as was my case. Exploding bottle of green juice... everywhere. It was not a pretty sight and took forever to clean... I'm still finding flakes! Ugg. So I was quite happy to put my shake in my new box for safekeeping instead of in my backpack. This was on a day that I ate breakfast at home (rare... I came in to work late) so I while I usually don't have room for my shake container I did this day. And boy was I glad when I got home and saw that it had leaked (that lid is going in the trash). Hurray for not having to clean a backpack! A little Thieves cleaning spray and it wiped out good as new. Yay!
1. The cold pack that comes with it is not particularly good. Unfortunately, though it is a clever idea to make it thin enough to fit in the front zipper pouch the pack simply doesn't keep the box cold for long enough. I end up putting it in the fridge at work to keep it fresh all day instead. On a side note, anytime I say or hear the word clever now-a-days I always think "Run, my clever boy... and remember." Kudos to anyone who gets that reference... we can be friends.
2. There is no pouch for a drink. I know this won't be an issue for most people but I would really like to have a drink pouch for a water bottle or shake on the lunchbox somewhere. Just a personal preference. My last one didn't either though so it isn't a huge issue, just a want.
That's it... pretty much loving my two meal lunchbox. Now to figure out what to do for the days I am gone for all my meals. Hmm... until next time interwebs, have a great day!