Build a Better Lunch: Finding Containers

Parking at school is awful.

I’m a student at a commuter campus–a community college, to be exact–and I have lots of early mornings. My classes may not start till 9:00, but I had better be at school before 8:00 so I can get a parking spot, let alone a good one. That means I am out the door at 7:30 or so and I don’t really have much time to make a lunch.

My personal favorite lunch? Those microwaveable pastas from Trader Joe’s–especially the fusilli pasta with squash and pesto. Nom nom nom. But at $2.00 a pop, they are kind of expensive. And I also don’t have much control about what goes into them. So, last semester (finals are over–can you believe it? We can start referring to it as last semester!), I started intermittently making pasta to freeze. It was great because I controlled the flavor, the kind of pasta, the freshness of the ingredients. But I was felt weird about how I was packaging my little portion-controlled pastas.

I put cooled pasta into Ziplock bags, froze it all portioned out, popped the pasta out of the bag and into a microwave safe ceramic bowl, and plopped the warmed pasta into my lunch container. But that really seems unsustainable–a waste of a lot of Ziplocks. Maybe, I thought, there are reusable microwave-safe containers I can freeze my pasta in, heat it in, and take it to school in. That would be sweet (and environmentally responsible).

I was worried about using plastic, though. Specifically in the microwave, or while my food is hot. What about those chemicals? BPA and phthalates can have negative effects on hormones, reproduction, and human development. Not to mention methylating tumor suppressor genes–or more simply, effecting your future children and grandchildren’s ability to fight off cancer.

My goal for the spring semester is to improve my eating habits, and an important step is going to be a nourishing grab’n’go lunch. But before I can start poring over recipes, I have to get the all-important container issue out of the way.

According to Good Housekeeping, brand-name Ziplock bags are free of BPA and phthalates, but so are Glad’s GladWare containers with interlocking lids. So I could use those, right? Psych! According to Mother Jones, there are even concerns about chemicals more potent than BPA leaching out of BPA-free plastics.

As I was researching for this article, I was getting pretty down about food storage. It seemed like there was literally nothing I could do that was safer (just take a gander at that article I linked above–it’s a depressing one). And then I though about freezer jams.

You can make those in Mason jars, right? I thought. It turns out there are microwave- and freezer-safe canning jars! This news (after an afternoon of really depressing essays on the horrors of BPA and synthetic estrogens) brought me joy.

lunch by canopic/Flickr Creative commons

lunch by canopic/Flickr Creative commons

Not only are canning jars super cute, they are also reusable, and not going to leech chemicals that are going to negatively affect you, your genetics, and your grandkids. I am going to pick up a flat of 8 oz wide mouth canning jars for pasta (and maybe some 12 oz ones for salad).

Do you want to make your own lunches? This is the first post in the Build a Better Lunch series! Join me and follow Pretty Healthy on Bloglovin’!

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