recent finds for your lunch

I wanted to briefly share a few spectacular products that have been really helping me start off the new year in a great direction. One of my small goals for 2014 was to not only get my budget more in check, but to eat healthier during the work hours. We have an incredible cafeteria where I work, so it’s quite tempting (and very easy) to wander over and pick up a fresh salad or grilled item. However, this adds up quickly — as do quick stops in the morning for a latte or spiced chai (because I’m one of those people who never really enjoys coffee she makes herself).

20 oz Lunch Crock-Pot Food Warmer
(Buy at Amazon)

This little contraption has been an absolute delight for me. I’ve made this cabbage soup recipe (+ black beans for protein) and this Asian vegetable soup recipe (+ tofu) countless times and froze portions in 2 cup containers. A quick thaw in the refrigerator overnight and, ta-da, I’m ready for lunch! Simply plug it in at your desk in the morning and, in 3 or 4 hours, your food has been gradually warmed up vs. an unappetizing zap from a microwave. I bring the inner compartment home every night and leave the actual crock-pot on my desk, but it does come with a carrying handle for easy transport. Keep in mind that this is only for reheating food, not cooking it — no raw products can be added. It’s wonderful for leftovers and saves you from waiting in line for the microwave at the office (plus, things just taste better in it). I’ve found a new love for canned soups, as well, thanks to this little thing — Progresso’s Light Zesty Southwestern-Style Vegetable is a particular favorite (just make sure to add your own spices to zap it up!). It comes in a variety of colors and can be found on Amazon for quite cheap. Several various colors are usually less expensive, as well — I scored mine in pink for $19.00 at one point. Keep an eye out on it at Amazon and you could likely find it even cheaper. Replaceable inner-tins and lids can be found at Crock-Pot’s official site. Be prepared to answer questions when people are intrigued by it sitting on your desk!

BUILT Neoprene Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote
(Buy at Amazon)

While this seems like quite the silly addition as it’s “just a lunch bag,” I wanted to list it as I’ve definitely found more use out of this neoprene lunch tote than any other bag I’ve used. First and foremost, it stores a ton. It can stretch around frozen meal containers and its zipper will easily zip if stuffed to the very top. It is lightweight and durable — which is so important for everyday use. It comes in a variety of patterns, which make it very easy to find a jam-packed office refrigerator. It comes in different sizes, but I’d recommend the gourmet size if you carry both breakfast and lunch with you frequently — it is not too big and, most importantly, not too small.

FOR LIFE Tall Tea Mug with Infuser/Lid
(Buy at Amazon)

A friend of mine had such a sweet smelling drink at her desk — loose-leaf tea! “Yuck,” I thought. I’d never been able to get on the tea train, particularly because the bagged tea-bags that I tried from various stores always lacked flavor. I’d find myself using 2-3 tea bags and still not be satisfied with the taste. After a visit to a local tea shop, I picked up two varieties of loose-leaf tea and this handy mug, which makes steepingĀ  your loose-leaf tea very easy and also allows you to do so without using a million tea bags. It was a bit more expensive locally, but Amazon has a ton of colors to choose from (if you have no preference on color, I’d suggest browsing through the colors as they all have different prices — may snag a great deal!). You can also invert the top of the lid to rest the infuser on, as well, which makes things even more convenient. The only suggestion I would have is, if you’re planning to drink black tea, to avoid the white color (which is what I chose) as it stains very easily.