Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Ultra Cool Lunchbox: A lesson on impulse buys

A few of you commented on my pretty stainless steel lunchbox and were wondering where I got it and what the company was. Really, I didn't elaborate much because if I could have a 'do over' in the lunch box department (geez, how weird is that) I totally would. But, in the sense of honesty and spreading the lunchbox WORD, let me clarify :)

First off, WHY did I choose a stainless steel lunchbox instead of plastic or glass? 

We all know that plastic is terrible. It's made from petroleum, lasts forever, breaks down into tiny 'nurdles' which are eaten by fish and then us, leaches toxic chemicals in our food and causes a crap-ton of pollution. I wouldn't even say that plastic containers are convenient; in that they NEVER get rid of the food smell (ick), are gross to clean and I never heat my food in plastic. The only aspect of plastic that is nice is it's lightweight.

Glass would be a wonderful alternative if it came in stackable and attached lunchbox forms. We use a lot of anchor glass containers for food storage (fridge and freezer) and when I have extra foods I bring for lunch. They require less energy to create, are made from renewable and are a completely recyclable resource. Plus you can heat your food in them. The downside- they may break, and I haven't found attachable 'lunchbox' forms yet.

So- stainless steel it is. You should know that stainless steel does require quite a bit of energy to mine and form. Depending on where and who, the steel could have been mined in a destructive manner (think razing mountains). So, in order to get your environmental benefit from this lunchbox, you need to use it.

Alright, down to the nitty gritty. This is where I wish I had done some research before my impulse-buy at P'lovers. My lunchbox is a Zebra. I LOVE the convenience of having something that holds my lunch and is ONE unit with a handle. It's SO easy to clean and displays my 'Plastic Bags Blow' sticker very well.

However. I *wish* I would have bought a different lunch tin. Therefore I will tell YOU about my wish list lunchbox (sigh).

Life Without Plastic. The company is Canadian and they do quite a bit of research on all the products they carry. They carry a variety of options and there are some pretty similar lunchbox containers to mine. They also carry this AWESOME wool insulated bag that Beth Terry from Fake Plastic Fish reviewed glowingly. Seriously, how cool would that be? 

My favourite by far, the 'To-Go Ware 2-tier Tiffin'. If you're in the states, you could order directly from the To-Go Ware company. 

Why it is so beautiful:

- It's stackable with a handle, made from high grade stainless steel.
- BEST: each container can function on it's own! (Currently my lunchbox only shuts with BOTH containers attached. I need an elastic to only bring one section). Seriously, you have no idea how convenient it would be to have the option to bring only one.
- It has a plate and little sauce-nut-extras tins and is dishwasher safe (if we had one that would be cool... currently we have 'Dishwasher Andrew').
- According to the To-Go Ware website, the top section can hold liquids!! (Currently, mine leaks all over the place...).
-Also according to the To-Go Ware website, these tins are made in Mumbai India, is certified ISO for human rights and environmental protection.

Lessons learned from using a stainless steel lunchbox:

  • Consider whether you could actually use each section separately. You're not always going to have two different foods to bring for lunch.
  • Stainless steel doesn't keep things hot or cold, BUT having a cover would help.
  • If there isn't a plastic-rubber seal around the edges, really check the tightness of the closure. If you like liquidy things, find something with a really tight seal.

The biggest lesson: you can't reheat steel in the microwave... so you'll need to remember to bring a bowl or plate as well. Although this 'may' seem like an extra step, I actually really like eating my lunch out of a bowl from home. If I'm lazy, I'll just bring my reheatable stuff in my glass anchor containers.

I heart my lunchbox, and have used it consistently over the past year. Once you get through the 'new habit' stage it's just as convenient as gross icky plastic.

There you go! I hope that was helpful and that you'll take the leap into the ridiculously awesome world of stainless steel lunchboxes. :)

Happy Weekend! (upcoming: an update on my community yoga group!)

article and photos copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Wow! I have the tiffin set! The only issue I have is I tried to put my dressing in the little one, and somehow it opened before I was ready and was kind of messy. But it could have been some kind of error on my part, or maybe the tiny container isn't supposed to hold liquid?? Anyway, I think it's cool too, even though my students didn't understand why I had my "camping gear" with me...

  2. I've thought seriously about going stainless steel, as well as looking at the bento style lunchboxes from Laptop Lunches, but it all comes down to being able to heat my soup(or leftovers) at lunchtime. I can't do that with either one of the above.

    I ended up going with a $8.00 softsided kiddie lunch box and I use a pyrex dish for my soup and everything else goes in little tubs. I figured if I have to haul my bowl with it might as well be the bowl I store it in/nuke it in.

    I think the Tiffin style would be great if I didn't have to heat anything. But I do and being able to reuse my 'lunch box' was my compromise. I figure it should last me about 10 years before the zipper breaks(last one did!) :)

    Thanks for the great posts!

  3. I almost bought one at P'lovers on Wednesday but I knew about the Tiffen so I held off. Instead I got two sporks and two beeswax candles. I love that store, could spend hours in it.

  4. Your stainless steel lunchbox looks interestingly pretty. Thanks for the tips.

  5. I like these lunch containers too, I had no idea there was so much research involved to make sure they are environmentally correct, I am learning a lot here!. I bought mine in Thailand, it is a three story container and it is sooo beautiful, I heart it too...

  6. I love the tiffin boxes; I remember years ago seeing a special on the tiffin-wallas in India, whose job it is to see that the tiffins get to workers in time for lunch EVERY DAY.
    I also want to mention another alternative to plastic: Pyrex brand glass containers. They come in a variety of sizes, you can order online from Amazon or Sears. I got a set of 7 containers with lids for $20 on sale. The only downside is that they have plastic lids, but I don't think there are many alternatives for sealing a glass container (cork stopper maybe?). One advantage is that they can in the freezer, oven (without the lids of course), and microwave, so I can carry my lunch and reheat and eat it in the same container. While no glass is totally unbreakable, Pyrex is pretty dang tough. AND they are made in the USA.

  7. Hi, it's Andrea from Happy Tiffin and i wanted to thank you for your post on tiffins. We receive many questions on the microwave re-heating dilemma so it was great to see a post on keeping plate ware etc at the office if you need to reheat. We also have insulated bags which go around the tiffin and those have been a great success. Happy people = happy lunches.

  8. I have the three-tiered tiffin from To-Go Ware, and I do love it. It's not super great for liquids, but no biggie. And the three-tiered tiffin has such long clips to hold it all together that the bottom tier can be awkward to move/clean/eat out of! But I still love it!!

  9. Ohhhh, that's pretty!

    I've got my kids drinking out of stainless steel, and we're gradually replacing plastics with non-plastics, but I'm not going out of my way to buy anything new, unless I need it. That's how I'm dealing with the "plastics" issue.

    So yes, when you look around our home, there are a fair number of plastic containers. But we're gradually replacing them with glass, stainless and other.

    I hope one day to have a plastic-free home, but it seems a long way off now.

    For now, though, I'll really admire your tiffin set. It is lovely!

  10. Hmmm...could be just the thing as I'm trying to break my habit of eating lunch out (actually know some very cheap places, where I spend little more than I would on the ingredients for lunch from home, but, like my brother said once, the reason restaurant food tastes so good is that they put a stick of butter in every meal)...but what's a lunchbox without pictures of superheroes on the sides?! (Yeah, I know, I could buy stickers...)

  11. Love your site, just stumbled on it. Especially love the wedding tips, getting married next year. Thanks!

  12. Really great post. Will post to Twitter tomorrow morning (when those in the U.S. are awake and not in bed or watching American Idol.)

  13. A perfect post for the TakeOut WithOut campaign!

  14. the top of the to-go ware can be used separately - the bottom must be attached to the top section, else it has no lid! I own it and it is pretty awesome. and i even found an anchor glass bowl that fits inside it so sometimes i use it as a glass-bowl caddy for reheatables.


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