I just looked at the calendar and realized that September – the designated month for TLT’s “It Takes a Village to Pack a Lunch” series — is almost over. How on earth did that happen? Well, get ready for a lot of lunch-packing resources and information in the next few days! (And yeah, I might drift into October a little bit. I trust you won’t mind.)
Today’s weighty topic is . . . [drum roll] . . . the Thermos!
If you’re a regular reader you know that I rely heavily on Thermoses in packing my kids’ lunches, particularly for my sandwich-spurning daughter. But I haven’t been so happy with my old jars, which looked like this:
I never felt they were keeping the food warm enough, plus the black lid made it hard for me to tell if I was thoroughly cleaning the cap’s inner grooves, which are already so maddeningly recessed that it’s hard to get a soapy sponge in there.
A reader mentioned on TLT’s Facebook page that she found a new type of Thermos jar she liked, so I did some digging. I’m not sure exactly what she was referring to, but I just bought two of these at Target:
It’s from the Thermos Sipp line and I like it so much better than my old jars. It has a wider mouth so it’s easier to fill, it has a white lid that’s easier to be sure is clean, and I swear it’s keeping food warmer than the old jar did. It also seemed easier to open than the plastic Thermos food jars (based on my unscientific test in Target), and the sleek design is nice for older kids who no longer want Hello Kitty or a superhero in their lunch box. If you have another brand or style you like, be sure to let us all know in a comment below.
And now for some tips on using a Thermos:
Warm It Up
First, I urge you to follow the advice of blogger Bri of Red, Round or Green and first fill the Thermos jar with boiling water, letting it sit for ten minutes or so while you prepare the food. This tip has helped a lot in keeping food warm at lunch time. And yeah, I know the little instruction sheet that comes with the Thermos tells you to do this (with hot tap water), but I paid no attention until Bri told me to! :-) Neat freak that I am, I also like the added (possible?) sterilization from the boiling water.
Take Off The Gasket
You might already know this, but you really need to remove that thin rubber gasket from around the inner rim of the lid every time you clean the Thermos. Over time, failure to do so will result in . . . well, let’s just say it’s not pretty.
Be Creative In Filling It Up
A few of you have asked me what exactly I put in the Thermos and the answer is – everything! I pack soup, of course, but also turkey and bean chili; vegetarian chili; whole grain spaghetti and turkey meatballs; steamed Asian dumplings; all-natural ravioli or tortellini; a frozen, all-natural saag paneer (an Indian spinach dish) my daughter likes, and much more. My theory is, if you can eat it hot, you can put it in a Thermos.
Make Meals Just for Thermos Use
I used to rely on leftovers to fill the Thermos but those aren’t always on hand and some days, when I was low on non-Thermos choices, I’d be at a loss for what to pack. So I finally forced myself to make entire batches of some of my kids’ favorite dishes just for school lunch, then I divided the cooled food into small containers and put them in the freezer. It’s a pain to do — a lot of cooking without an immediate payoff — but in the morning it only takes a few minutes to defrost a serving (while that Thermos is heating!) and it’s such a boon to have a hot, nutritious lunch at the ready whenever you need one.
Any Thermos tips I forgot? Share them with the rest of us!
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