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Resource Wed Mar 25 2009

Lunch Boxes for Grown-Ups

Office workers around Chicago, and around the nation, who still have jobs to go to are giving up their daily $10 sandwich or salad deals and bringing lunches from home instead. And with the stylish new lunch-toting options available nowadays, they can carry their food with pride and panache. Whole Foods carries a bento-box lunch "system," on display right next to the overpriced salad bar, so you can fill the little compartments as soon as you've paid for them.

tiffin.jpgThe tiffin carrier, available from Design Within Reach or other online retailers, is an even sleeker vessel. It might look like the tin pail Laura Ingalls Wilder carried to school on the Little House on the Prairie TV show, but the stainless-steel carrier is inspired by the word "tiffin," which means light lunch or snack in parts of Britain and India.

If having a stylish lunch box makes you feel pressured to fill it with healthy, sophisticated foods, there is help available.


Lunch-preparation web sites such as tiffintin and Cooking Cute, which is devoted to the bento box, offer photos of lunches, recipes and even notices about other attractive or environmentally friendly lunch-packing accessories to hit the market. I've been a fan of Vegan Lunch Box since I started having to pack school lunches every morning. Though, I have to admit, most days I fall back on peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwiches, especially because my third-grade daughter says classmates call her "freaky" when her lunches become too fragrant or foreign looking.

Don't have the time or the inclination to put together a multicourse meal for your tiered tin? At Wave Restaurant at the W Hotel, chef Kristine Subido is now offering aTiffin menu, which can be taken to go. Subido says a traditional tiffin consists of three to five different portions that when combined make up a complete meal. Her tiffin menu, available at lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday, is served in tiffin containers if you eat in, but the containers can't be carried out. The lunch includes a salad and choice of grilled chicken tikka with coriander-peanut chutney or buttered, spiced lentils and warm chapatti bread. Dinner includes salad and choice of grilled chicken tikka with peanut chutney, or lamb tajine with preserved lemons and dates, or buttered, spiced lentils and warm chapati bread. You'll be the envy of the cafeteria if you bring one of these meals to work, as long as you don't work around a bunch of third graders.

Yu / March 25, 2009 12:50 PM

Oh tiffin, how I love thee. I own a two-tiered tiffin from Cost Plus and absolutely adore the way it looks. The problem? I can't microwave the thing. (Duh.) So the only time I can use my cute little tiffin is when I'm bringing salad or chilld noodle. Most days, I'm stuck with practical but unattractive tapperware-like containers with leak-proof lids. It's sad, but I much prefer having warm lunch and mess-free backpack...

Sridhar / March 25, 2009 3:19 PM

Don't waste money at places like Design Within Reach, you can get a variety of stainless steel tiffin carriers at any of the handicrafts shops on Devon. They have multi-tiered versions, with anywhere from 3 to 7 levels, and a little spoon that slides in as a lock.

Natalie / March 25, 2009 4:23 PM

All of these options and more- including an insulated lunch bag made right here in Chicago are available at Chicago-based http://www.reusablebags.com !

Dave / March 25, 2009 5:42 PM

If you're looking for a ready-to-eat lunch option Chicago's very own GoPicnic has a ton of great meals that you can order online. Everything from special vegetarian meals, kosher and gluten-free as well. Special $2 sale today too - check us out! gopicnic.com

Victor / March 25, 2009 6:04 PM

I second the advice to go to the stores on Devon for cheaper options. I do own one, but I rarely use it. Of course, I bought it because of all my memories of School lunches growing up in India!!

Steven Beasley / March 29, 2009 3:22 PM

Hah! $85 tiffin from DWR. Why....?

If you can't make it up to Devon, just stop by any Cost Plus / World Market or order it from them online. They have a pretty cute one for $10!

http://tinyurl.com/5gm7kx

I constantly debate myself whether or not to buy one.

-Steven

Itsy / September 5, 2009 11:02 PM

The ones from Cost Plus/World Market are very tinny and not well constructed. I returned mine. After much researching i picked up one online from Happy Tiffin and it's awesome. I run it through the dishwasher and it's perfect for my work lunch. I even bought one for my dog so i can pack her kibble and some water when we spend the day at the beach or park. Very useful for both people and pets!

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