Just for Fun: Lunch Boxes with Personality, and the Food they Deserve

Thank you, Chow Hounds, for this entertaining and clever piece.

These images are from www.chowhound.com. Love, love, love this.

These images are from www.chowhound.com. Love, love, love this.

The article asks and answers, “What do you put in the…

…Japanese Bento Box? Sweet and sour chicken.” That one I might have come up with on my own.

…Fender Speaker Lunch Box?” The Elvis Sandwich. Nice!

…Bacon & Eggs Lunch Box?” Waffle Sliders. Now that’s a homemade lunch worth watching the clock for.

…Picnic Basket Lunch Box?” Charcuterie. A perfect match, but I wince a little at foodie words that I’d have to translate for my mom.

…(my laugh-out-loud favorite)…Tacocat Lunch Box?” Build-your-own tacos, of course. It’s true: tacocat spelled backwards is tacocat. And Taco Cat tacos, it turns out, are available in my own backyard, and bike-delivered even in the dead of winter. Life just gets better and better.

Enjoy the full article’s pictures, recipes, and humor here.

Why Two Vegetables?

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Food trends come and go, but people basically agree that broccoli is both hard to spell and better for you than Twinkies. Making a lunch that includes two vegetables is a nice little trick that will get you moving in the right direction.

  • If you eat more vegetables at lunch, you’re still eating “better” that day when you end up grabbing pizza for dinner, or you’re too tired to fight with the kids over green beans.

  • Even homemade lunches often skimp on vegetables. To get your two, you might start adding a vegetable to your meat/cheese sandwich in addition to those carrot sticks.

  • More vegetables are a clever way to bump out of your lunch box those pre-packaged (i.e., not homemade) bring-your-own-lunch foods like chips or crackers.

If you’re new to vegetables, don’t worry about which are the “right” ones, and please don’t choke down a vegetable you don’t like. (In my opinion, life’s too short to eat celery.)

Just eating a lunch with two vegetables means you ARE eating a little better. Today. See? I knew you could do it.

Get the Ball Rolling


At some point, most of us have said something like, “I know I should eat better” or “I wish I’d stayed in touch with my cousin” or “I really want to get outside more.” But we haven’t done it...yet.

The choices you make at lunch today can mean actually changing things for the better.

Don’t overthink whatever it is you want to do, and don’t churn up a hundred reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t start today. Make some food, enjoy it, and give that thing you’ve been wanting to do a 15-minute chance. Then let yourself feel a little braggish. (I know that’s not a word, but it should be.) Taking one small step away from boredom or restlessness and towards satisfaction is a pretty big win.

C’mon. It’s just one day. It’s just lunch. You can’t fail.

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Sara's Little BLL Bird


Even with the best intentions, the day can take a funny bounce and lunch breaks get missed. But don’t look at these as losses. They might be signs that things are trending in a not-so-good direction. Here’s what Sara says about workday lunches that don’t go as planned.

Today I had to break up my lunch time. I did my 15 minutes of eating, but my 15 minutes of yoga got bumped until after work because of so many meetings today. I couldn't get a full 30 minutes between them. It is good to have the BLL time as a "canary”–an indicator that things are too busy. The little BLL bird is saying, "Hey! Things are getting dangerously close to ‘unhealthy’ if you can't take 30 minutes during your work day.”

Sara’s listening. Are you?

I drew this during my 15 minutes for Me yesterday. For real.

I drew this during my 15 minutes for Me yesterday. For real.


Taste-Testing Lifestyle Diets

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Wouldn’t it be great if the latest diet trend was THE food answer? Finally, the “Please just tell me what’s best to eat, and I’ll eat it” problem is solved! And solved by someone who knows more about nutrition stuff than I do. Excellent!

Of course we’re curious about food fads and new nutrition findings. We wonder if keto or paleo or vegan or [fill in the blank with whatever’s coming next] is best for us. And the deluge of diet-related information can be pretty persuasive, especially if you don’t think of yourself as a food expert.

Your workday lunch is the perfect way to taste-test any lifestyle diet. Here’s why:

  • It’s just one meal. It doesn’t require a radical purging of your pantry or dozens of menu ideas, so there’s less getting in the way of getting started.

  • You won’t have to worry if the kids will notice that the mac and cheese is vegan.

  • You can test how, say, high-fat or low-carb food choices work or don’t work for you. See how your afternoon energy compares to other days.

  • Starting with different choices at only lunch makes it harder to say things like “I’m keto” or “I’m a vegetarian.” And that’s good. Because you’re not. You’re a person figuring out what foods you prefer, not confusing what you eat with your identity.

You may not consider yourself a food expert, but you are—and will always be—the expert on YOU. If you want to try refining your food choices, lunch is a smart strategy. Sample the trend du jour, see what parts work for you, and keep building on what you learn. Then instead of that disappointing SPROING back to the “old ways” when extreme changes don’t pan out, you’ll be moving step-by-step toward a sustainable lifestyle made just for YOU.

Podcast Pick: Side Hustle School

It’s true. I’ve heard every single episode.

It’s true. I’ve heard every single episode.


As some of you already know, I’m a big Chris Guillebeau fan. Some of the principles CG advocates in his daily Side Hustle School podcast align beautifully with Box Lunch Lifestyle:

  • You don’t have to do “work” (or lunch) the way other people do. You can make your own rules for the life you truly want.

  • Dramatic changes may not be your thing—today, or ever. But you don’t have to quit your job or completely overhaul your lifestyle to get a taste of something more personally satisfying.

  • CG often says, “Inspiration is good, but inspiration with action is so much better.” Don’t just think about your good idea. In just 15 minutes during today’s lunch break, you can start making it real.

If you’ve been percolating on a side hustle idea, let CG’s stories inspire you to actually do something about it. If you don’t have an idea yet, they’ll remind you that a whole world opportunities is waiting.

Keeping the Team Whole

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I just read that roughly one in four U.S. workers left their jobs last year. That’s a LOT of people not finding what they need at work. And it means that in 2018 employers paid over $600 billion in turnover costs. Ouch. 

It’s hard to know why these people are leaving, but I know why I left my last job: I felt like I had to choose to be either my authentic self or a “good” employee. Most days, I felt invisible, and eventually Authentic Me got tired of hoping my workplace would value more than just my productivity. I wanted to matter as an individual human and not just as another name on the org chart.

Maybe that’s why the gig economy and side hustles seem so attractive: true or not, they feel more personal. You have some autonomy, and instead of hearing only the company’s story from Day 1, you have a better shot at getting to tell your own. There must be something to gig/side options if 57 million people are now choosing them over traditional full-time work.

I don’t think it has to be so hard to find—or create—a workplace that’s just a little more human. That’s what Box Lunch Lifestyle does: it helps redefine work culture starting with lunch. As some of you know, Box Lunch Lifestyle encourages employees to make the most of their lunch break by packing a healthy lunch and taking a small step toward a goal they’ve never had time to act on. When people bring homemade food to work and take a break to do something personally meaningful, it reminds them in the midst of the day’s chaos that they are people before they are coders or nurses. And when the boss actively encourages and practices it herself, employees have proof that the organization cares about making a small but real investment in their whole selves. Whether they’re recent grads or new grandparents, workers have the freedom and opportunity to get what they need most that day. 

A lunch break with the potential to be more nourishing than just food is a perk that adds virtually nothing to the company’s bottom line, and it could go a long way towards earning workplace loyalty. It’s simple, daily evidence in the belief that a better You means a better Us.

BLL Fun Find: Lunchbox Love® Notes

I bought these Lunchbox Love® Notes at a great market last week. 

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I love this idea (and I especially love the Kool Aid® tidbit), but these notes are
a little on the mushy side for me. Here are some BLL-caliber alternatives:

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If you want a printable version of these (and more) let me know.

Meal Planning Resource: PlateJoy

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“I don’t know what to eat.”
”I don’t have time to shop.”
”I’m bored with food.”

If these roadblocks are your roadblocks, there are a lot of pay-by-the-month services like PlateJoy* that could help. PlateJoy asks you some food and lifestyle questions then gives you doable recipes, like the one I tried yesterday: Creamy Chickpea Salad with Apples and Pecans.

I don’t like pecans, so I used walnuts. And this kind of “creamy” is okay for the non-dairy-eaters, too: it’s made with just a tablespoon of better mayo.

I don’t like pecans, so I used walnuts. And this kind of “creamy” is okay for the non-dairy-eaters, too: it’s made with just a tablespoon of better mayo.

PlateJoy got my attention for a few reasons.

First, if you’re too busy to shop, your personalized list of ingredients can be sent directly to Instacart. Homemade food is the Box Lunch Lifestyle goal. Getting those ingredients to your home is the first step.

Second, people trying to prevent diabetes may be eligible for a CDC-inspired program that goes beyond food with perks like a free FitBit and on-demand personal coaching.

Third, they do LUNCH.

Personally, I don’t need a lot of lunch food variety, and I love grocery stores so much that I work in one just for fun. But if you aspire to try new dishes, need ideas for getting two vegetables into your lunch, or would rather skip the store, PlateJoy could solve those problems with one swift blow. (Or with one free 10 day trial.)

If you try it, or if you have a another good service to recommend, I’d love to hear from you.

*I don’t make any money if you try this. I just want you give any tool a chance that will get you one step closer to a better lunch.

"Lunch Pail Kind of Guy" Changes the World

In this article, Dale Schroeder is described as having been a working-class, bring your lunch kind of guy. He had a quiet dream: he never had the opportunity to go to college. So DS went to work every day, and he worked hard.

And he saved more than $3 million to be awarded as tuition money after he died (in 2005).

Thirty-three people graduated from college debt-free thanks to DS. When they met recently to honor this man they’d never met, they gathered around his old lunch box.

A simple object, a quiet man, and a powerful symbol of what’s possible when we pursue what matters to us.

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Did you know there's an app?


There is!

Last week I mentioned Austin Kleon’s 15 minutes of bliss, which I bet most of us would agree is a great idea. But you have to make it happen, and it’s very, very easy to let that 15 minutes become 14, then 12...you get the picture.

If you want a fun way to defend 15 minutes just for you and 15 minutes to eat your lunch, the Box Lunch Lifestyle web-based app is available for exactly $0. A friendly little fighter keeps track of your time, saves your notes, and cheers you on. You can even earn belts as your daily wins start piling up.

Try it and please don’t be shy with your feedback. I’d love to hear what you think.

Also, it costs exactly $0 to share this app with a friend.


Floyd's: More than Sandwiches


On Friday I saw the dress rehearsal for Floyd’s, a new play by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage. (I wasn’t going to miss a play about underdogs and sandwiches.)

Floyd’s is a roadside diner and the story is told entirely in the kitchen. All the people working there have been incarcerated, and they need this job. While serving up the run-of-the-mill sandwiches ordered by customers, these cooks dream of—and make—something bigger and better for themselves both sandwich-wise and life-wise. They wrestle with choices.

Life is hard at Floyd’s. And maybe those aren’t the kinds of battles you’re facing today, but as Nottage so eloquently said in a recent interview, we’re all trying to “negotiate our freedom and fully inhabit our bodies.” I don’t know what it’s like to be in prison and want a fresh start, but I know how my version of wanting more out of life feels. There’s a kind of freedom I want, too. And to that end, we all have big and small choices, and taking them seriously without always taking ourselves too seriously is something we all share.

Making a sandwich can be an exercise in mindfulness—particularly if you create it with intention, have a keen awareness of the elements, and find joy in infusing it with a sense of self.
— Lynn Nottage, playwright

One of the cooks says he thinks the sandwich is the most democratic of foods, one that’s available to all of us. I think that Box Lunch Lifestyle makes lunch a powerful 30 minutes of better food and time that the world can’t take away from you no matter your circumstances.

If you’re in the Twin Cities, you can see the world premiere of Floyd’s at The Guthrie Theater. If you’re in NYC, keep your eyes open. It’ll get there.


Scott Perry: A Stoic's Lunch

I thought I knew what being a Stoic meant, but that changed when I met Scott Perry. (It’s much more than a way to describe your father-in-law’s demeanor, it turns out.) Great writers and thinkers throughout history have shown us how this philosophy can guide how we act.

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Philosophical? Yes. But my very basic understanding of Stoicism makes it about as un-abstract and practical as it gets.  As a coach and a Stoicism authority, Scott often reminds me that I’m in charge of only two things: 1) how I choose to think about my situation and 2) what step I’ll take next. That is:

What story am I telling myself? How will I act as a result?

Scott brilliantly asks the questions that reveal hidden stories and inspire people to create—to bring our gifts out of our heads and into the world. Do what you’re meant to do, and do it on purpose. Actually, you wouldn’t be reading this right now if Scott hadn’t nudged me to get out there and make Box Lunch Lifestyle a conversation with the world and not just an idea for someday. If I want to redefine lunch culture, I have to make it real, right? Now I am.

Scott would love to see what YOU could do ON PURPOSE in just 15 minutes, like:

  • read Scott’s blog post on agency

  • download his (FREE) Creative on Purpose Handbook: a guide to help you see with fresh eyes the point at which who you are, what you do, and where you belong intersect

  • think about the essential questions of Stoicism: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be happy? How can I be more of both?

  • email Scott and ask to hear The Archer story (He’ll know I put you up to this.)

Scott’s Stoic lunch is 100% Box Lunch Lifestyle: it starts with believing you can flourish no matter your circumstances. Choose, and do. If you want to be a person who gets things done—more than only things that pay the bills—it’s possible. Believe, and know that people like Scott will cheer you on.

How the Boss Eats

Thank you, Ellida Photo. I think Bruce would LOVE this.

Thank you, Ellida Photo. I think Bruce would LOVE this.

Hey bosses!

People notice your habits, and what you do about lunch has an impact on workplace culture. No matter what you tell your team, if nobody ever sees you taking a break, they’ll believe that taking breaks is a no-no. And without that break, the odds of productive, everyone-getting-along afternoons are slim.

Lunch is also a chance to connect. If you’re eating lunch in a common area, Joan will tell you that her daughter turned seven yesterday, and it’s more likely you’ll hear that Zach’s mom has breast cancer. Maybe Cynthia will finally pitch that really interesting idea to you that she wouldn’t otherwise.

I get that it isn’t easy to defend this time, because I’ve been a boss, too. But as much as your people need a good lunch, sometimes the boss needs a break even more. So eat some lunch, take a deep breath. and remind yourself that no matter how much responsibility or pressure you feel at work, you’re a human first.

And if taking a better lunch break sounds impossible or uncool, rumor has it that Bruce Springsteen brings his lunch to work. If THE Boss does, it’s just not possible to be uncool.

Don't say "Meal Plan"

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“Meal planning.” If you love meal planning, you can probably skip this post. For the rest of us, the words alone make us groan. Meal planning is boring. (Even this picture is boring.) Its a chore, and maybe one we think can avoid. But our food doesn’t magically appear. And we gotta eat. And we want to feel good.

So let’s call it something else: food finding.

When I say “I need to find some food for me this week,” that feels different than “I need a meal plan.”  Everyone has to find something to eat. But rebranding this activity as “food finding,” to me, implies curiosity. What do I want to eat? What are my options? Finding food, unlike “planning,” is flexible. I can be successful at “finding” no matter what funny bounce the day takes. It’s more personal and less monotonous. And it leaves the door open to have a little fun. I can make the hunt for lunch a little adventurous. But even if I don’t, I’m “finding” something, which is always intentional.

Instead being discouraged by other people’s meal planning prowess, think about it differently. We are all responsible for choosing our food, but it’s also a great opportunity—and the freedom—to win on our own terms.


Go-To Gear: LunchFox® Chill Packs

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I have an aversion towards public appliances. I don’t use workplace microwaves, and I avoid the shared refrigerator whenever possible. So I’m counting on my cold lunch food to stay cold all on its own.

Here’s what I like about LunchFox Chill Packs:

  • I can’t poke a hole in one with my fork.

  • They’re bigger than packs for kids’ lunches, so one covers my entire food container with coldness.

  • With two in a pack, one’s sure to be cold even when Tired Me forgot to put yesterday’s pack back in the freezer.

And not only are the LunchFox name and logo pretty cool, the company shares Box Lunch Lifestyle sensibilities. Which is even cooler. (Pun intended.)

Think about what you put in your lunch bag. Eat healthy foods that actually make you feel good. Eat more locally sourced, non-GMO, organic produce. And whenever possible, choose cruelty-free products. By making better choices, you can not only look and feel better, you can help change the way food is produced in the United States.
— The LunchFox Message to Friends, Family, and Customers

How lunch-hungry are you?

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We sometimes get hung up not only on what food is “good” or “bad,” but also on how much to eat. The answer is: it depends. (Don’t you hate answers like that?)

Lunch makes a great benchmark. It’s your ally in the search for the best answer for you.

For example, by lunchtime, do you feel “painfully hungry” according to this handy scale? If so, maybe you need a different breakfast. If you feel “a little bit too full” after lunch, you can try smaller servings, or a different kind of food. By late afternoon, if you’re thinking more about what’s for dinner than what’s going on at work, you may not be eating enough. (Or you need a new job.)

Portion size guidelines are a place to start, but the best rules are the ones that work for YOU. How much food is right for you is your call, and lunch can help you practice making choices based on what your own body tells you it needs.