Brown bag it to work but skip the brown bag by putting your lunch in a more suitable container. There is a wide range of containers designed to carry your lunch or a child's lunch to work or school. Depending on your needs, some containers are better than others. For example, an insulated lunch container may be your best option if you need to keep your lunch hot or cold, but don't have access to a refrigerator. A glass container will work best if you need to use a microwave and are not concerned about the container breaking.
The tiffin is a lunch container commonly used in India. Tiffins feature several compartments that stack, making it easy to carry your lunch from home to work or school. A tiffin is ideal if you like to bring more than one item for lunch that doesn't have its own packaging, such as a sandwich, handful of raw vegetables, cereal or cookies.
Tiffins come in a range of materials. Stainless steel is traditionally used in India and makes a lunch container that is easy to clean, as it can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher. The steel will also not leach chemicals into food, which can be a concern with plastic containers. A downside of steel tiffins is that microwaving in the tins is not advisable.
Plastic or melamine tiffins are also available. Some people advise against plastic, since it can contain chemicals that leach into the food. It may be a good option, though, if you want a tiffin that is a little more lightweight.
If you want an insulated lunch container, you have a range of options. If you want to carry soup or another hot liquid for lunch, an insulated food jar may be your best option. Many food jars hold up to 17 ounces, which is a fair amount of soup for one person. They also keep the soup or stew hot for several hours. Depending on how long you have to wait between arriving at work or school and eating lunch, choose a thermal jar that promises to keep your food hot for at least seven or eight hours. As an added bonus, some of the best food jars come with a lid that doubles as a bowl for your soup and a spoon.
Some lunch containers are insulated to keep foods cold until lunchtime. The insulated containers accomplish this either by being lined in an insulated batting that traps the cold in or by coming with an ice pack that you remove from the container and freeze until it is time to take your lunch to work. Since containers that container insulated batting may have a slightly odd smell, due to the chemicals used in the lining and the synthetic fabric of the bag, your best option may be a container with an ice pack.
These containers are usually made of hard plastic, which you can wash easily in the dishwasher. Soft, lined insulated containers are usually spot clean only and may retain odors after you clean them. If you are the type to bring a several piece lunch to work, such as a salad and sandwich, or sandwich and fruit, look for a container that is divided so that you foods do not intermingle and become soggy.
Another type of insulated lunch container is made of neoprene, the rubbery material commonly used to make wet suits. Neoprene lunch containers keep food cool just as well if not better than ice packs. The containers also stretch and can hold a large amount of food in what appears to be a small amount of space.
If you want to microwave food at work or school and are concerned about plastic leaching chemicals into the food, glass is probably your best option. Glass containers may also be a bit less expensive than insulated lunch containers or tiffins, especially if you re-purpose a container for your lunch. Refrigerator boxes or canning jars are ideal for carrying your lunch. Use a container that has a tightly fitting lid to prevent spills. Canning jars with twist on lids are ideal, as are glass storage containers with tight-fitting plastic lids. You can remove the lid to microwave food.
You do have to be more careful with glass containers than with plastic or steel, especially during transport. If the glass is set down too hard on a surface or if your commute is particularly bumpy, the container can break in transit, leaving you with a mess to clean up. Don't send a child to school with glass lunch containers, as the risk of them breaking if handled too roughly is pretty high.