One of the most important parts of eating better at work is having the food with you. When you get hungry at work the bad stuff starts looking really good. Before you know it you’re looking at wrappers of a double cheeseburger and two hot dogs with fries while sucking down a XL diet coke…you know, to save on calories.
Myself and a lot of guys that I’ve worked with that have brought food to work always packed too little. We’ve all underestimated how many times we’ll eat, or if we just get hungry from boredom, you end up with nothing and hours left to work. In order to eat better I knew I had to be better prepared and always have something at hand.
I break down my jobs in three ways and pack differently for each:
- 8 hours and under- these are short passenger assignments, locals, or wayfreights. I like to pack 2-3 meals for these trips, plus at least one snack or emergency food. (I don’t do this often, I like having more food than necessary, and if you plan on a short day IT NEVER HAPPENS)
- 9-16 hour days- this is most guys, all day passenger jobs, locals and wayfreights that come close are work a full 12, or turn arounds in a pool. For these days I bring 4-5 meals and the snack.
- Overnights- this would be pool work, going to the AFHT hotel and back the next day, or even two days later. In the pool I packed 8-10 meals, snacks, and spare food. Without an awesome lunchbox it couldn’t be done.
For the 8 or less days a small cooler works great; easy to carry, more than enough room for 2-3 meals, a drink, your snacks you like to bring, and emergency/spare food. These small Igloo Maxcold lunchboxes can be picked up at most stores or on Amazon.
You see it has enough room in the main compartment for 2-3 Tupperware trays, netting on the lid for utensils, and the top compartment can hold the drink, snacks, and a few other things.
Other lunchboxes we like in this size:
On full days, the 9-16 hour trips, obviously the bag needs to be a little bigger. But not that much bigger. These days I will probably switch out 1-2 meals for either protein shakes or bars, this saves space, weight, and time when you are going and get hungry
This is the lunchbox I used for almost 5 years until it finally gave out Igloo 59798 Realtree Hard Top Gripper 22 Cooler (except not in camo). More than enough space for 3-4 Tupperware trays, the lid compartment is huge and holds a drink, protein shaker and/or bars with room for other snacks. There’s a zippered pocket on the front for utensils and other things.
Other coolers this size:
In the pool or other overnight trips I use my huge lunch box. Fully packed I’ve had 16 meals on hand (some were protein shakes/bars and others were cooked meat in sandwich bags kept cold with frozen vegetables).
Now I will say that this bag is expensive (6 Pack Fitness Originator 500 Black/Red 5 Meal), and that’s not going to be for everyone. This bag is still going after 5 years, there are some holes in the insulation from forks and knives, but there have been no major issues at all. You can see the middle compartment has a plastic frame that holds 5 Tupperware trays, the top has some storage, and each side is insulated and has separators.
This is a lot to carry to work, but it keeps you from eating the garbage that is only available at the times most of us are called to work.
There are some knock off brands that make nearly identical bags, a couple like this are below:
The Tupperware that I have carried for years are the Rubbermaid Take Alongs (we have used both the single tray and the divided). They come in packs of 3-5 for about a dollar per container, less if you find a sale. They heat up nicely in microwaves and fit in the places on locomotives that can heat up food too (except sidewall heaters of course).
For ice packs I have always gone with whatever is cheapest, in the bags I have the big thick blue ice block packs don’t fit, so I like the thinner bag style ones, or even the type that look like individual ice cube squares.
Also, I like to keep a piece of aluminum foil in my bags, probably 12-16 inches square, for heating food on sidewall heaters. The metal cup in the large lunch box picture is for heating water on sidewalls for instant coffee.
Having food with you at all times keeps you from making the mistakes of poor food choices when you get hungry and the only thing open is the gas station. It’s also easier to track your food when you prepare it yourself (we’ll cover food trackers in another article).