Every single day, I hear at least one person complain about the cafeteria at work and/or the food options available nearby - too expensive, too Bajan, too American, too oily, not enough variety, ran out of food - blah, blah, blah. Packing a cooler will eliminate this entire conversation (and a boat load of crappy calories) from your life. Problem solved.
Do I look like a huge geek with my cooler bag? Yes. Absolutely. Do I care? Absolutely not.
Here are my handy tips toward getting you to join Cooler Nation:
The size of your bag may take some trial and error. I started with one too small, then I tried on my husband's for size and it was too big. When transporting food and drinks, too big can leave you with a huge mess of spilled beverages and soggy food. When you sling it over your shoulder it needs to be pretty full to keep things upright. I also needed dry storage for my appointment book, phone, pens, wallet and ever-present lip gloss. (I'm hearing the collective gasp of women who are realizing that I use my cooler bag as a purse. Guilty as charged.)
This is the one that finally won my heart:
This bag was developed for flight crews and has every available luxury. You can read more on Amazon at the provided link but can I say that the dry storage on top and the front are both expandable and have zippered interior mesh pockets to keep everything organized. It also has a zip out liner in the cooler section for easy cleaning. The two side pockets unzip to hold different size water bottles. It comes in several colors and has been incredible durable. I beat the crap out of this thing and it's shown no wear and zero leaking. I love this bag.eBags Crew II
The interior space will not stay cold all day in the Barbados heat without some of these:
I cut them down to fit our two coolers and I still have two sections to spare each day. Ultimately, I forget to refreeze my sheets at least once per week. Thank goodness for the extras!Flexible Ice Sheets
For drinks, please invest in a few 24 oz Tervis Tumblers. Anyone who has seen me in public knows I am never without my "big cup". Get two to start and purchase the plastic lids. The cups are incredibly durable and you need this amount of liquid - especially in the heat. They will never leave a ring on a table and they're great at the beach, tailgate, the gym.
Tervis Tumbler 24 oz
To store snacks, I use SNACK SIZE Ziploc bags. Snacks are supposed to be small and it's way too easy to fill a sandwich size bag with calorie dense foods and then call it a "snack". "I'll only eat half" rarely works. It takes 20 minutes for the brain to get a satiety signal from the stomach. Using a small bag helps control the portion while your brain waits for the signal.
To store meals, I use a variety of containers that all share one common characteristic: They must not hold more food than will fit in my two cupped hands. That's the size of the stomach and filling up to just 80% of that will allow space for digestive enzymes to do their work. Again, planning to eat "just eat half" doesn't work for me so I resort to guiding my portions via tupperware. Whatever it takes!
Here are a just a couple of the lunches & snacks that travel in my cooler bag:
Black bean, quinoa and avocado wrapped in a gluten-free wrap - then sealed in a zip loc.
Sauteed tofu, broccoli & edamame with sweet chili sauce.
Lentils with diced Field Roast Italian 'Sausage'
Tomato soup and a black bean burger.
NuGo Dark Chocolate Mint Bar (discovered in Pittsburgh. I love)
Enerprime Green Shake in a Tervis Tumbler
Snack bag of soaked and portioned almonds. Nuts = big trouble if not portioned.
Snack bag of unsalted soy nuts and Craisins
Homebaked Lentil Crackers (recipe found in Thrive by Brendan Brazier)