Gluten Free Lunch: To Go! Packing it all up.

Options for packing your gluten free lunch

It’s empty now, but it won’t be once school kicks off again.

One short week.

That’s all that stands between me and mayhem.  Soon the school year will kick off with the unpacking, arranging, sorting, planning, organizing, meetings, and whatnot.  All BEFORE the students even *think* about venturing out of their beds earlier than their late summer waking times.   In reality, I started working a few weeks ago:  meetings, reading literature, planning, gathering ideas, researching and reviewing literature.  This topped with our Adoption work is definitely keeping me BUSY!

And then I started getting geared up for gluten free lunch at school.  I realized how many things I do during the year that help me stay gluten free at work.  In some ways, maybe only having 25 minutes for lunch and no option of “eating out” is really helpful.  Maybe gluten free school lunch is actually rather ideal… and cheaper (!) than eating out weekly.

I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my favorite lunch ideas and get a dialogue going with you all about what you eat/pack for your lunches, etc.  Keep in mind, please, that there are a two things to know ahead of time.

First:  Know what type of access you may have to appliances.  For example, I have a microwave and a GF Only Toaster in my classroom.  While there are microwaves available in most schools (our high school has a couple microwaves for the kids to use, as to the middle schools), most elementary schools will require the student to get permission or help to use the microwaves in the teacher’s lounge or office.  (Microwaves are usually donated by teachers or if not new, the microwaves are more likely to be the old model when a teacher purchases a new one for home.)

Second:  Plan your packing well.  While there is a small refrigerator (college dorm room size) in the Staff room in my hall, there are also 15 of us in the hallway.  All of our lunches just don’t fit.  Sometimes I may slide a yogurt into the fridge, but I usually just choose to pack my lunch better.  It works.  One time I even had frozen sorbet with fruit for my lunch – some 5 hours after I’d packed it.

I have a few packing options that I use often.   Here they are:

Options for packing your gluten free lunch

1. Leaflet Bento Box

I like my Leaflet because it’s quite versatile and super easy to clean. (and inexpensive. I found it at a local Asian market and paid $6.00.) First, it has three removable compartments (See the first photo in this post) – perfect for when I’m packing a sandwich (large compartment), cottage cheese and fruit (the two small compartments) or some other similar lunch treats.  Since the compartments are also removable, I’ve take the small ones out and filled the large compartment with salad and the other side (where the two small ones would normally fit) with ravioli or etc.

Somethings to note:

  • The base and dividing compartments are microwave-friendly.
  • The lid/rubber seal are NOT microwave friendly.
  • The rubber seal comes out for easy cleaning and does a GREAT job of sealing in foods.
  • This is not a temperature-keeper, like a thermos would be.  Pack this inside an insulated bag if the food items need to be kept warm/cool or just pack inside a basic cloth bag and reheat as necessary.

Options for packing your gluten free lunch

2.  My Mini Bento – A smaller version than my “Mr. Bento” that I love.

Options for packing your gluten free lunch

This version has two cups with lids (medium and small-ish) and a larger cup that slides into a metallic cylinder.  And your own pair of chopsticks with a chopstick holder to match! 🙂 The larger one that slides into the cylinder keeps things warm, but the cylinder heats up with the temperature of the food within – so beware!  Don’t pack your cold cottage cheese in one of the small cups alongside your hot soup.  It won’t work.  The benefit here though?  Since the large one slides in to something metal, without the cylinder the larger container is microwaveable.  Why should it matter? Let’s just say it’s been the perfect working-lunch container.  I bring the food to school cool/cold, but put soup or something that I want to heat up in the large one.  Then, right before the working-lunch/meeting begins, I pop the large container (sans cylinder) in to the microwave, heat it, return it to the cylinder and it stays warm while I move the meeting location.

Somethings to note:

  • That cylinder is not microwaveable! (Did I say that already)
  • The small containers are not really salad-friendly, unless you are hauling potato salad or something similar.
  • The lid on the larger container seals liquids well – but this one is not really all that tip-worthy.  I definitely carry this one and don’t put it in my backpack filled with liquids.
  • The heat transference from the larger container (or cold) transfers because of the close quarters in the bag and it’s not insulated. (Rather strange really, but I love that I can slide the large container out to microwave.)

Options for packing your gluten free lunch

3.  My new one:  A Lock & Lock lunch bag.

Lock & Lock has a line of lunch bags with their great containers within.  (I use their containers for my flours and LOVE them!) I’ve seen two versions of this lunch container.  This is the smaller of the two.  Although, part of me thinks the larger one would have been great for my 12 hour days when I would pack some snack, etc for my afternoon.  I found it at my local Asian market.  Actually, I’ve seen a few of these different Asian markets in town.  (Watch the prices.  I bought this one for $8.00.) I got this version as a little shove into the world of “portion control”.  This container has two long Lock & Lock snap containers – one is divided into three equal sections (unchangeable) and the other is one compartment completely.  It also has a Lock & Lock beverage container.  I’m rather looking forward to packing a smoothie for my lunch treat.  It will beat the cold coffee or water that I normally drink and give me a great vitamin boost to boot.

Options for packing your gluten free lunch

Options for packing your gluten free lunch

Somethings to note:

  • While this bag is insulated, it will either keep everything cold or everything warm.  Keep that in mind when meal planning and packing.
  • The smaller compartments are a great way to ensure balanced meals that don’t overwhelm.  Pack one with carrots, the other with yogurt and the third with fruit.  Perfect tastes.  Or use one of the compartments plus a little bento dressing bottle to pack your salad dressing for the salad in the larger container.
  • Consider removing the drink if you wish to pack whole pieces of fruit (bananas, etc) within the bag.
  • That long container?  It’s wickedly perfect for a roll-up wrap sandwich. 🙂

Okay, so it’s just a thermos. But not really.  This baby has kept my pozole HOT for EIGHT hours one day!  In fact, I bought this one because i have the coffee thermos made by Nissan.  I was SHOCKED one day when I first got that thermos that my coffee leftovers were still STEAMING hot when I got home and was pouring the remainder out in order to clean the thermos.  Nissan?  I think I love you.   That and there is no glass here – nothing to break when it bounces around or , ahem, drops.  And the liquid stays INSIDE the thermos.  Not even a droplet in my bag.  Oh yea.  It’s thermos-love around here for Nissan.  How much love?  One day I put the open thermos in the freezer the night before school.  In the morning, I scoop frozen sorbet into the thermos and packed some fruit.  At lunch, some 5 hours later, my sorbet was still perfectly cold.  Oh yea.  It’s love.  No one else at lunch had anything nearly as fun!

Somethings to note:

  • This is definitely NOT microwaveable.
  • Pouring hot water in before filling with hot foods will help it retain heat.
  • The heat does NOT transfer to the outside – so it’s still cool to the touch.
  • Keep the thermos open (uncapped) in the freezer or fridge the night before (or filling with ice cubes for a few minutes in the morning) will help the thermos retain the cold.
  • It holds 10 ounces (1 1/4 cups).


These are just a few of the packing ideas for lunches.  I have really lived my “lunch life” as a fun one.  And why not?  To be honest, I enjoy making lunch fun.  It gives me something to be courageous about – especially when I’m eating lunch with people who don’t know what I’m eating or know why I may not be eating what they are.  I’d rather steer the conversation to the “oh-that-looks-good” and make myself smile than worry about anything else.

Gluten free lunch on the go is great.  Not difficult.  Nothing “odd” and what I bring I would – and do! – serve to any and all of my gluten-eating colleagues and friends.  And they’d never think twice.  Gotta love that.

And what do I pack/bring?  I’ll post a list of my lunch ideas this week.  Stay tuned for Part Two of the Gluten Free Lunch Series.  I’ll update this post with a link to that list as soon as it is up.

In the meantime, if you are looking for something fun for your lunch, here are a few links to check out:

Happy Monday and School Planning!


  1. ooo, perfect timing, as I’m starting back to school in a few weeks. I love my leaflet box, and now I’m going to have to order one of those Nissan food jars. I’ll have to look in portland at uwijamaya and see if they have the lock n lock lunchbox. Can’t wait to see your lunch ideas!!! Thanks for all the great info!

    Uwajimaya is great! You should also check out some Korean markets in Portland – and Japanese, of course. I think you might save some money at the other markets. And is there a Daiso store in Portland? They are the equivalent of a Japanese dollar store (okay…everything is $1.50, but hey! That’s cheap!). The Daiso stores have some very cute bento options. – Kate

  2. I just want you to know, Katie, that I looked ALL SUMMER in Tampa for a freaking Bento Box and found NADA. ZIP. SQUAT.

    Send extras to your sister in the south, por favor?

    I shall keep these eyes peeled for you, sister! (And you can find some totally cute ones on ebay and the Ichiban store online for cheap too.) -Kate

  3. Kate-
    Such super cute ideas! I got inspired out of no where to create my own bento style box. After not finding what I wanted I made my own, for $3.33 at the local “everything” store. I posted it with my menu plan. You just reminded me of the HUGE Asian grocery near the local subway hub, the one I avoid b/c of the fish smell. I’m definitely going to have to check for some of these there this weekend 🙂


  4. Oh yeah, and if you’re looking for a great protein kick for your smoothies, I recommend Dedicated Woman protein powder. It’s fantastic. (I promise I’ll dedicate a post to it soon)

  5. thanks Kate! I will look for the Korean and Japanese markets when we get to Portland in two weeks. I’m hoping to be able to find the tapioca and potato flours somewhere cheap too. I get them now at the local asian market. There is a Daiso here that i’ve been to and should probably go again before I move.

  6. I am jealous of your fun lunch accessories….

  7. Hi Kate,
    This post along with its 2nd part are excellent!!! I hope you don’t mind, but I shared the links for the lunch posts with the Canadian Celiac association as there were a number of parents questioning lunch ideas for the upcoming school year.


  8. dawsonchristmas says:

    Hi Kate. Love your ideas! I wanted to share the a website my husband and I just made to inspire kids and adults for packing their lunches. It is
    While we don’t have things officially classified as gluten free (yet) there are tons of great ideas for lunches, including a “lunch food lottery” where you let the computer pick your lunch for you. It is full of fun ideas and if you sign up for the site, you can get our monthly newsletter (first one goes out tomorrow) with fun ideas, specific holiday things etc.
    Thanks! Amy

  9. i LOVE containers and organization. Thanks for the link to the containers and all the great tips.


  1. […] for a little inspiration for your lunch box/bag?  Me too.  I put together a little post about my favorite ways to pack up my lunch to make it more exciting and now I thought I’d list a few of my lunch […]

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  3. […] Packing up your Gluten Free Lunch (how to pack it up, what I use to pack my lunches) […]

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